A small, yet loud minority pushing right-wing agendas have situated themselves in pushing policies, measures, and bills that are explicitly aimed at LGBTQ+, Black, and Brown youth, educators and health professionals.
Groups like Moms for Liberty were formerly known for their anti-mask and school reopening pushes, intimidating school officials, and educators, and engaging in aggressive behavior at school board meetings. Nowadays, they promise “to stock school libraries with conservative and anti-LGBT books”, reported Vice News.
Although their emergence appears to be new, these groups have always been here, especially in North Carolina. A group of historians recently noted how conservative women have succeeded for over half a century in using their identities to push a very discriminatory and harmful agenda.
Historians have noted the push to erase books and school curriculum that targets LGBTQ+, Black and Brown experiences are parallel to conservative moms railing against schools for promoting civil rights initiatives.
“Conservative women fought desegregation with the belief that their communities were under siege by political elites inciting turmoil that they, as women, needed to repel as housewives – the humblest, most self-sacrificial, and least pretentious members of American society,” wrote Michelle Nickerson, a professor at Loyola University Chicago and author of “Mothers of Conservatism: Women and the Postwar Right”.
In Jane Crow: Then and Now by Rebecca Klein, some historians draw the connection from Moms for Liberty’s ideas and rhetoric to dated white supremacist ideology.
In an editorial piece, writer Todd Felts further notes that Klein and others have explored how white women, in their roles as heads of households and classrooms, have used their positions to preserve an oppressive system throughout history.
Klein states that “white women are humans who have blind spots, exercise power to pursue their self-interest, and can get defensive when held accountable. In a country where two-thirds of women voters are white and 61 percent of public school teachers are white women, those human failings and biases have real consequences for Black and Brown youth.”
Western Carolina University associate professor Elizabeth McRae has charted the history of white women who have fought against what they’ve deemed unacceptable to their children. Their list of complaints through the years has ranged from integration and teaching about the United Nations to more modern concerns focused on diversity and gender issues.
Advocates make a compelling point that we must move beyond our deeply rooted cultural portrayal of white women as “good, kind, pure, and in need of protection.”
One only has to look at North Carolina’s troubling history of school segregation to understand how white mothers have historically taken the lead in these efforts. In 1957 Mrs. John Z. Warlik shouted, “It’s up to you to keep her out,” to a mob of whites in Charlotte as others tried to enroll Dorothy Counts, the first Black student in Harding High School. The New York Times reported that Warlik was “the most vociferous” in the crowd and that she served as treasurer of the White Citizen Council, a white supremacist group.
Today, some conservatives have chosen their path and the tactics they’ll use. No one is likely to dissuade them from their perspective, just like we can’t stop someone from putting money into a Ponzi scheme if they really think that’s the right thing to do.
But the rest of us—the majority of the people—must take the time to understand what Moms for Liberty is doing, who they’re using to accomplish their goals, and what history will record if we follow their words.