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“Critical Race Theory”–The New Election Killer?

Some people may not agree with everything I say here, which is fine. It is still very important to discuss.

We are now hearing about “Critical Race Theory,” every day. It is the new bete noire and election theme of Republicans, very much like “Defund the Police,” or “The Caravan of Immigrants Traveling Up From Central America” were in recent elections. President Biden, commenting on the surprising loss of House seats in 2020, said something to the effect that “we were hammered by ‘Defund the Police,'” meaning that in various districts, Republicans were able to tie the Democratic candidate and the party to this slogan or supposed policy position.

Very few people want to defund the police. Certainly BIden doesn’t, nor do about 98% of the Democrats who hold office. But in the anger of the previous summer, which led to various demonstrations. and occasionally burning and looting, there were various signs reading “Defund the Police!” Who made up these signs–people on the Left who believe in it, or instigators on the Right who jump at the chance to fuel anger among their base–is never easy to determine. I do know that there were various Black people who were commentators on TV cable shows, who expressed some openness to reducing funds or support for police departments. They were “speaking their own truth,” as the current saying goes, but they certainly did not help Democratic candidates.

It is very difficult for Biden or any Democrat in high office to keep trying to explain that the policies of the party in no way encompass such radical notions. One of the Republicans’ most effective techniques is to try to find something which scares the average White citizen, and convinces them that if you elect Democrats, this is what you are going to see happen.

So now it is Critical Race Theory, which Republicans contend is going to be taught in schools to brainwash and indoctrinate students. Glenn Youngkin, a Trump loyalist who pretends not to be, and has been desperately trying to gain traction in the Governor’s race in Virginia, got his largest applause at a recent speech where he said that he would ban Critical Race Theory from being taught. That race is now very close by polling, and it is an important one. Once again, Republicans look for a way to deflect the voters’ attention from truly important issues, on to something which they think will evoke an emotional response, enough for them to sneak into power. It works far too often, and some of it is our doing, at least from some of the people who profess to support the Democratic Party

I looked up the term “Critical Race Theory,” and it is not all that clear what it means, though one can read about the first time that it was generally used in published articles, which was in the 1980’s. Maybe some of you have a more precise idea than I do; to me it is a general and somewhat diffuse theory which focuses on the ways that racism insinuates itself into the structures: political, economic, linguistic, to create inequalities and prejudices. If Marxism was originally a theory of economic determinism (economic power and inequalities determine everything), Critical Race Theory seems to propose that race, and general racism, determine everything in our society.

Some proponents of teaching CRT in schools would say that it does not go that far, that it simply presents interesting information, and a way of looking at things, which should be included in the curriculum. It certainly is not something whose curriculum is well established, such as a particular class in English literature, or the History of Western Civilization, might be. So different schools and different teachers might teach it in different ways, and that is part of the problem.

I have read that some parents of White children are concerned that such teachings will make their kids feel guilty or unhappy, as if they, or their race, are the cause of the problems in America, or that their ancestors, or even parents, were bad people. I can actually empathize with this, even if it is overwrought. My ancestors came to America from Russia and Austria in the early 1900’s. They were working people. They had nothing whatsoever to do with slavery in their countries. Nor did they have anything to do with slavery in this country.

My parents were liberal Democrats, and certainly supported the integration of schools in the South, enforced by the National Guard, in the 1950’s and 1960’s. They voted for Kennedy and Johnson and Humphrey and Clinton and all of the other Democratic candidates for president who were champions of civil rights. Should they, or I, have to sit in class and listen to a litany of how racism is everywhere, and if a minority person does not get a job or a promotion, it is likely the cause of it? I would not want to, and I can understand how parents now would not wan to.

