Category Archives: Culture wars

Bacon Bits: Signs of the Times

I identify as a rattlesnake. The Department of Motor Vehicles has issued approximately 5,600 drivers licenses and other forms of identification with a “nonbinary” identification since an enabling law went into effect July 1, 2020, reports The Virginia Mercury. “For decades the government put lots of people in boxes in lots of ways,” said the law’s sponsor Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax. “And going forward I don’t think a lot of young people see themselves that way.” Gee, I thought the purpose of ID cards was to help authorities verify if people are who they say they are, not to be a vehicle for self expression — like, say, customized license plates. Ok, I was wrong about that. How, then, can I, as an ordinary male, express my identity? Surely, it is but a small step from stamping the Gadsden Flag on my license plate to embossing it on my ID card. Do I hear any legislators volunteering to submit a bill?

Eat your heart out, VCU. The Virginia Commonwealth University police department has, as I recently noted on this blog, appointed two of its officers as liaisons with the LGBTQIA+ community. Not to be outdone, the 170-person University of Virginia police department has hired a full-time Diversity, Equity & Inclusion officer to organize racial and cultural sensitivity training. Indeed, university officers received such training Sept. 1, exactly one week before an unidentified White man hung a noose on a statue of Homer on the University grounds. The noose, which is associated with lynching, is often considered a symbol of White supremacy. “The recent training allowed police to identify the incident as a hate crime without second-guessing it,” writes The Daily Progress, quoting DEI officer Courtney Hawkins. The article did not explain how hanging a noose on a statue of an old, dead White man constituted a hate crime. Hopefully, the investigation into the incident will identify the perpetrator and illuminate his thinking.

Speaking of hate crimes… University of Virginia Health has organized what it calls Emotional Emancipation Circles where Black students can “heal the emotional legacies of racism and racial trauma.” Participants will “share stories and deepen our understanding of the impact of historical forces on our sense of self-worth, relationships, and communities.” Among other skills, participants will learn “African-centered practices for healing cultural wounds.” I don’t know anything about these African-centered practices, but they have to be better than the Euro-centered practice of cultivating grievance, victimhood, and fragility- and fatalism-inducing self-pity. The further these Emotional Emancipation Circles can distance themselves from Eurocentric psychiatric influences the quicker the healing can begin.

Media Gins up Anemic School Walkouts

by Kerry Dougherty

You could almost hear the local media panting Tuesday morning. There were rumors that some Virginia high school students were going to walk out of school to protest the new parental rights policies of the Youngkin administration.

You know, the Department of Education regulations announced earlier this month that support the principle that parents are the ultimate authority over their own kids.

I wrote about this reversal of Ralph Northam’s policies on parental authority last week.

The mainstream media, desperate to weaken an increasingly popular Youngkin, portrays the policy as limiting transgendered rights.

That’s nonsense and if members of the media took the time to actually READ the language of the regulations, as I did, they would know it. Continue reading

“Puberty Blockers Are Wonderful” – UVa Children’s Hospital

by James C. Sherlock

How do people communicate?

Generally by words and visuals and, in person, with body language. The art and science of marketing and sales is one of the bulwarks of any economy — and any political system.

My article on the hard selling of hormone treatments — puberty blockers and cross-gender use of estrogen and testosterone — by UVa Children’s Hospital Transgender Youth Health Services has drawn a lot of attention.

Two of the most famous lines from the video and its transcript are:

Puberty blockers are wonderful. They provide sort of a break.

Well. What child and parent wouldn’t want a break? Is there ice cream?

That enthusiastic endorsement caused me to check out the FDA warnings on puberty blockers.

Wonderful is not the first word that comes to mind. Continue reading

Wokewashing Comes for the Executive Mansion

by Shaun Kenney

Ned Oliver over at Axios Richmond takes two separate and distinct wires and touches them together for maximum dramatic effect, namely how the tour for the Virginia Executive Mansion — recently reopened after the COVID pandemic — whose narrative has satisfied historians for a good two decades or more, is today somehow tied into Youngkin’s opposition to Critical Race Theory.

