So what is critical race theory? Do you know? Does anyone? I have to admit, I didn’t know before Republicans discovered it somewhere in some Rush Limbaugh newsletter or something and decided to make it the gelded Mr. Potato Head of late spring/early summer 2021.
Two things you need to know right off the bat: Critical race theory (CRT) is the New Scary Thing that Republicans are using to distract people from the fact that the president is no longer a bloviating death yam and that the country appears to be turning a corner—finally—after enduring a year’s worth of plague-promoting from medieval thinkers. Second, they’re twisting its purpose and meaning to make political hay, as Republicans are wont to do.
Of course, it stands to reason that Republicans are distorting CRT to gain votes, because that’s basically what they do with everything.
For the record, here’s one CRT explainer, from Education Week:
Critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that racism is a social construct, and that it is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.
A good example is [redlining] when, in the 1930s, government officials literally drew lines around areas deemed poor financial risks, often explicitly due to the racial composition of inhabitants. Banks subsequently refused to offer mortgages to Black people in those areas.
Today, those same patterns of discrimination live on through facially race-blind policies, like single-family zoning that prevents the building of affordable housing in advantaged, majority-white neighborhoods and, thus, stymies racial desegregation efforts.
So CRT helps explain how, for instance, Black people were kept out of “better” neighborhoods and forced into segregated areas that were both separate and unequal—and how this historic discrimination still has an impact on many Black people’s life prospects. CRT also involves looking at American institutions and discovering how they historically kept racial minorities on the outside looking in.
Instead of the idiotic concept of colorblindness, CRT says that a comprehensive understanding of any aspect of American society requires an appreciation of the complex and intricate consequences of systemic inequality. And, according to CRT, this approach should inform policy decisions, legislation and every other element in society.
Take something as simple as college admission, for instance. People who “don’t see color” insist that we should only use neutral, merit-based metrics such as SAT scores and grades. However, Critical Race Theory acknowledges that SAT scores are influenced by socioeconomic status, access to resources and school quality. It suggests that colleges can’t accurately judge a student’s ability to succeed unless they consider the effects of the racial wealth gap, redlining, and race-based school inequality. Without this kind of holistic approach, admissions assessments will always favor white people.
CRT doesn’t just say this is racist, it explains why these kinds of race-neutral assessments are bad at assessing things.
Sounds pretty reasonable, right? As a white man raised by middle-class white parents, it’s pretty easy for me to identify areas where I had a huge head start … if I’m being honest. Which is where Republicans come in, because they’re not being honest at all.
Suddenly, critical race theory is the latest big bad boogeyman coming from the “radical left.” Conservatives are scrambling to eliminate any teaching of the theory, despite the fact that such teaching isn’t a fraction as prevalent as they’re pretending it is. Even though it’s a fairly anodyne (and clearly valid) explanation for abiding socioeconomic disparities, it makes white people feel uncomfortable, and we can’t have that. So, like widespread election fraud, Republicans are pretending it’s this Awful Thing That Needs to Be Addressed.
You might think they’d at least bother to understand what critical race theory is before writing legislation to ban it. You’d be wrong.
Kyle Whitmire, an enterprising reporter for AL.com, recently contacted Rep. Chris Pringle, a Republican member of the Alabama House of Representatives, and asked him about a bill he’s promoting to ban critical race theory in the state. According to Pringle, the bill he’s been hyping in the media is simple: “All it says is you can’t teach critical race theory in K-12 or higher education in the state of Alabama.”
Okay, great. And what is critical race theory?
“It basically teaches that certain children are inherently bad people because of the color of their skin, period,” Pringle told Whitmire.
Whitmire pressed Pringle further:
“Yeah, uh, well — I can assure you — I’ll have to read a lot more,” he said.I began to get the feeling that Pringle didn’t know as much about critical race theory as I had hoped. Were there other examples he could give me where critical race theory was being put into practice?
“These people, when they were doing the training programs — and the government — if you didn’t buy into what they taught you a hundred percent, they sent you away to a reeducation camp,” Pringle said.
These people? Reeducation camps? Sounds pretty vague.
After insisting on a source, Whitmire waited as Pringle fished through the cab of his pickup truck for an article he’d read.
“Here’s an—it doesn’t say who it was, it just says a government that held these—these training sessions …” Pringle told Whitmire.
Ah, we’re getting closer to the source of this fragrant bullshit. Could it be coming from the bottom of Pringle’s own shoe?
“The white male executives are sent to a three-day reeducation camp, where they were told that their white male culture wasn’t their …” And this, writes Whitmire, is where Pringle trailed off.
According to Whitmire, Pringle hemmed and hawed some more before summiting the crest of Bullshit Mountain: “I introduced a very brief version of the bill to start the conversation, but it’s very difficult in this cancel society to have a frank discussion about racism in this country and this country’s history. I mean, history is being rewritten and I’m not exactly sure of the accuracy of what’s there now and what they’re trying to change it into.”
Frankly, history was rewritten a long time ago, when we allowed the powers-that-be to write it and show it to us exclusively through a white man’s lens. Is it so awful to embrace a more complete—and accurate—view?
Pringle wasn’t done. He had his talking points more or less in order—even if they were largely buoyed by brain farts and bullshit.
“This is still the greatest country that’s ever, ever been in the history of the world,” Pringle said. “And the radical left is trying to destroy that and tear us apart and divide this country based on race and class, which is exactly what they do in communist countries.”
No, that’s not what’s happening. But, hey, way to get “communist” in there, dude. I guess that’s another Big Scary Thing making a comeback now.
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