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The manufactured outrage over Critical Race Theory
Manufacturing jobs > manufacturing outrage
According to Media Matters for America, Fox News mentioned “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) nearly 1300 times in the 3 months from April to June 2021.
This Fox News segment with Christopher Rufo epitomizes the outrage that some (mostly Republicans) are trying to foster. In it, Rufo asserts that Critical Race Theory is indoctrination (it is not) and claims it has “infiltrated” the federal government, including the Treasury Department (it has not, per someone who works there).
In my own (predominantly liberal) friend circles, a few group chats have been filled with links to tweets and other videos suggesting that Critical Race Theory is akin to brainwashing in North Korea or dissident suppression in China.
Some states, like Florida and Arkansas, have even gone as far as banning its teaching in their public schools, with other states pushing legislation to follow their lead.
The School District of Philadelphia — one of the largest in the country — has mentioned “Critical Race Theory” maybe a handful of times in the last 6 months. Most recently, our superintendent, speaking to school leaders last week, said, “We’re not teaching Critical Race Theory—we’re teaching history.” He said it defiantly and proudly, and I feel proud to carry that torch.
The current outrage over Critical Race Theory is a manufactured one, an attempt to define any unvarnished teaching of our nation’s history as CRT. Our academics department has no plans to train teachers on CRT, and the kindergarten curriculum has not been infused with opportunities for students to hate each other. Instead, we’re focused on rebuilding community among our diverse student body and helping students bridge the learning loss they’ve always faced.
Teaching students the country’s past and present racial horrors and injustices is the epitome of democracy, isn’t it? From murdering indigenous peoples to slavery, lynchings, internment camps, and police shootings, violence against non-whites is part of our nation’s story. And teaching history — even though we don’t do enough of it — helps insulate us against future atrocities.
Consider what General Mark Milley said when asked whether the Department of Defense was teaching CRT: “A lot of us have to get much smarter on whatever the theory is,” he began, “but I do think it’s important, actually, for those of us in uniform to be open minded and be widely read.” He got more specific: “I want to understand white rage, and I'm white, and I want to understand it…I've read Mao Zedong. I've read Karl Marx. I've read Lenin. That doesn't make me a communist. So what is wrong with understanding—having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend?”
Now consider that police in Hong Kong, which is succumbing to increasingly anti-democratic measures, prevented any demonstrations in remembrance of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. We only try to erase history when we want to repeat it.
In the movie The Departed, Alec Baldwin’s character asks, “Cui bono?” The suggestion is that behind every crime or incident, there is always someone who benefits. We should be asking that now. This manufactured outrage is a backdoor effort to stop any real attempt to dismantle systemic racism. Obfuscate CRT’s meaning, broaden it to equate any teaching of equity or inclusivity, then manufacture enough outrage about hyperbolic claims, and boom — scuttle any efforts to unseat whiteness as the dominant culture.
Perhaps no one summed up the outrage better than Paul Krugman, who remarked in an op-ed, “The current obsession with critical race theory is a cynical attempt to change the subject away from the Biden administration’s highly popular policy initiatives, while pandering to the white rage that Republicans deny exists.”
The idea that we can, as schools, simply ignore the racially-charged events of the last 18 months is is shortsighted. Racism is still alive and thriving, as this, this, this, and this suggest. And teaching a more complete, more inclusive version of historical and current events is like a vaccine: it doesn’t fully protect us from maintaining old and fostering new racist systems. But it does offer good protection from ignorance.
My impostor syndrome is at its height in matters of race and equity, so this post took me longer than anticipated. And I’m excited to be writing again after some time off. I’ve got a bunch of posts in the works, and I’m looking forward to getting students and staff back in the building for what needs to be an awesome school year. I hope you’ll join me for the ride.