The Manufactured Culture War Against a Phony Version of Critical Race Theory Continues

Right Wing liars who deliberately misstate what Critical Race Theory says continue their cynical culture war to deceive people into voting for them.

We begin with this article from this past summer. “North Carolina Republicans passed a bill limiting how teachers can discuss certain racial concepts in classes through the Senate Thursday along party lines. … Republicans have said the bill is designed to bar teachers from compelling their students to personally adopt any ideas from a list of 13 beliefs, including the ideas that a particular race or sex is inherently superior and making students feel guilty because of their race or sex. ‘The purpose of this bill is to put in place guardrails against the most extreme forms of indoctrination,’ Republican Senate leader Phil Berger said during a floor debate. While Republicans said the bill is designed to, at a minimum, shed light on how teachers operate and call out questionable classroom activities, it does not appear to prevent any of the alleged cases of ‘indoctrination’ that were included in an 831-page task force report GOP Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson released earlier this week. … Democrats argue Republicans crafted the bill to placate unfounded concerns among staunch conservatives ahead of the 2022 and 2024 elections. They also said the bill would stymie conversations by dissuading teachers from discussing America’s history of racism and lingering effects of slavery. ‘Indoctrination is fake news,’ said Senator Gladys Robinson, a Guilford County Democrat. ‘As a matter of fact, it’s more than that. It’s a bold-faced lie. There is no indoctrination. What we need to do is step in our lane and let them [educators] go into theirs.’ The latest action in North Carolina follows a national trend of Republican-controlled legislatures looking to combat certain ideas they associate with ‘critical race theory,’ a complex framework legal scholars developed in the 1970s and 1980s that centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and serves to maintain the dominance of whites in society.”

The article continues, “Republicans have used ‘critical race theory’ and ‘indoctrination’ as catchall phrases to describe racial concepts they find objectionable, such as white privilege, systemic inequality and inherent bias. The movement against the theory gained traction last year when former President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring federal contractors from conducting racial sensitivity trainings after a conservative activist appeared on Fox News urging the former president to do so. As of Thursday, 27 states have considered legislation or other steps to limit how racism and sexism can be taught, according to an Education Week analysis, with several states adopting language from Trump’s now-defunct executive order. Berger associates indoctrination with the promotion of any of 13 views the bill outlines, while other Republicans like the state’s lieutenant governor have a more expansive view of the term. Regardless, both point to examples of educators accused of giving preferential treatment to pupils who agree with their racial views and districts hosting questionable trainings and workshops for staff as evidence of systemic problems within the state’s public education system. ‘It can’t possibly be true that critical race theory isn’t in our schools and that this bill doesn’t go far enough in addressing critical race theory in our schools,’ Berger said. ‘Which is it? Which argument do the bill opponents want to adopt?’ Senator Mike Woodard, a Durham County Democrat, believes decisions about how teachers should discuss race ought to be left to state and local education officials in consultation with parents. ‘Families and educators don’t want politicians in Raleigh deciding how history will be taught in their schools,’ he said.”

In this article about laws Republican legislatures are passing we learn, “Although Republicans invoke the term ‘critical race theory’ when accusing teachers of trying to indoctrinate students to reject capitalism and fuel hostility toward White people, the laws do not actually mention it. The vast majority of teachers (if any) don’t use the term and don’t require students to read the work of CRT scholars. Conservatives have argued that racism is the work of individual bad actors and is not systemic in American law and society. Teachers say that any serious evaluation of the country’s history shows that racism has been a part of the fabric of the United States since it was founded and that they have a responsibility to tell students the truth. ‘This manufactured outrage is designed for one purpose — to divide communities along racial lines for political purposes,’ Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, said in a statement. ‘This has resulted in educators being targeted simply for doing their jobs and teaching our history.’ “

