In the final days of the Virginia governor’s race, Republican Glenn Youngkin did everything he could to suggest the contest was a referendum on what is being taught to the commonwealth’s schoolchildren.
“There’s no place for critical race theory in our school system, and why, on day one, I’m going to ban it,” Youngkin told Fox News’ Mark Levin over the weekend, adding that critical race theory “teaches children to see everything through a lens of race and then to divide them into buckets and have children [who] are called privileged and others [who] are victims.”
That focus has worn off on GOP voters, many of whom name education – and critical race theory, in particular – as the main issue in the campaign. But, what does CRT actually mean? Well, those same voters appear to struggle with answering that question.
In a video posted Monday by The Good Liars, a two-man comedy act, a Virginia voter is asked what the most important issue is in the governor’s race.
“Getting back to the basics of teaching children, not teaching them critical race theory,” he responds.
He’s then asked what critical race theory, you know, is.
“I’m not going to get into the specifics of it because I don’t understand it that much but it’s something – what little bit I know – I don’t care for,” he responds. Pressed further for any details about CRT, he responds: “I don’t have that much knowledge on it but it’s something that I don’t care for.”
Which, well, right. If you need an example of just how dumb American politics is at this present moment, here it is.
For the record, here’s what critical race theory actually is – courtesy of Education Week:
“Critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies. … A good example is when, in the 1930s, government officials literally drew lines around areas deemed poor financial risks, often explicitly due to the racial composition of inhabitants. Banks subsequently refused to offer mortgages to Black people in those areas.”
And here’s another helpful explainer via Brookings:
“CRT does not attribute racism to white people as individuals or even to entire groups of people. Simply put, critical race theory states that U.S. social institutions (e.g., the criminal justice system, education system, labor market, housing market, and healthcare system) are laced with racism embedded in laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that lead to differential outcomes by race.”
The basic idea is that racism is systemic in many of the institutions of America – and that by acknowledging that reality, we can work to overcome it.
It’s not new or particularly novel but it has, all of a sudden, become a hot-button issue for conservatives – thanks in large part to Fox News’ decision to put it front and center in their daily programming.
In June, Florida banned the teaching of CRT in its public schools – with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis insisting via Twitter that it “teaches kids to hate our country and to hate each other. It is state-sanctioned racism and has no place in Florida schools.”
A few months prior, Idaho banned any teaching that “individuals, by virtue of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin, are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin.”
To be clear: There can be a serious discussion – and disagreement – over the best ways to teach our kids about race and racism. That’s a legitimate debate. That’s not what we have in this country at the moment.
Instead we have conservative media – and politicians – erroneously suggesting that CRT teaches White kids they are bad and to blame for the racial problems in the country. And, unfortunately, people don’t do any of their own research to even understand the basics of what CRT is and what the debate over it is really about.
Which leads to interviews like the one above: A man who says CRT is the most important issue in the governor’s race but has no idea what CRT actually is.