That's Ani DiFranco talking about LITTLE PLASTIC CASTLES. It's the 25th anniversary of the album. Did not know that. Betty just came in (I'm in the kitchen having a cup or two of coffee before C.I. and I work out) and Betty had a song in her head but couldn't think of what it was. "Some competition"? I had no idea. She hummed a line that was familiar and I still couldn't place it but C.I. walks in and says, "Little Plastic Castles." She's returning a call from a friend in NYC so I'm going to do a quick post.
My five favorite Ani DiFranco songs . . .
2) "Both Hands"
4) "Angry Anymore"
5) "Little Plastic Castles"
Some people deserve to be cancelled.
I wasn't even going to bring up how disappointing Ani became.
Most walked away from her -- and walked away for good -- during the debacle she keeps scrubbing from her WIKIPEDIA page. Go back to the history and you can find what she keeps deleting:
In 2013 DiFranco was criticized on social media and faced "a great deal of outcry" after the announcement that she was hosting a three-day artists' workshop billed as the "Righteous Retreat" at Iberville Parish's Nottoway Plantation in White Castle, Louisiana. Nottoway was one of the largest plantations in the South, and features the largest antebellum mansion. Its operator and founder John Randolph owned over 155 slaves in the year 1860. The grounds are now operated as a luxury resort. Critics charged that the resort's promotional material attempts to portray the plantation owner in a positive light, to downplay the suffering of the slaves, and to "sanitize" and "romanticize" the history of slavery for commercial gain. DiFranco's choice of venue for the retreat was called "a very blatant display of racism" on a petition at change.org that collected more than 2,600 signatures.
On December 29, 2013 DiFranco issued a statement that she was cancelling the retreat, stating that "i am not unaware of the mechanism of white privilege or the fact that i need to listen more than talk when it comes to issues of race. if nottoway is simply not an acceptable place for me to go and try to do my work in the eyes of many, then let me just concede before more divisive words are spilled. ... i think many positive and life-affirming connections would have been made at this conference, in its all of its complexity of design. i do not wish to reinvent the righteous retreat at this point to eliminate the stay at the Nottoway Plantation. at this point I wish only to cancel." The singer's statements were called "remarkably unapologetic" on jezebel.com, and "a variety of excuses and justifications" on ebony.com, and a piece at theguardian.com said the announcement made "much of the idea that this was all a mistake, with no indication of remorse."
DiFranco issued an apology on January 2, 2014 following continued criticism. In it, she wrote "..i would like to say i am sincerely sorry. it is obvious to me now that you were right - all those who said we can't in good conscience go to that place and support it or look past for one moment what it deeply represents. i needed a wake up call and you gave it to me."
She was already dead to me before then.
LITTLE PLASTIC CASTLES was her last great album. 2006's REPRIEVE was her last listenable album (and it's not a good album, but you can listen to it). She went from a brave independent voice to a hack. (For example, she stood up for Ralph Nader in 2000 and then became a timid and scared party hack in 2004 following an interview on THE MAJORITY REPORT.)
But I don't really care and was happy to note her until I went looking for a video of "Little Plastic Castles." I found her 're-mix' which pissed me off because it destroyed the song. Then I found a live version she'd done a few months back. Is the reason that two women "in leather bras and rubber skirts" is left out because there's a small child listening to you perform the song? I don't find it objectionable for a child to hear the line. But if you do, don't perform the song in front of him.
She's such a disappoint. For a brief period in the 90s, she actually made art. Then she blew it. C.I. always says things like, "I miss Ani. It's a shame she died." She's right to do that. Ani DiFranco is dead as far as I'm concerned. Her pathetic self today is just a sad tale of the way a person can waste their life and their talent. I'm reposting Kat's 2012 review of one of Ani's horrible albums.
"Kat's Korner: Ani DiFranco's embarrassing odor" (Kat, THE COMMON ILLS):
Kat: "And you can smell me coming from half way down the street." Oh, Ani.
