Indivisible-Critical Race Theory??-W
The newest Republican manufactured outrage
Republican media is bubbling in their latest manufactured outrage over “critical race theory.” According to its Republican detractors, critical race theory is “divisive,” “harmful,” “controversial,” “dehumanizing,” and, of course, “unconstitutional.” OMG, we must all rise up against this terrible menace to the minds of children and adults alike!
“We have to do something, and the longer we wait, the longer our kids are indoctrinated with this garbage,” said Rep. Heather Scott (R-Idaho State Rep-Blanchard) (Bonner County Daily Bee)
“Critical race theory isn’t just a teaching,” Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, told the House. “It’s a verb. It’s activating. It’s indoctrinating.” (Bonner County Daily Bee)
The pumped up Republican outrage over critical race theory has important real world consequences. On Tuesday, April 13th, the Idaho House killed a bill on a tie vote 34-34 that would have funded Idaho education with 1.1 billion dollars. The reason? According the Associated Press, “Opponents specifically targeted critical race theory, which examines the way race and racism influences politics, culture and the law.” (Idaho is already dead last in education funding per student.)
Democratic Rep. Chris Mathias said that every year about 1,000 trained educators in Idaho quit the profession or move out of state.
“The fact that we don’t pay them, and that we have conversations like this every time it’s time to pay them, exacerbates the situation,” he said.
The funding smack-down organized by the far right Republicans denouncing the evils of “critical race theory” blindsided teachers.
Democratic Rep. John McCrostie, who is a teacher, called into question the whole argument made by opponents of the bill.
“I don’t have time to teach critical race theory. Are you kidding me? I have to just prepare my content for the next day,” he said. “This whole discussion on critical race theory coming into the classrooms this year. That’s nuts.”
Like so much else that bursts forth from the well-oiled machinery of Republican word-smithing (think “Obamacare,” the recognition that the ACA could be smeared in the minds of some by associating it with a black President), critical race theory has been widely pressed into service. The Washington Policy Center (WPC), the Washington State outlet for Republican propaganda, along with two other wannabe “prominent” groups1 sent an open letter to Jay Inslee that was widely published in local papers, including the Spokesman. The letter asks Inslee to veto four bills because they allegedly promote the terrible concept, “critical race theory”. WPC’s Liv Finne’s breathless outrage over these bills is wholly nonsensical, as pointed out in the Spokesman yesterday morning.
Republican outrage on this topic is suddenly nationwide. “DeSantis rips Critical Race Theory, says it won’t be in Florida curriculum.” That article in the New York Post claims that critical race theory “dictates that race is an underlying dynamic of all human interaction and views the human experience as a constant power struggle between races.” Really?
The key to understanding this fresh Republican outrage is to recognize that it is code for something else. Recall that in September of 2020 Trump issued an executive order that banned the federal government and its contractors from offering “diversity training on racial and gender biases,” calling it “divisive, anti-American propaganda.”
Diversity training is defined in Wikipedia as “any program designed to facilitate positive intergroup interaction, reduce prejudice and discrimination, and generally teach individuals who are different from others how to work together effectively.” Anyone worried that a clearer historical understanding of institutionalized racism in the United States would undermine the status quo would not dare attack diversity training head-on by name. Such an attack would be widely seen as racist. A less sympathetic name from a corner of diversity training had to be found, demonized, twisted—and used to tar racial equity.
Enter Fox “News”, Tucker Carlson, and Christopher Rufo. Rufo is a conservative journalist and activist at the Discovery Institute in Seattle (that advocates for the teaching of Intelligent Design). It was Rufo, appearing on Tucker Carlson’s show, who spurred Trump to attack diversity training using the new buzzwords, “critical race theory.” (Trump didn’t quite get the memo suggesting that he not attack diversity training in so many words.)
Republicans are trying hard to defend their narratives of “colorblindness” and “individual responsibility” as sufficient for anyone of whatever race or background to do well in our society. Any light shown on the institutionalized racism embedded in U.S. history is threatening to those who wish to perpetuate the white-male-dominant status quo. Trump, Carlson, Rufo, and the Republican legislators whose outrage has been stoked by these people are against teaching the unvarnished history we were certainly never taught in school—appalling realities like voting regulations that differentially disenfranchise people of color, redlining of black majority neighborhoods, denial of benefits to black service men, medical experimentation, differential policing, and the withholding social security enrollment from agricultural and domestic workers to cite only a few.
The demonization of diversity training and “critical race theory” affords Republican legislators some cover from the accusation of racism. After all, one does not need to be racist to be outraged by something Republican media tells you is “cult indoctrination young children.” (Protection of children is always invoked because propagandists recognizing that protecting children is a universal human imperative.)
The next time you hear “critical race theory” demonized recognize Republican use of the term for what it is—an attempt to suppress the teaching of the truth of systemic racism in the United States along with the methods, like diversity training, meant to help us deal with our past.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. Our understanding of history, government, and law does not evolve in a vacuum. The ideals for which many of us fought in the 1960s never fully materialized. Legal scholars like Derrick Bell, a law professor a Harvard, recognized and argued that a legal system that developed on a foundation of slavery might still possess a crippling racial bias. His scholarship and that of a number of others sparked an academic movement that came together in a conference in 1989 under what I consider the unfortunate word choice, "New Developments in Critical Race Theory." The ideas presented grew into several books and an area of academic inquiry that has influenced how we think about institutionalized racism.
It is always useful to pursue words like “prominent”. The Washington Policy Center often claims support from “prominent” sources, which, when investigated in a simple internet search, seem much more like a few Republicans with a marginally maintained webpage. For example, the “prominent” group, the Center For Latino Leadership, held its last event in January 2020. It’s last “News” was the same month. The name of the organization (if I’m reading the bottom of their webpage correctly) was copyrighted in 2019. These are not the characteristics of a “prominent group,” these are the characteristics of Republican voices clothed in an official sounding name meant to amplify their importance.