Are We Going to Let the GOP Carve Racism Back Into American Law?
White supremacists have gagged teachers, and now even kids are afraid to bring up the topics or complain when they’re harassed by christian nationalist bullies…
The news has been all over Nikki Haley’s inability to say “slavery” before she was called out on it, but few are pointing to the larger issue: the institutionalization of racism through American law that has happened in 16 Red states now as well as in hundreds of smaller towns and individual schools.
They’re doing it in a desperate attempt to freeze what’s left of America’s historic racial hierarchy, with whites in charge, in place.
Of course, they’re not really banning CRT: that’s a complex theory taught in law school that quantifies and qualifies how individual and institutional racism work hand-in-hand to rigidify discriminatory cultural and social structures and infrastructures.
Instead, they’re putting into place the very structures CRT identifies and warns against.
A rightwing troll pretty much single-handedly took CRT out of its law school context and reinvented it as code for getting all discussions of race out of our classrooms, a process he started with Tucker Carlson’s show a few years back.
From there, it echoed around the right wing media ecosystem (something that doesn’t exist on the left) until it burst into the open, fully formed, as a bizarre conspiracy theory that says educators want to make white children feel bad. That was followed by months of promotion and doom-spooling hype on Fox “News” and rightwing hate radio.
Prior to the CRT ban in Temecula, according to a report on NPR’s Morning Edition program yesterday, Proud Boys, Three Percenters, and other white supremacists, (presumably including Nazis, Republicans, and fascists) showed up to lobby for the ban.
Their efforts were successful.
Since it’s passed, both students and teachers report that classrooms have gone silent on the topic of race and racism. Straightforward issues like the relationship between race and power in America, and the desire of white supremacists to return to a pre-1960s era of explicit legal segregation, are now essentially illegal for teachers or students to discuss.
A headline in The Independent says it all:
“Republicans ‘trying to re-introduce racial segregation in schools.’”
They’re doing it through controlling school districts, like that proposed Louisiana law, and through changing the dialogue about race and centuries of white supremacy across the world and in our country. Or, more clearly, ending all dialogue about these racial issues in all our schools.
As Proverbs tell us, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” The GOP appears hell-bent on raising a whole new generation of “not-Woke” students who learn about race from Nazi YouTubes and follow hateful rightwing influencers on social media without the context of a good school history education.
Absorbing and thus rigidifying the institutional racism already extant across American law and culture.
One student told NPR’s reporter about that schools’ ban on teaching CRT:
“All of it is just to silence people about racism and talking about how racism is a fundamental part of how society works. That's just the truth.”
Two others added:
“They never told the teachers what they could or could not say, so everyone was scared to talk.”
“Scared to talk about the roots of racism but not scared to be racist.”
It turns out, according to this NPR report, that since the CRT Ban went into effect teachers have gone silent about issues concerning race and racism, while the white Republican students who want to proclaim their own racism have had a field day.
One student noted:
“These white kids who will be, like, I have Black friends, so, like, they’re my slaves. Like, it’s cool.”
And nobody can or will do anything about it: the rightwingers have succeeded in totally intimidating the entire educational community.
As reporter Sandhya Dirks told host Rob Schmitz:
“All of the teenagers sitting around the table at Mrs. Cox’s house tell me the school board’s ban has made this racism worse — more permitted, more pervasive.
“The kids say they don’t feel safe. They’re scared.
“Brooklyn says she’s been scared to go to school board meetings. She says Black people, people who oppose the board’s agenda — they get kicked out of those meetings.”
This, of course, is not unique to a small California town. It’s happening in every school in every state that’s banned teaching CRT as a way of silencing any discussion about the true racial history of America.
White supremacists have gagged teachers, and now even kids are afraid to bring up the topics or complain when they’re harassed by so-called “Christian” nationalist bullies.
Which is why Nikki Haley’s inability to mention slavery when she was first asked about the causes of the Civil War — both last week and years ago when she was governor of South Carolina — is entirely understandable.
She knows well that if she’d been a teacher in Florida and had answered that question from a student with that S-word, she could have gotten in a lot of hot water.
What’s most astonishing about this whole bizarre national process is the role the media has played in it. That fact that, when you look at what’s actually happening, there’s not a huge level of national outrage about laws being put on the books that make life more difficult for anybody who’s not white and Christian.
