The protests of the summer of 2020 were perhaps not only among the largest in the country, but also among the largest in the world.
Millions of people have taken to the streets to condemn the racism that permeates modern life, as well as decades of past injustice. Protesters called for responsibility through the ages. The oppressive policies and practices of that time as well as those of the past were tied together, a continuum, and all were to be overturned, their perpetrators brought to justice.
The lies America told itself about the degree and gravity of its oppression have been judged. The American narrative has been put to the test. And it didn’t go well.
There has been a great movement for many towards enlightenment, a massive removal of scales from the eyes. Industries have responded, schools have responded, citizens have responded.
Confederate monuments fell and monuments of social justice were erected, sometimes with paint on the streets and sometimes more permanently.
The change has been rapid. But, as might be expected, so too was the backlash. The response particularly took hold and found shape in the campaign to ban the proper teaching of America’s racial history in schools.
The Republicans behind these bills may insist on how they forbid the teaching of critical race theory, but what they are really forbidding is teaching the horrific history of white supremacy and of how it engendered the oppression of non-whites.
The truth is, Critical Race Theory is usually not taught in elementary school, but that was never the point, much like in the 2010s, conservative lawmakers never really were. concerned about what they called the threat of Sharia law in the United States when they introduced bills to ban it in American courts; what they wanted was to advance a racist and Islamophobic agenda.
Like a 2019 report born from a partnership between USA Today, The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity pointed out, Conservative lawmakers had tapped into the same basic rubric for these bills, a model perfected and touted by a network of activists and far-right organizations like the Center for Security Policy, a think tank founded in the 1980s by Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration official “who pushes conspiracy theories alleging radical Muslims have infiltrated the government. “
The report details how “at least 10,000 bills almost entirely copied from the model legislation have been introduced across the country over the past eight years, and over 2,100 of these bills have been enacted.”
Critical Race Theory is the new Sharia law, a bogeyman the right can use to activate and exploit the racist anti-otherness that is endemic to American conservatism.
Republican lawmakers learned long ago that a sure-fire way to activate their base was to stoke fears of cultural change and inclusion. They are constantly looking for new problems to harness this wagon, and they believe they have found one this cycle in critical racing theory.
Lawmakers have just started pushing anti-CRT bills forward. Politico reported On Wednesday, “Lawmakers from at least a dozen Republican-controlled state houses – including Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio – plan to push through dozens of bills in the next few years. legislative sessions that aim to put an end to teachings about race and society and to give parents more say. in what is discussed in the classrooms.
Republicans believe these bills could propel what has been called a “huge red wave” halfway through.
But opportunistic, politically motivated, right-wing cultural war crusades are by no means new; they are enduring and central features of American politics.
You can see this in the recent wave of anti-trans toilet bills, again largely focused on schools. One could argue that they are in part a backlash to the Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage in 2015.
In 2006 there was a massive march for immigrant rights. In 2007, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, with The support of President George W. Bush, pushed for a comprehensive immigration bill. Although he failed, there was still a backlash. In a few years, dozens of anti-immigrant bills would be passed.
Like Mother Jones reported in 2012, between 2010 and 2011, state legislatures adopted 164 of these measures, including the so-called laws on the presentation of your papers, which enabled police to demand proof of immigration status from anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.
You can see this same pattern in the wave of anti-same-sex marriage laws passed in the 1990s. In 1993, Hawaiian gay couples won a procedural victory in their fight to get married in the state. The reaction was strong. In 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act was passed by Congress and enacted by Democrat Bill Clinton. Soon after, states across the country passed their own anti-same-sex marriage laws. “In the end, 30 more states passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage,” NBC News reported in 2020.
This list could go on and on, but there isn’t much room on the Internet. The point and the diagram are clear: the right, and even part of the left, continues to attack cultural inclusion and liberation, and Republican politicians continue to exploit the panic.
Critical race theory is not really what it is aimed at right now, it is progress. And for Republican lawmakers, the problem is just the last pill of acid they can place on their base members’ tongues to keep them rabid and spastic.