Right Wing Disinformation Targets San Diego Schools

by on December 10, 2020 · 2 comments

in San Diego

An error filled online posting, devoid of context, with misleading assumptions has led to death threats and vile messages aimed at staff in the San Diego Unified School District, according to Board of Education Vice President Barrera.

Efforts to create awareness of racism as a systemic rather than an individual problem have stoked indignation in far right circles during the Age of Trump. Authors and publications seeking to educate the public and provide previously unheard historical context have been denounced as being racist themselves and part of a left wing conspiracy.

Now San Diego has its own mini-scandal, which should be laughable, except that threats and violence from right wing extremists have become normalized. Ninety percent of extremist-related killings in 2019 were attributable to right wing groups, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

What’s at issue here is a segment of an SDUSD staff development program concerning racial injustice, based on the Racial Healing Handbook by A.A. Singh, which was wildly misrepresented in a “drum up the outrage” article by the Discovery Institute’s Christopher F. Rufo.

The story has been picked up by Murdoch’s New York Post, The Daily Wire (the top right-wing publisher on Facebook), the San Diego County Republican Party’s “News Desk,” and spread via social media nationwide.

KUSI-TV interviewed Barrera, and -to their credit– gave him a decent amount of time to discuss the issues local school systems are faced with. He did a good job of not repeating the right wing’s accusations, which I’m now going to touch (lightly) upon.

In response to the article, SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten released a statement saying:

  • “the report includes inaccurate and misleading statements about a successful professional development session offered to teachers on a voluntary basis. Following the murder of George Floyd, we provided teachers with voluntary trainings from the racial healing handbook. The content from the racial healing handbook is not secret, the book on which they are based is available on Amazon. The author is a respected academic. The training was not mandatory. Hundreds of teachers participated voluntarily.”

As noted above, the disinformation campaign in question started with various iterations about teachers in San Diego being “forced” into “mandatory” “white privilege” training.

The program in question was one part of a full week of professional development for teachers, designed to assist them in dealing with the challenges of teaching online during a global pandemic. Participation in this segment, created in recognition that SDUSD is a majority-minority school system, with an overwhelmingly white teaching staff, was –once again– voluntary.

A portion of the activities offered to educators included an effort to teach them to learn to respond to and understand language that often comes up in discussions about race.

The phrase “You are Racist” becomes an accusation (hey, feeling guilty or what?) in these right wing accounts, rather than an opportunity to build knowledge and gain experience in understanding the perceptions of others.

At every opportunity, this propaganda twists the curricula of an anti-racism education into something that’s supposed to be an affront to one’s sensibilities. 

These right wing accounts ignore history — yes, we should acknowledge that the Kumeyaay were here first and had their land stolen from them.

And when they run out of arguments, “what-aboutism” becomes the order of the day, namely that educators are somehow ignoring the very real failures of school systems. (Ever heard of walking and chewing gum at the same time? You should try it.)

Ye olde “I’m not a racist, you’re the racist” defense, now turned offense, is about more than protecting white privilege (which they say doesn’t exist), it’s also relevant to a broader right wing objective.

Destroying public trust in institutions is at the core of their brand these days.

Ever since Brown v. Board of Education began limiting the usefulness of government in support of white supremacy, limiting state power in favor of (a few) individual(s) rights has become a central tenet of the right.

Thus public school systems become “government schools,” with the g-word uttered in obvious disgust. By this account, educators are to be reviled rather than respected, making them replaceable with software and minimum wage paid hall monitors.

There’s real irony in Discovery Institute’s Christopher F. Rufo writing an article decrying a school system’s effort at doing anything other than teaching the three Rs to be found in a turn of the century report on his group by Americans United for Separation of Church and State:

  • Though the Discovery Institute describes itself as a think tank “specializing in national and international affairs,” the group’s real purpose is to undercut church-state separation and turn public schools into religious indoctrination centers. That’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

The very concept of representative democracy is getting “the you can’t trust government” treatment. Having failed in the quest to deny access to polling places, right wingers are now all about the corruption of vote counting and hordes of “illegals” casting their ballots.

At the bottom of this barrel of depravity is the quest by a few to deny the rights and humanity of the many, culling the population one group at a time through “otherizing.”

As Barrera noted in a Facebook posting:

  • During the Senate battle over the 1964 civil rights act, Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, argued for passage, saying, nothing is so powerful as an idea whose time has come. The original line from Victor Hugo was, “Stronger than all the armies, is an idea whose time has come.” 
  • Most Americans believe the time has long since come for racial justice. Just as most of the world was rightfully horrified by the murder of George Floyd on Memorial Day. This weekend, we were sadly reminded that most does not mean all. 

Here’s the universal truth with all the current batch of right wing outrages, whether it’s anti-vaxxers, those calling officials fascist for taking public health measures, or so-called reverse racism: the views of a very small percentage of Americans are being broadcast in a manner that makes their numbers seem bigger than they are.

San Diego Unified and other institutions may need to take steps to protect their staffs from the stochastic terrorism of the right, and we should support those efforts. What shouldn’t happen is for decent people to back away from doing the right thing.

In this case, that means taking whatever steps are necessary to root out racism throughout society.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar triggerfinger December 10, 2020 at 2:08 pm

This article is all over the place. I’m really not following what the author is trying to convey, or which points are his vs. someone else’s. It’s referring to other articles that then reference other articles, with little background provided. Also each sentence doesn’t need to be a paragraph.

Maybe he should focus more on the 3 R’s.

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Avatar Frank J December 10, 2020 at 3:38 pm
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