This article tells us about a Republican who accidentally said the silent part out loud and is trying to repair the damage by lying. “A Republican school board campaign manager in Guilford, Connecticut, said she chose her words poorly when she said, ‘Helping kids of color to feel they belong has a negative effect on white, Christian, or conservative kids.’ News station WFSB-TV reports that Republican political operative Mary Beeman posted that comment during a University of Connecticut educational forum where critical race theory — a hot-button term frequently echoed by conservatives — was on the agenda. ‘The statement I made was poorly worded and shown out of context,’ Beeman said later. Guilford school board chairman and 20-year board member Bill Bloss wondered to WFSB in ‘exactly what context’ that claim would be appropriate, and called for Beeman’s resignation. Beeman said she was trying to make the point that Guilford students with ‘Judeo-Christian values,’ or those of a conservative ideology, are being ‘bullied into submission’ by liberal teachers and classmates. She reportedly has no intentions to step down. Bloss called Beeman’s comment ‘false, outrageous, negative (and) destructive’ and said that it shouldn’t be ignored. According to Bloss, there’s no evidence to support the claim that critical race theory is being taught in Guilford.”

This essay from Professor Jacqueline Jones talks about what cynical politicians in Texas are doing. “The implementation of recently enacted legislation in Texas is sounding an alarm that should reverberate through state legislatures and local school boards across the United States. Texas Senate Bill 3 (SB3) requires that K-12 teachers present ‘opposing viewpoints’ on ‘widely debated and controversial’ issues. This was bad legislation from the beginning. We are now seeing its consequences. Most historical issues are better understood as having different angles of vision rather than ‘opposing sides.’ In some cases, the facts are the facts; although they can be interpreted in different ways, they remain stubbornly the facts. Moreover, different interpretations still require evidence; in many cases, an ‘opposing’ interpretation (versus a different angle of vision) cannot be supported by existing evidence. In some cases, consensual community values preclude ‘opposing viewpoints’ on a particular issue. The Holocaust and slavery offer obvious examples. Historians, teachers and students can and should look at the causes and implications of these horrors from different angles. We can condemn the Holocaust as a crime against humanity, and still seek to understand why it happened, thereby retaining our moral sense while exploring the historical context revealed by the rise of the Nazi Party. But we cannot, and should not, expect teachers to offer ‘opposing’ views on the essence of either slavery or genocide, except as a way to how controversies emerged over such inhumane aspects of our past. This is what seems to have happened in the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas, where the executive director of curriculum and instruction informed teachers to ‘make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust, that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.’ Judging from the district’s subsequent apology there can be little doubt that this was not about ‘angles of vision’ relating to evidence, causes or historical significance.”

Professor Jones tells us, “The vague wording of SB3 not only creates absurd situations that require teachers to figure out how to offer ‘opposing viewpoints’ on slavery, but also gives license to parents and administrators looking to challenge the teaching of incontrovertible facts relating to controversial issues. The result is confusion and fear on the part of K-12 teachers, who are certified in pedagogy and age-appropriate instruction and remain vulnerable to misinformed parents and school board members; administrators who support their professional staff have already been subject to unwarranted pressure. Let us be clear here: SB3 and similar legislation in other states is meant to require social studies not to promote the idea that chattel slavery, lynching and other forms of racially motivated violence and the long history of legally mandated racial discrimination ‘are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to, the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality.’ This is not true. Historians, teachers and students who read the founding documents can debate whether these aspects of our past are ‘deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to’ the words in those documents. Some might argue that the roots of American racism lie in the documents themselves. These are different angles of vision as we read the documents.”

According to Professor Jones, “The problem lies in the dismissive phrase ‘anything other than.’ These phenomena are more than deviations, betrayals or failures; they are central aspects of our past, with a lasting impact documented by professional scholarship. We cannot pretend otherwise if we are to address their impact with our integrity intact, and with the hope that we will learn from the past rather than merely celebrate it. SB3 and comparable legislation introduced in 27 states corrupts the study of history and reduces students to political pawns. Children deserve to learn history from teachers who are professionally trained to teach it, and they are entitled to a curriculum consistent with professional scholarship. If that history includes criticism of our nation, its institutions or even its people, such reckoning can take place constructively and even respectfully. But it is likely to generate ‘discomfort,’ and teachers should not be required (or even expected) to comfort students with an ‘opposing viewpoint’ that runs contrary to available evidence.”

