Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin vowed Sunday to “ban” critical race theory (CRT) in his state’s public schools the moment he’s elected.
The curious thing, however, is that critical race theory is not only not currently taught in Virginia’s primary and secondary schools but is also not taught in such schools anywhere else in the United States. It’s a higher-education academic concept taught only in colleges and universities, if there.
Yet, there was Youngkin on the campaign trail fear-mongering critical race theory to parental voters as if it were an actual threat to their pre-college school children.
“[T]here’s no place for critical race theory in our school system, and why, on day one, I’m going to ban it … [it] teaches children to see everything through a lens of race and then to divide them into buckets and have children [who] are called privileged and others [who] are victims,” Youngkin proclaimed Sunday, to the raucous cheers of his supporters, Fox News reported.
Not to put too fine a point on it: He knows that’s a lie.
For one thing, as I noted, it’s only taught in university curricula, not in elementary through high school classes. Secondly, CRT pointedly does not divide children “into buckets,” the “privileged” and the “victims.” In fact, it contends that the concept of “race” is itself the critical socially separating factor, a cultural invention that’s inherently discriminatory.
As Encyclopaedia Britannca defines the concept:
“[C]ritical race theory (CRT), intellectual and social movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour. Critical race theorists hold that racism is inherent in the law and legal institutions of the United States insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans.”
The continuing and divisive American culture war over civil rights — much of it fueled by historical discrimination against African-Americans and fearful right-wing racism — strongly suggests that CRT is rationally grounded.
But all this is beside the point of the current political crisis, as Trumpist Republicans (which now comprise practically all of the GOP) are vigorously promoting a second Big Lie — that CRT is a dangerous, evil thing — when it’s not even taught in public schools. The first Big Lie, of course — still being shouted from the rooftops by Trump and his minions — is that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election (he lost, fair and square).
So, why are political candidates dumping bogus CRT fears on voters at the moment? Because the education-challenged Trump base, which today is also every Republican candidate’s base, enjoy being enraged by the (faux) idea that “leftist liberals” are trying to force supposedly alien ideology on America’s children. And because, as Youngkin, et al., know, the more outraged voters are, the more likely they will vote.
Character-challenged politicians also well know that it really doesn’t matter whether what they’re telling voters is even true. If it energizes the base to vote “correctly,” it’s as good as true. The end justifies the means.
Younkin is hardly the only Republican pol spreading this purposely invented sludge around about CRT.
In a recent congressional floor speech, Missouri GOP U.S. Rep. Josh Hawley exclaimed:
“Critical theory is an ideology that says the United States is rotten to its core. The leaders of this movement think our society is defined by white supremacy. They think our leaders are complicit at best. They think that all Americans are either oppressors or oppressed. In our world-class military, these critics see a vehicle for discrimination. In our American flag, they see propaganda. In our family businesses, they see white supremacy. In our police officers, they see agents of racial oppression. These critics allow no room for merit, for experience, for grace in our life together. They pit whiteness and blackness against each other in a manner that reduces every American — no matter their character or their creed — to their racial identity alone.”
In fact, CRT does not teach that the U.S. is “rotten to the core” but that the U.S. system and its access to success and rights is stacked against Blacks, which is what the civil rights era of the 1960s (and continuing) was and is all about.
Honestly, is this not what we want our children to learn in school, the true history of the nation, warts and all? Slavery and institutional racism of the past (and continuing evolved inequities in the present) do not paint contemporary school children as oppressors; CRT simply indicts historically baked-in social inequalities in the American system and calls for rectification. If kids growing up don’t know about their country’s historical and current problems, how will they be even modestly prepared to correct or solve them?
Sanitizing history will hurt everyone in the long run.
For his part, Texas Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz back in June railed against CRT as “racist” and “evil,” misrepresenting the concept to a Faith and Freedom Coalition crowd:
“Critical race theory is bigoted, it is a lie, and it is every bit as racist as the klansmen in white sheets. … Critical Race Theory says every white person is a racist. Critical race theory says America is fundamentally and irredeemably racist. Critical race theory seeks to turn us against each other and, if someone has different colored skin, seeks to make us hate that person.”
It charges none of those things, of course, but rather that the nation’s evolved institutions and systems automatically disenfranchise and discriminate against African-Americans.
That’s a fair concern that should be deeply investigated.
But, still, in this political moment, as voters today cast ballots for or against Glenn Youngkin and his Democratic challenger, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, in Virginia’s governor’s race, Critical Race Theory is only relevant as a Republican lie spread over the landscape to falsely scare GOP voters.
And as everything Republican these days, they absolutely know it’s a lie but cynically don’t care.
Are GOP voters really this gullible? That’s a rhetorical question.