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Opinion: Will the battle over "critical race theory" be a winning issue for the right? It already is

Teaching critical race theory isn’t just wrong. It might be illegal

  Teaching critical race theory isn’t just wrong. It might be illegal In schools across the country, woke teachers and left-wing parent activists are promoting critical race theory, a disturbing philosophical framework founded in radical, racially charged concepts about culture, society, and government. © Mary Altaffer/AP In this May 18, 2021, file photo, a third grade teacher conducts culturally responsive teaching in her Rye, N.Y. classroom. According to critical race theorists, virtually all of society’s problems should be viewed within the context of alleged systemic racism, which all people have a solemn duty to root out at any cost — including by promoting other forms of racism.

a group of people holding a sign: Critical Race Theory; CRT; Protest © Provided by Salon Critical Race Theory; CRT; Protest

People hold up signs during a rally against "critical race theory" (CRT) being taught in schools at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Virginia on June 12, 2021.The term "critical race theory" defines a strand of thought that appeared in American law schools in the late 1970s and which looks at racism as a system, enabled by laws and institutions, rather than at the level of individual prejudices. But critics use it as a catch-all phrase that attacks teachers' efforts to confront dark episodes in American history, including slavery and segregation, as well as to tackle racist stereotypes. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

'Dangerous' critical race theory threatens to take US back in time: Sen. Mike Lee

  'Dangerous' critical race theory threatens to take US back in time: Sen. Mike Lee Critical race theory undermines national unity and threatens to take the country "backward in time," said Sen. Mike Lee.The "dangerous" philosophy about systemic racial discrimination has infiltrated institutions, including schools and the military, and teaches a rejection of the country's founding principles, the Utah Republican said Tuesday.

For today's Republicans, Trumpists and other members of the white right, "critical race theory" is a form of political ectoplasm: It's both a liquid and a solid, something slimy and sticky which can be shaped into whatever frightening or dangerous thing suits their mood and needs in a given moment.

In this political context, "critical race theory" means both everything and nothing; it is a fetish object used to summon up centuries-old racist nightmares and fears about "scary" Black and brown people who are plotting a rebellion or uprising to undermine the (white) family, indoctrinate (white) children and attack (white) America.

By implication, if "critical race theory" and other Black and brown bogeymen are threats to (white) America, then preemptive violence is both necessary and reasonable. Moreover, multiracial democracy is seen, by definition, as incompatible with white people's safety, security and material interests.

Texas Senate passes abortion and critical race theory bills in special session

  Texas Senate passes abortion and critical race theory bills in special session The Texas Senate approved measures restricting abortion and amending rules about critical race theory Friday, advancing two of the 11 priorities listed in Gov. Greg Abbott's agenda for the special legislative session. © Provided by Washington Examiner Lawmakers passed S.B. 4 19-3, with one Democrat joining 18 Republicans, to tighten rules relating to access to abortion-inducing drugs such as mifepristone.

Debates about language are a battlefield for questions of power. Critical race theory has an actual meaning: it is a rigorous academic framework for understanding how racism, white supremacy and other unequal outcomes across the color line in America are overdetermined by the country's legal system and other social and political institutions.

Of course, "critical race theory" as weaponized by conservatives and the white right doesn't mean that at all. In the right-wing political imagination, facts are unimportant. In that closed episteme, dogma is a substitute for truth, evidence, intellectual honesty and rigorous thinking.

Many liberals and "moderates" refuse to understand that core feature of today's right-wing movement. Instead, they want to argue "issues" and "facts" against believers of a political religion who care more almost exclusively about obtaining and keeping power, and have long since abandoned all abstract principles about "democracy" and "truth."

NASA should beware of Critical Race Theory

  NASA should beware of Critical Race Theory Some fear that identity politics might threaten NASA's primary mission to uncover scientific secrets, return Americans to the moon and eventually get them to Mars. Yes, the next moonwalkers will be a woman and a person of color. But plenty of spots will remain for people of all races and genders.The worst thing that NASA could do is to go off mission and cause needless conflict by upending Martin Luther King's plea to judge people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

At In These Times, Hamilton Nolan elaborates, critiquing the premise "that misinformation and conspiracy theories and omnipresent propaganda have created a situation in which Americans don't seem to have a single set of mutually agreed upon facts":

That is true. But it does not capture an even more elementary flaw in what we are doing. We allow entire "issues" to be created and to be talked about endlessly in the national political media without ever determining what those issues mean.

The absurd effect of this failure is twofold. First, it allows bad faith political actors to purposely exploit this rhetorical vulnerability in order to smear the other side by inflating the definition of bad things to include whatever the other side is doing. This is standard issue political scumbag behavior, and is to be expected. Worse, though, it creates a self-reinforcing cycle in which widespread use of some vague, ill-defined term convinces the public that this term is something important, driving media coverage and creating impenetrable towers of meaninglessness that come to dominate our partisan political landscape. ...

Abolitionist Teaching Network, far left group cited by Biden administration, has deep ties in US academia

  Abolitionist Teaching Network, far left group cited by Biden administration, has deep ties in US academia Wilmer Flores launched a two-run homer to left field in the top of the 9th inning to give the Giants the 3-2 lead over the Dodgers.

This same dynamic applies to terms that may have once had a legitimate definition, but which become definition-less by the time they have been elevated into the popular mind, laden with propaganda. Do any of the politicians or commentators decrying "critical race theory" have a precise working definition for this academic term? Of course not. It now means "Anything that talks about white people's racism."