This article looks at some racist folks in Tennessee who don’t want their kids learning racism is bad, so they make up phony arguments. “Robin Steenman, an Air Force veteran and white mother of three, is fed up with the way public schools in her community of Franklin, Tennessee are teaching kids about race. She believes that the reading materials and teachers’ manuals are biased, specifically the lessons taught to second graders about civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. Kids leave class believing that white people are oppressors and minorities are victims, Steenman claims. While her only school-age child attends private school, Steenman nevertheless wants the public system, Williamson County Schools, to change its approach. She and a group of local women calling themselves ‘Moms for Liberty’ recently asked the Tennessee Department of Education in a complaint letter to force the district to scrap that material and overhaul its curriculum. Their protests have made Williamson County the first test of a new Tennessee law that bans the teaching of ideas linked to ‘critical race theory,’ an academic framework that examines how racism has shaped American society. The clash in Franklin, a Nashville suburb of 83,000 people, is part of a larger culture war over race and education that’s roiling other U.S. communities, and which has gained traction as a political force nationwide. It has split parents and spooked some educators. Tennessee is pursuing plans to strip teaching licenses from instructors and cut state funding to schools that persistently teach taboo material. A spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Education, the agency responsible for overseeing districts’ compliance with the law, would not comment on the status of Steenman’s complaint letter.”

The article continues, “Williamson County Schools has denied that the civil rights material violates state law. The district’s superintendent Jason Golden and 11 of the 12 district board members declined to be interviewed by Reuters. School board member Eliot Mitchell told Reuters that Moms for Liberty’s complaint was ‘misguided,’ and that teaching about racism in America’s past does not equate to teaching ‘that one particular race is intrinsically racist.’ Still, the district said it is reviewing the curriculum at the request of a community member whose identity it did not disclose. That review is scheduled to be completed by November. Another local group of parents believes some of their neighbors want schools to avoid hard truths about the history of American race relations, including in Williamson County. The area is home to former slave plantations now open to tourists. Franklin’s public square, where a Confederate monument stands, was the site of an antebellum slave market and the 1888 lynching of a Black man by the Ku Klux Klan. Some have pushed the district to address what they say is a long-standing pattern of racial insensitivity toward minority students in this 82% white county, including field trips to historical sites they claim have glorified the Confederacy and soft-peddled the evils of human bondage. ‘Overall, it’s a beautiful community,’ said Tizgel High, a Black mother of three. ‘But these battles, they get tiresome. You’re sort of constantly fighting for your humanity.’ Schools spokesperson Carol Birdsong said the district ‘continues to work to create a safe, welcoming environment for all students.’ “

The article also tells us, “In the past year, at least eight Republican-controlled states, including Tennessee, have passed laws restricting how the concept of race can be taught. The issue has become prominent in some off-year elections, including this year’s Virginia governor’s race, and it’s poised to be a major theme in the 2022 U.S. midterm contests. Critical race theory is an advanced concept rarely encountered outside law schools. It holds that racial bias is ingrained in U.S. laws and institutions, negatively impacting people of color. Educators say the lessons about race in most U.S. primary and secondary schools involve basic American history about slavery, post-slavery segregation and the long struggle for racial equality. Critics of the new teaching laws say Republicans are exaggerating the prevalence of critical race theory to use it as a wedge issue to court suburban women, in particular – a group that cares deeply about education and which has shifted Democratic. Republican Governor Bill Lee, who signed the measure into law in late May, told reporters recently that critical race theory is ‘un-American.’ The law prohibits public schools from teaching that anyone is ‘privileged’ due to their race – a reference to ‘white privilege,’ a term derided in conservative circles. Lessons also cannot make students feel ‘discomfort, guilt [or] anguish’ because of their race or sex.” So really you can’t teach about white folks owning African Americans as enslaved people because white students can feel discomfort about being white.