One-time punk 'rocker,' one-time 'lesbian,' one-time 'angry girl,' one-time 'artist' Ani DiFranco is back with another collection certain to prompt the question: Why?
DiFranco's talent once included inventive guitar work (her original manner of playing is no more due to injuries) and brave vocals but it never included good judgment. Had she been signed to a major label, about half her songs never would have appeared on an album. A label with executives would have refused to release those underwritten notions passed off as songs. But she was a do-it-yourself-girl.
Girl. Ani famously picked a fight with Ms. magazine over their noting her success in the do-it-yourself field. She picked a fight with Ms. over that. Not Musician magazine, which noted the same success in much greater detail. Ani was thrilled with that and worked overtime helping to edit that article on herself, so thrilled was she to make the cover. She didn't pick a fight with Rolling Stone for repeatedly noting those facts. But Ms. magazine?
Them she picks a fight with. She writes an angry, bitter letter about how they're reducing her to units sold and she's an artist, an ARTIST!!!!!!
Again, she slammed no other publications for that. She knew that, if she had, the music mag coverage she needed would vanish. Again, she basically edited the entire article on herself that ran in Musician magazine (I was sleeping with an editor at the time and the whole magazine was laughing about her 'rebel' stance as she worked to create her own hagiography) and she allowed those facts on units sold into the article.
But most importantly, Ani was do-it-yourself. If she never wanted people to focus on how many units she sold, that was up to her. Only she knew the sales. It's not as if she's got platinum albums in her canon (or that she'd pay for certification). As the head and CEO of her label, if she never wanted anyone to know about sales, no one would have ever known.
Having put it out and having pimped in every music magazine possible (Ani lobbied very hard for the Musician story, they did not seek her out), she then turned around and stamped her feet and hissed at Ms.
And, really, hasn't that become the story of her life?
When Melissa Etheridge's coming out and success made it hip to be gay in the early 90s, there was Ani proclaiming she was gay. Talk to anyone who interviewed her back in those early days and they'll tell you that before the tape was rolling, Ani would be insisting that they ask her about that. A good friend still swears Ani was "the ultimate marketing major." So, all these years later, our lesbian has married twice. Both times to men. She's not had a high profile relationship -- and she marketed those relationships with women when she needed press -- with a woman in nearly two decades.
In the past, Ani's music hasn't prompted a great deal of thought. Not from Ani who churned it out constantly or from the fan base which was overwhelmed with product, product, product. But then came the double disappointments of 2007 Canon and 2008's Red Letter Year. On Canon, Ani collected past tunes but that wasn't enough for her, she also had to remake "Both Hands" as well as four other songs fans had enjoyed. As I noted in 2007:
"Both Hands" is the only one I've heard negative comments on and they have been severe. One person compared it (the re-recording) to The Hooters. That band's famous for songs like "And We Danced" but the comparison was to the work they did with Cyndi Lauper on her album She's So Unusual. Four other people complained that the vocal was rushed and "phoned in." It's a reworking and, with "Both Hands," that is a problem because that's a song that people are very possessive of. Ani's been reworking it for years in concert and to tremendous effect but this version does seem rushed and when she's singing "How hard we try" the "try" is disappointing. It's a beautifully written song and if this is your first introduction to it, you'll fall in love with it the way everyone does. But if you know the song already you may likely feel that not only is she not going for the notes of "try" but she's got no breath on the word. It no longer flies, it's tossed out strong and then just dies -- never exploring the word or her own range. That may be due to the clipped pace it's set at. I haven't formed an opinion on this version yet. When she reworked it on Living in Clip, she reached a level that would mean anything after -- that didn't recreate the live version note for note -- would be a disappointment.
I tried to give it a chance. I tried to let it breathe. In the end, the opinion I formed was: Dreadful.
And that was the one-word description of 2008's Red Letter Year. It was an album so bad that I didn't review it, didn't note, didn't want to say a word. I had never heard music so fake in my life -- and I took photos on one of the Monkee reunion tours in the eighties.