The anti-CRT lies were first put out by people who appear to be racist partisans. The media could have pointed out the source and ridiculed their factual errors, but, instead, in an effort to appear “unbiased against Republicans,” most treated the claims as if they were credible.
When the bans were being debated in each state, the media could have told the truth — that these are racist laws being passed for racist purposes — but with a few lonely exceptions most were silent.
After all, why piss off local armed militias and the politicians aligned with them, particularly if you need those politicians to appear on your shows to maintain your image of “fair and balanced”? Especially if your station is owned by a company that explicitly promotes rightwing viewpoints and is one of the largest owners of television stations in America.
And now that 16 states — all controlled by Republicans — have banned CRT in public schools, the media (outside of NPR) is largely ignoring what has become a very real problem for any teacher who wants to inform their students about race or the history of race in America, or any kid who’s not white.
As the Rethinking Schools website notes:
“Ironically, so-called critical race theory bans actually exemplify the racist policy structure that critical race theory attempts to explain. Critical race theory explains in part how the law functions to uphold racial inequality.
“Because prohibited concepts legislation limits how educators teach about racism, these laws themselves maintain the racial status quo, the very phenomenon critical race theory describes.”
That’s pretty incredible, when you think about it. And the Republicans who are passing these laws aren’t idiots; they know this.
They know these laws are going to empower racist white students while locking racial hierarchies in place. Lacking any meaningful discussion of the consequences, these laws are intended to etch institutional racism deeper into our law and culture, day by day, school student by school student.
These laws are also a sop to the white supremacists who make up most of the base of today’s GOP. They’re Republicans’ way of saying, “We’re with you, our Nazi friends; we hate Black people, too, and share your desire to keep white people at the top of the nation’s hierarchies of wealth and political power.”
NPR’s report notwithstanding, this is a topic that has largely vanished from the headlines. Republicans have already done the deed, and Democrats are reluctant to complain about it because it plays into the stereotype the GOP has pushed since 1964 that the Democratic Party is in the pocket of “Blacks and Jews.” Who want to “replace us.” Remember those “very fine people”?
And they’ve been so effective at this nationwide campaign, supported by the institutional GOP as well as multiple Republican billionaires, that even Nikki Haley isn’t willing to piss off the GOP base in those 16 states.
The College Board itself — that grand gatekeeper of higher education — was intimidated by these Republican white supremacists and their so-called anti-CRT jeremiad.
Last February, they purged from their AP African American Studies all topics that even came close to touching on intersectionality, critical race theory, or the queer experience. (Yeah, it’s not entirely about race: they hate Jews, Muslims, women, and the entire queer community almost as much as they hate Blacks.)
The good news is that cooler heads finally prevailed: the College Board rolled back those changes in April.
But to change things and allow our young people to again learn true history — and science: some school boards are now banning teaching of evolution and climate science — is going to require some new blood in the institutions that control our schools.
And that’s where you can come into the picture, if this whole GOP “make racism great again” project offends you.
In terms of our democracy, the school boards, city councils, and state legislatures are at the foundation of the process. Those are also the places where most all politicians, regardless of office, begin, and are the levers that can most easily (and inexpensively) alter culture in ways that often escape national notice until it’s too late.
Which, of course, is why the Nazis, fascists, white supremacists, Christian nationalists, antisemites, misogynists, Republicans, and militia members start with these local democracies.
And why we must, too.
Most people — parents or not — have never attended a school board meeting. Probably fewer still have shown up for a state legislative committee meeting or floor debate. In many cases, local elected positions are so forgotten that they’re not even competitive; only one person is running for the job, usually a Republican incumbent in Red states.
Encouraging people to get registered and show up to vote in November is all well and good — essential, really — but also important is interacting with these institutions of local democracy.
Showing up. Speaking out. Running for office.
We need to reverse these racialized laws, and that’s going to require lawmakers, council members, school board members, who are honest and concerned about the public good. About the future of our children and our democracy.
You may not think you’re made of the stuff required for success in politics. You’d probably be wrong.
I’ve known politicians of all shapes and sizes, weights and heights, every race and disability — hell, our president right now is a geriatric stutterer — who showed up anyway and made a difference.
And, of course, you don’t have to run for public office to show up and speak out at meetings and hearings.
You can, too. Tag, you’re it!