New York officials investigate Facebook post by deputy chief Staten Island denounced as racist

New York City education officials are investigating a Staten Island deputy chief after a statement on privileges was posted on his Facebook page, targeting people who are receiving government assistance or who are unemployed.

The post that appeared on the page of New Dorp High School’s assistant principal, Deborah Morse-Cunningham, 48, began by asking, “What is privilege?”

“Privilege wears $ 200 sneakers when she has never had a job,” reads the statement that has since been removed. “Privilege is wearing $ 300 Beats hearing aids while living on public assistance.”

He added: “Privilege is living in subsidized public housing where you don’t have a water bill, where rising property taxes and rents and energy costs have absolutely no effect on the amount of food you can put in your table”.

The post has been criticized as racist and sparked a petition demanding its termination. The petition has more than 9,400 signatures.

“As someone responsible for the guardianship of our youth, this rhetoric is especially troublesome and problematic, to say the least,” the petition says. “This leads me to question what kinds of practices it has instilled in New Dorp High School culture and what kind of environment our children are learning, especially young blacks.”

The petition says Morse-Cunningham, who has been an assistant principal at New Dorp High School since 2007, “has decided to use her platform and social media presence to post anti-black messages.”

New Dorp High School had a student body that is 52 percent white, 27 percent Hispanic or Latino, and 10 percent black or African American in 2018-2019, according to the New York State Department of Education.

Miranda Barbot, spokeswoman for the New York City Department of Education, said in a statement that “it is opposed to racism and that schools must be safe and inclusive learning environments.”

“Teachers and staff have a responsibility to uphold those values, and the principal reported this incident for investigation,” said Barbot.

Morse-Cunningham did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Last week, a Georgia mayor was criticized after he posted the same statement of privilege on a Facebook community group. Benjamin Rozier, the mayor of Bloomingdale, about 18 miles from downtown Savannah, declined to comment when he arrived last week.

In a Facebook statement, the Bloomingdale City Council and administration said they were aware of Rozier’s post last Tuesday.

“The Bloomingdale City Council wishes to collectively declare that this action taken by Mayor Rozier is their action and only their action,” the statement said on the city page. “In no way do we endorse or endorse any individual or collective position made by the mayor.”