I told myself that her personal issues (new mother -- and I warned about that before it happened) and her medical issues that prevented her from playing guitar as she once had were going to require adjustments for both listener and artist.
It's four years later.
How much time and slack is Ani supposed to be given?
The new album drops Tuesday and is entitled Which Side Are You On?
I'm on the side of music but listening to the album leaves me unclear about Ani's allegiance.
Especially when playing the title track.
If you ever wondered what Pete Seeger would sound like fronting Bachman-Turner Overdrive, wonder no more. And, yes, it's as ugly and embarrassing as you might have suspected.
Even worse, Ani and Pete have 'updated' (changed and destroyed) Florence Reece's 1931 song ("Which Side Are You On?") about miners fighting for their rights, for their very survival.
Ani and Pete want to lie about Barack, want to whore for Barack.
Listening, you're struck, yet again, by the fact that Pete Seeger's singing ability took a train to a destination unknown back in 1963. Still, he does bark with authority. Ani's vocals are nasal and unattractive. She's both lost her range and the brightness of notes that could cover up for it.
Still no amount of lip stick would pretty up the pig they present:
They stole a few elections
Still we the people won
We voted out corruption
We voted for an end to war
And new direction
And we ain't gonna stop now
Until the job is done
Come on, all workers
This here is our time
Now there folks in Washington
Who care what's on our minds
Come one, come all, come voters
Let's vote next time
Show 'em which side are you on
Which side are you on?
We vote out corruption and big corporations? I believe it was on CNN that Michael Moore noted the obvious (his strong suit), "Wall Street has their man and his name is Barack Obama."
What war got ended Ani? The drone war? The Libyan War? Surely not the Iraq War which, Ani, I remember your stance against before it started and then . . . . crickets . . . silence from you ever since. The occupation of Iraq continues with the CIA, the FBI, the contractors and so much more. Moqtada al-Sadr has repeatedly decried the continued occupation of his country by the United States but you, Ani DiFranco, know so much better?
If, after listening, you're not getting how bad Ani's version is, click here for a version by Natalie Merchant which is amazing and honors the message.
Ani serves up a bad version, a "send this back, I'm not paying for it" version. She destroys the song. And it's about nothing but Ani lying to you and proving what a liar she is. Vote!!! She wants you to vote for Barack!!!!
For those who have forgotten, Ani wanted you to vote for Ralph Nader in 2000. In 2004, she started with that position but, after Janeane Garofalo and Sam Seder chewed out her ass on live radio (The Majority Report), Ani backed down and became a John Kerry booster. She's been the eternal coward ever since.
So she may sing of "your next bold move," but you quickly notice that Ani has none of her own.
You may also notice, if you reflect on the new album or just her past work, Ani's really not about the women. Even when she was a 'lesbian,' women really only showed up as lovers.
Many female singer-songwriters have been able to reflect a world where women took part, a world where women were friends with other women, where women helped each other. Stevie Nicks, the Wilson sisters of Heart, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, etc. all managed to convey such a world -- a world most women are familiar with. But Ani's writing, when you really examine it, really is and has been a male reference point, a male point of view.
On the new album, her male point of view is most noticeable in "Amendment." She sings the song in a tired, bored manner and, allegedly, it's about equality for women; however, she can't even maintain the focus for the entire song because she's so uninterested in the topic. The entire song? Try even the first verse. 30 seconds into singing -- such 'classic' lines as "chicks got it good now" -- she's suddenly off on "it's worker against worker."
