Demonizing Critical Race Theory

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tags: culture war, teaching history, critical race theory

Critical race theory is the political right’s new boogeyman.

The theory, born in the 1970s among legal scholars, uses race as a lens through which to examine structures of power. It was, I would argue, a relatively obscure concept — not because it lacked merit, but because it was novel.

That was until Donald Trump elevated it in order to attack it.

In September of 2020, during the run-up to the presidential election, with Trump trailing in the polls, the Office of Management and Budget issued the following directive:

“All agencies are directed to begin to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on ‘critical race theory,’ ‘white privilege,’ or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil.”

Critical race theory was simply an analytical tool, but to some white people, the fact that white supremacy was overtly used to infect America’s systems of power with both racial oppressions and racial privileges is too much to handle. It is discomforting. It unravels the American myth.

But critical race theory doesn’t diagnose the country as evil, even though it is beyond dispute that some evil people designed the architecture of racial oppression in this country and that there are still some who help maintain it.

In fact, I don’t even believe that most people have any real concept of what critical race theory is. It’s just a collection of words that hint, to them, at agitation and aggrievement: a theory that mentions race and that is critical, or, in their minds, criticizes.

Read entire article at New York Times

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