In a recent essay for the Atlantic, historian Ibram X. Kendi argues that there is no real "culture war" over race and racism, only a deliberate politics of division being practiced by the right

Republican operatives have buried the actual definition of critical race theory: "a way of looking at law's role platforming, facilitating, producing, and even insulating racial inequality in our country," as the law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, who helped coin the term, recently defined it. Instead, the attacks on critical race theory are based on made-up definitions and descriptors. "Critical race theory says every white person is a racist," Senator Ted Cruz has said. "It basically teaches that certain children are inherently bad people because of the color of their skin," said the Alabama state legislator Chris Pringle.

There are differing points of view about race and racism. But what we are seeing and hearing on news shows, in school-district meetings, in op-ed pages, in legislative halls, and in social-media feeds aren't multiple sides with differing points of view. There's only one side in our so-called culture war right now.

A Better Way to Fight Critical Race Theory

  A Better Way to Fight Critical Race Theory Banning CRT from schools will actually prevent students from fully understanding its weaknesses.Let me be clear about one thing up front: I think critical race theory is nonsense. Most of its proponents insist that all black people are perpetually oppressed victims, and all white people are our oppressors. This does nothing to move the black community, or our country, forward.

The Republican operatives, who dismiss the expositions of critical race theorists and anti-racists in order to define critical race theory and anti-racism, and then attack those definitions, are effectively debating themselves. They have conjured an imagined monster to scare the American people and project themselves as the nation's defenders from that fictional monster….

It's entirely true that the white right's attacks on "critical race theory" are based on fantasies and lies. But that does nothing to diminish the force and impact and belief in the righteousness of those attacks.

On this, new research by the polling firm Morning Consult reveals ominous prospects for the Democrats:

Amid a spike in attention from conservative media outlets and leaders on the right regarding critical race theory, a new Morning Consult/Politico survey finds discussion of the topic resonating more deeply with Republican voters than their Democratic counterparts.

In turn, Republicans in the electorate have sharper views about the concept – as revealed by an analysis of open-ended responses among those who reported the highest level of awareness.

According to the June 18-20 survey, 3 in 10 Republicans said they'd seen, read or heard "a lot" about critical race theory, compared with 21 percent of Democrats. The skew toward Republican consumption ranked among the largest of roughly 200 other news events and topics tested so far this year, placing it alongside other issues of interest to conservatives such as immigration, increasing gas prices and the Dr. Seuss controversy….

Josh Hawley proposes anti-critical race theory 'Love America Act'

  Josh Hawley proposes anti-critical race theory 'Love America Act' Sen. Josh Hawley is proposing the "Love America Act" in the GOP's latest bid to fight the teachings of critical race theory. © Provided by Washington Examiner Hawley, a staunch opponent of the philosophy, said his legislation would combat the "misinformation the Left is spreading" that the United States is "a racist country" that's "systemically evil." "That's not true. This is a great nation. We're a nation of liberators.

The poll asked those who said they'd seen, read or heard "a lot" about critical race theory to describe it in their own words. Among informed Republican respondents, nearly 4 in 5 expressed negative sentiment, with one calling the theory a means to make white "people feel guilty about being white" and another saying it is a "way to villainize one race over another with twisted history."

The largest share of informed independent voters (46 percent) described critical race theory using negative terms, such as "BS" or "anti-white racism," compared with just 7 percent of Democrats, one of whom characterized the idea as trying "to combat racism by being racist against whites."

Public opinion and other research has repeatedly shown that a commitment to white (and male) supremacy is the primary driver of support for the Trump movement and its agenda.

"Critical race theory" is a way for right-wing politicians and other opinion leaders to channel and leverage such energy to advance their goals.

While some in the mainstream news media continue to carry water for the disproven claim that support for Trump is driven primarily by white working-class  "economic anxiety," new research further exposes that fiction. In an article at Alternet, Alex Henderson offers these details, reporting on an NPR interview with Johns Hopkins political scientist Lilliana Mason:

Mason told [Danielle] Kurtzleben, "So, the colloquial stories we hear about Trump suggest that he somehow created a whole bunch of hatred in American politics. And instead, what this data shows is that what he did was serve as a place where people who already held a lot of animus towards marginalized groups — they all sort of gathered around him. So, this was a latent faction of Americans that had just — that had already been sitting there and had already existed."

In other words, that hostility towards "marginalized groups" existed before Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, but he encouraged it. That "animus," according to Mason's research, "uniquely draws" those "Trump voters" to him.

Mason told Kurtzleben, "When we control for partisanship, what we found is that people in 2011 who have negative views of these particular groups are much more likely to approve of Trump in 2018. They're not any more likely to approve of the Republican Party, to approve of Mitch McConnell or to approve of Paul Ryan."

The battle over "critical race theory" — and over the teaching of America's real history, as opposed to literally whitewashed "patriotic education" — is simultaneously simple and complex, old and new.

This is a struggle over the American narrative and the role of the color line in American society. It is also a struggle over democracy and freedom, and the role of nonwhite people in the American story.

Will America be a society organized around white fictions, white fantasies and white lies, both large and small? Or will America be a society that learns from its complicated, painful, contradictory and sometimes beautiful past to make a better future for all its citizens? In the long term, lies undermine a society, while truths can uplift a society and make it stronger. Which will we choose?

Randi Weingarten: You can't keep us from teaching students honest history .
Randi Weingarten writes that fears about critical race theory in schools are not only unfounded, but prevent teachers from teaching their students history to its fullest extent.With a new school year around the corner -- when students will return needing more support than ever -- what topic is trending on Twitter and animating the airwaves? Ensuring that schools are safe and welcoming? Nope. Helping students recover from the isolation and anxiety of Covid? Nope. How to accelerate learning? Nope. Instead, it's a contrived uproar over something that is not even taught in elementary and secondary schools: critical race theory.

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