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Andre Perry: Push Back Against Conspiracy Theories That Defame Public Schools and Teachers

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Andre Perry, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, urges parents to speak out against fake conspiracy theories that are being cynically used to undermine public schools, their teachers, and freedom to teach and learn.

Perry writes:

Power-hungry politicians and bigots have always appealed to white supremacist values to achieve their political goals. In the 1950s, politicians latched onto white resistance to desegregation by turning busing into a trigger for white aggression. Children had been bused since the 1920s. But after the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education and the subsequent rulings to enforce it, busing became synonymous with a court-ordered invasion of white privilege. White women fought on the frontlines of the racist resistance to Black families integrating white schools. Politicians and right-wing activists amplified their fury and turned it into a movement.

School busing — not the fact that adults were attacking school buses with rocks and spitting on children — became the supposed threat to democracy. The practice of manufacturing fear around integration has been repeated ever since, with every advance in the Civil Rights Movement facing a racist backlash, including the current uproar over critical race theory, as inaccurately depicted, following the Black Lives Matter protests of the last two years.

Many of the mama bears coming out to protest now are direct political descendants of the white evangelicals who felt embittered about Supreme Court decisions and state policies around school desegregation, the teaching of evolution, the expansion of the curriculum to include multicultural voices, comprehensive sex ed, and the removal of compulsory, school sanctioned prayer. A recent article in the Christian Post lists the grievances for these parents: “We’re fed up with the pollution of our children’s minds with LGBT pedophilia and porn, racism, colorism, anti-capitalism, religious bigotry, anti-free speech, and other anti-American propaganda.”

Expanding civil rights isn’t anti-American. Discriminating against Black people, curtailing the pursuit of truth by Black students and scholars and maintaining a racial hierarchy are the actions that undermine our nation’s ideals — especially when these hateful acts are wrapped in democratic terms like “school choice” and “parent rights.”

Conservatives are currently using bans on critical race theory — a term they inaccurately define as any effort to teach about systemic racism or cultural sensitivity — as a pretext for eliminating from history lessons topics like slavery, Jim Crow racism, voter suppression, and housing and school segregation — all significant aspects of American history with long-lasting impact. In addition, conservatives are attempting to assuage or eliminate any feelings of guilt or accountability their white followers might have for this troubling past: White politicians seemingly don’t dare allow children to know that their ancestors and the U.S. government created these policies…

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