From the objective-because-it-is-short method at Axios Richmond:

Why it matters: One of Youngkin’s first acts as governor was to ban public schools from teaching what he called “inherently divisive concepts,” prompting fears his administration was attempting to whitewash history books.

  • His administration’s handling of tours at the Executive Mansion offers up-close insight into how he thinks complex histories should be taught.

Does anyone in their right mind think this is objective reporting? Continue reading

VEA’s Failing, Flailing Excuse for a Report

by James A. Bacon

The Youngkin administration threw down the gauntlet last week when it issued the latest public school-accreditation data. Despite unprecedented learning losses during the COVID epidemic, the percentage of Virginia public schools meeting the accreditation standards fell from 92% pre-COVID to 89% post-COVID, a decline of only three percentage points. Commented Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow: “Frankly, the ratings we are releasing today fail to capture the extent of the crisis facing our schools and students.”

Now the Virginia Education Association has countered with a report, “Failing State, Not ‘Failing Schools.’” The report blames systemic racism and under-funding of non-accredited schools.

“Certain politicians have deprived many of our schools of critical resources, particularly in Black communities, and then point the finger at educators for the challenges these schools face by referring to them as “failing schools,” the VEA says. “This deflects blame and ignores the legacy of state-sanctioned policies in certain Black communities, and perpetuate inequities we see in student outcomes today.”

The report is remarkable in many ways. First and foremost, it makes non-accreditation shortfalls all about race. While the Youngkin administration has emphasized that minorities are hurt the most by school-underperformance, it has never suggested that race is the issue. The VEA flat-out blames racism. Second, the VEA repeatedly contends that non-accredited schools are under-funded. This claim is so lacking in factual support that it approaches outright dishonesty. Finally, the VEA suggests that the answer is more money, always more money. No need for better management, no need for teachers, administrators, parents or students to change the way they do anything. The entire onus for fixing the system belongs to the state and Virginia taxpayers.

I’m not buying it. Not one little bit. Continue reading

“Too Thin”

The Jackson Arch — before sandblasting

by Donald Smith

The Virginia Military Institute’s hands were tied, it seems. It tried for months to justify leaving an inscription of Stonewall Jackson’s name on an arch at the Old Barracks on VMI’s Main Post. But the school’s leadership couldn’t find a way, so it chose… to take a sandblaster to the  National Historic Landmark.

That’s the conclusion I draw from VMI’s explanation of its decision to expunge Stonewall Jackson’s name from the formerly named Jackson Arch. (See “Retained and Contextualized At VMI” for the full explanation.)

According to the chair of VMI’s Commemorations and Memorials Naming and Review Committee (CMNRC), the original intent of installing a statue of Thomas Jonathan Jackson on the Main Post and inscribing his name on the Post chapel and upon the arch was to honor “Stonewall” Jackson, the brilliant Confederate general. However, only “most compelling” reasons would allow his name to  remain on Jackson Arch today. “The Committee spent months analyzing reasons that might allow the continued display of the Jackson tributes,” said the committee chair, but could not find sufficient justification.

I think Lucky Ned Pepper, the villain in the movie True Grit said it best: “Too thin!” Continue reading

The Social Emotional Learning Establishment Seeks Progressive Reordering of Society

by James C. Sherlock

Social emotional learning is based on a good idea. The underlying concept is to train adults (teachers and staff) in child psychology with a goal of shaping learning environments that optimize development of children to societal standards of behavior.

To teach them how to act.

The rub: who decides on the target societal standards of behavior?

Virginia’s vision for SEL is published as:

intended to center equity in this work, which is key to VDOE’s vision and mission.

The vision of social emotional learning in Virginia is to maximize the potential of all students and staff to become responsible, caring and reflective members of our diverse society by advancing equity, uplifting student voice, and infusing SEL into every part of the school experience.

You can figure out where the educational establishment is going with that. But if you cannot, they have told us in no uncertain terms.

They intend to integrate issues of race, class and culture into academic content with a primary goal of making social justice warriors out of America’s children; to bring down capitalism, individualism, and what they call neoliberal democracy.

To lead our children to help redistribute power in America.