Yeah, I know this crap. I know this ideology. It's not Democrats, people, it's that pathetic strand of Socialists, those Democratic Socialists, who posed in public as Democrats in 2008 over and over and toss the word in front of "Socialists" because they're ashamed for people to know they're Socialists. Yes, that does include our so-called feminist hero and leader of several decades (you know who I'm talking about) but, as we saw in 2008, Little Leader Happy At Last couldn't stand up for women but went on KPFK to join in the stoning of Sarah Palin and to suggest that Palin stay home and take care of her children. That's not feminism but it is what closet political cases do. (FYI, Ani's out of her political closet on this album demanding, in song, Socialism and that it be put to a vote.) Democratic Socialists don't feel feminism is an issue by itself (they're like the Communist Party of the early half of the 20th century in that regard). It's only a 'feeder' issue to something more 'important.'
And that's what Ani's bad song portrays, a feeder issue. At the start of the seventies, Helen Reddy proclaimed, "I am woman, here me roar . . ." Yet Ani's writing about women as if they're the other and don't include her. It's not about "us" throughout the lyrics of "Amendment." And if a man sang this song, he would be booed off the stage by men and women because it's so insulting. In fact, "Amendment" makes Paul Anka's "You're Having My Baby" seem positively progressive in retrospect.
"Trust," she sings, "women will always take you to their breasts." And pair that with "Splinter" where she adds, "Oh women, won't you be our windows, women who bleed and bleed and bleed [. . .] show us we are connected to everything" -- in other words, stealing from Robert Altman's The Player, it's The Gods Must Be Crazy and women are the Coke bottle?
Uh, Ani, don't try speaking for me and certainly don't go making promises on my behalf. You may have a vagina but we do not share anything else. If you want to 'put out' for 'boys who say yes to ERA,' you go for it, but don't expect me to be a Playboy centerfold of faux liberation, pretending that my putting out for a man equals fulfilling my own liberation. Or that I must "bleed and bleed and bleed" -- really, for who?
Post-menopausal women who are bleeding have either been beaten or have a health condition. The same for women who have had a hysterectomy. Ani's need for women to bleed is deeply sexist and goes to the violent imagery Ani DiFranco embraces. And to the fact that women exist, in her songs, only for what they can do for men. They're metaphors and machines, not full bodied persons, certainly not independent ones, or rational ones, these nature-centric women Ani apparently observed on some 70s vintage feminine napkin commercial. Ani writes as if her brain has taken off 'on the wings of a Maxi.'
Her muse must have taken off for parts unknown because, over and over, the music and Ani's guitar playing sound tired and lifeless on this album. The opening of "Unworry" teases that it might be a song with life but then it's big band time and a simple thump-thump-thump that's tired and dull. It also humorous -- at least it is when Ani reveals that she thinks she can scat. "Scat" might actually be the term to apply to this album, but not in the jazz sense.
"Amendment" starts off with what sounds like radio static (how very R.E.M. of her) and nonsense sounds kick off most tracks like the start of "Hearse."
That one's yet another ode to 'lesbian' Ani's eternal love for being in bed with men ("I just want to lie here with you"). She then wants to really worship the phallus by telling her man, "The little baby in the next room dreaming is just icing on the cake." For someone with such hot loins, you might think she could write one song with music that was convincingly sexual. You would be wrong. And topping her music on the dispassionate measure are her tired vocals. "I will always be your lover," she insists sounding as if she's asking, "You want Thai or Mexican for lunch?"
Sexy really isn't a quality that's ever applied to Ani. And there's something really f**ked up about anyone who thinks "like a dog chasing after a hearse" is a metaphor for sex. Does Ani get how f**ked up she is?
Of course not. Which makes Which Side Are You On work . . . as a comedy album. But fail as anything else.
Laugh at "Splinter" as you grasp that Ani's now ripping off corporate jingles ("The touch, the feel, the fabric of our lives"). But mainly, laugh at the millionaire poser. Ani doesn't like it to be pointed out that she's a millionaire several times over. And certainly that fact doesn't jibe with her 'protests' songs. But no real protest singer does an album applauding a US president -- especially when this one has continued empire and war.
"And you can smell me coming from half way down the street," Ani sings on "Life Boat" and also makes very clear throughout Which Side Are You On.