The article also says, “At the center of the controversy in Franklin is a reading curriculum that introduces second graders to the U.S. civil rights movement. Steenman says the material is too focused on the country’s segregationist past, making kids feel uncomfortable about race. In April, she launched a local chapter of Moms for Liberty, a national organization whose website says it advocates for ‘parental rights’ in education. Members of Steenman’s group pored over the second-grade books, marking up those they found objectionable with highlighters and sticky notes. On June 30, soon after the new law was signed, Steenman sent an 11-page letter outlining potential violations to the Tennessee Department of Education. Among the books Moms for Liberty deemed inappropriate are ‘Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington’ and ‘The Story of Ruby Bridges,’ about the Black 6-year-old who integrated a Louisiana public school in 1960. Written in simple language and framed largely as stories of perseverance, the books show some of the bigotry experienced by their Black protagonists. Images include a period photo in the King book of firemen blasting Black civil rights protesters with the spray of a fire hose, and an illustration in the Bridges story of the child being escorted to school by U.S. Marshals through a crowd of jeering white people. The teachers’ manuals includes discussion questions, such as asking students how young Bridges might have felt about her experience. The books are part of an English curriculum adopted in Williamson County in 2020 and approved for use in more than 30 districts across Tennessee. In Steenman’s letter, viewed by Reuters, she said the books and pedagogy are divisive, giving children the impression that all white people are ‘bad’ and that people of color are mistreated by whites. Speaking to Reuters at her home last month, Steenman said she believes this history is not age-appropriate for second graders, and that it doesn’t do enough to explain the country’s progress. ‘There’s so much positive that has happened in the 60 years since, but it’s all as if it never happened,’ she said.”

According to the article, “The Tennessee Department of Education has proposed that only students enrolled in the state’s public schools, their parents and school staff be allowed to file complaints under the new law. That would disqualify Steenman, who said her child attends private school in part to avoid stricter COVID-19 mask requirements at public schools, another issue that has divided Williamson County. The state education department is still finalizing its rules. Steenman said she’ll wait to see how the agency proceeds, and for the outcome of the local school district’s curriculum review, before deciding her next move. Some teachers, meanwhile, are anxious. Of particular concern is the law’s clause stating that lessons cannot make students feel bad about their race. ‘The bottom line is, we’re teaching facts, and how anyone internalizes those facts…we don’t have any control of that,’ said Angela Mosley, a reading and math specialist at a Williamson County elementary school. Beth Brown, president of the state teachers’ union, has invited Tennessee teachers to submit lesson plans to her, which she is sending without their names attached to the state education department to get pre-approval for anything potentially contentious. Brown’s spokesperson told Reuters she has received about 20 submissions so far, including questions on how to handle the teaching of European colonization. Some Williamson County parents are furious that the curriculum backlash seems intended to protect the feelings of white children in a district that has repeatedly shown insensitivity towards students of color, who account for about 20% of enrollment. … Last year, Revida Rahman and Jennifer Cortez, both public school mothers in Williamson County, formed the nonprofit organization ‘One WillCo’ with a few dozen parents to make a collective push for changes that some had sought for years. They’ve urged the district to recruit more staffers of color, to train teachers to be more culturally and racially sensitive, and to put field trips to Confederate monuments and former slave plantations in proper context by explaining their links to white supremacy. Williamson County Schools spokesperson Cory Mason said the district reevaluated its field trips a few years ago and stopped visiting some sites, but did not specify which ones.”

