West Contra Costa School Official on Leave for Sending Racist Emails

Matt Stewart's missives included ones that compared Barack and Michelle Obama to apes.

A high-ranking official in the West Contra Costa County Unified School District is on leave from his job after he was caught forwarding numerous racist, misogynistic, and pornographic emails to fellow employees in the district. The Express obtained 25 of the emails — including jokes targeting racial minorities and hard-core pornography — that Matt Stewart, the district’s athletic director, shared with a handful of coaches, teachers, and school athletic directors in the district. Several educators and coaches in the Napa Valley Unified School District, where Stewart had taught before he was hired by West Contra Costa in 2007, were also on the mailing list.

As district athletic director, Stewart was responsible for overseeing West Contra Costa Unified’s entire physical education program, from elementary to high school, as well as enforcing district policy regarding interscholastic athletics. West Contra Costa is one of the most diverse school districts in the country — more than 85 percent of its students identify as racial minorities, according to a 2009-10 report. The email messages were all sent from Stewart’s personal email account, and a few appear to have been sent during business hours. School district officials declined to comment for this story, and Stewart did not respond to requests for comment.

On September 14, 2011, Stewart prefaced an email containing several racist jokes by writing: “These are great, I can’t believe I got them from my Brother in law. He never sends me any good stuff.” The message goes on to say, in block lettering, “Warning: These jokes may offend you….if so, too bad.”

The first “joke” read: “Some guy just knocked on my door selling raffle tickets for poor black orphans. I said, “Fuck that — knowing my luck, I’d win one!”

Another attacks Latinos, a group that accounts for almost half of the district’s students. “What’s the difference between an illegal Mexican and ET? ET looked better, smelled better, learned English, didn’t claim benefits, had his own fucking bike, and wanted to go home!”

The email also plays into post-9/11 paranoia about Muslim Americans: “Sorry for not calling you on New Years, I just got out of jail. I got locked up for punching the fuck out of this idiot at a party. In my defense…when you hear an Arab counting down from 10, your instincts kick in.”

But the jokes were not only racist; several celebrated misogynistic behavior, including the following: “Wife says to husband, ‘If you start riding that new bicycle I bought for you to work, we can get rid of the second car.’ He replies, ‘If you take it up the ass and let me cum on your face, we can get rid of the nanny!'”

Eight days later, Stewart sent the list another email entitled, “The New Candidate for 2012,” which compares President Barack Obama to an ape. It read: “Closely related to our president, but he’s got what Obama does not!” When the viewer scrolls down the page, a picture of a gorilla with an abnormally large pair of testicles appears.

It wasn’t the only email that contained a racial epithet toward the president. On October 25, 2011, Stewart fired off an email that had a picture of Obama sitting with Prince Charles featuring the following caption: “So, you’re the chap who’s trying to force everyone in the colonies to live like your brother in Kenya.”

The First Lady wasn’t spared from the racial attacks either. Last December, over the holiday break, Stewart forwarded an email labeled, “Tarzan.” It included a story about a Christmas shopper who encountered Tarzan at a store. The narrator asks Tarzan about the whereabouts of the other characters in his films: Jane, Boy, and Cheeta. When he inquires as to what Cheeta (a chimpanzee) has been up to, Tarzan replies: “Cheeta do good. She marry lawyer, had plastic surgery, now live in White House!!!” Then, a picture of Michelle Obama appears juxtaposed next to a shot of a chimp — both are making the same facial expression.

Other culturally insensitive emails that Stewart delivered included, “Detroit Lions Cheerleaders Practicing” — which shows overweight African-American women dancing to hip-hop — and “Why God Sends Rain to Latin America and not to the Middle East” — a collection of photos showing a curvaceous Latina weather reporter in a low-cut dress followed by shots of a Middle Eastern weatherman fully clothed in traditional Arab garb.

Another joke disparages homosexuality. It shows a picture of a blond-haired woman with an hourglass figure gearing up to shoot an arrow out of a bow. The photo, entitled “Gay Test” is captioned with the warning: “if you noticed the bow first, then I have bad news for you.”

Also included in the emails are more than two hundred pornographic pictures, ranging from exposed breasts to women performing oral sex on one another. The emails are tagged with titles like, “Beaver dam XX,” “ass Festival.xx” and “Not all gulf clams contaminated by oil spill” (“These are safe to be eaten”).

One email entitled, “Buddy Day XXX” opens with the statement, “Guess What Day This Is? …It’s … Send your buddy some pussy day!” and is followed by 41 slides of women posing in spread-eagle positions. Another slideshow featuring 47 pictures — mostly extreme close-ups of female genitals (one shows a woman inserting a pen into her anus) — is prefaced with the instruction: “please, don’t lick the monitor!” A video attachment called, “yup – Extreme Sports,” features a man receiving fellatio and having sex while rock climbing.

A source, who asked not to be named out of fear of retribution from the district, estimated that Stewart sent more than 250 pornographic emails.

Clyde Byrd, the former athletic director and football coach at Kennedy High School, who is black, said he was upset and hurt when a co-worker showed him the “Tarzan” email. “The thought that came through my head was: ‘I’m in a school district that’s predominantly minority and the district hired this guy to oversee the coaches?'” Byrd said Stewart bullied him throughout his tenure and he believes his actions were racially motivated. “I’ve experienced racism before, but not where it’s institutionalized like this.”

Kathleen Sullivan, president of Black Women Organized for Political Action and a member of the Human Rights Commission in Richmond, called Stewart’s racist emails hate speech. “It’s an absolute shocker,” she said. “How did that even go on for any length of time?”

Sullivan, whose sons played basketball in the district, said she’s also disturbed by the flow of pornography that was being exchanged among district employees. “There’s no way in the world that any teacher, staff member, or janitor should be emailing pornography,” she said. “That’s someone that I would worry about being around my kids.”

Sullivan said she’s also concerned about the employees who received the emails, found them acceptable, and are still working in West Contra Costa County schools. She questioned whether the district was trying to sweep the incident under the rug by allowing Stewart to resign. “Him stepping down is really not enough,” she said. “What is the public position the school district is taking on the matter? What are the consequences for the recipients of these emails who didn’t come forward?”

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