Republicans have a problem with the teaching of racial history. That much is obvious. Many a statement has gone out criticizing the teaching of “critical race theory” in schools. The outrage has become so thick that Republican-led state legislatures have been passing laws prohibiting the teaching of this in schools, banning books on racial history, attacking librarians, you name it.
There’s only one problem. CRT has never been taught in primary or secondary schools. Critical race theory is defined as “a cross-disciplinary intellectual and social movement of civil-rights scholars and activists who seek to examine the intersection of race, society, and law in the United States and to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to racial justice.”
So why the noise? Answer: this is an election year and Republican’s want their base to believe they are watching out for the “intellectual” safety of their children.
Here is more background on the CRT flap and what is keeping it alive.
The American Bar Association wrote,
In September 2020, President Trump issued an executive order excluding from federal contracts any diversity and inclusion training interpreted as containing “Divisive Concepts,” “Race or Sex Stereotyping,” and “Race or Sex Scapegoating.” Among the content considered “divisive” is Critical Race Theory (CRT). In response, the African American Policy Forum, led by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, launched the #TruthBeTold campaign to expose the harm that the order poses. Reports indicate that over 300 diversity and inclusion trainings have been canceled as a result of the order. And over 120 civil rights organizations and allies signed a letter condemning the executive order….
FOX News with the help of propagandist Christopher Rufo, whipped up a storm of fear and loathing for CRT—mostly fear—prior to the 2020 election. This storm pretty much subsided after the election, but the embers of fear and hatred in the Republican (Trump) base still smolder.
Thus, as we approach the November 8th midterms, we should expect an increase of noise from the fear and outrage department at FOX—actually, that appears to be their only department.
But as with most things along this line, things are not what they appear to be. The real target of this messaging isn’t the parents that Republicans say they want to “protect” from these “evil teachings.”
The Brookings Institute recently published a piece stating that the real target of the Republican “parental rights” campaign is non-parent voters.
Beginning last year and continuing in 2022, dozens of states—mostly those with Republican-dominated legislatures and governors—have proposed laws and executive orders banning the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) or, more broadly, books and courses on America’s diversity. Perhaps most noteworthy was newly elected Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s “day one” executive order banning the teaching of critical race theory and other “divisive concepts.” Other Republican governors who have been vocal about these bans include Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas.
Many of these laws were embedded in broader initiatives to address sometimes legitimate parental concerns about public schools’ capabilities to deliver quality educational experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the specific focus on banning the teaching of racial history smacks of political motivation by a party that is trying to ignore this nation’s rising diversity and appeal to its largely white, culturally conservative voter base. In fact, the term “critical race theory”—a much narrower academic framework than what is commonly taught in K-12 courses on American racial history—is intentionally used as a scare tactic to appeal to that base.
…voters in nonparent households, with their strong Republican-leaning demographic profile, are the real target of the party’s scare tactics associated with critical race theory and similar subjects. In fact, a recent analysis of Virginia’s gubernatorial contest showed that a “silver surge” in turnout among the Republican-leaning voters over age 65 contributed to Youngkin’s victory.
Parental Rights in Education
Republicans have widened their attack strategy with the new Florida law, Parental Rights in Education. Everyone else calls the bill “Don’t Say Gay.” This bill, like the attacks on CRT, target something in schools that does not exist: anything resembling sex education for children ages 5-8.
The Walt Disney Company spoke out against that bill and is now under attack by the religious extremist elements of the Republican Party.
Red-hat wearing white supremacists have been yelling about boycotting Disney World Resort and cancelling accounts with Disney+. Rick Scott is the latest Republican to join in the fray, announcing the cancellation of his Disney+ account. This followed Ted Cruz of Texas predicting that Disney was going to do gay cartoon porn.
DeSantis added his latest political stunt of getting a law passed, Putin style, to rescind Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District to punish the company. (Oddly enough, this may create a marketing boon for Disney offering people the opportunity to enjoy the best weather of the year and an absence of red-hat wearing loonies in the resort.)
A thumbnail analysis of this situation tells us that while Republican messaging is strident and self-righteous, it is really about whipping up the white supremacists in their base. These folks apparently fear gay people as much as they do anyone non-white and not an extremist “Christian.” This messaging actually worked in 2020, getting Trump a sizeable segment of votes. Luckily for the nation, Biden got 7 million more.
But the historic danger period of the midterms is now looming. This means that Democrat messaging needs to step up radically. But rather than “fighting fire with fire” it needs to be done with reality, coherence and directness. Positioning supporters of oil companies and opponents of universal healthcare as the ruthless profiteers they are would be a good start. These suggestions have teeth and the added value of being documented and true.