In this article from Johnston County, North Carolina, we learn, “The Johnston County Board of Commissioners agreed to provide the $7.9 million after the policy was approved. Johnston County teachers could be disciplined or fired if they teach that American historical figures weren’t heroes, undermine the U.S. Constitution in lessons or say that racism is a permanent part of American life. The Johnston County Board of Commissioners is withholding $7.9 million until the school board passes a policy preventing Critical Race Theory from county classrooms. School leaders deny that Critical Race Theory is being taught. But to get the money, the school board unanimously approved Friday an updated policy on how history and racism will be taught. … The revised Code of Ethics policy includes new wording such as ‘the United States foundational documents shall not be undermined,’ and ‘all people who contributed to American Society will be recognized and presented as reformists, innovators and heroes to our culture.’ The policy says failure to comply ‘will result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.’ The new policy was denounced by April Lee, president of the Johnston County Association of Educators and an 8th-grade social studies teacher. She said the school system is ‘selling our souls to the devil for $7.9 million.’ ‘It’s basically extortion,’ Lee said in an interview. ‘They’re holding money hostage until they get a policy that is extreme enough for them to approve. We should all be angry about that.’ “

The article tells us, “Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson released a report in August that included complaints from parents across the state accusing teachers of trying to indoctrinate students. Republicans at the national, state and local level have tried to regulate how racism and history are taught. In September, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed an anti-Critical Race Theory bill passed by Republican lawmakers that the governor said is based on ‘conspiracy-laden politics.’ In Johnston County, the all-Republican Board of Commissioners told the school board in June they would withhold $7.9 million in new school funding until a policy banning Critical Race Theory was approved. In July, the school board responded with revisions to the code of ethics policy saying that ‘instructional staff and other school system employees will not utilize methods or materials that would create division or promote animosity amongst students, staff and the community.’ The updated July policy also said ‘staff shall not teach social theories outside of the North Carolina standards of any kind to students.’ But those changes weren’t enough to satisfy commissioners, leading to the revisions approved Friday. The vote comes as school board members plan to attend Monday’s board of commissioners meeting to request the withheld money. School board chairman Todd Sutton asked Superintendent Eric Bracy to make sure that commissioners get copies of the updated board policy before Monday’s meeting. ‘I’m hoping that each one of you will take time out to show support for Johnston County Board of Education as we go over there and hopefully they approve us for our full amount of $79.9 million as we’ve asked for in our budget for this year,’ Sutton told his fellow board members after the vote. A repeated refrain from critics at school board meetings is that an overly negative view is being taught about the nation’s history. Complaints have been made about how teachers may cite The New York Times’ 1619 Project, which talks about the central role that slavery played in the nation’s forming. The new Johnston policy tells teachers not to undermine foundational documents, which include the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. ‘All people deserve full credit and recognition for their struggles and accomplishments throughout United States history,’ the policy says. ‘The United States foundational documents shall not be undermined. No employee of Johnston County Schools will make any attempt to discredit the efforts made by all people using foundational documents for reform.’ “

According to the article, “The policy also tackles the sensitive topic about how to teach about historical figures. ‘All people who contributed to American Society will be recognized and presented as reformists, innovators and heroes to our culture,’ according to the policy. Lee questioned how she would be expected to teach about figures such as President Andrew Jackson, who forcibly relocated Native Americans to reservations. The policy addresses the complaint from some people that students are being taught concepts such as ‘white privilege,’ which is the belief that white people have an unfair advantage over other people due to their race. ‘No student or staff member shall be subjected to the notion that racism is a permanent component of American life,’ according to the policy. ‘No unequal value shall be placed on any race, gender, religion, ethnicity, social class, or any other identity group.’ Lee says the new wording overlooks the racism that people of color have experienced and continue to experience. The policy says ‘teachers will instruct and educate students about legal policies and avenues of actions.’ The policy also says its goal ‘is to foster positive relationships between our students and the local government entities who provide services to their community.’ ‘Any group who encourages students to act outside of the law, places this relationship in peril, and is not productive to the goal of Social Responsibility,’ the policy says. School board member Ronald Johnson, who had pushed for the changes, said the updated policy was reviewed by teachers, administrators and law enforcement officers. Johnson is a Smithfield Police detective. The wording comes after the Black Lives Matter protests that followed the death of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of white police officers. Some parents complained at school board meetings across the state about schools promoting Black Lives Matters. Lee says the policy limits the ability of teachers to talk about civil disobedience, such as what was used during the Civil Rights Movement. ‘Yes we should teach children legal means to enact change,’ Lee said. ‘But we also have to acknowledge that sometimes those legal means weren’t always used because they weren’t the only means to create change in society.’ “

