The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Far-Right Protesters at Suburban Chicago School Board

Dec 6, 2021

On Monday, November 11, about 200 people packed into the auditorium at Downers Grove North High School to attend the school board meeting in this Chicago suburb. Some in the crowd held “NO PORN” signs and posters protesting Gender Queer, a graphic novel about gender identity that is available at the Downers Grove North library.

The protest against this book started from a group of parents who also protested the district’s “equity initiatives” around race, as well as mask mandates in the school. It was latched onto by the Proud Boys, a far-right group that has been showing up at school board meetings across the country. In addition to protesting books like Gender Queer and mask mandates, the Proud Boys have also been organizing people to protest the teaching of “Critical Race Theory,” that is, teaching about this country’s history of racism. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, at least ten Proud Boys attended the Downers Grove board meeting.

Some of the parents at the meeting claimed that they were not against gay rights, but that they simply didn’t think their teenagers should be exposed to the book’s sexual content. But as a student at the meeting pointed out, few students even knew of the existence of this book in their library before the protests, and no one has objected to other books with sexual content, like Angela’s Ashes. “Let’s not present getting rid of ‘Gender Queer’ as censoring our children from sex,” she said to the school board. “It’s homophobia.”

Strict definitions of what it means to be “a man” or “a woman” are rooted in the oppression of women, fundamentally in the way women are supposed to do all kinds of unpaid work—from cooking and cleaning to bearing and caring for children and elders. The far-right attempt to reinforce these definitions is an attack on all of us. And these are the same people who want to reinforce “traditional” racism as well—in fact, one of the Proud Boys protesting Gender Queer at the Downers Grove school board meeting had been arrested for threatening Black Lives Matter protesters with a knife last summer.

But not everyone at this meeting was for banning the book: a group of high school students attended the meeting and spoke up against banning it, in the face of the threatening behavior of these far-right thugs. One student who spoke in favor of keeping the book in the library reported that after he spoke, a man in the audience repeatedly told him, “you’re a pedophile,” and even drove up to him in the parking lot shouting, “pedophile!” Hopefully these young people will not be intimidated. That some are willing to stand up is a hopeful sign for the future.