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The Campaign Towards Vital Race Idea in Hanover County, Virginia — The Revealer

(Picture supply: Related Journal. Article homepage/most important picture supply: Terry Laban)

The September 14, 2021 Hanover County Public College Board assembly in Ashland, Virginia started with a prayer. As everybody within the room rose to their ft, a college board member bowed his head and gave an “invocation”:

“Gracious God, we come earlier than you tonight, and ask that you just be with us, as we deliberate on the problems earlier than the Hanover College Board. We ask that you just be with us, as we pay attention intently to those that come earlier than us. Please assist us to make use of knowledge and your steering as we make selections that higher our group and on behalf of all college students and school and employees and oldsters of Hanover County, and in all issues that we do, we pray that thy shall be completed. That is my prayer. Thy shall be completed. Amen.”

Following this explicitly evangelical prayer, the gang put their palms over their hearts as a bunch of white elementary faculty kids led the room in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and its declaration that america is “one nation, below God.”

Because the Pledge of Allegiance ended, I seemed across the assembly room. Two native officers serving as safety guards stood on reverse sides of the room; each have been white and unmasked. Earlier, after I entered the constructing with my masks on, considered one of them escorted me in, seemed down at me, snorted, then stated, “You gained’t discover many individuals with masks.” I nervously smiled beneath mine, “I believed it was the legislation.” “College’s not in session,” he stated with a shrug. We parted methods when coming into the assembly room. It was rapidly obvious that, aside from the varsity board members, virtually nobody was sporting a masks and practically everybody was white. The college board and superintendent have been all white males, aside from the varsity board chair, a Black lady.

I attended this assembly to discover how white Christian nationalism knowledgeable the anti-critical race principle “crusades” in secular public-school board conferences. Christian nationalism is a cultural framework by means of which a pervasive set of beliefs merge American and Christian group membership, shaping political motion. Since Christian nationalism is a versatile ideology enabled by white supremacy, its examination throughout a variety of contexts is vital to know its significance exterior of non secular establishments in addition to its relationship to white identification politics.

At this faculty board assembly, the ritual of prayer adopted by the Pledge set the stage for a 60 minute-public feedback part—every speaker had three minutes, and nobody was allowed to applaud or categorical indicators of approval or disapproval. I used to be shocked to seek out that white Christian nationalism was inextricably embedded and enacted in Hanover County’s agenda and procedures.


Hanover County, Virginia, solely 26 miles northwest of Richmond however thought-about rural moderately than suburban, is staunchly Republican within the Tea Occasion mildew. Residents voted for Trump two to at least one within the 2016 and 2020 elections. The population is 86% white and 9.5% Black. The Sons of Confederate Veterans have a “camp” within the county and a sales space on the annual Hanover Tomato Pageant, the place the Virginia Flaggers have given away free Confederate flags. Till 1950, Hanover provided no highschool training to Black individuals, and the county was among the many final to completely combine in Virginia.

In June 2020, because the Motion for Black Lives swept by means of the nation, Hanover residents shaped a “group service group” referred to as the Hanover Patriots, which they believed was crucial, of their phrases, “after our total nation was rocked to its core with civil unrest and uncertainty…to maintain a watchful eye on our neighborhoods, faculties, and native companies…to interface with native legislation enforcement and hold our group protected!” The Hanover Patriots finally “advanced” into the HanPat College Partnership. The group introduced that, “Many households have moved right here not just for the colleges, but in addition for Hanover county’s conventional values. But sadly, each of these issues are being attacked by exterior activist teams and political & private agendas.” In Could 2021, they held an “anti-equity rally” over “COVID-19 mandates in addition to faculty insurance policies referring to fairness,” stating: “We are going to use our 1st Modification proper to inform [the school board] we WILL NOT have our college students indoctrinated with progressive politics, [Critical Race Theory], and different racist, divisive insurance policies.”

In July 2021, the HanPat College Partnership hosted one other demonstration. They declared, “We don’t want this hate ideology pushed on our children. It’s disguised of their good little phrase they like to make use of referred to as ‘EQUITY’!” Protestors included a white lady outfitted in purple, white, and blue with an indication held excessive over her head: “I AM NOT AN OPRESSOR.” One other poster stated: “CREATING RACIAL TENSION.” A ultimate placard summarized, “ Determine Vital Race Idea within the Classroom,” in a twenty-one-bullet level record of buzzwords: “Social justice or restorative justice”; “Systemic/structural/institutional racism”; “Energy constructions or racial hierarchies”; “White privilege/fragility/supremacy/tradition/prejudice”; “Id”; “Ally or ally-ship”; “Social constructs”; “Black lives matter.”