This article tells us about the American Civil Liberty Union’s support of a lawsuit against Oklahoma’s attack on education. “A group of educators and civil rights groups is challenging Oklahoma’s new law limiting public school teachings on race and gender issues in court. The lawsuit, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Oklahoma, was filed Tuesday. The organizations argue that HB 1775, which took effect in May, interferes with students’ and educators’ First Amendment rights to learn and talk about gender and race issues in school. This policy also prevents students from discussing in-depth American history that reflects the experiences and viewpoints of ‘all historically marginalized communities in this country,’ the ACLU argues. The groups suing asked the court to declare the law unconstitutional under the First and 14th Amendments. They also requested that a judge issue a preliminary injunction that would put an immediate stop to the policy in Oklahoma. ‘All young people deserve to learn an inclusive and accurate history in schools, free from censorship or discrimination,’ said Emerson Sykes, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. The organization said this lawsuit is the first of its kind that challenges a state’s effort at limiting instruction on critical race theory, which examines how racism as a social construct intersects with history, policy, the law and other areas. It’s an advanced teaching usually reserved for law schools and undergraduate sociology courses. This concept was pushed into the public consciousness by former President Donald Trump last year. Right-wing activists have since made it a cause célèbre and several Republican-led states, including Oklahoma and Idaho, have passed laws attempting to limit its reach in public schools. But Oklahoma’s law doesn’t explicitly mention critical race theory in the legislation’s text. HB 1775 states broadly: ‘No public school student in Oklahoma can be required to participate in any form of “mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling.’ It goes on to say, ‘Any orientation or requirement that presents any form of race or sex stereotyping or a bias on the basis of race or sex shall be prohibited.’ Similarly, lessons showing one race or gender is superior to another or that a person, because of their ‘race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive’ are banned. If teachers are found to be teaching these lessons, they could lose their licenses and schools can lose their accreditation.”

The article continues, ” ‘HB 1775 is so poorly drafted — in places it is literally indecipherable — that districts and teachers have no way of knowing what concepts and ideas are prohibited,’ ACLU attorney Sykes said. ‘The bill was intended to inflame a political reaction, not further a legitimate educational interest. These infirmities in the law are all the more troubling because the bill applies to public colleges and universities, where the First Amendment is especially protective of academic freedom.’ The ACLU says as a result of the law’s approval, school districts in Oklahoma have told teachers not use terms like ‘diversity’ and ‘white privilege’ in the classroom. Books and other literary works dealing with race such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Raisin in the Sun have been removed from reading lists. Some schools have also limited or altogether eliminated diversity, equity and inclusion training for their educators, according to the group.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. Speaking Against the Vietnam War, St. Paul Campus, University of Minnesota, April 27, 1967 (Wikimedia Commons)

