“Report your kid’s teacher for admitting racism exists” is apparently going to be to 2022 as “report your coworker for communism” was to the early 1950s. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has a freakin’ tip line for people to do just that, he said on a right-wing radio show Monday.
Youngkin, a Republican, has signed an executive order banning the teaching of “inherently divisive concepts,” such as “critical race theory and its progeny,” a set of terms so broad as to be meaningless in themselves. The meaning comes in the context: He means anything that upsets white parents. And, in his interview with John Fredericks, he offered up an invitation.
“We’re asking for folks to send us reports and observations,” Youngkin said. “Help us be aware of … their child being denied their rights that parents have in Virginia, and we’re going to make sure we catalog it all. … And that gives us further, further ability to make sure we’re rooting it out.”
Rooting what out? Well, remember that a key moment in Youngkin’s campaign was the release of an ad couched in exactly this language—a mother remembering her horror that her son, at the time a high school senior, was reading a book containing “some of the most explicit material you can imagine.” The book was Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Beloved, a staple of AP English exams. That was Youngkin’s appeal to white parental angst and anger, and now he’s asking them to call in such complaints so that he can “make sure we’re rooting it out.”
There’s going to be a really interesting set of freedom of information requests coming up to find out what percent of calls by white parents concerned that their children are being taught great works of literature or facts of history get a response from Youngkin vs. what percent of calls by Black and brown parents concerned that their children are facing actual racism get the same level of response. But Youngkin is telling us the plan here, and the plan is to go after school districts and teachers for daring to teach the nation’s—and Virginia’s—true racial history, or for exposing students to literature by Black authors tackling difficult subjects.
Youngkin is also going after school districts for trying to keep their students, staff, and communities safe with mask mandates. He kicked that off with a splash, signing an executive order making school mask mandates optional, which led to an immediate lawsuit by half a dozen school districts. Youngkin claimed in his interview with Fredericks that just 25 of the state’s 130 school districts have challenged his mask mandate ban, but a Washington Post tally brings the number to at least 58. “Youngkin’s office conceded that its figure, based on news reports and not a survey of all districts, was probably low,” the Post reports. Gee, you mean a Republican governor touted questionable information on a right-wing radio show? What a surprise.
Use that in your calculation of how many grains of salt to take with Youngkin’s claim to Fredericks that public sentiment is “moving against the left liberals” on masks. A September poll of Virginians found 71% support for a statewide school mask mandate—and that was before omicron, when COVID-19 cases were much, much lower than they have been over the past month. In January, a national poll found 57% support for school mask mandates.
The Post hints at surprise that Youngkin, “who took office promising to govern ‘for all Virginians,’ has otherwise struck an increasingly partisan tone”—the “otherwise” in that sentence, the less-partisan version of Youngkin-as-governor, being that he suggested people cool it a little after a Virginia woman threatened to “bring every single gun loaded and ready” if her children’s school district maintained a mask mandate. The traditional media will never learn that the Republican who campaigns in dog whistles as Youngkin did very quickly starts using a bullhorn, as Youngkin is.