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Since the beginning of his term, Governor Glenn Youngkin has been spouting divisive rhetoric — ironically, about “divisive” rhetoric. This has come to a laughable end. Announced in late January, Youngkin’s administration initiated a tip line to connect parents to his office in an attempt to survey the education of our Virginian children to ensure it did not violate his recent policies, specifically his mask mandate opt-out. However, he soon encouraged it to be used to also report “divisive” content in curriculum. An unfettered tip line open to all parents, students and Virginians alike — what could go wrong? Unsurprisingly, quite a lot. Youngkin’s tip line is not only ridiculous, but his arbitrary idea of “divisive concepts” makes it dangerous as well. A tip line designed to stop Critical Race Theory and LGBTQ+ rhetoric in schools welcomes division rather than warding it off. What’s more, Youngkin’s emphasis on the imaginary problems of division leaves real problems in schools — like disabled student accommodations and education quality — on hold.
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In recent years, there seems to have been more efforts to educate and address the many facets of inequity that face the University, the Charlottesville community and the nation at large. Whether they have been successful or not is another matter, however. For instance, in 2019, Albemarle County Public Schools adopted an anti-racism policy, which involves a plan to research and address the socioeconomic disparities present in student academic performance, participation and achievement in the county. Most importantly, however, the adoption of this policy serves as an example of the Participatory Action Research method, which is not only highly effective but also unique in the way that it includes participants in research. This method could serve to combat social injustice in the University community, as it offers the opportunity for those who are affected by policies to help to make them.
If there is anything that media coverage has taught us, it is that everything is biased in some way, shape or form. Much of this bias is institutionalized — events and people are portrayed negatively in the media to maintain systems of power. Nothing exemplifies this more than the coverage and response globally to the Ukraine-Russia conflict. In late February, Russia invaded Ukraine, bombing residential areas and civilian infrastructure — these violent attacks continue to terrorize the country. The conflict in Ukraine is a terrible example of too much power being placed into the wrong hands, but what is even more evident are the racial undertones of the conflict.
In 1984, Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” was banned in several school libraries for homosexuality, violence and explicit language among other themes. Just recently, Governor Glenn Youngkin banned critical race theory from Virginia public schools — despite it never being taught in the first place. Both of these actions were done under the guise of protecting children from topics that they should not or could not understand. This argument about concern for children is one of normativity, not of substance. Children are not only capable of understanding the world, but it is imperative that they do — race, gender and sexuality are not new trends seeping into schools and playgrounds. As these concepts have existed forever, children should be taught about them — not only for their sake, but also our own.
It is evident now more than ever that words hurt. The right word — and thus, the wrong word — can resurface after years and dictate how people view the person who said it. Throughout history, different words have been discarded as offensive, insufficient or just replaced for the way that they are pronounced. However, some words continue to return to our collective vocabulary for all of the wrong reasons.
Politicians have always used eye-catching and clever tactics in order to win elections. Many use their platform to advocate for their own identities, though most will not admit it at the risk of putting off other voters who do not share these identities. In recent years, we have seen an uptick in politicians proudly using their identities to appeal to others. Consider Hillary Clinton emphasizing her gender or Kamala Harris proudly stating her parents’ immigrant status. However, to use race is quite different from simply stating it and receiving votes — something that Barack Obama benefitted from heavily. Instead, using race is a more covert, fear-induced projection of one race or the other. Former presidents Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush are great examples of this. Most recently, denouncing the supposed teaching of critical race theory in the public school systems also does the trick.
If you ask someone why they agreed to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, you will receive unique answers. Some think that it is their best chance against the dangers of the virus, maybe some want to keep their job or continue their education and maybe a few even trust the government. However, if you ask someone why they did not agree to receive the vaccine, you will get much more interesting responses. While medical and religious exemptions are warranted and validated under many mandates, other arguments are not. Some think that the vaccination is a clever disguise for a tracking device, that it actually gives its recipients the virus or that it has been approved too quickly to be safe. For any theory, information can be found — and often molded — to support the claim. Too many of these theories, however, come from confirmation bias — favoring what proves one’s existing beliefs or biases — and keep people from even considering any other view.
