The Attack on Critical Race Theory
It's About More Than You Think
The attack on Critical Race Theory (CRT) is all over the news and, importantly, state legislatures and school boards around the country. Many are calling it a mid-term turn out mechanism for the GOP. I agree. However, I think there’s more to this story.
Here’s what’s more. First, here’s what’s most obvious to me. The Republican Party is using the attack on CRT to make the argument that racist expression is a form of liberty, and those who are trying to eradicate racism are doing so to eradicate liberty, making us unAmerican.
Second, I think the attack on CRT is a means by which the GOP is adapting their traditional base to the new, overt white nationalist wing of the Party. So we’re witnessing something very dangerous. GOP is facilitating a merger between the far-right and the near right and that, I probably don’t need to tell you, is a very bad development.
The GOP leadership probably never would have imagined themselves moving in this direction five or six years ago. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t create this problem. By engaging in a more than 50-year long base building strategy centered on popularizing key ideas of white nationalism among white voters, they created an avenue into the mainstream for overt and even violent white nationalism. And this isn’t just about worshipping at the feet of Trump. Donald Trump just opened the door to the mainstream for the white nationalist movement, forcing the GOP to embrace it in order to keep their base from splitting.
We need to defeat the attack on CRT, but we should keep one eye on the effect the debate over CRT will have on the GOP base.
Thirdly, I think we need to view the attack on CRT in the context of fascistic politics. In that context, it seems pretty apparent that the anti-CRT push is an attack on truth; as much a big lie as the idea that the election was stolen.
Reality is the enemy of fascistic politics because, in reality, autocrats aren’t really concerned about the interests of their base. By appealing to white nationalism in order to reach for power, the aspiring autocrats of the GOP have abandoned realpolitik. Or, put more simply, they’ve opted to build a popular front for oligarchy based on what amounts to political road rage, where the best case scenario appears to be that their pissed off drivers will abandon practical considerations of life in order to tailgate perceived enemies and drive them off the road. But once they have the road to themselves, then what? Their victims were on their way to jobs in construction, maintaining water and sewer, harvesting crops, and providing home healthcare among many other vital services from the bottom to the top of the labor hierarchy.
“White” is just an adjective describing one, politically constructed characteristic of white people. When white nationalism wins, the white in white nationalism is no longer relevant. At that point, all you have left is the repressive and even murderous mechanisms (and norms) that were popularized and used to eliminate white nationalism’s opponents. There are no means of popular accountability nor plan to provide for people’s real needs, so the only way to securely hold power once an autocratic racial nationalist takes over is brute force. That, obviously, is not in the interests of the people, whatever their race.
So autocrats must distract people from reality by promoting unreality, and one in which there are demons around every corner that the dear leader must protect you from because he and only he, riffing on a famous Trumpism, can slay them. For unreality to take hold, the autocratic must conjure up a situation in which people can’t tell what’s real and not real.
So reactionary movements and the autocrats that lead them must take down key arbiters of reality, and especially the ones that are helping to empower their opposition’s arguments. Key among those arbiters is academia, making attacking academic freedom a staple of fascistic politics.