The fight to whitewash US history: At least fifteen states are trying to ban schools from teaching critical race theory and the 1619 Project. The reactionary movement stretches back to the 1920s.
This data is scraped automatically and may be incorrect.
- The fight to whitewash US history: 'A drop of poison is all you need'
- Julia Carrie Wong
- May 25 2021
- Word count
- 2609 words
I've been following right-wing talking points about this and they're incredibly aggrivating.
One talking point that just drives me absolutely insane is that 'leftists' are trying to force children to learn that if they're white they should feel bad. Even if you completely ignore the extreme velosity of the spin they're putting on it, they're completely ignoring that if their children might feel bad for a few moments learning about this history they might be better equipped to understand the people who have lived through that history and are still affected by it to this day.
Almost as frustrating as this talking point is how few of them actually understand what critical race theory actually is. If you do ask them, the only concrete fact they will tell you is that it's "Marxist", which is funny because it's so far divorced from Karl Marx that I can't really find any way that it could possibly be relevant - certainly it has nothing to do with the other right-wing boogeyman, Communism.
I find myself agreeing with this segment of the article:
Yup. Also, "students are being taught to hate America".
That's actually an exact quote from a conservative co-worker of mine, from a discussion we had just this past week.
I don't like the word hate but the amount of circlejerk Americans have participated in all through my life in media, politics etc. is finally starting to catch up with them and maybe a little animosity towards their own country/society wouldn't hurt.
Kinda funny when I think of my own experience. What I was taught in school actually feels more like a bulwark that caused me to take much longer to hate this place. What I saw in my day to day living in this country made me hate it. The lies they fed me in school which elevated our founding fathers and whitewashed some of the atrocities we did gave me a favorable light to compare to - one which I found myself thinking "certain things used to be better", when the reality is that it never was.
I think part (a small part) is the difference in the understanding of the word "critical." As CRT was developed in a rarified legal/academic environment the word critical meant "to study thoroughly and seriously because it is important" but to those outside of this environment the word is taken to mean "to find fault with." The former has the goal of understanding the issue in order to offer answers to a problem. The later has the goal of complaining about the problem without necessarily understanding the issues.
This corresponds to general antipathy that some Americans (right and left) have to being told they are wrong or mistaken about something. Criticism is seen as a personal attack to be fought against. The first reaction is "you can't tell me what to do" which precludes any possible benefit of instruction. Self-reflection and willingness to admit fault are anathema. Which is how a relatively reasonable, academic look at how race function in our society is seen as an existential threat to all we hold dear.
I’m curious if that has anything to do with what happens at your school. Or is it just talking about the news?
It was just the news. It was specifically in reference to capitalism (they equated hating capitalism with hating America), so I feel their comment was more about students at the college level, as that isn’t really a topic that sees much (if any) discussion at my level.
For some background on "critical race theory" and how it's become a bogeyman that conservatives want to use as a label for "anything related to race and racism that we disagree with", I'd recommend this episode of NYT's The Argument podcast:
Clearly the left and the right have strong opinions on critical race theory curriculum, but has anyone here looked at what exactly is being taught? Certainly someone has access to this material and could post it online to end the argument?
The main piece of media that most conservatives point to when they are discussing critical race theory is the New York Time's 1619 Project.
Here are examples of the 1619 project as curriculum.
The project is meant to provide a corrective measure to traditional American history that is extremely white washed and framed through the lens of American Exceptionalism. In contrast, the 1619 project frames American history through the lens of our country's legacy of white supremacy and racial oppression.
Edit: apologies accidentally hit send too soon.
Of course there is academic criticism to critical race theory (see /u/spit-evil-olive-tips's podcast recommendation here which covers some of that criticism). However (as you noted) conservative backlash against the 1619 Project is decidedly not based on any academic argument. In fact, I think it would be inappropriate to link their objection to the 1619 Project with critical race theory at all, considering the extent to which conservatives strawman critical race theory to begin with (as /u/Akir elaborated on above).
Honestly, I don't think it is. I'm sure most conservatives have a reflexively negative view of critical race theory whereas most liberals have a reflexively positive one. But I don't expect the average person to have a nuanced opinion of critical race theory for the same reason I don't expect the average person to have a nuanced opinion of the black hole information paradox -- they lack the necessary background to engage at an academic level.
Moreover, to the extent that there is valid criticism of critical race theory, it doesn't follow that the criticism would extend to the 1619 Project. Criticism of critical race theory is likely too general to apply here. Most who support the 1619 Project do so because it grapples with white supremacy without whitewashing history; the 1619 Project's incidental foundation in critical race theory is not what draws people in.
Edit: Or to put it more succinctly, when conservatives and liberal argue about critical race theory, both sides have already lost. Neither side really cares about critical race theory – they care about to what extent we should (de)emphasize white supremacy in US history.
Frankly I don’t think that it’s relevant to the conversation. There are criticisms of literally every theory in every field. The question being brought up by conservatives is “should we teach this”, to which they answer “no”. If it weren’t well established, I would lean towards that answer, but that’s not the case. And since it is well established I would argue that it’s more important to teach it well, so that students can understand the criticism and have a better understanding of history as a whole.
Do you have sources that you can link?
The two articles that you specifically point out are from 1995 and 1999. So they are hardly contemporary in discussing the merits of critical race theory as it is discussed today.
In your first article, the authors are claiming that "Critical Legal Scholars, Critical Race Theorists, and radical feminists" are attacking the concept of "merit" and that in doing so they are being anti-semitic because Jewish people are successful. In their abstract the authors even say that white people are the "supposedly dominant majority."
I have to say that this as flimsy a take as I think you can get. Is this something that you agree with? If so, do you want to elaborate on that?
Sure, the first legal concepts around Critical Race Theory began in the 70s, but it has continued to expand and add more supportive evidence in the last 25 years. The concepts of Critical Race Theory that are being debated now are pretty narrowly focused on things like the 1619 project that was informed from that perspective.
edit: not to mention that the real scholarship of Critical Race Theory was just coming out in the early- to mid-90s right when this piece was published.
I don't think that the success of "model minorities" denies that America is structurally white supremacist. It just means that the white supremacy is less-focused on Asian or Jewish people. There is no way to look at American history and say that this country did not systematically oppress black people and other minority groups. While some of our laws, including the first restrictions on immigration, were specifically targeting chinese and other asian racial groups, our institutions and structures have been overwhelmingly directed towards oppressing black people which is why Critical Race Theory is so focused on that perspective.
I also take umbrage with the example of Jewish people as "model minorities" when Jewish Americans are largely considered white, if not at least white-passing.
When Critical Race Scholars are saying that the concept of "merit" is a social construct and is used to oppress black people, there is a wealth of evidence to support that. There have been countless studies on how our job market discriminates against black people in the workforce going down to names on their resumes.
Furthermore, the idea of the asian "model minority" is largely a myth and a racist one at that.
Frankly, I think the article is bullshit and I think most scholars today would also reject the analysis provided by Farber and Sherry.
I think calling Critical Race Theory dogmatic is just another way of dismissing it without addressing its arguments and merits.