Not my words, theirs. Continue reading

UVa Rules Out a “Pattern” of Hate Crimes

by James A. Bacon

University of Virginia executive leadership has issued a remarkable statement that lends insight into the fraught state of race relations at Virginia’s flagship university. Three recent incidents have taken place on the Grounds since the new academic year began that have “caused some to speculate that they are linked or part of a larger pattern of racially motived crimes,” said J.J. Wagner Davis, chief operating officer, and Tim Longo, chief of university police.

One incident involved a White man hanging a noose around the neck of the Greek poet Homer, an act of ambiguous meaning that President Jim Ryan promptly branded as a hate crime. The Davis-Longo statement made it clear, however, that two other matters — a report of someone throwing rocks through the window of the Office of African-American Affairs, and the discovery of a flag bearing a strange symbol lying on the grass near the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers — have been determined not to be hate crimes.

“President Ryan has asked us to provide this community with an update and to make as clear as we can: These incidents are not linked, and two of the three were not racially motivated at all,” the statement read.

The series of incidents has roiled the UVa community. As the statement notes, Ryan and other senior University officials have “spoken with many students, faculty and alumni” about efforts to get to the bottom of the events. Continue reading

Virginia Model Policies on Protecting Students Show Differences in Constitutional Focus and Interpretation

by James C. Sherlock

There is lots of interest, and not a little headline hyperbole, concerning the change in Virginia’s model policies designed to assure all children appropriate treatment at school.

Two different world views are apparent in the titles:

  • the Northam administration’s Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools (Northam Model Policies) and
  • the Youngkin Administration’s Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity, and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools (Youngkin Model Policies).

Both attorneys and general audiences will find interesting the way the authors of each document interpreted the United States Constitution.

Each referred to the first and 14th amendments. And Virginia laws. The differences in emphasis and interpretation were chosen to support their cases.

That is not surprising, but I think those differences make or break the case for the two policies.

I will let readers decide. Continue reading

“Our Life Is Always Threatened”

Insult to dead White man inspires outcries against racism by campus radicals. Photo credit: Daily Progress

by James A. Bacon

Last week an unidentified White man draped a noose from the statue of Homer at the University of Virginia. Without any evidence of the perpetrator’s motive, University Police and President Jim Ryan promptly proclaimed the incident a hate crime. Yesterday, a group of 60 or so students gathered near the statue of the ancient Greek poet to protest racism and White supremacy and The Daily Progress, Charlottesville’s newspaper, was there!

In the resulting 19-paragraph story, the newspaper gave full voice to the protesters’ rhetoric without a single dissenting view.

“For Black men and Black women here on this campus and in this country, our life is always threatened. There’s always a noose around our neck,” said one Black UVa student organizer. “This is nothing new for us. I was hurting, especially when it first happened.”  Continue reading

Presumed Racist Until Proven Innocent

by James A. Bacon

Around 11:15 p.m. last Wednesday, a White male dressed in dark clothing climbed the statue of the blind poet Homer on the grounds of the University of Virginia and hung a noose around its neck.

The next day University President Jim Ryan declared the incident to be a “hate crime” and vowed to track down the perpetrator. Ryan said he wanted to assure every member of the UVa community that he was “working to keep you safe and to make the University of Virginia a place where everyone is welcome” regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or political ideology.

“A noose is a recognizable and well-known symbol of violence, most closely associated with the racially motivated lynchings of African Americans,” Ryan said in a prepared statement. “The combination of those factors led University public safety officials to determine that this incident met the criteria of a hate crime and that a community alert was required.”

Proclaiming the incident to be a hate crime seems premature. Given the facts available, I would not call it unreasonable to suspect that noose might have been meant to intimidate African-Americans — let’s call it a working hypothesis — but one must ask, if someone is trying to send a racist message, why hang the noose around the neck of an ancient Greek poet? Why not hang the noose from a tree branch? Or vandalize the shrine to UVa’s slave laborers? Continue reading

Va. Colleges Fare Pretty Well in Free-Speech Rankings

Click on table for more legible image.

by James A. Bacon

Three Virginia universities scored in the top 25 institutions in the 2022-23 College Free Speech Rankings published this week by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

The College of William and Mary scored 12th among the 203 institutions ranked in the national survey of 44,900 undergraduate students. George Mason University ranked 17th, and the University of Virginia 24th.

