John Hayward at the conservative websiteBreitbart knows what happens if a group of young girls of color wear jaunty brown berets and talk about social justice while peddling cookies and planning cookouts:
“If ‘activists’ can get kids while they’re young and pump their heads full of propaganda, they can build an unquestioning army good for years of service in ideological crusades. If nothing else, they’ll become confused and bitter adults who flail around helplessly in a world they were never prepared to succeed in.”
Although to the casual observer that description may best apply to the staff at Breitbart or Fox News and their fans, Hayward was talking about the “Radical Brownies” of Oakland.
The group is the inaugural chapter of an organization that its sponsors, two “queer women of color and avid trans allies,” hope inspires the creation of other chapters devoted to promoting “culturally-inclusive values” among young girls, 8-11 years old. The troop is not affiliated with the Girl Scouts of America.
The girls earned their first badge, and the enmity of the right, for marching in the Martin Luther King Jr. parade last month. They wear brown berets to pay homage to the Chicano group Brown Berets and the Black Panthers, the Oakland-based activists who are best known for radical pronouncements and sometimes violent behavior in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but who are revered by many locals for their inspirational community organizing.
The group describes its “Vision” on Facebook thusly: “The Radical Brownies create opportunities for young girls of color to form fierce sisterhood, celebrate their cultures and contribute radically to their communities.”
Hayward thinks they are a “creepy and fascist . . . horror show.” That’s a description that some would say more appropriately describes the Sean Hannity Show on Fox, where Deneen Borelli called formation of the group “childhood abuse, psychological abuse” and Hannity ranted about how the kids were being falsely indoctrinated with the belief that the country has a racism problem.
Jim Goad at the Libertarian Taki’s Magazine called that “brainwashing” and railed against the “endless frothy cult-like wide-eyed blabbering about ‘social justice.’ ” In the end, “Rather than being radical, these poor little female Mexi-Californian tools are the diminutive foot soldiers of the powers that be.” Goad perceived an imminent threat and the headline of his blog item posed the question: “When Do Brownies Become Brownshirts?”
If someone were nefariously plotting to draw all the ickiest elements of conservative America into one forum to capture their essence and identify them by name, Radical Brownies would be the perfect creation. The reaction was broad and deep and hateful.
For folks who have spent decades arguing vociferously for their God-given right to teach their kids any batshit-crazy idea that seeps into their desiccated culture, it seems unfair that they get to play the grump about adults teaching children about social justice, their heritage and their world view. But perhaps the best lesson for the kids will be the outpouring of fear, anger and ignorance from their older, but perhaps not wiser, critics.
“We did strike a nerve,” Radical Brownies co-founder Marilyn Hollinquest told CBS San Francisco. “We definitely did strike a nerve.”