Are Walmart Heirs Forsaking the Left? Arts Center They Fund Cancels Drag Shows for Kids
O’Sullivan’s First Law — named after former National Review editor John O’Sullivan, a one-time speechwriter for then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher — states that any institution that’s not explicitly right-wing will become left-wing over time.
The Walton Family Foundation has proved to be a prime example of that rule. For the past decade or more, second- and third-generation heirs of the Walmart fortune have funneled millions of dollars into LGBTQ+ initiatives in their home state of Arkansas.
Pumping the Brakes on Woke Extremism
But the recent decision of a Walton-funded institution suggests the foundation might be pumping the brakes on its slide into woke extremism.
The Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas, named after the Walton family for its donations, announced this month that it is no longer hosting drag shows and story hours for kids during the annual LGBTQ+ celebration, Northwest Arkansas Pride.
The LGBTQ+ advocacy group Northwest Arkansas Equality, also funded by the Waltons, sponsors that yearly “pride” celebration and the accompanying “Youth Zone” events at the arts center. Among other things, the “Youth Zone” featured drag queen story time for younger kids and drag shows for teens.
While it’s not clear what went on behind the scenes in the Walton Arts Center board discussions, it could be that it was some bad publicity that factored into the board’s decision.
“Due to the charged nationwide political conversations around drag and minors …, we asked if there was any way we could help NWA Pride reach its intended goals for the Youth Zone without drag performances for minors,” the board of directors explained in a May statement.
“Our concern was not simply around the physical safety surrounding these events, but the policy to not allow parents, guardians, and caregivers into the Youth Zone,” it later wrote.
Northwest Arkansas Equality Won’t Accept Compromise
That seemed like a reasonable concern, but Northwest Arkansas Equality didn’t think so. The group issued a statement calling the art center’s decision “surprising, disappointing, and inconsistent.” Yeah, not having a drag show for unaccompanied minors is really out of left field.
What’s more, the group stated, “These events have included performances by drag celebrities that youth can often only access through television and movies.” Oh, the horror. Kids really should be allowed to witness grown men prancing about in hooker-style costumes in person, preferably without adult supervision. But don’t worry, Northwest Arkansas Equality takes “great care to create age-appropriate content during this event.” Yes, an “age-appropriate” drag show for your child. That’s quite the assurance.
The arts center even tried to reach an agreement with Northwest Arkansas Equality. The Walton Arts Center would still host “pride” events in June, just not drag story hours and performances by adults specifically for minors.
Northwest Arkansas Equality couldn’t accept any such compromise. The group decided to pause its partnership with the arts center and move its “kid-friendly” drag shows to the Fayetteville Town Center in June.
Seems like it got its way, right?
Reactions Defy All Reason
Not quite — apparently the Walton Arts Center committed such an egregious offense that a gaggle of protesters showed up May 20 and called for the CEO and other arts center executives to resign.
“WAC [Walton Arts Center] is wack. Let the drag queens act,” they chanted. “Say ‘no’ to bigots.” They forgot to add: “Let the drag queens act — in front of your kids.” But then the chant would’ve been less pithy.
As of Tuesday, nine of the 22 Walton Arts Center board members resigned as a result of the decision. One such member said that he “cannot in good conscience remain affiliated with an institution which refuses to acknowledge the harm it has caused to members of our community.”
The Walton Arts Center’s modest decision not to let drag queens perform in front of kids this year elicited reactions that defy all reason. The outrage is revealing: Those pushing for the “Youth Zone” didn’t care about creating a safe and welcoming environment for kids. The nine board members who have walked out thus far didn’t care. Had they cared, they would have reached some compromise with the arts center.
Don’t be fooled: This is about the explicit sexualization of minors. Nothing less.
A Small Victory, A Glimmer of Hope
Kudos to the Walton Arts Center for not yielding to this outrage. It’s a small victory, but it offers a glimmer of hope. Maybe the Waltons will put a pause on their entropy. If they keep it up, they might even reverse the fate O’Sullivan’s First Law ordains.
Gillian Richards is a research associate for the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies at The Heritage Foundation.