Reviews | Virginia schools are threatened by white nationalism

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Jessica Johnson, Visiting Scholar in Religious Studies at the College of William & Mary, is the author of “Biblical Porn: Affect, Labor, and Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Evangelical Empire.”

Virginia’s passage from 2021 Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students to 2022 Model Policies on Privacy, Dignity and Respect for All Students by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) seems sudden and extreme, but it has a story.

On August 30, the The Hanover County Public School Board voted adopt a “toilets and cloakroompolicy that criminalizes and pathologizes transgender students. Indeed, it denies the possibility for a student to be trans without parental, medical, legal and educational authorization. The VDOE Model 2022 policies mimic these stipulations, so that the privacy, dignity and respect of “all” students can only be achieved by eradicating those who are trans.

At a meeting of the public school board in Hannover in September 2021, I heard a ugly joke who baselessly branded trans students as sex criminals; last October, this unfounded moral panic was a fixation. A mother said“I’m scared for my daughter. … Who’s to say a transgender student won’t slip a picture under the cubicle on their cell phone of a woman or a man using the bathroom and pass it on, that which you all know is considered child pornography and is a crime?

Often this demonization of trans students was framed in terms of Christian belief. A the parent has spoken on behalf of Christian families so victimized by secular tendencies that they had no choice but to go to school at home: just taken care of. … But I am a Christian. … My faith says that God created us male and female. It is the God who makes no mistakes. For Christians to accept this transgender lie is disrespectful to my God. Sin is sin and I won’t call it anything else. I am one of many parents in Hannover who have taken their children out of the school district to homeschool. If our religious beliefs continue to be violated, there will be a massive outflow of Christians from your school system and it will not look good in the county. Yet meetings of the public school board in Hannover regularly start with Christian prayerfollowed by the oath of allegiance.

“Transgenderism” was judge a “system of personal beliefs” which, if allowed to exist in Hanoverian schools, “would amount to establishing a state religion” when “our aim should be to promote unity”. The question of how “unity” would be defined and by whom was clear.

The Family Foundation – a Richmond non-profit organization that believes “there is not a square inch in the whole universe on which God has not claimed ‘Mine’, and that includes the arenas of civil government and public policy” – provided signs that read “Protect Every Child”. This slogan universalized the particular so that the physical safety, privacy, and well-being of trans students translates into the defense of “all children” against them. Just as “All Lives Matter” generalized “Black Lives Matter” to hierarchically privilege white life over black life through the ruse of universalism, “Protect Every Kid” erased trans youth from public life and the nation. .

One parent said the mere presence of trans youth would contaminate the “purity» cisgender students; “Seeing and experiencing this firsthand can leave a child forever traumatized and their purity in shambles.”

As a political sentiment, tool and weapon used to define and control “unity” and “purity”, Christian nationalism has shaped dehumanizing rhetoric and politics through a particular logic of the universal – a logic that buttresses the “normative” genre according to a strictly “biblical” approach. » masculine/feminine binarity (and hierarchy), while framing whiteness as the universal (superior) and natural (nativist) ethno-racial identity.

In March, the Hanover School Board recruited the Alliance Defending Freedoma conservative Christian legal advocacy organization that seeks to change the law and culture of the nation, to design another policy. Meanwhile, Johnny Redd, a white man who considered “a shift in focus from basic educational goals…to social issues like CRT, transgender toilets” an issue, was named to the school board. “My attention will be focused on … educating students, not indoctrinating students, or promoting illogical, immoral, and/or ungodly social change,” Redd said. “A biblical worldview will be the lens I will use to analyze policies and programs. …I will not…allow an evil tide to sweep away THE CHILDREN to a point where they are brainwashed.

When Hanover The NAACP published an open letter questioning Redd’s nomination because of his damaging comments, he replied using a racist and sexist stereotype, referring to “an angry African-American woman.” Shortly after, a logo design for a swastika-like faculty conference made headlines. The teacher who created the symbol was trying to represent “unity”.

In August, several Hanoverians testified how this political debate has affected members of the LGBTQ, black and Jewish community. One person said: “I chose to speak today because as Jews we have seen this happen before. The history of the Holocaust is about the vilification, policing, and ultimate murder of trans and LGBTQ people. Restricting Jews and LGBTQ people from society is how the Holocaust began. Gays and trans people were deported alongside Jews and targeted for not being able to participate in the public community. …When I read the part of the policies that would require a criminal background check, among other requirements, just for a child to use the bathroom, I thought of my great-grandmother’s family being banned from access to French businesses and being able to shop and live among non-Jews. The exclusion of basic human rights, like using a bathroom, is the same type of violence against transgender children that my grandmother’s family suffered. It is the same type of violence against the black community.

Contrary to statements that suggest otherwise, the model policies of 2022 impose a specific ideology. Christian nationalism is not relegated to churches, extremist groups or religious political leaders; it exercises control and encourages political violence through public policies and institutions that seek to exterminate non-white, non-Christian, and non-heteropatriarchal thinking from the nation.

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