Opinion

Jaco: The liar’s lesson plans for our schools

Missouri didn’t invent racism. But, like baseball, we perfected it.

It’s no surprise that extremists both in and out of the Missouri Legislature have such an interest in re-writing and whitewashing the history your kids learn in school, since American conservatism, after all, is made up of the Three Rs — the Rich, the Religious and the Racist. 

As noted here last week, the spasm by right-wing Missouri lawmakers against teaching about slavery, racism, the New York Times 1619 Project, and the Teaching Tolerance initiative from the Southern Poverty Law Center is based on fear, racism and lies. 

Researchers from Yale and New York University summed it up in 2018, when they examined white grievance and fears of “white genocide” in a rapidly changing America in a study titled “Majority No More?” The money paragraph sums it up: “White Americans considering a future in which the white population has declined … leads to stronger identification as white, the expression of more negative racial attitudes, greater opposition to diversity, and greater endorsement of conservative political ideology, political parties, and candidates.”

All of that was on full display last Friday when a group of angry white parents in far west St. Louis County’s Rockwood School District gathered in a banquet room to hear from a pair of ultra-conservative state lawmakers from the County (state Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin, state Sen. Andrew Koenig) and a Zoom call from a spokesman for a group founded by the conservative Heritage Foundation in D.C., all complaining that they don’t want lessons about racism, slavery or Jim Crow included in the schools.

Some Rockwood parents have taken it a step further, harassing and threatening Rockwood teachers and administrators over the district’s diversity curriculum, to the point where teachers have asked school administrators for protection against online and physical threats. At the in-person forum last Friday, a parent who complained that Black children don’t feel safe in the Rockwood district was booed off the stage.

Crystal Domagalski speaks April 30, 2021, at a Rockwood School District forum.

Another parent, Crystal Domagalski, yowled, “I’m not a racist, damn it”; and then complained that because of anti-racism “propaganda,” her daughter was “ashamed to be white.” I’m assuming Crystal doesn’t know that, according to one of the Founders, her daughter isn’t white because she’s of Polish, East European extraction.

In 1751, Ben Franklin wrote “Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind and Peopling of Countries,” in which he argued that America should be settled only by white people, and by “white,” he made it clear he meant only English Anglo-Saxons. As Franklin wrote: “The Saxons, with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth … the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians, and Swedes are generally of what we call a Swarthy Complexion, as are the Germans.”

All of them, in addition to the Irish, Catholics in general and the Domagalskis, eventually became “white” through adoption by the then-majority Anglo-Saxons, although the process took about 200 years, all of which shows that a lot of people nursing white grievance haven’t always been, you know, white, at least according to the majority of their fellow Americans.

When I was covering the apartheid regime in South Africa in the mid-80s, one of my most valuable resources was David Harrison’s 1981 book, “The White Tribe of Africa,” about the Dutch-descended hardline Afrikaners who ran, supported, and maintained white supremacy through tribal feelings of superiority and fears of being engulfed.

In America in 2021 as in South Africa in 1981, the entire whipsaw backlash against multi-cultural diversity is based on lies, especially lies about “whiteness” and non-white populations. As sometimes St. Louisan Tennessee Williams wrote, “The only thing worse than a liar is a liar that’s also a hypocrite.”

Which brings us to state Rep. Nick Schroer from St. Charles County.

Missouri Rep. Rick Schroer, R-St. Charles County

Schroer wrote the proposed state law forbidding teaching about racism in Missouri schools. The lie behind it, of course, is that teaching actual history in schools is anti-white. But like his fellow General Assembly extremists, Schroer has a relationship to the truth much like Mark Twain’s relationship with God: They tip their hats when they pass on the street, but they never speak.

Schroer supports the Big Lie, that Donald Trump actually won the 2020 election, based on bogus charges of non-existent vote “fraud” that were rejected by more than 60 different courts. 

The Missouri General Assembly resolution seeking to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in six battleground states was sponsored by Rep. Justin Hill, who skipped his own statehouse inauguration to attend the U.S. Capitol riot and Trump TreasonFest on Jan. 6. Schroer was all in with the Big Lie, self-righteously proclaiming, without any proof except Rudy Giuliani’s rants, that “It is time to investigate these claims of voter fraud across the nation.”

But when I challenged Schroer on Twitter over his proposed law to make it illegal to teach actual history in Missouri, he responded by buying into a bizarre conspiracy lie that I know a good deal about, since it involves me.

Schroer tweeted in response, “One would think failed political hacks with a history of lying to Americans would spend their time trying to rebuild their career. Instead we have the toxic dumpster fire Charles Jaco showing the world his blue screen incident was no mere accident.”

Schroer is referring to a right-wing conspiracy lie that began circulating in 2008, which may, or may not, be related to my hosting a decidedly anti-Tea Party radio show on KTRS radio at the same time. The nut job claim was that my January 1991 CNN coverage of Iraqi SCUD missile attacks on the main coalition air base in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, was “faked,” done in a studio in front of a blue screen.

Despite being debunked by, among others, several hundred eyewitnesses, including U.S. Marine, Army and Air Force personnel, the delusional lie keeps circulating in extremist alt-right circles. 

Liars repeat lies either because they actually believe them, or they’re playing to a gullible audience by repeating what they know isn’t true. It’s hard to tell whether Schroer is merely simple-minded or a grifter. After all, while dedicated men and women were risking their lives in Desert Storm, Schroer was in elementary school in the Ferguson-Florissant area, presumably not yet planning his North County white-flight to St. Charles. 

But there’s a larger point besides the delusion, lies and hypocrisy of one elitist politician.

Schroer’s disregard for facts, his ideological allegiance to a Trumpian white nationalist philosophy, and his support for extremist legislation (remember, he authored Missouri’s eight-week abortion ban that was declared “blatantly unconstitutional” by a federal court) are common threads among lawmakers wanting to re-write history in Missouri classrooms.

Their campaign has nothing to do with education. It has everything to do with lies and fear.                 

Charles Jaco

Charles Jaco is a journalist and author. He has worked for NBC News, CNN, KMOX, KTRS, and Fox 2. He is best known for his coverage of the first Gulf War, and for his "legitimate rape" interview with Senate candidate Todd Akin. He is the winner of three George Foster Peabody Awards, and the author of four books.

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