You know Ani, if Massengil worries you, there are homeopathic cures for vaginal odor -- including garlic and tea tree oil. Either way, you should certainly have looked into that issue before stinking up America with your latest release.
Again, I had planned to be nice. Just note five songs, hit "publish" and move on to something else. Then I found her destroying "Little Plastic Castles" with a bad re-mix and then I found her censoring the two lesbians out of her own song because a little boy is listening as she's performing it live. She's the Ron DeSantis of the music world, if not the new Michelle Shocked. Either way, let me join C.I. in saying, "It's a shame Ani DiFranco died." They just forgot to bury her in 2004.
"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Starting in Iraq with another Quran burning -- or alleged Quran burning. RUDAW notes they haven't seen the video but that 2 people in Kirkuk were arrested and are supposed to be of a group that burned a Quran, recorded the burning and then posted it on social media:
“Those who disrespected the Iraqi flag in Shorja were not Kurds from Shorja,” Arshad Salihi, a prominent nationalist parliamentarian of the Iraqi Turkmen Front in a statement on Thursday, claiming that those responsible for the reported incident were outsiders from different countries.
Article 202 of the Iraqi penal code states that anyone who publicly insults the Iraqi flag "is punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or by detention."
The reported flag desecration incident comes in the backdrop of increased tension and as series of demonstrations by both Arab and Kurdish residents.
Dozens of protesters, mainly members of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl
al-Haq militia and their supporters staged a sit-in last week, blocking
the highway, protesting the reported decision by Iraqi Prime Minister
Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani to return the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)
to its former offices.
Kurdish residents of Kirkuk on Saturday afternoon amassed in protest against the blockade on the highway. They expressed support for a KDP return to the city and accused Arabs of silencing them. The protesters lit fires in several streets and blocked traffic.
Altercations between Arab and Turkmen protesters and enraged Kurdish residents of Kirkuk on Saturday left at least four Kurdish demonstrators killed and 15 others wounded after Iraqi forces fired live ammunition to disperse them.
A Curious Quran Burning in Sweden
A wave of anger from the Middle East is the result of an organized disinformation campaign.
It seemed spontaneous but turned out to be an organized campaign fueled by disinformation.
When Salwan Momika burned the Quran, it seemed like a misguided action by someone who detested his home country. It later emerged that Mr. Momika was a former leader of an Iran-linked Christian militia. His Quran burning was amplified by extraordinary amounts of disinformation about Sweden on Arabic- and Russian-language channels.
The falsehoods being reported, including statements that Swedish authorities specifically authorize Quran burnings, triggered international anger with Sweden, and when Mr. Momika announced he would stage a second desecration, people in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon staged violent protests.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis engaged in a heated argument Thursday with an audience member at a news conference who blamed him for the recent racist mass shooting that killed three Black people in Jacksonville [Angela Carr, Jerrald Gallion and AJ Laguerre Jr.].
The news conference, which was in Jacksonville, had been scheduled to highlight Florida's protections against Covid-related mandates. But it took a pugilistic turn when DeSantis called on an attendee to ask a question.
Speaking calmly from the back of the room, the man told DeSantis that while he was a veteran and appreciated DeSantis' military service, he felt DeSantis' policies allowed "immature people" to access weapons that ultimately "caused the deaths of the people who were murdered a couple weeks ago."
DeSantis interrupted: "I’m not going to let you accuse me of committing criminal activity. I am not going to take that."
"You have allowed people to hunt people like me," the man, who is Black, continued after some cross-talk between the two.
"Oh, that is nonsense. That is such nonsense," DeSantis replied over disapproving murmurs from the rest of the audience.
The man was escorted out of the room shortly afterward. DeSantis continued with his response as the man walked out, telling the assembled crowd that Americans had flocked to Florida in part because of his administration's commitment to public safety.
Well, you know, DeSantis, though he’s trained and educated even at Yale and got a law degree, he’s rooted in racism and meanness. He has decided that this is his way to office: distraction, division, deflection, focusing on culture wars so that he cannot be labeled as a failed governor. That’s what he really is — not a presidential candidate, he’s a failed governor. Anytime you have this many poor and low-wealth people and low-wage workers and you haven’t addressed those issues, you’re a failed governor.
