The Oct. 19 column by Michael Smith about Critical Race Theory is an example of someone who has exhaustively researched a subject and then chosen the definition that suits his purpose.
Critical Race Theory is a product of a legal theory known as Critical Legal Studies, which promotes the idea that American law supports the interests of those who create the law. Critical Legal Studies states that the law supports a power dynamic which favors the historically privileged, while it disadvantages the historically underprivileged.
Critical Legal Studies proponents — almost exclusively white legal scholars from law schools at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Michigan, Georgetown and Emory universities — espouse that the wealthy and the powerful use the law to maintain their place in this hierarchy. Critical Race Theory scholars expanded on this idea, focusing on how minorities like Native Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans and Blacks have been affected.
Critical Race Theory is a critical analysis that has been taught in law schools and graduate schools of education and sociology beginning in the 1970s. It is based on the idea that racism is in constant use and not just demonstrated by individual people with prejudices.
This theory holds that racial inequality is woven into a legal system that negatively affects people of color in schools, doctors’ offices, the criminal justice system and other institutions.
Critical Race Theory challenges the status quo of racial inequality that has persisted in this nation and explores how the law can help to finally address it. Early Critical Race Theory writings recognized that while the law could be used to deepen racial inequality, it could also be a tool for enfranchisement and the securing of racial equality.
Critical Race Theory has never been, as Smith suggests in his recent column, “a frightening group-think threat to democratic ideals that made our wonderful America the envy of the world.” This misunderstood “threat” is why the Association of American Law Schools, made up of 176 law school members, issued a public statement in defense of Critical Race Theory and the rights of educators to decide if, and how, it should be taught.
The threat “also sets a dangerous precedent that the government gets to decide what ideas or theories are good or bad,” a statement from the association reads. “This danger is even greater when those ideas and theories are distorted or mischaracterized for political ends.”
During the last few months, we’ve seen many examples of this. Currently, at least 28 states, including North Carolina, have either passed legislation or are introducing bills to ban Critical Race Theory.
Examples of how these laws are being implemented include the Wisconsin legislature passing a law that bans 89 words/phrases, including “whiteness,” “white supremacy,” “structural bias,” “structural racism,” “systemic bias,” “social justice,” “institutional bias,” “multiculturalism,” “representation and inclusion” and “systemic racism.”
What if any legislature banned the use of “freedom,” “equality,” “patriotism” or “land of opportunity?” Even Smith wrote, “Limiting free speech is central to ‘cancel culture.’”
In Texas, a state senator has created a list of 850 books and demanded schools inform him whether their libraries include these books. The titles in the list range from children’s books and anti-bullying tips to novels that discuss racism and sexuality. His purpose is to intimidate school libraries and librarians to remove these books.
A school district in Kansas pulled 29 books from its schools’ libraries due to a single parent’s complaint.
The school board in Spotsylvania County, Va., directed staff to begin removing books that contain undefined “sexually explicit” material from library shelves and report on the number of “evil-related material” that have been removed. Two board members said they would like to see the removed books burned. “I think we should throw those books in a fire,” one board member said. Another said he wants to “see the books before we burn them so we can identify within our community that we are eradicating this bad stuff.”
How does any elected public official anywhere in the United States in 2021 reach a point where he publicly advocates book burning? Have we become a nation that advocates the burning of books? Do you think the burning of books erases them from history? Do you also plan to burn privately owned Kindles in your school district?
You may be wondering how Critical Race Theory became a political issue in 2020. Christopher Rufo, a member of the right-wing Manhattan Institute, boasted of using Critical Race Theory to manufacture a “salient political issue with a clear villain.”
“The goal,” he wrote, “is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory.’ Critical race theory is the perfect villain.” This “perfect villain” has been distorted to include the Black Lives Matter movement, the marches in protest of the George Floyd murder and The 1619 Project.
Rufo’s ideas have been promoted and funded by wealthy American conservatives, including former officials of Donald Trump’s administration, Koch Industries, the Federalist Society and the conservative media. During the last three months, Fox News has attacked Critical Race Theory 1,900 times.
This has been the latest manufactured issue without any basis of truth. Whatever you think of Critical Race Theory, banning it has become the center of the GOP’s latest political strategy and is a serious threat to academic freedom and free speech.
There’s no question that these strategies have been effective because there’s no stronger motivation than fear. Truth is the victim.
Bob Curtis is a Pinehurst resident.