In this essay, Professor Tyler Parry tells us, “During a July 12, 2021 episode of The Rubin Report, a conservative-leaning talk show where the host, Dave Rubin, uses long-form interviews to examine current social and political issues, Republican politician Kevin McCarthy evoked a rather tiresome talking point about Martin Luther King that set off a proverbial firestorm on social media. In less than 20 seconds, McCarthy pronounced the supposed inconsistencies between MLK’s ‘dream’ and the tenets of Critical Race Theory (CRT). Citing school boards as the battleground for the next conservative campaign, the California Republican hoped to spark the ire of conservative parents by making a sweeping generalization of King’s legacy, claiming that proponents of CRT were ‘against everything Martin Luther King has ever told us: ‘Don’t judge us by the color of our skin,’ ‘ and ‘now they’re embracing it…they’re going backwards.’ McCarthy’s claim trended on Twitter, as it was either criticized or embraced by those in the public square, oftentimes demarcated by one’s political self-identification as ‘right’ or ‘left.’ McCarthy’s claim exposes how King’s legacy is sanitized by rightwing figures. He asserts that CRT does not only go against MLK’s ‘dream’ in 1963, it goes against ‘everything Martin Luther King has ever told us.’ This statement provides the crux of the issue. By emphasizing it goes against everything the Civil Rights leader ‘ever’ told Americans about race relations, McCarthy and his conservative counterparts assume that the totality of King’s teachings are encapsulated in a single statement of one speech he gave in 1963.”

Professor Parry writes, “McCarthy surely knew he was preaching to the choir, as Dave Rubin has repeated the claim of King’s colorblindness throughout his Youtube career. Right-leaning pundits from organizations like Campus Reform and PragerU, both online platforms espousing conservative ideas intended to counter the liberal teachings on modern American Universities, have repeated similar talking points. As debates over Critical Race Theory overtook public discourse throughout the Summer of 2021, conservative commentators followed a familiar pattern of invoking a sanitized version of MLK’s legacy that relies upon a selective reading of his many public speeches. The tactic transforms King from a radical civil rights activist who criticized capitalismUS imperialismincome inequality, and white supremacy, into a harmless symbol who simply wanted Americans to transcend race and imagine that racial inequities are a problem of the past. This latter version of King was specifically molded by conservatives in the post-Civil Rights to reject movements seeking systemic change. For if the United States is truly ‘colorblind,’ they argue, then any focus on race and racism is unnecessary. Thankfully, scholars and left-leaning activists have not been silent on these misrepresentations. One cartoonist creatively reconstructed how an anti-CRT activist would react when confronted with King’s criticisms of structural racism in the United States. MLK’s daughter, Bernice King, has confronted McCarthy and rightwing politicians like Josh Mandel on Twitter, noting how both men are grossly misrepresenting both her father’s legacy and the lessons of CRT.”

He continues, “But the question remains: where do King’s teachings stand in comparison to critical race theory? To start, it is necessary to understand that within the 2016 edition of Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, editors Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic argued that CRT followed in the ‘American radical tradition’ of Martin Luther King, Jr. ‘. They positioned Critical Race Theory as a successor to his social justice philosophy that condemned American imperialism, classism, and anti-Black racism, noting that King’s legacy had been co-opted by ‘a rampant, in-your-face conservatism’ designed to impede racial progress. So, despite conservatives’ lazy efforts to place King in opposition to CRT, many of the theorists themselves wholly embraced him as a precursor to their own scholarship. It is, of course, impossible to condense the numerous writings of critical race scholars alongside those of the prolific Dr. King in a few paragraphs, but we can identify some core beliefs amongst them to determine how they align with one another. In Derrick Bell’s seminal 1995 essay ‘Who’s Afraid of Critical Race Theory,’ he examined how CRT was a necessary tool for exposing systemic racism in US society, bluntly asserting, ‘As I see it, critical race theory recognizes that revolutionizing a culture begins with a radical reassessment of it’. The article notes how CRT is especially useful in critiquing the discourses of colorblindness in the post-Civil Rights era, noting that adherents to this method seek to ‘disrupt’ and go beyond  legal policies like ‘integration, affirmative action, and other liberal measures,’ adding that these scholars are highly suspicious of the ‘liberal agenda.’ The reference to a ‘liberal‘ agenda seems to critique those in the establishment who were satisfied by the legislative changes of the 1960s and remained complacent as racial injustices devastated Black communities in the era of ‘colorblindness.’ Indeed, CRT was developed among scholars of the post-civil rights generation as a lens for detecting the covert methods through which Black Americans were continuously marginalized in American society. Kimberle Crenshaw, a distinguished law professor and one of CRT’s foundational thought leaders, recently explained that practitioners of this theory ‘weren’t just looking at civil rights practice,’ they were developing a methodology that helped a new generation of researchers ‘grapple with how law has created and sustained race—our particular kind of race and racism—in American society.’ Critical Race Theorists use a variety of methods to critique the persistence of structural racism in the supposedly postracial era of US society, exposing how legal apparatuses continually perpetuate racist policies and racial injustices even after the legislative victories of the 1950s and 1960s. They also issue calls for anti-racist practices that confront and dismantle the structures of white supremacy that persisted into the present.”

