An American couple's frustration with woke ideology at their child's school led to the recent formation of The Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR), a nonpartisan organization "dedicated to advancing civil rights and liberties for all Americans, and promoting a common culture based on fairness, understanding and humanity." Photo by Getty Images

Barbara Kay: Birth of a new resistance: Parents mobilize to tackle woke ideology

For classic liberals who consider woke ideology the most disturbing threat to democracy in their lifetime, FAIR's board of advisers is a dream team

Riverdale Country School is one of New York City’s — and therefore America’s — most elite private schools. Last June the school administration sent a memo to parents alerting them to curriculum changes that would reflect “the responsibility to use our privilege to fight for change.”

At the first assembly in September, instead of the school’s traditional pledge of allegiance and singing of “America the Beautiful,” students were shown a video in which the school mascot told students aged five to 11 to “check each other’s words and actions.” Families were encouraged to join school-organized “affinity” groups to bond with people of the same colour or ethnicity. One group is called POC for “parents of color.”


None of this sat well with Riverdale parent Bion Bartning, half Mexican and Yaqui (an Indigenous tribe native to the Mexican border region) and half Jewish, who defines himself as a “typical American.” Bartning’s wife is a refugee from the former Soviet Union where, as a child, her “group identity” was stamped in her passport, and children were encouraged to snitch on others, including family members, who expressed incorrect thoughts: exactly what her family came to America to escape.

Bartning’s op-ed will echo the alarm of many typical liberals who regard themselves as mugged by critical race theory

This background is provided in Bartning’s recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, titled “Dividing by Race Comes to Grade School.” Probing the curriculum changes, the Bartnings found that Riverdale’s “racial literacy” guide teaches identity is coincident with skin colour, marginalizing people who “don’t place race at the heart of their identity.” When the couple voiced their objections, the school head wrote to them: “I wonder if this might be a good moment to think whether or not this is the best place for you and your family.”

Bartning’s op-ed will echo the alarm of many typical liberals who regard themselves as mugged by critical race theory. They knew cynical theories ruled on campus, but didn’t think they would survive contact with the “real world.” Today, though, masquerading as “antiracism,” this neo-racist belief system has gone viral throughout pedagogical networks. The San Diego Unified School District, for example, told teachers in a training session that they “spirit murder” Black children and should undergo “racist therapy.”

Bartning was aware that other parents had the same concerns, but weren’t prepared to act on them. As other commentators have noted, private schools like Riverdale are a conduit to Ivy League universities, and this is the mindset Harvard et al demand in their incoming student body. So Bartning grasped the nettle and founded a new resistance organization: the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR). It’s only two months old, but it could be the vaccine frustrated parents long for.

First, check out FAIR’s board of advisers. Since I can’t name all 31 of them, I won’t name any. Suffice to say, for classic liberals who consider woke ideology and its social fallout the most disturbing threat to democracy in their lifetime, this diverse dream team (about a third are ethnic/racial minorities) of brilliant public intellectuals, scientists, writers, entrepreneurs and experts in education may bring tears to their eyes.

FAIR’s declaration of beliefs and goals is a balm to the liberal soul. Amongst other pledges: to “defend civil liberties and rights guaranteed to each individual, including freedom of speech and expression, equal protection under the law, and the right to personal privacy.” Amongst other beliefs: “bad ideas are best confronted with good ideas — and never with dehumanization, deplatforming or blacklisting.” Further, that “objective truth exists” and “scientific research must be untainted by any political agenda.”

FAIR will link parents who feel isolated and afraid to speak up with each other to form empowered chapters. They will offer rhetorical tools to push back effectively, breaking down critical race theory in simple terms laypeople can understand. If you’re running a corporation they will give you a better, more classically liberal “Diversity and Inclusion” anti-racism program to offer your employees.

FAIR will link parents who feel isolated and afraid to speak up

They are also getting into the lawfare game. FAIR has a superb legal network, with many supportive lawyers eager to represent pro bono, parents whose children are being discriminated against on the basis of skin colour, in the hope that one of them will end up at the Supreme Court.

Perhaps it will be this one. A Black Nevada mother filed a civil rights suit against her biracial son’s charter school for refusing to permit him to opt out of a mandatory “Sociology of Change” class, based in Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality, that promotes hostility to whites through compelled “identity confession assignments” (the son is so light-skinned he is “the only apparent white boy in his class”). It alleges several constitutional violations, invasion of privacy, and “intentional and retaliatory discrimination on the basis of color, race and religion.”

In a healthy democracy, an organization like FAIR would not be necessary. That it is not only necessary, but urgently so, is a sad commentary on our era. Please, FAIR, when you have a chance, do consider a “FAIR Canada” franchise. We have brilliant dissidents here who would be value added to your illustrious board of advisers.

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