Fairfax County, Va. — When I stepped before my local school board here in mid-March while on vacation, I knew I had a strong point to make. I just didn’t know it would cost me my job.
Over the past two years, I have witnessed a new racism by the 12-0 woke Democrats on the school board, directed against Asian Americans, like me, whose children’s success in K-12 schools belie the notion that systemic racism oppresses all minorities.
As I turned to return to my seat after my impassioned two minutes, I couldn’t have expected what came next. Security officials began walking toward me from multiple directions. Hyper-vigilance kicked in. I thought immediately of the immigrant moms before me, sitting in the front rows, supporting me. Norma. Suparna. Julia. Yuyan. And many others.
Coming from nations where citizens are jailed, punished, and humiliated for challenging authority, they had overcome deep societal fears, cultural stereotypes, and language barriers to challenge school authorities over the past two years with courage, poise, and unapologetic fidelity to their children.
The painful irony of progressive Democrats flashed before me. The school board that pontificates so often about “white supremacy” and creating a “caring culture” had dispatched white security officials against me, an Asian immigrant Muslim single mom.
I abhor identity politics. But that does not mean I do not see the hypocrisy of identity politics—and I am not shy about calling it out. I put a mirror up to the school board, noting about each security official: “You’re a white man! You’re a white man! You’re a white man!”
The mothers understood my point, as did the white men and women who were watching, supporting us. Online, a blogger later wrote: “YAAAAS SLAAAAAY QWEEEEEN!”
In that moment of defiance, the moms sprang to their feet, calling out the school board officials for what they are: “Racist! Racist! Racist!”
The school board fled, the chairwoman, Stella Pekarsky, calling a 15-minute recess.
I stood strong, but confrontations like this shake me to the core, as they would anyone. Courage truly is acting even in the face of fear. I got a comfort meal across the road afterward at McDonald’s as one of the moms, Julia, gave me a ride home, drowning my stress hormones in warm French fries.
The next day, Friday, March 18, I got a phone call. It was my boss, the president of Parents Defending Education, which I helped start in early 2021 to help parents expose corruption in school boards, learn to advocate for themselves, and engage with policy makers.
After writing in 2020 at The Federalist about the war on children, I brought with me a database of about 200 incidents of indoctrination I had culled from parent tips, the blueprint for a map to showcase those cases, and 35 years as an investigative reporter to make certain each case was vetted and a thorough process put in place for documenting the incidents that flooded in.
I also brought the network of extraordinary parents who had become pioneers in the parents’ movement with me when we became accidental activists starting in June 2020 in northern Virginia. I brought our successful real-world experience and penned a field guide for parents across the country.
Over the past year, I was so proud to find and inspire kindred spirits who are moms, dads, grandparents, and community members from Oregon to the outskirts of Boston. In our efforts, the mama bear movement was born.
That Friday, the director of outreach at Parents Defending Education had sent my boss a clip of my video from the night before. The president told me she didn’t approve of me calling out the security officials for their race. “That was unacceptable,” she scolded me.
“I was being ironic,” I said.
What I said was not “unacceptable,” because what I said was clearly satire.
For more than a year, I have carried with me a copy of the book, “Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness,” to call out its troubling conclusion to children: “Whiteness is a bad deal,” showing a contract with the devil. Our school district, like many around the country, has barraged parents and “bad white people” with maxims about “white privilege,” “whiteness” and “white fragility,” as evidenced by the “resources” at Hayfield Elementary School.
Our school board members defend a racist admissions policy just struck down by a federal court as “patently unconstitutional,” anti-Asian, and discriminatory. They operate schools that indoctrinate children with the language of critical race theory, teaching white kids and even “military kids” they are the oppressors in a game of “Privilege Bingo,” while the black children are perpetual victims.
I couldn’t help but find it ironic that this same school board—so full of itself for its avowed racial consciousness—would be siccing white security officials on an Asian woman. Isn’t that racist and systemic racism by their own definition? Doesn’t it show their white fragility? I was revealing their hypocrisy, using their own politics.
I learned irony has its costs.
One week later, at 2:30 p.m., on Friday, March 25—eight days after my school board speech—I was fired unceremoniously from my job at Parents Defending Education for, well, being a parent defending education, as one friend put it.
In a meeting a couple of days earlier, I had been told, “You chafe at authority.” Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do as parent advocates? I was told that I had to stop working on school issues in Virginia. After we, the parents, had elected the new Virginia governor, Glenn Youngkin, establishing education as a cornerstone midterm election issue, we were supposed to walk away? Parents Defending Education didn’t return a request for comment.
I was given 2.5-hour notice with that day, March 25, my last day, six more days on my son’s and my health insurance and one last paycheck, college tuition payments looming overhead. Within minutes, I was booted from company messaging groups. My Gmail address was disabled without notice. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to colleagues.
I haven’t spoken of this shock until now, as I processed what happened. I got a paltry severance and my health insurance reinstated after noting that it is illegal in Virginia to boot someone off health insurance. But, last week, a reporter for Mother Jones magazine asked why I left Parents Defending Education for a profile that she is set to publish later this week, and, believing in honesty, I told her.
I expect the profile to chronicle my journey from hero to zero—from politically correct activism as a Muslim feminist to a puppet master for “dark money,” “right-wing” parent advocates. Those are the kind of hits I got immersing in conservative politics over the past year, but it has never deterred me, because, as a fierce opponent of critical race theory, I am the same classic liberal I have been as a Muslim feminist.
I believe in free speech, liberty, point of view diversity, and humanity. I do not believe in indoctrination, especially of children, and I reject any hierarchy of human value—old or new.
I share the news with my friends and fellow mama bears and papa bears to also share an important lesson I have learned: when it comes to defending our children—and America’s children—we cannot depend on anyone but ourselves. Not government, we know. Not also organizations that prop themselves up—or we help prop up—because they may also falter.
Cancel culture can come for any of us. We associate it mostly with leftist political correctness but conservatives can express it too, we know, as with the recent firing of writer Amber Athey from conservative radio station WMAL for a joke about Vice President Kamala Harris. We must of course work within institutions, build networks and collaborate, but we cannot depend on anyone but ourselves in this noble and important mission.
And even in the face of disappointment, we can’t give up.
Only we can cancel ourselves. Only we can allow others to silence us. On April 12, with my beloved father, 88, beside me, I walked with my fellow northern Virginia parents up the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to press our case, Coalition for TJ v. Fairfax County School Board, against the anti-Asian discrimination in the new admissions policy to my son’s alma mater.
Ultimately, it’s each one of us—alone—who has to take that long march to the microphone to face the school board educrats and activists who feign authority over the lives of America’s children. It’s moms, dads, and grandparents alone, most often at Kiss-and-Ride drop off, wondering what “Privilege Matrix” their children will have to leap through at school.
It’s we alone who embrace our children at morning’s start and night’s end. So remain steadfast with me, through thick and thin. We will persevere. We will win.
I’ve marked next Thursday, May 26, to sign up and again speak to my school board.