Posted on November 1, 2021

‘Parents’ Rights’ Is Code for White Race Politics

Juan Williams, The Hill, November 1, 2021

After white supremacists spilled blood in defense of keeping up Confederate statues in 2017, the GOP candidate for governor of Virginia, Ed Gillespie, said the monuments should stay up as a matter of heritage and history.

His TV advertising featured threatening images of Latino gangs, labeled illegal immigrants, involved in murder and rape.

The racially loaded “Culture Wars” campaign, straight from then-President Trump’s playbook, gave Gillespie a push, but he ultimately lost the race to Democrat Ralph Northam.

Now Virginia Republicans are back with a new and improved “Culture Wars” campaign for 2021. The closing argument is once again full of racial division — but this time it is dressed up as a defense of little children.

The rallying cry is “Parents’ Rights.”

It is a campaign to stop classroom discussion of Black Lives Matter protests or slavery because it could upset some children, especially white children who might feel guilt.

And this time, the Trump-imitating Republicans think they have struck political gold.

Unlike their earlier defense of Confederate monuments, the “Parents’ Rights” campaign message at first glance looks to have zero to do with race.

That puts Democrats on the defensive. They are in the uncomfortable position of calling the attention of suburban white moms to divisive racial politics being used by Republican Glenn Youngkin’s campaign.

Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate, calls the Republican message a “racist dog whistle.”


There is a long history behind the latest racist political appeals.

It is not long ago that racist Southern politicians rallied against integration with an argument for “states’ rights,” a call to be free of federal laws seeking to end segregation.

Now the message is that white parents are being ignored when they complain that their children are uncomfortable learning about racism.


The obscene attack on great writing is gaining strength by being paired with another GOP racial tactic aimed at scaring parents — that Virginia school children might be exposed to arguments about ongoing, systemic racism from the teaching of “critical race theory.”


In Florida, right-wing parents recently complained that fourth graders had to learn how to spell “isolation” and “quarantine.” The parents said those are “scary words.”


Polls show the big money coming from the right has resulted in the “Parents’ Rights” movement gaining traction among white voters.


If it works, Republicans will have reason to continue down this dark path to winning elections.