The anti-criticism of racial theory will profoundly affect public education
The recent election of Glenn Youngkin as the next governor of Virginia on the basis of his anti-critical racial theory platform is the latest installment in a long campaign of conservative disinformation of lies, half-truths and exaggerations designed to create, mobilize and exploit anxiety around white status. to secure political power. The problem is, these lies work, and what it shows is that Democrats have a lot of work to do if they are to come up with a successful countermessage.
Conservatives have spent nearly a century galvanizing white voters around the “dangerous” idea of racial equality. When such fallacious rhetoric becomes reality, the end result is to criminalize educational programs that promote racial equality. Youngkin, who pledged to “ban critical race theory on day one,” repeated the promise frequently at his “Parents Matter” rallies across the state in the final months of the campaign.
But in his campaign, he and others have distorted what Critical Race Theory (CRT) really is: a specialized intellectual field created in the 1980s by jurists Kimberlé Crenshaw, Neil Gotanda and Stephanie Phillips that puts the ’emphasis on the unique historical role that legal systems play in the maintenance of and production of racial inequalities in the United States.
Instead, the Conservatives presented the CRT as almost anything taught in schools that would discuss racial inequalities. Youngkin’s appeals targeted white suburban voters with fear of such lessons. He vowed to implement the allegedly colorblind values of Martin Luther King, Jr., replace the entire Virginia school board, and install a curriculum based on Project 1776, an educational initiative of Donald Trump that was strongly criticized by historians for trafficking. in chauvinistic mythology.
Democrats have failed to counter this disinformation campaign or to reflect precisely on its history. Indeed, in response to accusations of reverse racism and subversion of parental rights and parental say, Democrats have argued that none of the things Republicans criticized is actually part of the CRT. Obviously, these types of logical calls don’t work.
Part of the reason is that campaigns like Youngkin’s have a legacy of lies dating back to the 1950s and 1960s. Our research shows that the conservative fear campaign on CRT re-uses a set of fear-mongering tactics that assimilate the racial justice to communism that originated during the Cold War. Conservative politician George Wallace once called the Civil Rights Act of 1964 a “fraud, sham and hoax” and compared it to Communist manifesto. Indeed, while today’s conservatives strategically abuse Martin Luther King, Jr., to justify color blindness in the service of inequality, their 1950s predecessors called King an “outside agitator” and used fears of communism to rationalize physical violence against civil rights groups.
Even in a post-Soviet world, fears of communism are still relevant. May 24, 2021, Christopher Rufo, a key figure in the anti-CRT movement, tweeted that “American schools do not have “whitewashed” history; they “washed it red”. “The 1776 Project PAC, which opposes critical race theory and has supported candidates in 58 races across the country, argues that racial justice advocates” believe we need to undo the cornerstones of society American, especially classical liberalism, legal reasoning and capitalism, in order to promote their version of cultural Marxism based on race rather than class.
Republican think tanks, thought leaders, media figures and politicians like Youngkin draw on this legacy to label any diversity, equity and social justice initiative as dangerous (and communist) “critical theory of. the race “.
Conservative anti-CRT rhetoric and accompanying bills introduced and enacted by Republican state legislatures across the country constitute a campaign of disinformation designed to fabricate white grievances in the service of white power. These policies reveal the need for researchers and academics concerned with the quality of democratic debate to treat white supremacy as a campaign of disinformation and to incorporate honest accounting of America’s racial history and the legacy of the current inequalities at all levels of education.
Anti-CRT efforts offer a drastic and bad faith indictment of any attempt to do so on the grounds that it is “backwards racism”, it will make white children feel bad for being white and will further divide the nation.
These claims are not true, but many white people believe them as a result of a systematic disinformation campaign by Republican politicians, media and opinion leaders. For example, conservative views on CRT dominate the research results, as one of us (Tripodi) testified in the Senate; it is the product of a concerted campaign to shape information accessible to the public. Look up “What is CRT?” On YouTube, and the most engaging content is produced by PragerU, a non-university university dedicated to disseminating conservative views and values. Made just six months ago, this five-minute explanatory video has more than two million views.
Elections never depend on a single factor, and it is not uncommon for the party that takes over the presidency to lose ground. That said, the perceived success of the Tories’ anti-CRT campaign will likely further legitimize explicit appeals to whites like those used by former President Trump. This will likely have long term consequences. He also organizes American politics around hardened racial and ethnic coalitions: a predominantly white Republican Party and a multiethnic and multiracial Democratic Party. The Republican Party promises to maintain the status of whites at the top of the social hierarchy, while anti-CRT rhetoric says it is justifiable.
The perceived success of anti-CRT campaigns also undermines any meaningful discussion of systemic inequality in public school education. As of August, eight states had passed anti-CRT legislation and another 20 had introduced or planned bills. These bills have the practical effect of preventing even tacit recognition of racism or sexism. A bill passed by the Wisconsin Assembly, for example, bans all books, teaching materials, or class discussions that include terms such as “racial bias,” “patriarchy,” “structural inequality,” “intersectionality,” or , ironically, “self-criticism”. reflection. “With that in place, it’s hard to see how the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage, or any number of events in American history could be discussed, let alone in-depth. Indeed, a such legislation can effectively “chill” the teaching of the race by teachers afraid of clashing with conservative politics.
White parents are responding en masse to fears their children will learn white privilege and white supremacy, even as pundits and conservative politicians use proven concerns about communism to portray anti-racist efforts as a threat to capitalism and America as a whole. Sadly, we know from history that white racial mobilization is a powerful force, both at the ballot box and in attempts to subvert it.
This disinformation campaign must be directly combated. Rather than dismiss fabricated concerns about critical race theory as bogus, Democrats should to kiss solid teaching of America’s racial history in our public schools; and advocating for the importance of American values of fairness, equality and justice. Democrats should then focus on how attacks on critical race theory are supposed to divide people from all races which otherwise share interests. Rather than viewing these attacks on the CRT as isolated incidents, Democrats should mount their own sustained and cohesive campaign to advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion programs and complementary efforts such as Project 1619. .
Conservatives are united around anti-CRT rhetoric. Now is the time for Democrats to form the same united front, recognize that racism is real, and call on conservative legislative efforts to ban the teaching of racial inequality for what they are: a fitting example of how legal systems support racial inequality in the United States. This is, of course, exactly what CRT is trying to point out.