"Moms for Liberty" is an organization motivated by opposition to the teaching of Critical Race Theory in schools. I look at this organization, examining whose children's interests they seek to uphold.
I’m a huge fan of Michele Norris, and her recent Op-Ed piece [7/25/21] in the Washington Post, “Students Need to Know About History’s Haters,” did not disappoint as a righteous take-down of Critical Race Theory foes. I was curious about one specific organization that she mentioned, “Moms For Liberty.” Norris recounts their efforts to thwart a specific school reading list in Tennessee that featured the autobiography of Ruby Bridges, who in 1960 at the age of six was one early Black student who integrated the New Orleans school system. Why the censorship? Because, as Norris so aptly writes, it “contains too many truths that cut too close to the bone.” They critique the book’s “‘negative’” scenes (of angry white crowds jeering at these young Black children) and decry its failure to include “‘redemption at its end.’”
Despite this group’s anodyne name--more on that below--it is highly ambitious in its efforts to depict public schools as “indoctrination camps” and “breeding grounds of hatred.” They claim to have hundreds of MFL chapters that are fighting “to reclaim” their “parental rights.” On their website, one North Carolina member who appears at a recent school hearing ironically opens her remarks with a Martin Luther King quote: “‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.’ We need to be the light in our schools.” Indeed. She continues, “We are not opposed to teaching truthful history; we are opposed to labeling people as oppressors and victims solely based on the color of their skin.” That simplistic binary is clearly a problem, yet she conflates it with a caricatured version of CRT. She then brandishes a “social justice lesson” that her son brought home, titled “My Identity and My Bias,” which (gasp!) asks him to “examine his White privilege and male privilege” within a “matrix of oppressions.” Her rebuttal goes as follows: “that means two million White Union soldiers who fought the Civil War to end slavery were oppressors …. How is that teaching accurate history?!” Um….
My exploration of the MFL website finds photos of predominantly White women wearing “Moms for Liberty” T-shirts, though several Black women--and one Black man-- are also showcased. There’s so much to boggle the mind, including their frequent calls to protect their own, individual children from ‘ideological’ harm in public schools. Co-founder Tina Descovich “is passionate about America and is dedicated to protecting liberty and freedom for the future of her children.“ (My emphasis) Co-founder Tiffany Justice (no pun intended) “believes that kids in public school deserve innovation and parents have the right to know the union interference and government bureaucracy that is keeping that innovation from happening in their children's district.” (my emphasis). The NC mother quoted above insists, “Parents, it’s our job to teach our children about morality, values, and where their identity comes from.” Who is included in this collective pronoun? MFL’ers don’t appear to want to hear about their kids’ classmates who are outside their circle and, as such, may very well be experiencing their education and life quite differently. One Black member, Quisha King, offers a more complicated if still problematic perspective. She references the Tulsa Riots to make her argument that “we” should not continue to identify kids by skin color and to divide them by “oppressor” and “oppressed,” stating, “to tell my kids that they are permanently oppressed is racist,” as is “teaching ... that race is a determining factor in where your destiny lies.” Yet she also refuses the idea that only Whites are “oppressors.” King, at least, is attempting to include everyone’s children in her opposition to CRT. The other moms are far more insular in their definition of “liberty.”
In closing, I want to connect this right-wing group of moms to the left-wing group of Portland moms whom I covered in January 2021 (“Why Did the ‘Wall of Moms’ Become the Center of Portland Protests?”). Their political differences are manifest: the Portland group developed as an ad hoc constituency during the Black Lives Matter protests during Summer 2020, aiming to support and ‘protect’ Black activists; the Moms of Liberty have consolidated as a nation-wide movement to ‘protect’ their own children from learning about systemic racism. Yet both of these groups, who believe their respective goals are well-intentioned, exploit the term “mom” to signal their “assumed law-abiding ‘normality’” (as I wrote in the 1/8/21 piece) and virtue. While the North Carolina Moms For Liberty member used the term “parents” instead of “moms” as she argued it was their “job” to teach the ‘right’ outlook, her declaration certainly drew on White middle-class women’s social duty to instill proper values in--and, let’s be honest, to extend the various privileges of---their offspring. I wish that parents of all types could be seen as multi-faceted caretakers of children, but if largely White mothers persist in organizing as a group to capitalize on their special gendered, classed, and racial qualities, both conservative and progressive activists will succeed at promulgating these retrograde parenting models. And that would serve as a truly dangerous ‘curriculum’ passed on to both daughters and sons.
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