"CRT creates a false narrative of division that pits Americans against each other." — U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R- Tenn.
Back in May, the Tennessee legislature passed a law indirectly prohibiting Critical Race Theory from being taught in schools. In August, the Tennessee Department of Education issued policy guidance to implement the law, with fines of up to $5 million for districts violating the law and teaching that "United States is fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist." (Arizona has fines of $5,000 for teachers bringing it up.)
Of course, CRT has never been taught in Tennessee public schools. But national right-wing politicians have a scary new boogeyman, CRT.
A woman who has her child in private school has decided that children in Williamson County public schools should not be learning anything about civil rights She formed a group called — ironically/hypocritically given its call for regulation over what is taught — "Moms for Liberty."
The only question now is if the school district will cave into her racist demands and, if not, will the state attempt to enforce its law against teaching CRT.
I recently received correspondence from Morton Blackwell, president of the Leadership Institute, a right-wing D.C. organization. CRT, he said, "kills the American Dream" and will be used by "leftists" to "indoctrinate children to hate America." He's incorrect on both points, as explained below.
Fox mentioned CRT an amazing 1,771 times between March 1 and and the end of June, according to mediamatters.org.
As Briahna Joy Gray (who was Bernie Sanders' press secretary for his presidential campaign) has said, critics on the right have "very specific kind of political goals in mind" when it comes to CRT. CRT is an easy target since there is no clear, standard definition. As the American Bar Association states, CRT "cannot be confined to a static and narrow definition but is considered to be an evolving and malleable practice."
CRT defines the relationship of people of color to American society, helping to achieve the long-term goal of racial and social justice. CRT scholars believe racism is "embedded within systems and institutions, like the legal system." Many racist actions are simply the natural result of systemic bias as manifested via our historical laws and policies.
The underlying truth — a truth that right-wing groups want to obscure — is that Tennessee citizens have been taught little about 1) slavery itself, 2) the true cause of the Civil War, or 3) the historical and continuing effects of slavery on African Americans. And much of what is taught is inaccurate and biased, which is what groups like the Leadership Institute desire. Learning the facts about this topic is not something thought leaders and politicians on the right want school children to know. And a strong undercurrent of insecurity among white voters who are afraid of the changing demographics of our nation and the longer-term empowerment of people of color, means these voters are easy targets for right-wing politicians eager to ban or restrict CRT curricula in schools.
Due to politics, I am skeptical about the short-term future of CRT. It is not being taught in our nation's schools, although its tenets should be.
In the meantime, the right-wing propagandists will take easily misunderstood phrases like "white privilege" and use them to gain seats in swing districts in 2022.
Jack Bernard, the former director of health planning for the state of Georgia, served as chairman of the Jasper County Commission and Republican Party.