Republicans have found their latest racial bugaboo. They’ve elevated something called critical race theory to a threat to the country, another plot to indoctrinate our children in Marxist thought. The North Carolina house passed a bill to prevent it from being taught in schools and North Carolina Congressman Dan Bishop, author of the Bathroom Bill, introduced similar legislation in Congress.
Critical Race Theory is not some curriculum being adopted by schools systems. It’s the theory that certain people have been discriminated against, and continue to be, because of their race and that the discrimination is systemic. Racism, proponents believe, is ingrained in our institutions and continues to adversely affect minorities, especially African Americans.
Republicans want to prevent teaching that one group of people subjugated another group. They argue that we’re all individuals and we all make individual decisions, so teaching that White people, as a group, discriminated against Black people implies that all White people are racist. In other words, the people who have pushed discriminatory voting laws, protected Confederate monuments on public property, denied police brutality disproportionally affects African Americans, and ignore discrepancies in stats like the mortality rate for Black babies are concerned that our children will be taught that racism is still alive and well in the U.S. today.
Laws, customs, marketing, and social norms throughout the 20th century indicate that they are wrong. Jim Crow laws were enacted by White people to prevent the social and economic advancement of Black people. All-white country clubs existed long after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Congress mandated that possession and sale of crack cocaine was treated differently from the blow being used Members of Congress and their offspring. Redlining prevented African Americans from accumulating wealth like their White counterparts. Black kids receive harsher discipline in school and Black men get harsher sentences in the courtroom.
But let’s not talk about all that, Republicans say. They want us to learn what they learned in school. The Confederacy was a noble but misguided cause. Most slave owners treated their slaves well, so the institution wasn’t really that bad. Discrimination ended with the Civil Rights Movement.
And most importantly, they want to make sure that not all White people are painted with a broad brush. That’s really the crux of the matter. Dan Bishop financially supported Gab, a White power web site. He introduced a bill to discriminate against transgender people, one that overrode local control, but he is loath to be called a bigot. In other words, the people who perpetuate the need to teach the history and impact of racial discrimination are the ones who most want to ban it.
Make no mistake, the audience Republicans are trying to reach are White voters uneasy with the Black Lives Matter movement, but who also aren’t happy with the Trumpist direction of the GOP, either. They are using a racial wedge to divide the nation while pointing fingers at African Americans accusing them of playing the race card. It’s been going on for generations. The whole critical race theory debate is nothing more than a manufactured crisis created originally by Trump and embraced by people who ignored the growing White power movement within their ranks for years. These are the people who see teaching the history of racism as more of a threat to our nation than the White power groups that attacked the Capitol on January 6.
Denying that our country embraced an apartheid that systematically discriminated against African Americans is far more dangerous than giving students the information they need to resolve the lingering problems in our society caused by that system. Our children need to learn more about our history, not less. They need critical thinking skills, not the myths that perpetuated racism for so long.