Right-wing rubes descended on a Greenwich Board of Education meeting to complain about mask mandates, vaccination requirements, and critical race theory. It went about as well as it sounds.
By Mick Theebs
Early in June, mysterious yard signs started appearing in the seat of the capitalist empire that is Greenwich, Connecticut. In large letters, the signs proclaimed Stand Up Greenwich, and demanded that we “unmask our children, ban critical race theory, and protect medical freedom.” Underneath, in smaller type, it instructed readers to attend the board of education meeting on June 17th at 7pm.
The signs were put up by a loosely affiliated group of parents, residents, and garden-variety right-wing cranks, who refer to themselves as the “Greenwich Patriots.” It will come as no surprise to anybody who has been paying even the slightest bit of attention to the recent alarming spread of conspiracy theories that this group originated on Facebook before making its leap into reality at the Greenwich Board of Education meeting.
Local officials, who noticed that these yard signs had ignited a spirited online debate, decided that the police should attend the meeting, for “security reasons,” as calls rose for counter-protestors to attend.
However, for better or for worse, that digital buzz did not fully materialize counter-protesters did not show up en-masse, allowing roughly 30 “Greenwich Patriots” to come and spew all kinds of embarrassing stupidity in the hour that the board of education allowed for public comment.
People came with signs reading things like “END CRT, END RACISM” and “PROTECT MEDICAL FREEDOM”, though were disappointed to find that they had to stand in the back with their signs to keep from obstructing people’s view. Some complained about censorship, although they were still allowed to carry their signs and bring it into the meeting.
Meanwhile, in an incident of actual censorship, a reporter was ejected from the meeting by the lone police officer present for “instigating” an incident with a protestor by… doing his job of taking photos. The protestor in question invaded this reporter’s personal space and shoved his sign in front of his camera to block his shot. The reporter called the police officer over to mediate and, in a decision which defies all logic, was ejected from the meeting.
This was an unfortunate harbinger of things to come as the crowd anxiously waited for the meeting to commence and the public statement portion to begin. The meeting started with the pledge of allegiance and commendations of students and teachers as another school year drew to a close. Some of the speakers made veiled references to the gaggle of morons that had descended on their meeting by emphasizing the importance of education and critical thinking as they thanked the board and their community.
The public comment section then opened with a promising start with a statement from a parent in the Greenwich community. Surprisingly, it was a former Navy SEAL who called out “misinformation, disproven ideas about critical race theory, masks, and vaccines” and called for the board of education members to ignore the demands of the protestors who were “fake patriots” and to instead focus on their jobs of educating children. Unfortunately, from there, things only got worse.
Following that gentleman was a parade of dunces, yutzes, cranks, and verifiable dumbasses spouting the exact kind of stupidity we’ve come to expect from the local Facebook group. Sprinkled in this carnival of ignorance were a few reasonable people addressing issues like the lack of media aids in schools, and how teaching critical race theory is in fact beneficial for students. In one touching moment, a speaker read a poem praising the teachers for putting themselves in harm’s way to educate during the pandemic.
The protestors were divided over the issues. Some felt strongly about mask mandates, while some did not think it was fair that their unvaccinated children had to continue to wear masks, and vaccinated children did not – clearly not understanding the point of wearing a mask or getting vaccinated in the first place. The most contentious topic by far was the matter of Critical Race Theory, which this group did not seem to grasp in the slightest. Critical Race Theory, to them, was “communism” and “racist”.
In a scene straight out of Parks and Recreation, several people took to the microphone to unashamedly summon the ghost of Martin Luther King, Jr. while arguing, without a hint of irony, against policies which allow students to examine the role that race has and continues to play in our society today and in how our country was built. One person even went so far as to say that CRT was basically the same thing as national socialism. Another person mentioned Karl Marx’s name no less than four times in the three minutes they had to speak.
The lack of self-awareness was astounding. One person complained that they felt alienated because of their views, and were tired of being called racist. This person might instead consider why they have been repeatedly called a racist, and examine their actions to determine whether they may, in fact, be doing something that is racist.
Another person took issue with a school’s “Stand Up to Hate Day,” apparently in the belief that students shouldn’t stand up to hate. Several parents were upset that teachers were instructed to read the milquetoast and problematic in its own way White Fragility in a stunning demonstration of the book’s title.
Several speakers had the same complaint: that the board of education needed to be more transparent in choosing the curriculum, and should first submit the material to parents for review, though it is questionable as to how many would actually review such materials. One parent went around distributing massive packets they’ve compiled of texts and quotes out of context from learning materials they found objectionable due to “vulgar language” and content they found unsuitable for their children.
Entire pages from the graphic novel Persepolis were included in these packets in a clear demonstration that these parents did not actually know how to examine a text’s message and purpose. Some other class materials that landed in these people’s crosshairs for teaching Critical Race Theory included: Hotel Rwanda, The Hunger Games 1 and 2, Remember the Titans, The Outsiders, The Lorax, and Phineas and Ferb. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic.
Beneath all the absurdity lay a sinister undercurrent. These “Patriots” were angry and spoiling for a fight. A teacher who spoke about the importance of developing students’ critical thinking skills, and of viewing the country’s history with honest, sober eyes, was met with boos and jeers from a swath of the crowd. After a young woman courageously took the podium to speak about the importance CRT had in her education as a first-generation Columbian immigrant, the crowd responded with scoffs and heckles that went unaddressed by the people who were supposedly there to keep the peace.
Some of the “Greenwich Patriots” channeled their inner Charlie Day and attempted to play amateur lawyer with regards to the curriculum rules, the board’s rules of operation, and even the three-minute limit on public comment. One woman demanded special treatment in the form of extra time to speak about how dangerous masks and vaccines were. When the board refused, the protestors flew into a fury, chanting let her speak until the mic and auditorium lights were turned off and were only turned back on when everyone settled down.
What people who demand that schools “focus on academics” and “keep politics out of the classroom” fail to realize is that politics are already in the classroom. They fundamentally do not understand politics permeates every facet of our lives and that even the decision to “not be political” is a political decision itself. These people operate from a place of total confidence and total ignorance. They do not grasp that an education is much more than learning math and science, that social skills and social issues will have just as big, if not bigger, role in a young person’s future than solving for x or knowing what mitochondria are.
What’s more is they fail to see how their own educations were politicized. They were being indoctrinated as children when they learned that the United States saved the world in World War 2, but did not learn about how that victory was only possible due to the massive sacrifice on the part of the USSR. We teach our children propaganda from a very young age – it is already built into our curriculum, and into our national conscious.
It is easy to mock these people for their stupidity and lack of self-awareness and abject shamelessness as they rail against “diversity and inclusion,” “social and emotional learning,” and “indoctrination” in public schools. It is easy to brush them off as fringe and cranks who do not understand the purpose of education. It is even easier to say that these people do not represent the majority. But the terrifying fact remains is that these are the people who showed up. There were no counter protestors. There were scant few people who took to the podium to call out these people for their ignorance and hate. And that is a fact that should scare the hell out of anyone who thinks these people are wrong.