Republicans Weaponize Critical Race Theory

by A. Altieri D’Angelo                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Republicans have no vision for making the country better. Instead, they must resort to pushing discredited voter fraud claims and passing voter suppression laws to stay in power. But they have found a new cause with which they hope will enhance their white-voter base of support. The latest is the banning of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in education-from Kindergarten to Twelfth Grade (K-12). Several Republican-controlled states (including Florida, Texas, Georgia, and Arizona) have either passed laws to ban CRT or are in the process of doing so.

CRT is a concept that originated in academic and legal circles in the mid-1970s and became well-publicized in the last year. Its fundamental idea is that racism is a social concept embedded in the legal system and government policies. Racism is not just a product of individual bias or prejudice. CRT assumes that racism is part of everyday life. It is a theory that focuses on the outcomes of government policies and people’s decisions. It seeks out racism even when it is unintentional. For example, people (regardless of color) often do not intend to be racist but may make choices that fuel racism. CRT looks at the result of such decisions, and if such causes a racist effect, it must be challenged and rectified.

CRT’s impact on education is at the center of the debate. CRT scholars look at policies and practices in K-12 education to see where persistent racial inequalities exist and seek to make changes. They focus on underfunded minority schools, racially segregated school districts, barriers to gifted school programs, and curriculums that reinforce racist ideas. CRT aims to help students identify and critique the causes of social inequality in their own lives. Conservatives claim such an approach causes divisions in society and portrays America as a racist country that oppresses minorities.

A recent poll by the advocacy group, Parents Defending Education, claimed some schools were teaching that “white people are inherently privileged, while Black

and other people of color are inherently oppressed and victimized”; that “achieving racial justice and equality between racial groups requires discriminating against people based on their whiteness”; and that “the United States was founded on racism.” Thus, they see CRT as a means of enhancing the rights of minorities by making white people regret their position in society.

Brandon Creighton courtesy of Charles Shirley

We can see how conservatives plan to accomplish this goal in the following quote from GOP Texas State Sen. Brandon Creighton, who introduced a bill against the use of CRT, which passed in the Texas Senate. He said, “to prepare the next generation, Texas public schools should inspire a love of learning, foster students’ natural curiosity, and provide a strong foundation to understand history from a balanced approach and navigate current events, not require educators push a political agenda,”  He also said, “the bill will hold the line in Texas to ensure civics courses teach traditional history, focusing on the ideas that make our country great and the story of how our country has risen to meet those ideals, not that any race is inherently superior or place political requirements on students.” Of course, Creighton’s approach would classify any discussions of slavery and campaigns of anti-Mexican violence (to name a few) as unpatriotic and prohibit such. But the impact is far greater in scope.

How will this legislation affect actual teachers and students? For example, will it be legal to talk about voter suppression of Black Americans in the classroom? What about discussing the civil rights movement? No one can teach American history properly if these laws are allowed to remain on the books. Schools and teachers will need to be cautious and may engage in some form of censorship. And it will not end with K-12 curriculums. Republicans may also use this approach to limit ethnic studies and other programs that benefit non-traditional groups such as the LBGT community.

There are elements of CRT that should be challenged and debated. CRT is not the final solution, but it is a useful tool that highlights potential systemic racism in our society.

Republicans need to ban CRT to maintain the support of their conservative base. Their political base is fearful of the growing diversity of the U.S. population and its voting power. Such voters do not want to be reminded of past sins of oppression, nor do they want to change the status quo.

Most people will realize that accepting responsibility for past deeds is the only way to move forward if we wish to prosper as a nation. Ultimately, Republicans will fail in their attempts at creating a new culture issue.

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