Silencing educators means silencing the oppressed

BY:Eric Brooks| March 10, 2023
Silencing educators means silencing the oppressed


With the big lie gaining prominence as a tactic of extreme-right rule, it is becoming clearer every day that the rights of educators and students, and the struggles of people of color, women and LGBTQ people are closely intertwined.

As Chauncey K Robinson reported in People’s World: “There is a war being waged against truth and legitimate information in our country. The far-right wants to obscure real history, making it something that caters to values that fly in the face of inclusivity, progress, and diversity. These culture wars not only push bigoted rhetoric but are used as a tool to distract from the detrimental legislation the Republican Party and those that support it are trying to force upon working people.”

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green is one of the leaders in the attempt to give the ultra-right control over the education process, to facilitate the obscuring of real history and truth. In April 2022, Taylor Green claimed some Republican Senators and all of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate “support pedophiles. She singled out GOP Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah, saying they are “pro-pedophile” because they voted to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as a justice of the Supreme Court.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, an African American woman, is targeted by the ultra-right for a number of reasons. She made rulings that were not helpful to Donald Trump, such as holding that presidential aides “who have been subpoenaed for testimony by an authorized committee of Congress must appear for testimony in response to that subpoena.”

The ultra-right, represented by Taylor Green, charges Jackson with being “pro-pedophile” because she has declined to apply the most aggressive sentence for every pedophile case that came before her. During her Senate confirmation hearing, Jackson said, “That statute doesn’t say ‘look only at the guidelines and stop.’ That statute doesn’t say ‘impose the highest possible penalty for this sickening and egregious crime,’” Jackson said. “The statute says to calculate the guidelines, but also look at various aspects of this offense and impose a sentence that is ‘sufficient but not greater than is necessary to promote the purposes of punishment.’” It should be noted that Jackson is familiar with harsh sentencing as her uncle, Thomas Brown Jr., was sentenced to life for a non-violent cocaine possession.

The ultra-right uses similar hate-filled rhetoric to advance a false narrative that pornography is pervasive in schools and libraries, undermining the professional librarians making decisions to include LGBTQ and African American authors in available library books, and the teachers who use those books in their curriculum.

On Feb. 28, the Indiana Senate passed SB 12, a bill that would “open teachers and school librarians to criminal prosecution over the content of books and other educational materials.” One of the bill’s authors, Sen. James Tomes, R-Wadesville, responded to concerns about the bill, saying “I hope it does have a chilling effect.”

Wadesville, IN, which Tomes represents, is an unincorporated community in Posey County, IN, population 1,321, of which 0.9% are Black, and 97% are white. Men have a median income of $55,786 and women of $32,747. Senator Tomes’ constituency is tiny, but his voice drowns out those of Black and progressive people around a state in the grip of a heinous ultra-right GOP attempting to wipe out all visibility for Black, women, migrant, and LGBTQ peoples and of organized labor in the political and cultural arenas.

“Should it pass, teachers, school librarians and other school employees could be charged with a Level 6 felony, which carries a maximum penalty of 2.5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine,” according to IndyStar. There is also the threat that a teacher or librarian convicted of a Level 6 felony could be barred from working in Indiana. Should this bill pass the Indiana House, it will certainly have the chilling effect that Sen. Tomes wants to encourage.

The false narrative that pornography is flooding Indiana schools and libraries disguises an anti-democratic attack where any individual’s claim to be “offended” supersedes the work of professional librarians and teachers, and the democratic processes that should determine what is taught and available in libraries. This attack is happening nationally, along with related attacks on public schools and on LGBTQ- and African American–centered history, literature, and culture. Similar attacks are levied against Native American, migrant, and Asian representation in schools and libraries.

This push to erase the reality of the substantial Black contributions, along with that of other oppressed peoples, to U.S. history and civic life can only be countered with a broad-based people’s movement that democratically asserts its power to protect and expand representation of all peoples in civic life. The danger is not that pornography is going to become readily available in schools and libraries. The danger is that the persistent, fraudulent attack on cultural materials, ideologies, and identities inconvenient to the white supremacist ultra-right agenda will decimate the intellectual and cultural life of the U.S. The danger is that the ultra-right’s hate-filled views of the world will become the only views readily available and will be made to seem legitimate.

All people with heart must insist on the visibility and participation of African American, Latino, LGBTQ, migrant, Asian, women — and all peoples who live in the United States — within our cultural and civic institutions, and in particular our schools and libraries, the foundries in which the next generation is forged. Cultural diversity must be celebrated in the face of white supremacists normalizing their views as patriotic or “real American.” We must fight for an equality of access to participation in U.S. democracy, an equality that rejects assimilation into the white supremacist worldview. We fight for the democratic inclusion of all peoples in U.S. society, celebrating and supporting a diverse working class united in struggle against capitalist exploitation and oppression. United, we can build a society that collectively and peacefully meets the needs of all working people, that rejects the culture of toxic individualism and the hopes of some for a newly ascendant white supremacy.

The false claims of the vile and mean-spirited fake leaders such as Sen. Tomes demand an outspoken rejection by the people in Indiana and nationally. We must insist on an accurate representation of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-gender world in which we live. Our struggle must be based on the democratic participation of all in opposition to the white supremacist, pro-capitalist distortions that are being foisted on our youth today. Every people, including Black and LGBTQ people, documented and undocumented migrants, incarcerated or “free” folks, workers and the unemployed, must be recognized as legitimate and full participants in U.S. democracy. This is a key part of the struggle for anti-monopoly democratic power in the U.S., and for youth armed with critical thinking skills, as well as job skills, when they emerge from our educational institutions.

Associated with the false pedophilia mantra is a false anti-abortion and anti-sex-education mantra — all designed to alienate humans from their own physical experience, to seize control over women’s reproductive capacity, and to deny women control over their own bodies. The right-wing extremists are obsessed with fake sexuality issues as a distraction from the issues of a collapsing capitalist economic and social system that is plunging toward environmental destruction and world war.

The needed response to these false and misleading trends is an ideological and organizational fight to strengthen the democratic struggles of all people. The people cannot sit idle while the ultra-right makes their fantasy-based, cruel nightmare view of humanity prevalent in Indiana schools, or anywhere else in the U.S.A.

As Anita Waters pointed out, “We must all remain vigilant, especially during those previously low-energy school board elections and sleepy school board meetings. The organized extreme-right has decided that this culture war is one that it wants to capitalize on. It wants to return to the days when the historical narratives were written to drive a wedge between white workers and workers of color.”

People’s struggles have to encompass every electoral opportunity, from the school board level on up through presidential elections, but also engage in community organizing to educate and prepare to turn people out, to strengthen the unity of the working class, to protest and to vote in favor of a reality-based, inclusive, and democratic society that respects the dignity and personhood of everyone.

To participate in these struggles please join the CPUSA and contribute to Peoples World.

Images: National Reading Day by NEA (Facebook); Teachers work for the people by NEA (Facebook)


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