Vital race theorists analyze social practices, such because the legislation, whereas rejecting “colorblindness” as a perfect as a result of consciousness about race is critical to deal with systemic racism. In keeping with vital race theorist Gary Peller, essential to the “vital” a part of CRT is the understanding that “no goal and impartial concept of advantage can clarify the distribution of wealth and energy in America.” Subsequently, vital race principle is an instrument to advance the alternatives of all individuals, together with whites, who’re undermined by the methods the skilled lessons outline “advantage.” This strategy demonstrates how racism is structural and materials, and that race, class, faith, gender, sexuality, and dis/potential are relational. Vital race theorists corresponding to Peller have pointed out that CRT shouldn’t be a racist ideology that declares all white individuals privileged oppressors, and it isn’t taught in Ok-12 public faculties. I educate vital race principle in a few of my undergraduate-level college lessons; additionally it is taught in graduate faculty and legislation faculty.

Nevertheless, explaining what vital race principle is doesn’t matter to these adamantly campaigning towards it in public faculties. Peller says as a lot when he observes that the CRT-panic, “faucets right into a reliable reservoir of racial nervousness amongst whites. This can be a political technique that has labored for so long as any of us can keep in mind, and CRT merely serves because the handy face of the marketing campaign right this moment—a comfortable goal.” At stake within the assault towards CRT is the educating of texts and implementation of insurance policies that deal with white supremacy, structural racism, and Black experiences.

(Picture supply: Evelyn Hockstein for Reuters)

Presently, 25 states have enacted or are contemplating legal guidelines to “ban educating CRT.” Texas now precludes any instructor from exploring the state’s historical past of enslavement if any pupil ought to “really feel discomfort, guilt, [or] anguish… on account of the person’s race or intercourse.” Vital race theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw has noticed that white kids are “as soon as once more the entrance line on this present conflict towards vital race principle within the classroom — it’s a tried-and-true technique of racial retrenchment.” Anti-racism has been re-cast as racism towards white individuals.

Protection of the anti-CRT crusades in Virginia has principally centered on Loudoun and Fairfax Counties, the place suburban development and diversifying demographics factored within the state’s Democratic “blue” shift around 2015. The anti-CRT propaganda push by individuals like Ian Prior, govt director of Fight for Schools and former Director for Public Affairs within the Division of Justice below President Trump, has garnered consideration on Fox News for encouraging CRT resistance throughout pubic school boarding meetings. Video clips of white dad and mom erupting over mask mandates, CRT, and policies that assist transgender college students have confirmed common in stoking outrage on social media.


I’ve adopted how the debates over vital race principle have performed out in Hanover County since Could 2021. I listened to audio recordings of Hanover County’s Public College Board conferences, watched over livestream, and I attended in-person. On the assembly I attended in September, the primary and solely Black speaker, a girl, eliminated her masks and gave a quick historical past lesson from slavery and Reconstruction to the Black codes and Jim Crow. She then talked about the movie Beginning of a Nation, a film by D.W. Griffith, and stated that it, “displayed detrimental and derogatory pictures stereotyping Black individuals, creating concern within the Black inhabitants. 106 years later, in 2021, we’re nonetheless making an attempt to erase these degrading pictures and stereotypes.” She proposed that Hanover public faculties supply an African American historical past class and develop a range, fairness, and inclusion coverage, “in order that nobody is discriminated for who they love, their race, or their financial class, in an effort to shut the achievement hole.”

All through this testimony, the unmasked white lady a seat down from me sighed, squirmed, and muttered below her breath, her audible and visual expressions of disapproval inconceivable for me to disregard. In the course of the public feedback, as white audio system unfold racist, harmful misinformation whereas railing towards CRT, masks, and trans college students’ rights, expressions of approval grew deafening. 

I used to be struck by how the Black lady’s description of D.W. Griffith’s 1915 Beginning of the Nation, a movie that portrays the Ku Klux Klan as protectors of the white Christian nation, was not far faraway from the current state of affairs in Hanover and lots of elements of the nation. In 2019, the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan—shaped in 2011 in Pelham, North Carolina, simply throughout the Virginia border—garbed in white hoods and robes held a “recruitment rally” exterior the Hanover courthouse. The Loyal White Knights have opened their ranks to native-born white Christians of a number of denominations in order to “restore America to a White, Christian nation based on God’s phrase” and have been one of many many white supremacist factions that participated within the Unite the Proper violence in Charlottesville in 2017. Loyal White Knight member and Hanover County resident Harry Rogers struck two Black Lives Matter protestors in 2020 together with his truck after driving over a median by a Accomplice monument close to Richmond. Earlier than he was arrested, Rogers boasted concerning the assault on a Fb reside video, “This Chevrolet 2500 went up on the curb and thru the protest. They began scattering like (expletive) cockroaches. It’s humorous if you happen to ask me.”