I think that CRT and related concepts should be taught in university, as an elective course. Not in secondary or elementary schools. It is too fraught with ideology. I know that many on the Right are convinced that professors in college try to indoctrinate students into “Leftist” philosophies, but I and anyone else who has gone to college, knows that to be ridiculous. College students are too aware to be indoctrinated into anything, nor do the professors seek to do it. Of course there is a general liberal-humanist aspect, which I think relates to the nature of history and the arts, which provide a deeper understanding of human nature, our commonality, and a window into other lives and choices. So most professors, particularly in the humanities, are ‘liberal,” but they would no necessarily see it as in political terms, though they usually vote Democratic.

Some like to speak of slavery as “America’s Original Sin.” I do not believe in the Protestant concept of “original sin,” so I do not like the term. Slavery was an inhuman thing. It did exist in ancient times: in Egypt, in Babylon, in Greece and Rome. It continued in later eras, in Europe, and Asia, and Africa. It came to America. It was permitted by political agreement, to be legal south of the so-called Mason-Dixon line. Eventually a Civil War was fought, for various reasons, but principally because of slavery. Many young men in the North were killed or badly injured, fighting for the end of slavery, though obviously some of them fought for other reasons or necessities. Finally, slavery was outlawed in this country.

But of course that did not mean the end of racism, or efforts by various states to keep Black people from voting, or gaining jobs. We see this today, every day that one of the Republican-controlled states like Texas or Georgia tries to create districts where Black people cannot be elected, or even vote. It is not something that we can ignore, or look to courts to fix, as the Supreme Court has been stacked with judges who will not step in to fix districts which states draw for the purpose of minimizing minorities.

On the other hand, should it be requisite for schools to teach a curriculum which might generally say that White people are oppressing Black people? Again, it depends on how CRT is taught. I do not agree with some of the things which apparently are part of the CRT curricula. And just in general, not to say that this is a part of it, I do not believe that every White American is guilty of having done or thought something condemnable regarding race. And do not believe that immigrants here all took on the sin of slavery when they set foot on the shore.

If someone in America moves to France, does he or she now bear guilt for the cruelties of the Ancien Regime, or the Reign of Terror? Germany is one of my least favorite countries, but I do not think that an American who moves there becomes guilty of Nazi horrors . So speaking only for myself, if I were a teenager, I would not want to have to take a course in Critical Race Theory. But if a curriculum included a class on the history of slavery here, and the Civil Rights movement, I would think that it was appropriate. What the difference is, is not that easy to pinpoint, but I think it has to do with learning history and social studies, rather than dogma which has an agenda behind it.

Our problem is that Critical Race Theory controversy can do the same thing that the “defund the police” red herring did, which is to help fascists and racists get elected. People who vote Republican have this belief that liberals are trying to force ideologies and policies down their throats. This is mostly ridiculous, but not completely. A course which would focus on “White racism” and how it is the reason for Blacks not attaining this level, or that success, would be an example of what they are complaining about. And the CRT proponents seem determined to keep emphasizing these things, even as Republicans try to take their right to vote away, and make an abortion for any woman who was not wealthy enough to travel to another state essentially impossible. And to destroy the environment of America and the planet.

I do watch certain sports, not others, and it is rather remarkable how there are now so many commercials featuring Black actors. I certainly do not count them, but I am sure it is a reaction to George Floyd, and the events of the last year. That is good, at least for the actors trying to make a living. I do not think it solves the problems that the proponents of CRT want to be addressed. I don’t know specifically what, or how they want them to be addressed. I do not generally like classroom teaching which starts from a particular position. I do think that such courses should be available as electives, not as requirements.

I think that “we” keep getting defeated in many electoral respects, at least partly because we have these political wings which are determined to have their way, to be able to “teach” people what they want them to “know.” And the Right Wing simply presents that as, “Look what Democrats want to force you to hear and be told.” And people, not all of them bad or prejudiced people, do not like that, and so they get misdirected, and vote for very bad people. If this continues, the people who push for CRT to be part of school curricula, may win such battles in some places, but lose the war in total. The very example of a Pyrrhic victory. But they do not seem to care to see it, so caught up are they in their own anger, and demand that everybody be required to hear what they have to say.