Just before the November 2 election, in which Trump-endorsed Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race with the help of 57 percent of white women, a right-wing dark money group called Independent Women’s Voice (IWV) spent thousands in adsTo promote its new attack site, ToxicSchools.org
The site features a shocking 2016 Washington Post headline: “McAuliffe vetoes bill permitting parents to block sexually explicit books in school.” But what the ad (and the headline) obscured was the actual context of the resolution: The Republican bill was a response to one mother who sought to ban Toni Morrison’s Original novel BelovedA scene of sexual abuse prompted the creation of the story titled, which is about Black trauma and resilience over the decades after the end slavery. It would have made Virginia. the first state In the country to allow parents and students to censure such schoolbooks.
Many of these stories are not new. As Jenn Jackson observesIn Teen Vogue: “Current events may be relatively silent on the role of women in white supremacy, but history is quite loud.” The indelible image of white mothers in Little Rock, Arkansas, heckling 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford, the first of the Little Rock Nine to arrive the day their public high school integrated in 1957, may come to mind. In her historical account of white women’s involvement from the 1920s to the 1970s in efforts to stop school integration, Mothers of Massive Resistance, Elizabeth McRae refers to these white women as the “constant gardeners of segregation.”
There are also differences. Today’s “mothers of massive resistance” appear to represent an organic local uprising of “concerned parents,”But IWV and other dark money groups are causing outcry.
Attacks on public school curricula can serve many purposes, including undermining teachers’ unions, promoting school privatization and impacting elections, like Virginia’s. They also conjure outrageAmong the most racist elements within the Republican base.
Proposed legislation prohibiting discussions of systemic racism (which Republicans are misrepresenting as “critical race theory”) could be far-reaching, potentially banning pedagogically fundamental terms like “anti-racism,” “diversity training,” “patriarchy” and “whiteness” from schools, as one bill that recently passed the Wisconsin legislature did.
The manufactured outrage over discussions of racism at schools is largely fuelled by women-led astroturf group, Parents Defending Education (which has had deep ties to the Koch network), Moms for Liberty, No Left Turn in Education, and The Free to Learn Coalition (funded through the Leonard Leo network). who orchestrated the packing of the courts under Trump).
These astroturf organizations are yet another reminder that the white nuclear family is one the most powerful forces for white supremacy reproduction. Hoarding resources is one way that this works. This is something even liberals can do. progressive white women do If they declare their support of policies like school desegregation, but then refuse to send their children to integrated schools, called “Tracking”. “Tracking,” the designation of separate paths for students based on educational performance, sometimes called “modern-day segregation,”Another way.
So how have right-wing women’s groups, funded by anonymous donors, come to take an oversized role in local school politics as concerned moms?
Nancy MacLean, historian, has done this. shown, men like economist James M. Buchanan and billionaire Charles Koch, who funded Buchanan’s center at George Mason University (the impetus for which was Buchanan’s antipathy toward school integration in Virginia), have sought to intentionally hide the political nature of their libertarian-minded organizations for decades.
Dark money organizations spawned by Koch and other billionaires have since spread like a noxious, invasive weed, from the Heritage Foundation to Americans for Prosperity to Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA. In recent years, this network has integrated women-led groups that provide a “soft” cover for a deeply political agenda.
But don’t let the fact that there are women out front fool you. The women championing today’s dark-money attacks on public schools serve a regressive political agenda, just as the women who tended the gardens of segregation did almost a century ago.