In October 2021, the Loyal White Knights unfold propaganda flyers round two Black-majority neighborhoods in close by Henrico County that said, “[Matthew] Maury, [Stonewall] Jackson, [Jefferson] Davis, [Rober E.] Lee, and [J.E.B.] Stuart—Heroes That Opposed Federal Aggression—Their Spirits Are Nonetheless Alive—Commies, You Took Down Statues, You’ll Be Took Down Too…one hundred pc Americanism. Pray for white People.” In January 2021, the Loyal White Knights mailed anti-Black letters and posted antisemitic messages all through Hanover, Henrico, and Amelia Counties: “Greetings fellow Patriot! The BLACKS price us the election of our GREAT LEADER. Throughout America, we plan to ship them a message on Inauguration Day.” The letter instructed white individuals to position a slice of watermelon and Kentucky Fried Rooster in entrance of Black residences in order that members might “get to the best homes.” Enterprise retailer fronts have been plastered with flyers with Nazi swastikas and “we’re all over the place” printed on them.

Notably, the Loyal White Nights have been removed from the one residents in Hanover County who advocated messages of Christian nationalism. On the faculty board assembly in September, one unmasked white man started, “Tonight, I wish to discuss to you concerning the fact of masks mandates,” after which he quoted scripture: “Ephesians Chapter 5, Verses 11-14. The Bible reads, take no half within the unfruitful work of darkness, however as a substitute expose them…For something that turns into seen is mild. Awake oh sleeper, and come up from the lifeless, and Christ will shine on you.” After this invocation to Christ in a debate about public faculties, he preached about our age of “nice misinformation, concern, and authorities overreach,” pleading, “it’s time for everybody to get up, repair our eyes on Jesus Christ. We the individuals don’t adjust to this authorities overreach; we the individuals don’t adjust to this unlawful and unethical masks mandate for the sake of our kids.” He concluded, “there’s not one scientific examine that helps kids sporting masks,” which is untrue.

One other unmasked white man started his testimony with a preamble about educating his sons the “golden rule,” a reference to biblical verses about treating others as you want to be handled. He then recited a quote attributed to, however not spoken by, Martin Luther King Jr. that was additionally utilized by Republican Glenn Youngkin throughout his successful campaign for governor of Virginia: “it’s the content material of your character, not the colour of pores and skin.” He continued, “the current controversy over CRT does nothing however demoralize,” then stated, “most everybody has a component in slavery, not simply white over Black; a Black man turned the primary American slave proprietor. Anthony Johnson, an African bought in Virginia who accomplished his indentured servant contract, turned a landowner and used a Black man, John Casor, to work his fields indefinitely, making Casor the primary slave.” There was an eruption of loud applause because the speaker walked again to his seat sporting a smug grin.

Anthony Johnson was a captive African who turned one of many few Black landowners in 17th-century Virginia, however his life morphed right into a meme and manipulative trope utilized by right-wing pundits corresponding to Glenn Beck to assert that slavery “is a human drawback…it’s not a white situation or a Black situation.” Johnson’s case has been used to invert the narrative that American slavery was predicated on white supremacy. Tellingly, the speaker employs the Johnson myth-story after a quote erroneously accredited to Martin Luther King Jr. that’s oft-recited when white individuals defend anti-Black racism by means of colorblind ideology. Studying immediately from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech provides the seemingly impartial, decontextualized phrase “it’s the content material of your character, not the colour of pores and skin,” racial that means: “I’ve a dream that my 4 little kids will someday reside in a nation the place they won’t be judged by the colour of their pores and skin however by the content material of their character.”

The debates about vital race principle additionally included diatribes about insurance policies that present rights to transgender college students. An unmasked white lady warned the varsity board to not let “organic males in ladies’ loos and locker rooms,” speciously referring to a sexual assault case in Loudoun in June 2021, when a cisgender male pupil sporting a skirt raped a cisgender feminine pupil in a college lavatory earlier than the transgender pupil coverage went into impact. This mom then made a joke met with laughter, “My two teenage boys will swear up and down that they establish as a lady to see bare ladies,” successfully calling her sons sexual predators whereas categorizing transgender college students as such, when evidence exhibits that trans individuals are targets moderately than perpetrators of such violence. After this crude try at humor, the speaker threatened that if the board determined to implement range, fairness, and inclusion insurance policies with tax-payer cash, there can be a mass exodus from public faculties to homeschool co-ops.