The president was right to call out the racism and call out the rhetoric and say that, either private or publicly, if you’re quiet, then you’re complicit. I would also encourage the president to go one step further, though. And that is to say it’s not just the racist rhetoric. The racist rhetoric and the culture wars and the hatred toward women, the hatred toward immigrants, the hatred toward the trans community is a form of deflection. And then the president run the record and show how the same person who’s spewing all of this division, guess what? He’s not addressing the issue of poverty in your state. He’s not addressing more than 40% of the people working for less than a living wage, even though the people voted for a living wage to happen in Florida. He’s not addressing the more than 2.5 million people that don’t have healthcare. In other words, connect the rhetoric not just to the deaths that are caused by someone like the young man who did what he did and creating the ethos of death, but actually show how they are failing in their roles as governors and legislators, and that’s why they want the division and the deflection and the deception, so that we don’t see how they’re also engaging in forms of policy violence and policy murder, which is hurting the lives of people. And it doesn’t have to be this way. Imagine if this same governor was bringing people together, was raising the minimum wage, was ensuring healthcare and those things. Florida would be a very, very different place. He does not want people to look at that, and so he’s posturing himself like the Dixiecrat governors of the old South.
And we need a new South to rise that’s not fooled by that, that brings Black people together, white people together, Brown people, Asians, Latinos, gay, straight — it doesn’t matter who you are — and says, “We’re not having it anymore. We’re taking back the mic. We’re mobilizing.” And we’re going to do it, because the fact of the matter is, Juan, if just 2 to 3% of poor and low-wealth voters in Florida who have not voted chose to vote an agenda, they could send any candidate home, including Ron DeSantis. Poor and low-wealth folk have the power. That’s what Bishop Frank Reid and others are saying. They understand. And why they’re calling for this is that there comes a time, as the Bible says, when the stone that the builders rejected have to rise up and become the cornerstone of a new reality. That’s what we’re going to launch on Thursday and beyond. It must happen, not just in Florida, but across the country. Take back this mic.
These anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ, anti-trans, anti-immigrant actions have a financial price, too. Conventions have begun refusing to come to Florida — at least 10 have canceled in Broward County alone. Disney killed a $1 billion development planned for Central Florida after DeSantis attacked the company’s right to free speech. The NAACP issued a travel advisory in May of this year, urging people of color and LGBTQ individuals to avoid the Sunshine State, a move the governor derided as a “stunt.” That was three months before the Jacksonville shooting.
Other groups have cautioned about coming to Florida. The Florida Immigrant Coalition issued a travel advisory this year. So did Equality Florida, an LGBTQ civil-rights organization. As the group’s senior policy adviser, Carlos Guillermo Smith, told the Editorial Board, Florida has “rolled out the welcome mat for hatred and bigotry.”
There is a term for what DeSantis has been doing as he stokes resentments of immigrants and Black people and trans people. It’s called “othering” — when you turn the person you’re attacking into someone you keep at arm’s length. You don’t know them or understand them or care about them. You can impose all sorts of negatives onto that kind of a blank canvas. It’s the opposite of empathy. And it makes it easier to pass laws that target them. They’re the “other.”
What’s going on in Florida isn’t a left-versus-right thing. It’s a right-versus-wrong thing. Going after various groups of people to push them out of public life isn’t about liberalism or conservatism. It’s about denying them human dignity and human rights.
DeSantis, though, specializes in dread and fear. So far, he has been restricted to one state. Imagine what he would do if he exported his vision to the whole country.
Lake Worth Beach has solidified itself as a safe place for LGBTQ+ people in a move that may be the first of its kind in Florida.
Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday evening to declare the city a safe haven for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual people, along with all other gender identities and sexual orientations.
