Critical race theory is getting a lot of much-deserved pushback lately, and it’s having an effect. When faced with state legislatures sharply curtailing its use in schools, parents besieging local school boards and academics deriding its “scholarship,” CR theorists are pulling in their horns.
As but one notable example, CRT enthusiast, Ibram X. Kendi, recently simply denied its influence on him. And this op-ed from former Democratic Party Chair, Donna Brazille, urges readers to believe that CRT is really nothing more than teaching kids “about American history and society.”
There’s a problem with trying to sanitize CRT – CRT itself. Its enthusiasts have done far too much writing and speaking on the subject to now pretend that “you just don’t understand!” We do, all too well. We know critical race theory to be race hatred and race essentialism, that, according to it, all people at all times are divided into oppressed and oppressors, that the United States is and always has been irredeemably racist and that whites want and have always wanted a society characterized first, last and always by white supremacy.
But CRT is far more than the very embodiment of the racism it pretends to oppose. It’s also frankly at odds with well-known facts. Consider that classic of the genre, the 1619 Project of the New York Times. At least one entire book and countless articles have been devoted to debunking its fallacies and falsehoods. More scrupulous writers than Project architect, Nikole Hannah-Jones, would be embarrassed by the shoddy quality of the work that routinely gets facts wrong and repeats the most blatant mistakes of other historians.
A few examples: NYT’s Jake Silverstein claimed that slaves who arrived in Virginia in 1619 “inaugurated a barbaric system of chattel slavery that would last for 250 years.” And yet at the time, chattel slavery dated back over 900 years to when Arab Muslims began purchasing slaves from east Africa to be used, bought and sold as agricultural laborers. In the Virginia colony, it would be some 50 years before slavery became law.
Hannah-Jones, claimed that “12.5 million Africans would be kidnapped from their homes and brought in chains across the Atlantic Ocean…,” but neglected to mention that only about 390,000 of those came to the U.S., the rest being sent to the Caribbean, Mexico and Brazil. And essentially none of them were “kidnapped.” Africans had been enslaving other Africans for centuries. Those who came to this country were slaves long before they ever set eyes on a white person.
And 1619 writer Matthew Desmond used long-debunked theories to claim that we owe current-day U.S. prosperity to the slave economy of the pre-Civil War South. The claim is at odds with historical facts, basic accounting principles and logic. If the Southern states were such economic dynamos, why was the South so vastly inferior to the North in all aspects of their respective economies? How could a large body of unpaid labor do anything but reduce wages for everyone?
The historical inaccuracies and falsehoods of the 1619 Project are far too many and varied to be catalogued here, but suffice it to say that the point of it all is to establish a pedagogy about race in this country whose purpose is the denigration of whites, the rhetorical uplift of blacks, the further tribal division of U.S. society and the demonization of the United States and our values both past and present. That CRT enthusiasts don’t hesitate to represent known falsehoods as the truth in the service of their agenda says a lot about them and about CRT. After all, if the truth promoted that agenda, wouldn’t they use it instead?
So it’s no surprise that, in her op-ed Brazille opts not only to soft-peddle the reality of CRT, but uses its established methods for doing so. I refer of course to eliding the truth.
Many of the same Republican politicians and right-wing media figures complaining about “cancel culture” erasing Mr. Potato Head and Dr. Seuss want to “cancel” the horrors of slavery and racism.
Oh, who? I’ve read a great deal on the subject and much of it by conservative commentators and never seen a word that even suggested a desire to “cancel the horrors of slavery and racism.” Every book and article I’ve seen wants the truth about those matters told, just not the falsehoods of the 1619 Project and not the racist cant of CRT. Brazille’s statement has no basis in fact.
Undeterred, Brazille stumbles on:
Politicians shouldn’t rewrite history or tell teachers what to teach.
Yes, only the New York Times - that cornerstone of cancel culture, creator of the 1619 Project that barely nods toward historically accuracy - can do that.
CRT is indoctrination masquerading as history; it’s what scholar Shelby Steele calls “poetic truth,” i.e., not objective truth, but “truth” whose purpose is the construction of a favorite narrative. Worst of all, it’s what its advocates want to indoctrinate children with. It deserves to be outed for the fraud it is.
A recent YouGov survey revealed that 64% of Americans have some knowledge about CRT and 58% of them disapprove of it. The pushback against it by such a wide range of people is strong evidence of a healthy society, one that still embraces its values, acknowledges its successes, honors truth above falsity and unity above division. Let’s hope we see more pushback in the days and weeks to come. Let’s further hope that politicians who’ve embraced CRT pay the price at the ballot box.