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Politics Are Not the Problem

Because of last year’s election results, it can be inferred that the majority of residents in 25 of 50 states believe that diversity trainings and the study of institutional racism constitute “Radical Left,” anti-American, spiteful propaganda that demonizes America and Americans as irredeemably racist.

They’ve arrived at this conclusion because they and the conservative politicians and pundits they champion are incapable of detecting the presence of white supremacy. They can only see these obviously racial issues as political ones because a blatant racist framed race education as a leftist, extremist takeover. He successfully convinced millions upon millions of Americans that “wokeness,” progressivism, and the promotion of diversity and race education are all and can only be examples of anti-Americanism.

The identification of his evil was a softball that half the country struck out on. We may not be an “irredeemably racist” nation, but the fact is that millions of us blindly followed a bigot, and millions still do. Even worse, many of the people that influence American public policy continue to espouse his white supremacist ideals. And, by his design, political animosity keeps his disciples from being appropriately alarmed by this.

MLK Events to Feature the Dedication of Anderson Freeman Center, Keynote by Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Oratorio Concert | Middlebury
Kimberlé Crenshaw, founding critical race theorist

So how does one divorce politics from the discussion? Surely, with facts. Most prominent conservative opponents of critical race theory continue to exhibit a profound misunderstanding of what it is they’re criticizing, arguing often that, at its core, it teaches its adherents to hate white people and to hate America. If you ask Kimberlé Crenshaw, one of the first critical race theorists, “Critical race theory is a practice.

It’s an approach to grappling with a history of White supremacy that rejects the belief that what’s in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it.” It seems simple enough, but I’m sure that some detractors would suggest that even this description is falsely premised. “But the past is in the past,” they may argue. But how could anyone in good faith believe that the past is dead and gone when at least four African Americans, one of them a teenager, were lynched last year, and when authorities refuse to believe that foul play was involved in any of the cases even though three of them took place outdoors? How many times have you heard of someone hanging themselves by a tree?

Despite the overwhelming evidence of the persistence of American racial prejudice, at least half the country believes that studying it does nothing but breed hatred and division. But it is ignorance, not education, that works to that effect. Ignorance engendered an unprecedented siege on a government building in one of the most brazenly anti-American displays anyone alive has yet seen. Ignorance persuades millions to believe that race education is an illegitimate, socialist attack on the American way of life.

As I have written before, this is almost exactly what those indebted to white replacement theory, a popular white supremacist conspiracy, believe. And there is a shining example of the former president’s racist repackaging project. He has given bigots a golden opportunity to openly profess and practice their bigotry and call it conservatism, patriotism, a belief in our greatness. He was so successful that even some of his opponents can’t tell the difference; they choose to level their protests against Republicans instead of racists.

Countless Americans are failing to realize that these are issues of principle, not party. To target the right is to lose sight of the core concern: we are demonstrating more and more each day that we are too blind to recognize racism when it appears. Maybe we simply have too much faith in ourselves and each other. Maybe the reality of contemporary race relations is so abysmal that we practice ignorance as a defense mechanism—it could simply be too much to take. Whatever the reason, continuing to remain ignorant cannot be our conclusion.

Myles Walker

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