One cannot think of the University of Virginia without thinking of a few things — orange and blue, “Wahoowa” and, finally, Thomas Jefferson. The founder of the University is remembered here and in most parts of the nation as a Founding Father, author of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the United States. Ironically, he practiced and believed in the very opposite of freedom — the enslavement of other people. As the University has moved along in its social and institutional development, there have been several changes to acknowledge and erase the white supremacist and patriarchal ideals that the University was founded on. One token of these ideals, however, remains unaltered — the many statues of one Thomas Jefferson.
Not too long ago, a student stood in the then newly-transformed Multicultural Student Center and said there were “too many white people.” This statement was obviously inappropriate for many reasons, but it would be incorrect to say that this does not represent many non-white people’s views at predominantly white colleges or other traditional institutions. The statement exemplifies a norm that society has adopted either from fear, convenience or psychological nature — the norm to self-segregate. The University, given its history and vow to equity, wants to do away with this norm, and I could not agree more. The way to get students and faculty alike to actually work towards stopping this trend is up for debate, however.
The University of Virginia has a complex past that has been covered more times in The Cavalier Daily than anyone can count. Its accomplishments and shortcomings have become so public to the world that it is hard to think of U.Va. and not associate it with radical change and resistance. While we are far from being revolutionary, the University’s students are passionate. They take pride in being Wahoos but moreover, they take pride in advocating for change.
There was a virtual markup for the House Committee on Education and Labor in July. Four bills were revised, including H.R. 729, the Strength in Diversity Act of 2021. Debates ensued over the relevancy and effectiveness of the bill — whether it would actually increase diversity, mitigate racism in schools and other points of interest for the committee. The most eye catching argument was one that had nothing to do with the bill. Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., called the bill “Critical Race Theory-inspired,” suggesting that it goes against the American notion that everyone is created equally by God. However, the bill has to do with diversifying schools because studies show that even in the past few years, schools are nearly as segregated by race as they were back in the 1960s. With this in mind, where exactly did CRT come from?
As students progress through the American school system, things become more complicated. Simple arithmetic turns to algebra and geometry, learning the states turns to learning countries, and reading and writing assignments turn from paperbacks and one page papers into thick novels and essays. However, the simplification should only last until the student is capable of understanding the elaborated version. Some of these simplified subjects are never elaborated, particularly history. Inarguably, education is one of the most critical tools in helping to achieve racial equity in the eyes of the law and other aspects of our society. In my opinion, it is the most important because what is taught through school is crucial to understanding how society views itself. As of now, that portrayal is less than desirable. The context of the American school system — from primary to secondary education — is highly biased and inefficient for providing what students actually need to learn equality.
Throughout the years — in media and reality alike — Black women have been treated as subhuman and routinely degraded to stereotypes. One of the main justifications for mistreatment and exploitation of Black women was that they deserved it or that they could handle it due to racial and biological differences — a belief also held by the University’s founder, Thomas Jefferson. This ideology grew into popular beliefs that spread like wildfire through the media with Black women being portrayed as happy servants, sexually insatiable partners or angry Black women. However, as we have progressed and society has come to embrace diversity, Black women are now being seen as more than the stereotypes that preceded them and for so long limited them to what society would approve of them being and what it would not. However, there’s an equally dangerous counter-stereotype that has emerged and it’s seeped into media, politics, health and society as a whole — the strong Black woman.
No two college students have the same experience. Some spend most of their time studying inside, while others soak up the sun and toss around a ball whenever they can. However, since March 2020, college experiences have been limited due to COVID-19. Fourth years had to adjust their graduations and teachers had to get used to Zoom. One of the academic groups that got the shortest end of the stick was first years. Not only did traditional graduation commencements and the last part of senior year have to be altered, but their first year in college was left in doubt. They sat in anticipation and waited for the University to decide whether or not to open in-person activities, and even still, certain precautions had to be taken in an effort to limit exposure to COVID-19.