A high school principal in Georgia tried to defend herself on Monday after video went viral showing her criticizing “all the black people” in the audience of a graduation ceremony.
Nancy Gordeuk, the principal of TNT Academy in Stone Mountain, Ga., made the comment on Friday while trying to recover from mistakenly ending the ceremony before the valedictorian had spoken, the Grio news site reported.
Gordeuk reportedly realized her mistake as people were already headed to their vehicles. As she attempted to corral students and parents back to the auditorium so the speech could be given, she began a rant that criticized the black people in attendance.
“You people are being so rude to not listen to this speech,” Gordeuk told the crowd. “It was my fault that we missed it in the program. Look who’s leaving — all the black people.”
Gordeuk’s rant was captured on video and posted to social media, where it soon went viral. People in the crowd could be heard shouting after she made her comments.
After receiving criticism for her comments, Gordeuk issued an apology over the weekend in an email sent to parents, television station WXIA reported.
“A terrible mistake on my part of the graduation ceremony on Friday night,” Gordeuk wrote. “The devil was in the house and came out from my mouth. I deeply apologize for my racist comment and hope that forgiveness in in your hearts.”
However, Goredeuk seemed to defend her use of the term during an interview on Monday with MSNBC.
“My side is I’m not a racist,” Gordeuk said. “I didn’t know ‘black people’ was a racist term. I didn’t say the N-word or anything like that ‘cause that’s not in my vocabulary.”
“When I looked left, K, the light as you know, lights in the auditorium, you look left, all I saw were black people getting up and leaving,” Gordeuk continued. “And I said, ‘Oh, look who’s leaving, all the black people.’ So I made a statement. It wasn’t a racist remark. Anybody that knows me knows my heart is with these kids.”
When asked about the strong reaction the crowd had to her outburst, Gordeuk further justified her word choice.
“People always think the worst,” Gordeuk said. “You know, oh you say the word ‘black,’ you know, was I supposed to say ‘African American?’ Were they all born in Africa? No, they’re Americans. And, they live here. And, but just, I’m not a racist. People that know me, I’ve worked with disadvantaged kids like this that couldn’t get through school, we help them get a high school diploma.”
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