“The City of Lake Worth Beach shall now and forever be considered a safe place, a sanctuary, a welcoming and supportive city for LGBTQ+ individuals and their families to live in peace and comfort," the resolution states.
Equality Florida reported in 2016 that dozens of Florida cities and townships have included protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in their local ordinances, creating safe havens for LGBTQ+ people. The list included Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Greenacres, Lake Worth, West Palm Beach, Haverhill, Tequesta and Wellington.
The ACLU is leading the fight to end classroom censorship and protect our right to learn. We filed the first case in the country to challenge a law that censored instruction about systemic sexism and racism in Oklahoma, survived a motion to dismiss in New Hampshire, and obtained an injunction to block the State of Florida from enforcing the higher education provisions of the Stop W.O.K.E. Act.
As a former high school history teacher and a lawyer on the ACLU team litigating these challenges, the threat these laws pose to society is truly terrifying. Conservative politicians pushing these bills are advocating for nothing less than a re-whitewashing of history. If these revisionist efforts are successful, the next generation will be compelled to believe a version of history manufactured to fit the so-called patriotic views of a vocal, discriminatory minority. Students will not be taught, and may never learn, to trace the deliberate impact of historic oppression on institutions today. This will reinforce the salience of racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia as unavoidable, and prevent the next generation from achieving justice.
Efforts to silence discussions about race also invalidate the lived experiences of BIPOC students. Instruction about racism and sexism belongs in schools because it equips students to process the world around them and to live in a multicultural society.
Two years into this fight, a few lessons stand out:
1. The Classroom Censorship Movement is Growing.
The push for classroom censorship ignited as backlash to progress towards racial justice following the unprecedented protests in 2020 sparked by the murder of George Floyd. To curtail efforts to expand instruction and materials about racial justice and our discriminatory history, 45 states introduced bills to limit instruction about racism and sexism. These bills, essentially education gag orders, passed in 17 states. By January 2022, 35 percent of all primary and secondary (K-12) students, or 17.7 million students, attended school in districts that experienced some form of a local campaign to end “critical race theory” in classrooms. To date, almost 700 efforts to exclude “critical race theory” have been identified at the local, state, and federal levels. Last year, nearly 40 percent of classroom censorship bills targeted higher education.
2. The Classroom Censorship Campaign is Driven by a Vocal Minority.
Parents overwhelmingly agree that “lessons about the history of racism prepare children to build a better future for everyone” and that students should “learn about the ongoing effects of slavery and racism as part of their education.” In a 2022 study, 87 percent of parents agreed that “lessons about the history of racism prepare children to build a better future for everyone as opposed to feeling that lessons about racism are harmful to children.” Another study from 2021 found that more than 70 percent of Americans agreed that high schools should teach the impacts of slavery (78 percent) and racism (73 percent).
3. Critical Race Theory is Not All That’s Under Attack.
Initially, conservatives called for the exclusion of “critical race theory,” but actually excluded so much more. All forms of race-conscious instruction have been erased from classrooms, despite their documented benefits for students. This includes instruction about racism and discrimination (distinct from critical race theory) and culturally-relevant teaching techniques designed to build upon students’ lived experiences. Additionally, conservatives banned books — like “All Boys Aren’t Blue” and “And Tango Makes Three” — and classroom instruction that highlight the experiences of LGBTQ+ people or the impact of sexism.
Educators report that they have restricted classroom discussions, curriculum, or content as a result of the laws, despite a desire from students to learn about censored topics. They described a culture of fear and intimidation in schools, marked by constant surveillance, scrutiny and second-guessing.
4. Unprecedented Efforts to Control and Ultimately Rewrite History are Underway.
In accordance with Florida’s Stop W.O.K.E. Act, which prohibits instruction on systemic racism and sexism, the Florida State Board of Education introduced outrageous African-American history standards that rewrite and whitewash history. These standards require teachers to instruct students that enslaved people developed skills that could be used for their personal benefit, blame enslaved people for violence during massacres, and misrepresent the role of the Founding Fathers in perpetuating slavery.
