A recent exclusive story on Huffington Post.com was a detailed exposé about Dayanna Volitich, a 25-year-old social studies teacher at Crystal River Middle School in Florida who turned out to be a White supremacy advocate and has been removed from the classroom pending an investigation of radical views she has espoused.
Those who have read the story are now aware of the fact that the previously largely unknown Volitich harbored vehemently racist, sexist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic viewpoints that she promoted on social media and her White nationalist podcast “Unapologetic” under the pseudonym Tiana Dalichov. There’s also strong indication that she hoped to influence her students with her views.
Like many bigots, her targets were the usual targets of White racial hatred – Blacks and Jews. Other non-Whites and non-Christians did not escape her paranoid, deluded wrath. In fact, Volitich viewed Muslims as deplorable and such a supposed menace to society that she advocated for total eradication of their existence from society. For those of us who are students and scholars of history, such perverse rhetoric sounds eerily similar to that of more than a few mentally unstable and sadistic dictators who were responsible for centuries of incomprehensible atrocities.
To add insult to injury, when her activities were exposed, rather than come clean about the fact that she had been busted, Volitich reverted to the outlandish and intellectually dishonest claim that her assertions were merely a form of political satire and did not represent her professional career. She also denied being a White nationalist or White supremacist.
Did I mention that she has lavished immense praise on former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke? Sounds like a bona fide White supremacist to me!
We’ve heard excuses like hers before. When racists, anti-Semites, homophobes, xenophobes and other social misfits get caught pouring gasoline on racially inflammatory fire, their first response more often than not is to deny their culpability. Once they realize that such a disingenuous response is insufficient, they resort to the standard line, something like: “If anyone was offended, I deeply apologize. Such actions are not a reflection of who I am.” Or some other pathetic non-apology. Anyone with any semblance of moral decency knows better than to believe such dishonesty.
Even more disturbing is the fact that Volitich is just the latest of a growing number of educators of young children being exposed as having ties to far-right ideology and groups. Since 2016, more than a dozen educators have been exposed for their White nationalist viewpoints. From elementary school teachers to high school principals, to private school teachers to guidance counselors, these racist men and women have attempted to infiltrate their ideology into action. This is alarming, though not surprising.
That Volitich is only 25 years old – an adult, to be sure, but a very young millennial – largely dispels the myth that younger people are more racially and socially progressive and inclusive than previous generations. Indeed, millions of Americans watched as hundreds of White men dressed in khaki pants, polo shirts, clean-cut hairstyles and other forms of conservative attire marched across the University of Virginia campus shouting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” The vast majority of these men were in their 20 and early 30s.
In fact, recent studies have indicated that while millennials harbor more progressive stances on issues such as drug use and gay marriage, they are likely to have views on race that are just as conservative as the older Generation X’ers and Baby Boomers.
Such ugly incidents have roiled college campuses over the past few years, from Ivy League institutions to prestigious small liberal arts colleges, from land grant institutions to regional state universities, from community colleges to junior colleges. Some campuses became so volatile that several administrators, including a few presidents, either decided or were forced to step down from their positions.
Given the fact that many young people are influenced by their parents, neighbors, relatives and many who likely harbor disdain for others who are different from themselves, such retrograde attitudes from these young adults should not come as a surprise.
What is important is for the mainstream media to develop an understanding of what racial and religious prejudice actually is and come to the realization that they have to aggressively call out racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and other forms of attitudes and dispositions for what they are – pure and unadulterated hatred.
Too many journalists – especially those who hail from more upscale backgrounds and others who see themselves as socially progressive – are too often unable or unwilling to acknowledge the fact that people who physically look like them or share similar social, educational and economic identities do not differ in their value systems. Thus, they are more inclined to see racial prejudice as a product of poor White people or older White people, primarily over 65.
Ms. Volitich, many of the young guys who marched in Charlottesville last summer, the majority of spokespersons for the alt-right and others of their persuasion are, in many cases, the product of economic security, solid educations, in some cases prep schools. They live in Manhattan, Southampton, Scarsdale, Beverly Hills, Scottsdale and similar locations. They are not poor, but rather comfortably middle class, upper-middle class and, in some cases, affluent White people. Moreover, the widely held mainstream media assumption that only poor and lower-income White people can harbor racist attitudes is one that has to rapidly be dispelled.
People directing hatred to others who are different from them is nothing new. It is a phenomenon as old as the earth itself. Nonetheless, those of us who are committed to the cause of racial, religious, social and other forms of justice must work tirelessly to defeat such hatred as well as ensure that all human beings are afforded the dignity and respect they deserve.
Dr. Elwood Watson is a professor of history and African-American studies at East Tennessee State University.