Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, speaking at a press conference on the ban on federal funding for teaching critical race theory on May 12, 2021 (Photo by Michael Brochstein / Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images)
On August 10, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas proposed a amendment to the $ 3.5 billion infrastructure bill currently before Congress. The provision prohibits federal funds from going to K-12 schools that teach critical race theory. This pass 50-49.
Cotton and his Republican peers, as well as West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, followed the lead of Tucker Carlson and his peers at Fox News and other right-wing media, who launched a fear campaign to convince the White America that radical educators nationwide blame their children and grandchildren for the sins of our nation’s past.
Their blatant disregard of critical race theory – a branch of legal research centered on the idea that racism is systemic, not just in the hearts and minds of individuals –emanates self-confessed false statements by Christopher Rufo, a conservative Manhattan Institute activist. Over the past year it has been further propagated by a well-funded and organized nationwide network of reactionary groups such as Heritage Action, Project 1776, Citizens for American Renewal, and others.
The cotton movement follows following in the footsteps of Republican governors, GOP-controlled state legislatures and school boards, and extremist politicians like Marjorie Taylor Greene to amplify lies and stop teachers from conveying America’s complicated history to their students , a topic that has only become more urgent since the brutal murder of George Floyd by police in May 2020. Even more moderate Republican officials, such as Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, have joined the histrionic chorus and misleading. August 30, The Columbus Dispatch reported that his office has said it opposes critical race theory because it “divides rather than unites Americans.” Indeed, Republican lawmakers in the Ohio General Assembly are advance legislation to keep critical race theory out of the state’s K-12 classes.
Given the constant stream of articles about Republicans rebelling against the teaching of Critical Race Theory, it would be understandable for the average news consumer in the United States to think this is a raging problem. America. But it’s not. Critical Race Theory is never taught in Kindergarten to Grade 12 classes. In fact, it is rarely found in undergraduate programs. On the contrary, the body of the scholarship is taught almost exclusively in law schools.
The Republican Outrage Operation is not just an attempt to stop mainstream race teaching in history and civics classes in the United States. It is also, but more so, an effort to invent a crisis that frightens their base enough to throw money into the GOP coffers and vote Republicans halfway through. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was fundraising videos for his re-election campaign to ban critical race theory from schools in the Sunshine State.
This is why it is essential that media organizations stop reporting on the “debate” on critical race theory. In reality, there is no debate. This is a controversy and a GOP fabricated scam scheme.
Unfortunately, the project was successful. This is due, in large part, to a cleverly organized advertising campaign by right-wing activists. Not only do activists get airtime on cable TV and post endless messages on social media, they also follow a detailed manual. Just listen to Tucker Carlson on Fox interviewing Rufo. Or listen to the “protesting parents” interviewed on Fox News or OANN. Almost methodically, they all use the same language. Students are “hated”, “blamed” and “held responsible” for American slavery or institutionalized racism.
Parents and their amplifiers follow, almost word for word, the scripts disseminated in activist textbooks and toolkits to oppose Critical Race Theory published by Heritage Action and the Project 1776.
For example, this summer, two mothers of students at the Ohio Private Preparatory Columbus Academy shared their written remarks, admittedly, to a national right-wing podcast and school meetings. The bet has turned against him. The children were excluded school because their parents had carried out a sustained campaign of “deceptive and deceptive attacks” against the school, in violation of a registration agreement they had signed.
Parents’ tactics should come as no surprise. The anti-criticism movement of racial theory stems from a model of dishonesty. In widely repeated comments, for example, Rufo created bogus quotes from supposedly well-known critics of critical race theory who, he said, portrayed them as “Marxists who advocate the abolition of private property and the overthrow of capitalism.”
To understand these campaigns, you have to look back. After World War II, with the emergence of civil rights movements and, in particular, the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Education Council, there has been a white backlash to changing societal norms that have embraced, rather than suppressed, racial diversity and inclusion.
The resistance that ensued – what I and others call “white fear and flight” – is a prerequisite for understanding the fireworks display on Critical Race Theory. The “fear” of further racial integration has led to the “flight”, both literally in terms of the relocation of boarding schools and schools, and politically in the rejection of policies that would tackle racial inequalities, such as affirmative action, expansion of affordable housing and even simple education. on race.
In the ’80s and’ 90s, Republican politicians discovered clever, even manipulative, ways to use this fear to their advantage. Ronald Reagan mocked the welfare queen and talked about ending government support programs. Newt Gingrich did his best to maintain that focus – he lobbied relentlessly for welfare reform and other cuts to welfare programs – in his publication of The Contract with America. In 2016, Donald Trump pulled out a page from their book of to announce undocumented immigrants as “rapists” and “criminals” crossing the southern border and claiming that Barack Obama, our first black president, was not born in this country. All of these accusations sent the same message to Red America: People of color pose a threat to their way of life.
Of course, the latest iteration of this battle takes place in a drastically different media landscape. Conservative charlatans can easily spread their disinformation on Facebook and Twitter, and right-wing cable networks like Fox, Newsmax, and OANN can amplify it.
At this point, we can expect Republicans’ bad faith arguments to sow dissension and fear. But we shouldn’t expect everyone who knows better to fall into the trap. With a new school year beginning, conservatives will surely continue to use critical race theory as a stick in the crop war. In order for the rest of us to fight it most effectively, we need to know the true nature of what we are up against.