The Hanover Patriots have a hand in supporting a “model new homeschool co-op” marketed as an inexpensive various to public faculty for grades preK-5 situated on the Oasis Church in Richmond. Harbor Christian Academy presents small lessons “to complement your homeschool training…taught with a Christian worldview,” concentrating “on core instructional ideas constructed on a Christian basis.” The HCA Board of Administrators are white girls who usually communicate throughout Hanover faculty board conferences.

In america, homeschooling is almost entirely deregulated. In Virginia, dad and mom are required to inform native faculty districts that their kids shall be homeschooled, however there may be an exemption for “spiritual beliefs.” A highschool diploma is required to homeschool kids, however that can be waived based mostly on “spiritual perception.” The annual evaluation of homeschooled kids’s studying progress permits for “ethical, philosophical, or spiritual exemption.” Successfully, Virginia parents can homeschool their kids with out topic necessities or assessments. In keeping with Homeschoolers Anonymous co-founder R.L. Stoller, three of the most popular curriculum corporations in homeschooling—AbekaBob Jones, and ACEstarted as providers to white-only spiritual non-public faculties and their curricula are stuffed with historical revisionismChristian Nationalism, and straightforward racism.


White Christian nationalism is shaping not solely homeschooling curriculum and debates at public faculty board conferences, however American politics broadly. White Christian nationalism was rampant at Republican governor-elect Glenn Youngkin’s marketing campaign occasions, particularly the Household Analysis Council’s annual political advocacy conference held at Cornerstone Chapel, a predominantly white nondenominational church in Leesburg, Virginia. The senior pastor of Cornerstone, Reverend Gary Hamrick, invited Youngkin to a service, the place he spoke throughout worship as he sought votes. Politicking from pulpits shouldn’t be new, and Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, a self-identified Catholic, did his share at predominantly Black congregations. Nevertheless, Youngkin played a role in founding Holy Trinity Church in McLean, Virginia, a “non-denominational church with Anglican roots and a recent charismatic expression,” the place he serves as a lay chief. He additionally opened marketing campaign employees conferences with a prayer. In the course of the Cornerstone service, Youngkin testified to his religion and stated that his marketing campaign grew out of “an incredible name on my prayer life,” promising that after taking the oath of workplace “on a holy Bible” he would lead the Commonwealth “in a second of prayer” to provide thanks and ask for steering.

A day after Youngkin’s victory, Republicans started to rally round “parental rights.” The Metric Media community, a company funded partially by “a Catholic political advocacy group that launched a $9.7 million marketing campaign in swing states towards the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden,” has revealed tens of 1000’s of articles about CRT nationwide by means of its 1,200 websites masquerading as native information in 50 states and Washington DC. Between January and November 2021, 28 Metric Media “native information” websites in Virginia published 4,657 articles about CRT in public faculties. In flip, Youngkin capitalized on this anti-CRT momentum. He promised to ban vital race principle in faculties on his first day in workplace, an indication that the anti-critical race principle crusades shall be formidable device within the 2022 midterm elections. White Christian nationalism is impacting native, state, and nationwide politics in methods which might be underexamined, by means of mundane practices of U.S. citizenship that intersect with ways of electoral politics.

In the course of the public-school board conferences that I noticed, conspiratorial fascinated by vital race principle, transgender pupil coverage, and masks mandates, converged in narratives and enactments of white Christian nationalism. Framed by evangelical prayer and biblical verse, expressions of approval and disapproval that flouted the general public remark guidelines attested to the militancy of white ignorance and emotions of white immunity. The anti-CRT crusades reimagine and defend america as a Christian nation wherein white cisgender heterosexuality is the norm. Difficult this dynamic of authority requires disrupting the mythological energy of 1 nation, below one God.


Jessica Johnson is a Visiting Scholar of Spiritual Research on the Faculty of William & Mary and a Sacred Writes/Revealer Writing Fellow. Her ethnographic examine of the rise and fall of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Biblical Porn: Affect, Labor, and Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Evangelical Empirewas revealed by Duke College Press in 2018.


This text was made attainable partially with assist from Sacred Writes, a Henry Luce Basis-funded challenge hosted by Northeastern College that promotes public scholarship on faith.

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