What does it say about the state of American politics that over four months after the end of the previous presidential administration, which was panned internationally, brought for the first time ever to two separate impeachment trials, and overwhelmingly regarded as perhaps the most morally reprehensible, dishonest, illegitimate, and unintelligently managed four years in recent American history, a broad section of one of two major political parties remains ideologically loyal to the man behind it all?
The short answer: nothing good.
The ringleader in question, one Donald John Trump, after spending the whole of his time in office desperately trying to convince the American public that he was in fact “the least racist person,” headed into the final months of his term with an extremely questionable (and this is putting it very lightly) flourish. In September he attempted to keep federal agencies from continuing racial sensitivity trainings after condemning two of their core topics, white privilege and critical race theory, or CRT—a critical framework that addresses the impact of race and racism on the country—as “divisive” and “anti-American.” He doubled down by going after Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones and The New York Times’ “The 1619 Project,” a historical excavation of America’s role in the transatlantic slave trade, calling it “toxic propaganda” and “ideological poison,” and part of “the crusade against American history.” He completed the MAGA hat trick by establishing “The 1776 Commission,” a flimsily founded advisory committee he hoped would reinstate “patriotic education” in schools, meaning, of course, education that plays down the nation’s racially charged past and present.
And now, nearly halfway into 2021, tens of prominent conservative politicians have taken up his uneducated and historically negligent torch after President Biden proposed a school grant program that prioritizes the teaching of that past and present. Republicans across the country have responded by waging verbal and legal war against the teaching of CRT at the primary level. Michigan Sen. Lana Theis called it “an invention of the extremist political left” that is “indoctrinating young minds with anti-American falsehoods (slavery and racism) [my parentheses],” and introduced a bill that would silence it. One of Capitol Hill’s leading Trump impersonators, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, believes that it teaches children “that our country is inherently evil.” Texas State Sen. Brandon Creighton, who supports another state bill against CRT, said that schools should focus on “the ideas that make our country great” and “traditional history” as opposed to, say, true history. Utah Rep. Burgess Owens called it an “evil process” that has “our children under attack.” South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and token Black Trumpite Ben Carson collaborated on their vilification, calling CRT “a deliberate means to sow division and cripple our nation from within.” Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, in a truly confusing critique, posited that “teaching students to be ashamed of our country and to judge each other based on their race is wrong and divisive.”
To top it all off, a whopping 20 State Attorneys General signed a letter to the United States Department of Education demanding that the department “make clear that grants may not fund projects that are based on CRT, including any projects that characterize the United States as irredeemably racist or founded on principles of racism (as opposed to principles of equality) [their parentheses].” It goes on: “…the implementation of these priorities will, in practice, lead to racial and ethnic division and indeed more discrimination.”
Their fundamental misunderstanding of CRT and basic American history aside, it has been a profoundly embarrassing last two months for the Republican Party. Most if not all of CRT’s political critics are holding fast to the idea that educating schoolchildren about slavery, Jim Crow, and the impact of both is analogous to treasonous, racist, Leftist brainwashing that will only serve to make them hate America and each other.
Let us forget for a moment that almost none of CRT’s principal architects were members of the far Left, that it makes no sense whatsoever to believe that educating Americans about racism will somehow make them more racist, and that these are the people we pay taxes to keep employed. The simple fact that this conspiracy follows in the footsteps of a man who thought the phrase “Black Lives Matter” was discriminatory is not a good sign. A worse sign is how similar the assertion that teaching about racism will poison our children by sowing the seeds of hatred and division among them is to the white replacement theory often touted by American white supremacist groups, though it is by no means restricted to America. Replacement theory suggests that the increase of racial diversity and equality- and inclusivity-driven thought and practices will ultimately drive white people into extinction and destroy the American way of life as a result. Those with faith in this theory, like Trump’s Merry Men, believe that we are being taught to hate white people. The CRT-skeptic equivalent of the theory suggests that “wokeness,” whatever they think that means, and true American history are teaching Americans to hate both white people and their country, inevitably leading to the destruction of both. Thus, the “White Lives Matter” rally.
I am always hesitant to suggest that an entire political party, or at least a large part of it, can be marked as one of anti-intellectualism, of mass confusion, or of racism, but I am also not being given much to work with here. What am I or anyone else supposed to think when these are the facts? The zeal with which certain Republicans are striking down the prospect of learning about critically important subjects and then justifying their actions with shameless conspiracies can be read as little else but racism or some sweeping, orange-tinted psychosis. I pray they get well soon.