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SF’s Asian Community Divided on Whether School Leader Ann Hsu Should Resign Over Offensive Comments

SF’s Asian Community Divided on Whether School Leader Ann Hsu Should Resign Over Offensive Comments

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After causing a political firestorm with comments that stereotyped marginalized students, Ann Hsu has made no indication that she plans to resign from the San Francisco school board. 

Though Hsu declined to comment on the matter, several sources who have talked to her say she’s resisting calls from public officials and community groups to step down. And come fall, she plans to run in the election to keep the seat Mayor London Breed appointed her to after voters recalled three San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) Board of Education members this February.

The controversy started a week ago after Hsu’s answer to a candidate questionnaire blew up on social media. When asked in the survey how SFUSD can improve academic outcomes for marginalized students, Hsu said she sees “one of the biggest challenges as being the lack of family support for those students” in the “Black and brown” community.

Ann Hsu speaks at a pro-merit-based admission system for Lowell High School rally outside the San Francisco Unified School District building in San Francisco on Thursday, June 16, 2022. | Ben Fanjoy for The Standard

Hsu immediately apologized, saying her statements “reflected my own limited experiences and inherent biases.” But her public display of contrition didn’t convince many in the community.

A Community Divided

San Francisco’s Asian community is deeply divided on whether Hsu should resign—the only two Asian Americans on the Board of Supervisors couldn’t even see eye to eye on the issue.

Connie Chan, an outspoken progressive supervisor representing the city’s Richmond District, was among the first to ask Hsu to leave the school board. 

“I am disappointed and disheartened by Commissioner Ann Hsu’s anti-Black and racist statements,” Chan wrote in a tweet last week asking Hsu to step down so the district can “get back on track.”

Supervisor Connie Chan speaks at the Board of Supervisors meeting in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. | Juliana Yamada/The Standard

Supervisor Gordon Mar thought otherwise. 

The Sunset District representative said Hsu should follow through on her commitments to African American and Latino families and stay on the board. If voters want her gone, Mar said they can vote for someone else to succeed her this fall. 

Mar said he believes Hsu was sincere in her apology because “she promised to learn from her mistakes and repair the harm.” 

A month ago, Mar also supported Ulloa Elementary School Principal Carol Fong after she apologized for using a racial slur while cautioning students against using it. 

Asian community groups have expressed similarly polarized opinions about how Hsu should handle the controversy. 

The API Council—a powerful coalition of over 50 Asian community nonprofits in San Francisco—issued a statement condemning Hsu’s remark and urging her to resign last week. “As an organization that stands in solidarity with communities of color, these comments are unacceptable and unbecoming of a leader,” it read.

The council’s statement promptly elicited backlash from a couple of its nonprofit members, some of whom publicly questioned why the umbrella organization would take the position without consulting its affiliates. 

Asian Pacific Islander Council at a meeting in San Francisco on May 31, 2022. | Justin Katigbak for The Standard

Doug Chan, board president of the Chinese Historical Society of America, a member of the API Council, said it “would be wholly inappropriate” for a nonprofit like this to be included in a statement either opposing or supporting a candidate for political office. Doing so would violate laws prohibiting nonprofits from political advocacy.

The Rotary Club of San Francisco Chinatown, a humanitarian services group, confirmed to The Standard that it withdrew its membership from the API Council over its statement. 

Should She Stay Or Should She Go? 

This wasn’t the first time the API Council called for a school board member to step down in the wake of controversial remarks. 

A year ago, when racially inflammatory tweets by SFUSD board member Alison Collins resurfaced, the API Council urged her to call it quits, too. Collins was one of three board members recalled by voters. 

When Hsu’s controversial questionnaire comments began making the rounds on social media this past week, they garnered sharp criticisms from a wide range of groups urging her to resign, including the NAACP local branch, African American Parent Advisory Council, SF Black Wallstreet, San Francisco Latinx Democratic Club, United Educators of San Francisco and San Francisco Young Democrats.

“There is no space for any appointed or elected official to endorse and perpetuate white supremacist beliefs that purport racial inferiority of any community in our City,” SF Black Wallstreet tweeted.

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The majority of those organizations did not support calls for the resignation of Collins, instead asking for a “restorative process” and unity.

Other than Chan, multiple supervisors also joined the call urging Hsu to step down, including Board president Shamann Walton, Ahsha Safai, Hillary Ronen, and Dean Preston. With the exception of Preston, all of the supervisors signed a joint letter and called for Collins to step down last year.

Mayor London Breed speaks to Chinese-language media on the controversy of Ann Hsu’s comments on Thursday, July 21, 2022.  | Han Li / The Standard

But on Hsu’s side, her fellow recall activists and Mayor Breed came to her defense, saying she apologized for what she said and vowed to learn from her mistake. 

The Asian American community was a driving force for the school board recall led in part by Hsu, who promoted the effort in televised campaign ads

Angela Zhou, a member of the Chinese Parent Advisory Council and an activist for last year’s school board recall, told The Standard that she and her group will “use everything” to support Hsu “until the last drop of their blood.”

Angela Zhou, a member of the Chinese Parent Advisory Council, poses for a portrait in San Francisco’s Chinatown on Monday, July 25, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

“Hsu has apologized for her insensitive word choices,” Zhou said. 

She said she and other committee members trust Hsu’s good intentions and leadership to help the marginalized students she mentioned in her controversial statement. 

Siva Raj, who launched the recall campaign, took to Twitter to say he’s “confident” Hsu will emerge from this controversy as a better leader.

