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SPS board candidate calls questions about racially insensitive meme a ‘distraction’



Springfield school board candidate Landon McCarter said he does not recall posting a racially insensitive meme to his personal Facebook page and implied it could have been posted by employees who had access to his personal social media accounts.

The meme from 2018, recently deleted from his page along with others, surfaced in the past week. It was criticized on social media by parents and community members who back other candidates and have been vocal about their support for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Landon McCarter

McCarter described interest in the old meme as a distraction from larger issues facing the district.

The meme includes a question — “What if Rapunzel was Black?” — accompanied by an image of thick, curly black hair protruding from the top and three windows of a tall tower, rather than cascading down the side like the blonde-haired fairy tale princess.

A yellow Afro comb or pick, which emerged as a hallmark of Black culture in the 1970s, is visible in the hair at the top of the tower.

Screenshots of the image posted on McCarter’s account have circulated on social media, often accompanied by questions about McCarter and his campaign. The News-Leader reached out to McCarter to ask if he posted the meme and, if he did, would he be willing to talk about why.

The News-Leader also asked if McCarter wanted to make any comment to supporters or others who saw the meme and drew any conclusions about where he stood on issues such as diversity, equity and inclusion.

McCarter agreed to comment Tuesday, if his comment ran in full.

He said: “I do not recall posting the meme in 2018. Since I run a digital ad agency, I have had many staff with access to my social profiles who post content on my behalf. This is a mere distraction of the real issues facing our district. Our academic performance has been in decline for 12 years. We have talented teachers, administrators, and support staff leaving our district in record numbers because of distractions taking precedence over real issues that are hindering the learning and development of our kids in our public school system. The community is fed up with this. They are demanding change. Let’s please focus on real issues on how to improve our struggling district and not on internet memes from 2018.”

More:Nonprofit ‘watchdog’ group posts video of SPS board member during Pledge of Allegiance

McCarter, a business owner and entrepreneur, is active on social media and the overwhelming majority of his posts are about his family, business, church and sporting events.

‘It’s disheartening and maddening’

Brittany Dyer, a parent who has repeatedly addressed the school board to urge the district to publicly state support for LGBTQ+ students, shared screenshots of the post from McCarter’s account on Twitter and Facebook.

In February, parent Brittany Dyer spoke to the Springfield school board about LGBTQ students and employees.

She called McCarter a coward for deleting the meme after questions surfaced and said the meme was “not acceptable.”

“It is incredibly disappointing that we have people who have those type of thoughts that they think are appropriate and, even worse so, funny, to post” running for school board, Dyer said. “That is not a person who is going to be inclusive of all students and that is a giant concern. It’s disheartening and maddening at the same time.”

Only 72.3% of the district’s 23,435 students were white, according to a demographic report for the 2021-22 year.

Dyer also posted more recent memes, which she deemed questionable, allegedly culled from McCarter’s personal Facebook page. In one, reportedly posted in May 2020, there is an image of former Russian dictator Joseph Stalin making a heart sign with the words “Is everyone enjoying their free 30-day trial of Communism?”

In another, from the same month, there is an image of Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers film series making a call with the words: “The pandemic and murder hornets aren’t working anymore. Go ahead and start the racism war.”

More:LGBTQ advocates say youth ‘do not feel safe in SPS,’ call for support

Dyer said she supports candidates Judy Brunner and incumbent Shurita Thomas-Tate in the upcoming election. The other candidate on the ballot is Chad Rollins.

Asked why she shared the memes on social media, Dyer said: “It’s important for people to know who the candidates really are. It’s really easy to put up a façade.”

Kyler Sherman-Wilkins

Kyler Sherman-Wilkins, who briefly considered a run for school board a year ago, has campaigned for Thomas-Tate and repeatedly urged the board to support LGBTQ students and equity training.

He also shared the Rapunzel meme with this message: “What we need are leaders who are committed to identifying their biases and who will work to address said biases.”

Cartoon references Mohammadkhani controversy

None of the memes in question are from the past couple years. However, McCarter and board member Kelly Byrne recently posted a cartoon from a supporter that referenced a recent controversy involving board member Maryam Mohammadkhani at the Youth Empowerment Summit.

Mohammadkhani was accused by students and event organizers of interrupting a session on brain health for high school seniors at the annual conference, which was created to expose Springfield teenagers from under-represented backgrounds to college and career options.

Later, at a board meeting, Mohammadkhani said she was just pointing out that not all students raised their hands when a facilitator asked how many students had experienced racial trauma. Once students opened their eyes, the facilitator announced most, if not all, raised their hands.

The incident prompted a 4-3 vote to remove Mohammadkhani as board vice president. McCarter and Rollins said they support Mohammadkhani and opposed her removal from the leadership post.

More:Where Springfield school board candidates stand on ousting Mohammadkhani from VP role

In the unsigned six-panel cartoon, a figure asks Springfield to “close your eyes and raise your hands if your vote is for Brunner and Tate.” No hands go up. The figure then says: “Open your eyes! I want you to know that everyone in Springfield raised their hand!”

In the final panel, the people who did not raise their hands are upset. One says “Truth matters.” The cartoon ends with a plug: “Landon McCarter for SPS school board.”

Claudette Riley covers education for the News-Leader. Email tips or story ideas to

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