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Opinion | The firing of Alabama’s pre-k secretary isn’t fighting anything. It’s just wrong

In trying to “fight” the notion of inherent biases within governmental systems, Ivey’s office likely just proved they exist.

Dr. Barbara Cooper
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Do you know what “woke” means? 

Don’t feel bad. No one does. Particularly the white people screaming about it on TV or the white politicians who use the word 15 times in five minutes. 

Oh, I know what they’re saying when they use the word – that Black Americans are somehow receiving an unfair advantage at the expense of the unfairly treated white people. But I’ve never heard anyone on the right, especially the politicians in office, attempt to assign a palatable definition to the word – some meaning that might be deemed both acceptable in today’s post-George Floyd world and yet still actually harmful in some way to white people. 

Until Friday. 

That’s when Gov. Kay Ivey forced the resignation of Dr. Barbara Cooper, the secretary of Alabama’s pre-k program. One of the best pre-k programs in America, we’ve been told repeatedly by Kay Ivey’s office and others. So why did Ivey force this shocking resignation? 

Because Cooper had allowed a teacher resource book – one of several utilized by teachers, and only teachers, and used in 40 other states – that contained alleged “woke” material.

Ivey’s office, thankfully, identified that “woke” material. And finally, we get a true definition of what “woke” means — of all the things we should be on the lookout for. Are you ready? Get a pen. Write this down. 

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The book in question contained instructions for teachers that 4-year-olds should “hear and see messages that promote equality, dignity and worth.” 

My God, the horror. What unimaginable liberal indoctrination – making sure children hear messages of equality, dignity and worth. What’s next – telling them they can be anything?

The stupidity is overwhelming. 

But let’s hit pause for a moment. Because while it’s infuriating to read such purposeful ignorance flowing from the office of a lame duck governor who should be above such pathetic and juvenile pandering to fragile racists, it’s worth remembering that an accomplished, distinguished, well respected educator who is running one of the precious few well functioning agencies in this state has lost her job over this. 

But not only lost her job. No, that wasn’t all. Cooper was essentially trashed in a press release from Ivey’s office – years of leading a model pre-k program envied by most of the nation tossed aside because of a complaint about a single resource material that encouraged teachers to consider their potential biases in order to better serve the children of this state. 

Because such liberal propaganda – that there exists inherent biases, and even racism, in a number of government systems – has no place in Alabama, where we’re currently celebrating Confederate Memorial Day as a state holiday. 

Certainly, in this land of equality and fairness, all the other heads of state agencies are held to the same lofty standards as Dr. Cooper, whose singular misstep – which wasn’t an actual misstep at all – has resulted in her termination and public embarrassment. 

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There’s simply no way that we could find one other state agency that has, for example, been the subject of a Department of Justice lawsuit, where the people in its care die by the dozens monthly, where corruption and malfeasance are rampant, where its employees have been caught on numerous occasions violating laws, and where astonishing levels of incompetence, cruelty and corruption have existed for the entirety of Ivey’s six years in office. 

Oh, wait. I forgot that the Alabama’s Department of Corrections exists. 

For most of Ivey’s tenure in the governor’s office, ADOC was led by Jeff Dunn. During Dunn’s tenure, things became so atrocious within ADOC that the Trump DOJ opened an investigation and eventually filed what is still an ongoing lawsuit over the horrid conditions. A DOJ report from the investigation provided details of horrific injustices and daily torture within our prisons’ walls. 

That was on top of the lacking health care services, the non-existent mental health care services, the botched executions, the overwhelming amount of contraband, the incomprehensible number of suicides and the embarrassing fact that even after the DOJ’s report and lawsuit, the situation got WORSE. 

So, surely, Dunn got shoved out with a chastising press release that highlighted any number of his agency’s many, many failures. Right? 

Of course not. Dunn was allowed to finish out the year and Ivey issued a press release praising him for his years of service, and remarkably, his “accomplishments” as the head of ADOC. 

Weird, huh? 

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But maybe that’s the point of this whole “woke” outrage. It’s not merely to cover up the sins of the past, dooming us to repeat them. It’s also to cover up the sins of the present. 

It’s an emotional smokescreen meant to obscure the fact that there remains two different realities in this state. One where the white, male head of an agency that has managed to fail in every single aspect is sent out like a hero. The other, where a successful, accomplished Black woman is fired and denigrated to appease a minority of ill-informed, mouth-breathing snowflakes.  

But I don’t think “woke” is the word you’re looking for here. 

It’s wrong. 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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