The San Francisco Democratic Party board, which called for Collins’ resignation last year, plans to vote on Wednesday on whether to formally urge Hsu to resign as well.

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Han Li can be reached at [email protected].
  • Let’s just cut to the chase — Connie Chan is an ideologue and a numskull.
    She spends her time fighting actual progress in our schools, the SF Parks Alliance — and is manifesting anti-housing.
    She works daily to make SF less successful as a city.
    It’s embarrassing that she is my district Supervisor.

  • Connie doesn’t represent the Asian community at all. There is no division in the Asian community. They really don’t care about the noise from supervisors or other racist race base organizations. Ann has solid support from parents and the community.

  • Well-stated. That’s exactly what Connie Chan is about. She’s certainly no “Asian community leader” as she couldn’t rush forward fast enough to chime in on the gaslighting and exacerbate the Black anti-Chinese hate that’s alarmingly on the rise.

  • Please don’t resign, Ms. Hsu.

    We need to stand up to cancel culture. A problem can’t be fixed if it can’t even be discussed.

    It would make the progressives happy to just say “structural racism” and leave it at that, because that doesn’t require anyone to do any actual work to make things better. But in the case of the SF School system, the school board has been run by progressives for more than a generation. Every kid in SF schools today is taught by teachers hired by progressives in a schools run by progressives. They have been fighting structural racism for more than a generation. If that was the problem, shouldn’t it be fixed by now?

  • It’s so hypocritical to see people and groups who supported Alison Collins now calling for Hsu’s resignation. Hsu shouldn’t resign. Instead she should continue helping SFUSD recover from the awful Collins-López era.

  • I’m sorry that there is not more outrage and hurt over the poor academic achievement of so many of our children!!
    Ms. Hsu made a terrible mistake in the way she expressed her concerns. Her comments came out as generalizations involving all families of the ethnic groups mentioned. That was a big mistake. Moving forward, I think we need to pay more attention to her positive actions, which few are likely aware. Her poor choice of words should not negate the year she worked on CBOC (Citizen Bond Oversight Committee) in getting funds that we voted for to actually get to our schools – many of them for lower income children..
    We also need to ask lower income parents who have children succeeding academically for advise. There are lower income children succeeding. What is the method of their success. Let’s learn and share.
    I am a child of immigrants. Although fluent in English my parents’ expressions were not always considered correct, yet my friends and neighbors never shunned them for that.
    Please let’s put our political bias aside and see what Ms. Hsu can do for our children and City. Thank you.

  • We recalled those three members because of what they did to SFUSD while in their position, not because what they said. As long as they did their job, we need to be includsive of all types of people, right?

    I said let her run for election to see what people say.

  • Unfortunately, Ms. Hsu mentioned specific ethnic groups in her statement. She could have said, “One of the challenges of solving the problem of underachieving students is to get parents to provide encouragement and support for their children so they do well in school.” This would have been a true statement and not offend anybody.

  • I met Connie Chan and was very impressed by her life story. She came to San Francisco when she was thirteen, and was raised in Chinatown by her mother. Her record of personal achievement is admirable, and I would like to give credit to her mother for raising her daughter.

    I had a 23 year old niece (Asian) who was a nurse, married with two children, one year old and two years old. I use the past tense “had” because she is now dead. This past November, she came home from a shift on a Sunday, and was sitting in her living room, reading to her two children. Outside, there was a gunfight. A sixteen year old African-American young man was shooting wildly at another human being. The bullet missed its intended target, penetrated the walls of my niece’s house, and then penetrated her skull, killing her while she held her children on her lap. Her husband is now a widow and her children no longer have their mother. Our entire extended family has been devastated by the loss of our wonderful family member. The shooter evaded arrest for a week, but was captured and is in custody awaiting trial.

    I wonder if this young man’s mother was as focused on his education, as Connie Chan’s mother was focused on her education? You never know because sometimes kids are more influenced by their peers than their parents, so I am just asking the question and not making any assumptions. I thought I would focus on the specific example of these two parents to avoid being accused of stereotyping.

  • It seems like only people within a certain community are permitted to suggest that community may have non-structural (ie, cultural) problems that need to be addressed to improve certain outcomes. She was clumsy with her words but this offense in of itself doesn’t merit her ousting. If anything, a discussion of cultural and structural dimensions to a given issue allows for a better understanding of problems that are far from one dimensional.

  • Here’s the difference between Hsu & Collins:
    Ms. Collins’ comment was based upon her experience – she stated that in her tweets. Ms. Hsu admitted, before she answered the question, that she had very little experience in this area. So what was her comment based on? Bias and Stereotypes.

    Let her run in next election!

  • If they can prove her wrong, then she should resign, but I recall seeing a state education department report that makes the same kind of assessment one to two years ago.

  • RACIST Shamman Walton Needs to resign because he, unlike Hsu, deliberately used the ” N” word Slur MULTIPLE, MULTIPLE, MULTIPLE TIMES against an African American Sheriff Cadet @ City Hall because the Cadet made entitled RACIST HYPOCRITE Walton go through the Same security protocols that EVERYONE has to go through in order to enter City Hall.

    C’mon Shamman, put your money where YOUR RACIST Mouth is, and RESIGN NOW.

  • Asians are being murdered on a daily basis in the streets of SF. Don’t see any community leader standing up to protect them.

  • Hsu comment was based on her experience… Please remind me of the experience and skills she has in education. How long has she been a teacher? Was she a principal? Or maybe she has a degree in social work. What SFUSD school did she/ her kids graduate from?

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