Communist Party USA

  It started in Loudon County, Virginia, and now it has metastasized all over the United States. In state after state and county after county, raucous scenes have been enacted at school board meetings, in which groups purporting to represent parents, extremely angry and worried about evil that is supposedly being done to their children, have shut down board meetings, caused administrators and teachers to resign, and created a multi-faceted uproar. Now the uproar is increasingly involving death threats against educators. The complaints expressed by these groups include the accusation that anti-white “critical race theory” is being imposed on their children with the result that the children are made to feel uncomfortable, that efforts by schools to be more sensitive to the needs of minorities and LGBTQ children are a violation of parents’ rights to shield their children from “sexually explicit” information, including library books, and that mask mandates designed to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic are a violation of the parents’ rights to control their children. The parents who are pushing these agendas claim to be expressing the views of all parents and working for the protection of all children. But this is far from the case. They are mostly well-off suburban white people. Organizations dedicated to defending the interests of low-income, minority, and LGBTQ youth are not involved in this campaign and, in fact, mostly oppose its goals and tactics. In one situation after another, these parents complain that their children are hearing and reading things in school that make them (both the children and the parents) “uncomfortable.” Much of the discussion around this “uncomfortableness” complaint has to do with the history of racism in this country, or LGBTQ inclusion discussions and policies. The thing has gotten so extreme that the newly elected far-right governor of Virginia, Republican Glenn Youngkin, set up a special hotline for parents to snitch on teachers who say things in class that might make their children feel “uncomfortable.” This new development has to be seen in the context of Virginia’s history of slavery, Jim Crow, and institutional racism. Virginia was the first colony to which enslaved Africans were brought in numbers. The wealth of white landowners in Virginia was gained by the dispossession of the indigenous population and the widespread, intensive exploitation of slave labor. Virginia also was known as a center for the “breeding” of slaves for shipment farther south, for example to the cotton plantations. During the Civil War, Virginia constituted the main political center for the Confederacy. (Richmond, today Virginia’s capital, was also the capital of the Confederacy until near the end of the war, when the Confederate leadership fled to Danville, also in Virginia.) Subsequent to the Civil War, Virginia was a hotbed of “Jim Crow” laws and practices. It was one of the places in which the “one drop” theory was developed and enforced, along with viciously segregationist policies. A major ideologue of “one drop” and racial eugenics was Walter Plecker, Virginia’s Registrar of Vital Statistics, in charge of issuing birth certificates, which at the time designated the “race” of the baby. He used this powerful position to fiercely enforce the racial segregation policies Virginia shared with the rest of the South. He also used his power to “disappear” Virginia’s indigenous population, on the basis of the idea that self-identified “Indians” likely had at least a drop of “African blood.” From the late 1950s to 1964 in some places, Virginia’s state government showed itself ready to destroy the state’s public school system rather than conform to the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision which…

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Reflections on the current school board wars