According to Professor Parry, “For Martin Luther King, Jr., one of his final works, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, published in 1967, clearly demarcates his thoughts surrounding how white America largely abandoned the Civil Rights Movement after its legislative victories in the mid-1960s, and discusses a need to directly invest in the Black American community to achieve collective uplift. King used race-conscious messaging to note how white Americans held an ‘oppressor status’ that caused too many of them to carry an ‘ambivalence’ toward Black America’s continuous pursuit of social justice. King directly addresses the critiques of white Americans who attempted to redirect attention from the Black struggle, noting that the descendants of enslaved people in the United States held a wholly unique history of oppression that distinguished their contemporary issues from those of Irish or Italian populations, proclaiming ‘Negroes were brought here in chains long before the Irish decided voluntarily to leave Ireland or the Italians thought of leaving Italy’. It was the ‘stigma of color’ that rendered Black Americans in a more precarious position when compared to white ethnic groups. In similarities with the ‘radical reassessment’ espoused in Bell’s essay, King bluntly stated: ‘as a first step toward the journey to full equality, we will have to engage in a radical reordering of national priorities’. In similarity to many CRT scholars, King critiques complacent white people who benefit from structural racism while denying that they are themselves ‘racist’; he notes that America still has a ‘debt of justice’ it must pay to its Black population; he advocated for a ‘guaranteed income’, and he asserted that such a wealthy nation holds a moral imperative to ensure all of its citizens have access to ‘a decent house, an adequate education and enough money to provide basic necessities for one’s family’. An objective reader will notice how such ideas are in opposition to the colorblind King imagined by conservative commentators, and that they align with the more radical concepts of Critical Race Theorists who argue that the manifestations of anti-Black racism are unique in US society, and that anti-racist action must be a primary method toward dismantling white supremacy and radically restructuring society. Much more can be said on this topic, but these brief selections exemplify how the teachings of MLK and CRT are objectively much more closely aligned than they are in opposition. In reality, the CRT debate is just another moment in the American tradition of misappropriating MLK, ranging from the contests over affirmative action; the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement; and the debates over socialism vs. capitalism, to name a few. When CRT is no longer politically useful, conservative pundits will find another point for their fearmongering and recycle the same colorblind King as a prop to misrepresent their target. Though it is tiring, scholars and activists must continually respond to these misrepresentations on all available platforms. The true believers of the conservative cause may willfully ignore the evidence, but as we make such blogs and essays more widely available, we can reach many others and introduce them to a Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King who believed that achieving a better society requires an honest reckoning with history; who unapologetically fought for the downtrodden and the poor; and who envisioned a ‘genuine revolution in values’ in creating a more just and equitable society.”

You can hear an excellent discussion [9 minutes, 27 seconds] of Critical Race Theory with Professor Brandy Faulkner of Virginia Tech here.

There’s an ABC News story [7 minutes, 7 seconds] on CRT and the campaign of lies against it here:

You can see a PBS News Hour story [9 minutes, 4 seconds] on CRT here:

ABC’s This Week devoted a segment [8 minutes, 34 seconds] to CRT.

MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan spoke to Kimberlé Crenshaw, a cofounder of CRT, about the Republican lies [8 minutes, 10 seconds]

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