Every school child knows that America was founded with a racist original sin. Every school child should know this about America. Every American, educated or not, should know the history of slavery out of which this country emerged.
That is not in dispute. Almost all Americans agree on this point. Furthermore, almost all Americans cite race relations as being among the top 10 issues that we must resolve to have a better future in the United States.
So, why are conservatives up in arms about Critical Race Theory (CRT)?
Because CRT is a way of understanding how American racism continues to shape public policy, civil society, and daily life to this day.
Originated by Harvard law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, CRT developed out of critical legal studies, a new theory of law that viewed public policy not as something apolitical and objective but as overtly political and obviously subjective. Laws, according to critical legal studies, represented ways of maintaining the status quo.
Similarly, Crenshaw brought to light how laws represented ways of preserving racism in the American status quo.
For example, the way that housing laws legally allowed landlords not to rent to Black people.
The way that several Southern states still had segregationist laws on their books—whether or not they were enforced.
The way that legal areas as far apart as election law and transportation law all contain statutes which discriminate against non-white American citizens right now in 2021.
CRT is a powerful concept and robust tool for rooting out injustices in American society, but it is powerless without public officials who will actually move to abolish American racism.
That conservatives have made CRT out to be a bogeyman in the eyes of the American public is little more than election year fearmongering.
Having lost the White House and taken an unprecedented drubbing in the 2018 midterms, Republicans know that Americans are wise to the usual conservative tricks.
So, Republicans are resorting to one of the oldest tricks in the book. Locate a bogeyman and paint your opponents as public enemies.
That’s why CRT is in the news, because Republicans are using an otherwise benign academic concept as a bludgeon to beat over the head anyone they disagree with, dislike, or desperately hope not to face in an election.
But Democrats need not fear the bludgeon of CRT. Because it’s not a secret, and it never has been. CRT represents the apex of civil rights scholarship and judicial thought. The police murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the continuing pandemic of legal violence against Black people has only highlighted the need for justice in this country.
Progressives and Democrats have always been the party of justice. We won’t stop just because Republicans finally believe it, too.