The arch conservative Liberty Alliance has unveiled its new “Woke Heat Map” of Missouri, dotted with “hot spots” where it says the “the Woke agenda … is permeating all across” the state. Click on one, and you’ll see the spots tie to instances where someone has raised a stink about one of the right-wing culture war outrages of the day: diversity training, a lesson about George Floyd, “gingerbread person” cookies.
What ties all these hot spots together? Each one targets a school. And what reason could there be to drop pins on a map other than to mark the sites for protest — or worse?
If there’s another reason, the group hasn’t told us, even after we asked repeatedly why it’s doing this now, of all times.
The only reply was that the map was not “published in response to the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas,” where 19 elementary schoolchildren and two teachers were gunned down with military-style weapons by an 18-year-old.
Liberty Alliance released its map on May 19, five days after 10 Black people were murdered in a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store, allegedly by a self-proclaimed white nationalist 18-year-old with a military-style rifle.
At best, the map is irresponsible, given our deeply polarized political climate and the volatility of school board meetings in recent months. But the so-called Missouri values the group promotes oppose efforts to help LGBTQ students feel safe in schools. The group also supports bans on diversity, equity and teaching school children about race in U.S. history.
For now, the map lists 12 hot spot schools — including the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Pembroke Hill School and the Grain Valley School District, located in a suburb just a few miles east of Kansas City.
Each spot on the Liberty Alliance map links to articles, videos or tweets connecting the named schools to concepts such as so-called critical race theory, supporting LGBTQ students and teaching about equity and inclusion.
To the side of the map is a form for followers to report other places in the state where efforts are being made to be inclusive and treat all people equitably, or where race is being discussed or books that relate to a diverse population are being read.
It’s disturbing that groups like Liberty Alliance would raise money off of these kinds of deeply divisive and emotional campaigns — and of course, its site hosts a store hawking all sorts of “Let’s Go Brandon” merchandise.
But there’s more than money at stake. Extreme rhetoric, while protected as free speech, can drive extreme responses. In recent months, we’ve seen schools become battlegrounds where parents verbally attack administrators or threaten physical harm over mask-wearing and school curriculum they don’t like. The suspect in the Buffalo massacre reportedly left a document online marked by extreme, hateful rhetoric toward Black and Jewish people.
Coincidental or not, a campaign targeting individual schools, especially in the wake of the Uvalde massacre last week, is abhorrent. It’s the behavior of noisy, attention-seeking extremists. Yes, we highlight the map even at the risk of giving this group oxygen, because we believe it’s important to call out irresponsible, misleading attacks meant only to polarize and foment hate.
And we don’t believe that type of behavior reflects the values we Missourians share.