North Carolina Republicans have been trying to censor schools to prevent them from teaching uncomfortable truths about our history. In Texas, we can see where it leads. A school principal there told teachers that they need to find balance. If they have a book in their classroom on the Holocaust, they need to have one that has an opposing view.
That’s right. Texas is entering into Holocaust denialism. It’s the result of Texas’ anti-CRT legislation that passed earlier this year. Conservative legislators want history taught that doesn’t tell the ugly side of the story and never casts blame on White Americans, or Germans, apparently. It’s where other Southern states could go next.
The “facts don’t care about your feelings” crowd is worried that teaching the facts of our history is going to hurt the feelings of their kids. Critical Race Theory is just the red herring of Republicans who want to control the narrative of our history. They want to downplay the role that slavery and Jim Crow played in creating an underclass of African Americans and that the impact of those policies still reverberates today.
The neo-Confederates in the GOP argue that the Civil War was not about slavery but about states’ rights. It’s a bullshit argument that has been debunked for years, but still lives on in the minds of the right. The so-called “Cornerstone Speech,” delivered by Vice-President of the Confederate States of America Alexander Stephens, laid out the reasons for secession and the belief in the superiority of the White race and inferiority of the Black race is foundational. It’s not up for debate and no alternative should be taught. An alternative would just be a lie.
In the wake of the Civil War, the collapse of Reconstruction allowed the secessionists and their descendants to establish White supremist governments that systematically denied African Americans the franchise, stripped them of their property, denied them access to justice, capital, and education, and forced them to live as an underclass denied the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness .” The social structure was enforced by extrajudicial means, including terror, and had broad support among White citizens in the South.
Over the next 100 years or more, Black communities that gained economic or political power were frequently destroyed either through vigilantism in late 1800s and early 1900s or through development in the mid- and latter 20th century. Massacres like the ones in Wilmington, Tulsa, and Rosewood, Florida, were all too common and their purpose was to keep African Americans in their place—away from the fruits of the American Dream. After World War II, African American communities were often divided or destroyed by the construction of freeways, landfills, and other developments. These actions occurred because Black communities lacked the political power to stop them while simultaneously destroying any economic clout they may have been building.
I can go on, but the result of this systematic discrimination left the African American community lagging in economic, educational, and political power. They are more likely to be treated harshly by our justice system than their White counterparts. They are more likely to be suspended from school. They are less likely to get loans, jobs, or even apartments.
That’s what the people shouting about CRT don’t want taught in schools. Their political allies, whether they admit it or not, are blatant White supremacists like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. And that’s how we get to teaching an alternative history of the Holocaust. Nobody in the Republican Party is willing to stand up to bigots. Instead, they normalize them the way they are the January 6 seditionists and Mark Robinson. Ignoring history allows them to repeat it.