Could Southlake Happen in Virginia?

Prairie fire

by James A. Bacon

If you ever doubted that school board politics can be a potent electoral issue, look no farther than what happened a few days ago in the Dallas suburb of Southlake. Voters delivered a “resounding victory” — about 70% of the vote — to a slate of school board and City Council candidates opposed to the school system’s implementation of Critical Race Theory under the guise of “diversity, equity & inclusion.”

After two high schoolers used a racial slur on TikTok, local school officials over-reacted by unleashing an “anti-racist” overhaul of the entire educational system. A proposed Cultural Competence Action Plan would weed out microaggressions, subject students to cultural sensitivity training, and infuse the curriculum with anti-racism doctrines associated with Critical Race Theory. The initiative sparked a strong reaction in the area, which, though conservative, had been trending in favor of Democrats in recent congressional elections. Local news outlets expected a close contest, but the results in an election with record turnout were lopsided.

Could what happened in Southlake happen in Virginia?

The Northam administration and numerous school districts across the state are implementing an identical set of “anti-racist” policies that strike many Virginia parents the same way as they struck Southlake parents — anti-racism is just reverse racism dressed up in therapeutic, bureaucratic language. The Virginia  reaction has been largely localized, however. Parents in Loudoun County, Fairfax County and Virginia Beach are up in arms where local school boards have been most aggressive. They’ve been quiescent elsewhere. But those three localities account for almost one quarter of Virginia’s population. The electoral effects could be dramatic if they spill over from local school board and municipal races into General Assembly and statewide elections.

Here is a sampling of groups — I have made no effort to make a thorough inventory — that have been either founded or energized by to counter the Northam administration’s racial agenda.

  • The Loudoun County Republican Committee and Loudoun County Republican Women’s Club mobilized to combat the introduction of Critical Race Theory into Loudoun schools. Many parents were outraged by efforts of “anti-racists” to silence opponents by publicly exposing them and harassing them online.
  • The Loudoun Parents for Education launched an effort to recall local school board officials and formed a Political Action Committee to raise money.
  • Asra Nomani, a leader of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology parents in Fairfax County, formed Parents Defending Education. The TJ parents had organized to protest moves by Fairfax and state officials to reduce the number of Asian-American students to make room for more Black and Hispanic students by circumventing merit-based admissions tests. Nomani’s new organization is geared to empowering parents across the country to combat “divisive ideas, the hijacking of our schools, the politicization and corruption of our educational systems.”

Parallel movements are rising up in higher-education as well in Virginia. Alumni groups are organizing to combat the radical leftward drift of university administrations. The Generals Redoubt is fighting to preserve the “Lee” in the name Washington & Lee University. The Jefferson Council (on whose board I serve) is mobilizing to protect the Jeffersonian Legacy, revitalize the honor system, and promote intellectual diversity at the University of Virginia. The Spirit of VMI is a PAC organized to bolster political support in defense of VMI traditions such as the Ratline and the Honor Court and counter claims that the institution is tainted by “relentless racism.”

These grassroots groups are new, and they arise from a different sector of the populace than that which birthed the giant gun-rights rallies and second-amendment sanctuary movement. The gun rights groups are mainly working/middle class and rural. Parents outraged by the proliferation of Critical Race Theory are suburban and professional class. This is politically significant in Virginia because Republicans/conservatives have been losing ground in swing suburban districts. Now that the polarizing figure of Donald Trump has been removed from the equation, middle-of-the-road voters are getting a clear-eyed look at what untrammeled Democratic Party rule looks like.

The mainstream media has largely missed the story. Only Fox News in the Washington media market has paid consistent attention to the “anti-racism” controversies. That’s OK. When you want to get a good prairie fire going, you don’t want the other side waking up to extinguish the blaze.