Judge Mark Walker, who heard the case in the Northern District of Florida, accurately described the Stop W.O.K.E. Act as “positively dystopian” because it limits instruction to the viewpoints approved by the State, regardless of truth.
5. We Must Continue to Fight.
The conservative activist Christopher Rufo manufactured the frenzy around critical race theory in the government and schools. He reportedly described the fight against critical theory as “the most successful counterattack against B[lack] L[ives] M[atter] as a political movement.’” It was never driven by concerns about the best interests of students.
The fight to regain or protect the status quo has obscured meaningful discussions about what was missing from education all along: the narratives and experiences of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people and women.
Over the past two years, I’ve watched attacks on education morph from demands to exclude critical race theory from classrooms to even more dangerous demands to erase entire concepts from American history. Book bans, so-called transparency laws designed to intimidate educators into compliance and attacks on individual expression have left our education system at the mercy of a hostile and discriminatory minority. Students can’t learn in that type of environment.
Our future depends on educational institutions that value instruction about systemic racism and sexism. We need to expand culturally relevant instruction and increase funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion in schools, not attack it for its role in uplifting the systematically oppressed. We can’t afford to lose our education system as we know it. We must fight back.
When Clean up Alabama says they want to ensure the language “matches the harmful materials we have found in the libraries,” it seems apparent that they mean adding LGBTQ+ content to the definition of “sexual conduct,” thereby changing the meaning of the definition of “harmful to minors” to include LGBTQ+ content.
If Clean Up Alabama were to succeed in these goals, the combination could result in librarians facing up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $10,000 just for having a book like “The Pronoun Book” on the shelf.
It bears pointing out that the first prong of the three-prong definition of material harmful to minors seems to rule out books like The Pronoun Book from ever being considered “harmful to minors,” as the word “prurient” is defined as “marked by or arousing an immoderate or unwholesome interest or desire.” And yet, that seems from Clean Up Alabama’s public comments to be the gameplay, with leaders complaining just yesterday that members of the Prattville City Council did not stand against LGBTQ+ content in the sections of the library intended for minors.
The conservative anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment spreading around the country has forced previously uncontroversial institutions, such as libraries, to close their doors.
A local public library in a small Iowa town was forced to close in July after conservative residents criticized its LGBTQ+ staff and displays regarding LGBTQ-related books, causing employees to quit their jobs. Last August, an initiative to renew tax funds for a Michigan library outside Grand Rapids was rejected by the town’s voters, thus defunding the library.
The local group Clean Up Samuels, which was behind the outrage, takes issue specifically with books by or about LGBTQ+ people, claiming that including them in circulation is akin to giving children porn. Clean Up Samuels petitioned the library director to remove 134 titles the group deemed objectionable, but the director refused. In June, the Board of Supervisors voted to withhold most of the library’s funding to resolve the issue. Then in August, the library’s director resigned after intense criticism from right-wing groups. Without county action, the library’s funds will run out October 1.
The book Pride Colors by Robin Stevenson, which explains the meaning of the rainbow colors in the Pride flag, is among the titles deemed offensive. The picture book And Tango Makes Three, about two male penguins who form a family, is also considered "pornographic" by those who want these titles removed.
At the protest, demonstrators requested a meeting with Law to demand the protection of DEI programs at their university. As the group moved into the lobby of Law’s office, the USF police force violently escalated the situation when trying to remove the protesters from campus.
“The protesters saw a connection between Governor Ron DeSantis’ crackdown on what he calls ‘woke culture’ and political repression in Florida.”nicole froio
In footage that TBSDS posted on Instagram, police campus chief Christopher Daniel talks to students and then grabs Davila by the arm before throwing her to the ground. Davila alleges that once she was on the floor, Daniel groped her for several seconds. From that moment on, protesters allege that police started grabbing students and blocking their exit from the building; the group tried to de-escalate the situation.