Why Critical Race Theory? Because What the Hell Else Do Republicans Have to Run on

One technique I use when teaching my students the historical background of a text is to get them to imagine what it was like in that time period and how it might have affected the writers. Imagine, say, the smell of Elizabethan London and tell me that the shit-laden streets around the Globe Theatre didn't have an impact on Shakespeare. Or maybe just facts of existence, like the idea that around the corner, at any moment, the fucking plague could just shut everything down and take out half the people you know. How does that not take up permanent residence in your brain and be a part of everything? How does it not impact every aspect of life, from the laws that are created to the interactions between people in everyday life? Of course, it does. And to deny that would be sheer ignorance.  

One of the things that critical race theory asks us to do is to make those connections with the history of this nation. It honestly seems like a rational way of looking at the past: Slavery existed. Jim Crow laws existed. The economy of the nation was based on those realities. Those are indisputable parts of the American past. They indisputably maintained a huge difference in power between Blacks and whites. How could they not have affected every single person every single day? How could they not have had an effect on the culture, the laws, the society, and why wouldn't some of those effects of racism, many of them embedded in the law, have persisted to this day in things like the carceral state and ongoing poverty? And if you agree with that, then you would have to agree that when teaching the history of this country in an honest way, you'd have to acknowledge those racist realities. In fact, the only way to avoid discussing any of this is to willfully obfuscate or outright lie about history because telling the actual history of this country might mean having to acknowledge that we are living in a janky house built on one fucked-up foundation. 

So the right has decided on a two-prong approach to demonizing anyone who might dare to say that bad shit that happened in the past still has relevance and reverberations today. 

One of those prongs is obvious: Just fuckin' lie. Just fuckin' lie as openly and carelessly as you can and rely on the laziness and stupidity of those you're lying to. For instance, here's very white Kayleigh McEnany, who was Donald Trump's most grotesque press secretary, lying about slavery and the founders: "We know most of our forefathers, all of our main Founding Fathers were against slavery, recognized the evils of it." We know for sure that 41 of 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence owned slaves at the time. Of the "main Founding Fathers," only John Adams gets off scot-free. Franklin later became an abolitionist and freed his slaves. But Washington, Jefferson, and Madison all were slaveowners. (Alexander Hamilton is up for debate.) So, yeah, we can argue about the range of their attitudes towards slavery and abolition, but it's hard to say someone is "against slavery" when they own slaves. 

The lying prong goes hand-in-hand with the other prong, which is more of a meta-approach that can be best summarized as "Teaching critical race theory to schoolkids is a problem because it's a problem." This is the new version of "Communists are hiding under your bed" in that nothing needs to be proven so nothing can be disproven. You don't have to understand a single thing about critical race theory. You don't have to offer an example of critical race theory being taught to third-graders. It just is happening and it's making your white child hate themselves. 

(Note: One thing that never comes up here is that maybe it's a rational reaction to be angry at what your racial group did to another racial group just because of the color of their skin. I'm fucking furious and ashamed about the evil and stupidity of whites because what they did was evil and stupid. That doesn't make me self-hating. That makes me sane. And maybe a little compassionate to the victims of whites' evil and stupidity. But I guess that's why it needs to be silenced.)

There are so many examples that involve Fox "news" white nationalist Tucker Carlson, who always looks like he's wondering if he can fit a second butt plug up there, that it would take a fucking book to list them all just from the last month. Fox "news" has become the critical race theory clearing house, with stories like "Ohio private school students denied reenrollment after moms' 'inflammatory' campaign against 'indoctrination,'" which is about these two white morons who spewed a bunch of lies and threatened the school with withholding payment for tuition even after the school had addressed many of their concerns about how race was being taught. That was a beautiful "fuck around and find out" moment.

Carlson has gone so hysterical that it would be laughable if people didn't take this shitheel seriously. Critical race theory, says Carlson, is "civilization-ending poison." You might think, "Whoa, whoa, there Tuckus. Wouldn't racism be civilization-ending poison?" Ah, but then you fall into his trap because to the anti-critical race theory goons, critical race theory itself is racist because it points out that white people used racism in the formation of this nation and that its effects are still felt today. To put it simply, "Telling me about racism makes me, a white person, feel bad so stop telling me or you're the racist." To put it more simply, picture a grown man sticking his fingers in his ears and going "La, la, la, it's not true if I can't hear you!"

Again, a sane, healthy society would be engaged in an ongoing examination of how racism was woven into the fabric of this goddamned country and figure out how to rip those threads out and seam the fucking thing to attempt to be whole, and teaching kids about this shit is a good place to start. Jesus, is it so fucking wrong to say that maybe we shouldn't teach that everything needs to viewed through a white lens? Is that such a fucking threat? "Inclusion" is not "replacement." In fact, it's expanding the ways that you learn. That's complex and requires that you give a goddamn about changing things. We didn't weaken the study of literature by including James Baldwin and Toni Morrison. We made it so much richer.

Carlson's solution is much easier because it's insidious, dumb, and untenable: "How widespread is it? Well, we can’t really be sure until we finally get cameras in the classroom, as we put them on the chests of police officers. Until we finally bet a civilian review board in every town in America to oversee the people teaching your kids, forming their minds. Until we do, we can’t know exactly how widespread this is." Yeah, that's exactly how fucked this has gotten: Make sure strangers can watch your kids all day on video. Not creepy at all. And in states where anti-critical race theory laws were passed, it's fucking Orwellian (and I'm using that properly). 

Let's be honest, though. The real reason behind the critical race theory apocalypse talk is that it gives Republicans something to campaign on and raise cash with. It's one of the top stories on the GOP's website. It's big on the National Republican Senatorial Committee's website, as well as on the National Republican Congressional Committee, supporting House candidates. Incumbents like John Kennedy from Louisiana are blathering bullshit about it as they face reelection in 2022. 

What the fuck else do they have except made up shit like this? Jobs? The pandemic response? The shit that actually matters in the day-to-day lives of Americans? And even the other overblown issues or lies the GOP is pushing, like the rise in crime or whatever the fuck they're making up about immigration, are all tied to race in some way. So maybe, in that way, it's typical Republicanism: hinge it all on white fears of no longer controlling non-whites.