December 5, 2021

Understanding Republican push-back against CRT

A spectre is haunting American conservatives, the spectre of Critical Race Theory (CRT). 

This one theory has become the primary target for Republicans who seek to fight against a perceived invasion of radical left wing propaganda into the mainstream, including our own schools. But where did it come from? 

According to Google Trends, the topic was rarely searched until September 2020, when it experienced a slight spike in interest. It was around this time that former president Donald Trump issued an executive order thought to be a ban on teaching CRT. The fact that such a thing came into the spotlight so rapidly suggests a less than natural trend. 

That’s because the sudden controversy was deliberately engineered by activist Christopher Rufo, a conservative who outlined his plans on Twitter to create a new buzzword in CRT. 

Rufo released a series of tweets explaining the plan to create a word Americans would instantly associate with things they disliked. 

Rufo made these tweets on March 15 of this year, which was followed by a firestorm of controversy led by parents and pundits alike.

22 states have experienced anti-CRT protests, with 6% having a militia presence. Politicians in various states have also tried to ban CRT. 

8 states have successfully banned it, 20 more have similar bills in consideration. The bills in question use a language of anti-discrimination, but ultimately describe the teaching of concepts such as white privillege as being discriminatory. 

But what is CRT? Rather than the plague of deception that some have made it out to be, it is an academic perspective originating from analysts in the 1970s looking to understand the ways that racism affected American legal policy, an example being the government’s role in the practice of redlining. 

Redlining is the practice of designating primarily black neighborhoods as being too financially risky to offer loans resulting in black people being essentially barred from home ownership. 

The main complaint conservatives seem to have of CRT is the focus on the way the theory argues that racism underpins all of society. 

This belief is perceived as an accusation that white people are inherently racist, though the theory itself is unconcerned with personal beliefs of individuals, but rather the results of decisions at a personal and social level. 

Some educators worry that teaching history about policies such as Jim Crow laws may not be permissible under these laws. The ambiguity may be the point, seeking to force self-censorship among educators and to dissuade discussion of less than flattering topics. 

The latest strategy employed by anti-CRT activists was the targeting of school board elections. 50 recall elections have been proposed by Republican activists with some aiming to recall entire school boards. 

A prominent group founded to advance this movement has been No Left Turn in Education, started by a mother reacting to lessons on the concepts of racism and privilege. The group quickly rose to prominence after the founder of the movement was interviewed by Tucker Carlson. 

This led to protests at school board meetings, some of which devolved into threats of violence from protestors. 

Another strategy has been to request documents on every aspect of curriculum, as a concern the protestors raise is a lack of transparency by educators. Such requests can take up to hundreds of hours to process and some speculate that the goal is not transparency but to bury educators under loads of paperwork. 

Whether or not the movement will succeed is uncertain, but what is certain is that the movement to fight against racially conscious education is only gaining steam. 

The movement has employed a multitude of strategies and will likely continue to do so in an effort to fight back against any vaguely socially conscious material , regardless of what facts are censored to accomplish this goal. 

The movement also underpins a darker current of anti-intellectual sentiments and the ways that discussion is being attacked on issues which strike a nerve with those on the political right. One can only imagine what will next be attacked in the name of fighting ideological indoctrination.

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