Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Old Methods, Happening Again

There are so many stories to be outraged about, including election officials and school board members being driven out of office by bodily threats to them and their families, so they can be replaced by the most extreme right-wingers who are sworn to overt fascist takeover. 

But I'm not going to write about that.

Instead, I want to talk about something related, which is one glimpse of the ginned up panic over Critical Race Theory that's been happening, in this case in Virginia. It recently got a bigger stage because the Republican candidate for governor there featured it in one of his ads. 

Basically, the candidate's ad made the argument that parents should have a say (or even control) of the curriculum in their kids' schools, using the story of a mom whose poor child had nightmares after reading a book in his AP English class. Oh, the poor, poor child, we in the audience are supposed to think. How terrible! Our children are not ready for this kind of material. ("Our" children, of course — never examining the assumptions of who is included in "our.")

Many facts were left out of this story. The child was a senior in high school, so as an AP student he was essentially taking college freshman English: not exactly a place where students are shielded from content. The book was Toni Morrison's Beloved, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The child is now 27 years old and has since become an attorney for the National Republican Congressional Committee. I'm sure he was a delicate flower nine years ago.

I wasn't going to write about this case based on all of that, though, because, as I said, there are too many things to be outraged about and this one didn't rise to the level need for me to bring it here. 

It was this thread by writer Sarah Posner that made that happen. Posner is the author of a recent book called Unholy: How White Christian Nationalists Powered the Trump Presidency, and the Devastating Legacy They Left Behind.

She wrote these summary statements based on pages 130–36 of her book:

White parents claiming books by black authors made them nervous was one of the early organizing events of the religious right, in Kanawha County, WV, in the early 1970s.

For example, a parent tried to ban Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice as an optional reading in an AP class. Parents claimed poems by Langston Hughes were "anti-Christian." Work by James Baldwin was called "anti-white."

Some parents were egged on by the Heritage Foundation.

Despite threats, fires, and bombings, and visits from the Klan, the school district adopted most of the curriculum, with one concession: The school board yielded to right-wing demands that future textbooks "encourage loyalty to the United States" and "not encourage sedition or revolution against our government."

I'm trying to imagine Langston Hughes as anti-Christian, but I guess they must have learned he was gay (as well as Black). 

I know it's not a surprise that these maneuvers have been done before, but the clarity of Posner's examples stood out to me.

Meanwhile, in the Charlottesville trial that's just getting underway, in which people attacked by fascists in August 2017 are suing their attackers for civil damages, the neo-Nazi and white supremacist defendants are trying and mostly succeeding at striking every Black juror by claiming they are "anti-white." 

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