Critical Race Theory is Just Another Shot in the GOP’s Culture War

There seems to be a lot of confusion these days over what exactly constitutes critical race theory.

The GOP has more definitions of CRT than Carter has little liver pills, and each one more is breathless and absurd than the next. Here are a few definitions from a recent GOP House Freedom Caucus press conference:

“[CRT is] teaching American students to hate each other.”

“[CRT is] teaching our children that America is evil.”

“CRT tears people apart.”

“[CRT is] a divisive ideology that threatens to poison the American psyche.”

The truth, of course, is that Critical Race Theory is, first and foremost, a diversionary tactic employed by the far right.

If you look hard enough, critical race theory—which has been around since the mid-70s—may be found in the curriculum of certain college courses (mostly coursework in the fields of education, political science, women’s studies, ethnic studies, sociology, and American studies) as well as in some law schools. But the idea that critical race theory would ever be taught in rural or suburban grade schools or high schools is ludicrous. Any rural or suburban teacher that dared mention America’s long history of institutional racism would likely be fired on the spot.

A friend of mine—a closeted liberal—teaches history at a rural Missouri high school. He lives in fear that something he says in the classroom will be misconstrued or misinterpreted by one of his students, who will run home and tell his or her parents, who will immediately march down to the board of education office and demand the teacher’s scalp.

So he studiously avoids any mention of race that isn’t explicitly mentioned in the conservative American history textbook he teaches from.

Last year, his wife put up a Bernie Sanders campaign sign in their front yard. The next day he was called before the district superintendent. “Parents are complaining,” the superintendent said. “I recommend you take down the sign.”

He is only a few years from retirement, so he removed the sign.

This, I suspect, is how most teachers in Red States do their jobs–in a state of abject fear of their students. They stick to the text books, which have been selected by a committee of handpicked conservatives. According to Kate Slater, assistant dean of student affairs at Brandeis University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences: “What many students (and even some educators themselves) don’t know is that textbook choice is a highly politicized process in different states with arguments over everything from the tone of the texts to what content is included or excluded.”

Because of this, most textbook authors and publishers refrain from including any controversial subjects in their books. In a word, they self-censor.

CRT is just another shot in the GOP’s inane Culture War, another diversionary tactic meant to keep working class voters from realizing how anti-working family the GOP’s policies truly are. CRT is no different than the perennial War on Christmas or the recent “cancellations” of Dr Suess and Mr. Potato Head.

As the GOP seeks to become “the party of the Working Class,” instead of simply the party of non-college Americans, it is more important than ever that they distract from their anti-working family policies with Culture War hysteria. Because if working class voters were to look closely at the GOP’s policies they would see an extremist, anti-working family party that never stops trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, that opposes Medicare expansion, that shuts down any talk of mandatory family leave, mandatory vacations, or federal child care subsidies. They would see a party hellbent on weakening labor laws and destroying unions.

What better than a culture war to distract and rile up Trump voters? You are only making $8 an hour? Don’t blame the GOP for blocking a minimum wage increase; blame the undocumented immigrants who are pushing down wages.

It’s time we see critical race theory for what it truly is—to the GOP, at least. Just one more battle in the endless Culture War.