Washington & Lee University ranked 70th, placing it in the top half, but Virginia Tech achieved a dismal 150th-place ranking, making it among the worst in the nation for free speech.

Institutions with the best rankings tended to score well in their formal, written speech codes, as determined by FIRE research based on formal university policies. Those policies are not necessarily honored in practice, however. Of potential concern to Bacon’s Rebellion readers, for example, W&M and UVa students expressed far less tolerance for conservative outside speakers than liberal speakers. Continue reading

Sorry, Lefties, But Racists Don’t Invest In Black Enterprise

by James A. Bacon

The broadsides against Bert Ellis are going national. Inside Higher Education, the higher-ed trade publication, has published an article highlighting the growing controversy over Ellis’ appointment to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors. The article quotes Eva Surovell, editor-in-chief of The Cavalier Daily, whose articles sparked the furor, as saying that developments at UVa reflect the larger campus culture wars across the country.

That observation is true enough. Unfortunately, Surovell goes on to say this: “We’re just not unique in that really conservative voices are nostalgic for a time when women, when Black people and when other people of color were either banned or much less of a population here at UVA.”

Translation: Ellis and his alumni allies are reactionary racists and sexists.

I’ve got news for Ms. Surovell: Bert Ellis is CEO of Johnson Energy Storage, a developer of solid-state energy storage solutions founded by African American inventor Lonnie Johnson. Racists don’t invest in minority-owned enterprises. Racists don’t serve as CEOs of companies founded by minority entrepreneurs. Continue reading

A Lie Is Born

by James A. Bacon

It is horrifying to watch in real time how the media generates falsehoods and then spreads them without correction. About two weeks ago The Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper at the University of Virginia, published an article about a 47-year-old controversy in which Bert Ellis, who then was a tri-chairman of the student union and now sits on the UVa Board of Visitors, invited William Shockley, a racist and eugenicist, to speak at the university. The story, shorn of critical context, spread to the Democratic Party of Virginia, then to the Washington Post editorial board, and most recently to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Insinuated but not stated baldly, is that Ellis is a racist. In its latest mutation, the lie is used to build a case that Governor Glenn Youngkin, who appointed Ellis to the board, is, in the Post’s words, “racially obtuse.”

Bert Ellis is a colleague of mine. We serve together in the leadership of The Jefferson Council, which is dedicated to upholding the Jeffersonian legacy at UVa. I don’t know him intimately, but I have gotten to know him pretty well. I have heard him speak candidly on a host of incendiary issues, and I’ve never heard him utter a racist sentiment.

With this column, I’m putting Virginia’s mainstream media on notice: stop it! You’re treading dangerously close to libel. You can no longer claim innocence of the facts. If you persist, you deserve to be sued. Continue reading

“Retained and Contextualized” at VMI

The Jackson Arch — pre-retention and contextualization. Photo credit: Yelp

by Donald Smith

The Stonewall-Jackson-statue-at-VMI controversy is one of many, both in Virginia and across the country, where communities and their elected/appointed representatives have grappled with tough questions: how do we honor past heroes in modern times? Do we continue to honor them at all?  When do the feelings of a minority of a community outweigh the desires of the majority?  VMI, and Virginia, are just now really starting to deal with these questions, when it comes to the state’s history, up to and including the Civil War.

After removing the statue of Stonewall Jackson from the Main Post and his name from the Post chapel, Virginia Military Institute officials arranged for the inscription of the Confederate general’s name to be sandblasted off an arch, commonly known as “Jackson Arch,” of the Old Barracks during the 2021-22 Christmas break.

Four months later, on April 30th, the Commemorations and Memorials Naming and Review Committee (CMNRC), created to review all Confederate iconography on the Lexington campus, concluded its business. “[T]he VMI Board of Visitors,” said the committee in a public announcement, “voted to retain all the remaining statues and building names. Additionally, the vast majority of the other commemorative items, artwork, and memorials that had been the subject of the committee’s scrutiny because of the item’s association, however indirectly, with the Civil War, slavery, and the Confederacy will remain.” Some of the items that remain will be “retained and contextualized.” Continue reading