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Conservatives’ Cancellation of “Cancel Culture” – and Anything They Perceive as “Wokeness” – Comes to the Commonwealth

In contrast: as many - but clearly not all - of us learned from School House Rock, knowledge is power.

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by Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus Director Jacqueline Woodbridge

There’s a disturbing trend beginning to swell in Virginia and across the nation: the cancellation of “cancel culture.”

Conversations around Richmond and other state houses have taken a scary turn. In an attempt to combat ‘wokeness’ and ‘cancel culture,’ conservatives are doing their best to eliminate whatever they feel threatens their perceived sense of safety by challenging societal status quos. (Spoiler alert: the status quo doesn’t serve everyone.)

In Florida, a bill passed a state Senate committee to ban any conversation about sexual orientation or gender identity–even in a school counselor’s office.

In Tennessee, thousands of books were burned that have been accused of spreading ‘demonic witchcraft.’

Hundreds, if not thousands, of organizations have cropped up nationwide to ‘shield’ children from anything that might make them uncomfortable, including depictions of the Holocaust, the realities of American slavery, and the significant impact sexual assault can have–just to name a few.

The topic is even garnering international attention.

And in Virginia the conversation has reached a fever pitch, indicated by the 2021 elections and the 2022 General Assembly session:

  • Governor Youngkin made 70+ campaign promises last year, many of which were born out of a fear of the ‘other:’ banning critical race theory, reestablishing parents’ primary role in children’s education, opposing the right to choose, opposing same-sex marriage, and more.

Bills introduced by the Senate GOP target the division of students, rather than the lifting up of every single Virginian. To name a few:

    • The charter school proposals (SB125, SB635, SB608) create a two-tiered funding system for our schools, effectively reinstituting segregation.
    • Sen. Kiggans’ proposal targets transgender students, invalidating their identity.
    • Another bill would ban teaching of ‘inherently divisive concepts,’ which is open to wide interpretation, and would create a slippery slope of entirely whitewashing school curricula by sidestepping any conversation about race.
    • Even measures surrounding masks and vaccines divide us between the science-conscious and those who subscribe to conspiracy theories and misinformation.
  • Senator Amanda Chase called for a “great cleansing” in our public schools of “liberal teachers,” saying the quiet part out loud in this crusade.

Understanding others–no matter how different they might be–teaches empathy, broadens horizons, and creates a generation more tolerant than previous ones.

Learning isn’t canceling. Finding out new information and changing your mind is not a sign of weakness–it is a sign of growth and maturity. Finding out your ancestors may have treated others poorly doesn’t mean you’re bad–it means you have an opportunity to do better.

Canceling ‘wokeness’ and ‘cancel culture’ is in itself an outright attack on every person who has ever been considered an ‘other.’ It declares a societal war between those who have always had power and those who are trying to claw their way toward simply being at the table.

As we all learned from School House Rock, knowledge is power. Being uncomfortable is an opportunity, not an attack. Handicapping conversation to only the convenient topics does nothing for the future fabric of society. Let’s learn–about each other, about our collective and whole history, and therefore what our future can be.

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