Dear Fox News viewer: Whatever you might think about “critical race theory,” one thing it hasn’t done is kill anyone.
Not like the “replacement theory” Tucker Carlson can’t stop talking about, the “great replacement” that drove a man many miles to a grocery store in Buffalo to shoot Black people.
The same idea, Tucker’s pet talking point, motivated a gunman to kill 23 brown-skinned people at an El Paso Walmart in 2019.
It’s the same idea that has been so politically profitable for a certain political demagogue who won the presidency in 2016. Find your constituents. Scare your constituents.
Hear Cynthia Miller-Idriss, senior fellow with the Center for the Analysis of the Radical Right:
“Rhetoric that uses the word ‘replace’ definitely legitimizes and reinforces the idea of a ‘great replacement.’ Language like ‘invasion,’ ‘incursion,’ ‘defense,’ all reinforce the idea of a threat.”
Throw in “caravan.” All are preferred terms of Donald Trump and MAGA zealots.
Of course, if we understand American history, we realize that the forefathers of MAGA were marginalized and terrorized.
The Irish. The Germans. The Italians. “Coming to replace us.”
What were Protestants protesting, anyway? Repression at the hands of the majority. They were the “others” across the ocean.
The root of the Baptist denomination was the oppression of a tyrannical sectarian majority and the imperative of separating church and state.
This is American history. It is fascinating that people who spread fear and distrust keep these truths at education’s margins, and put myths about Manifest Destiny front and center.
That brings us to what candidates seeking to appeal to aggrieved whites (aggrieved about . . .?) have chosen as the boogieman of the moment: “critical race theory.”
Rather than attempt to dissect what exactly the term means, let’s just say that what opponents fear is too much truth.
Too much truth can make you think.
Here are some truths:
The vast majority of Black soldiers who fought and died for freedom overseas in World War II were excluded from the GI Bill of Rights.
This is because lawmakers in the South made sure the federal program was administered by states, putting Jim Crow segregationists in charge of the many benefits returning soldiers expected and white soldiers enjoyed.
That may be the clearest example of how institutional racism is part of this nation’s DNA. And I know that if the preceding words were in a textbook in Texas, Florida and a host of states run by social censors, they would never see the light of day. If the state didn't censor them, the teacher would, in order to keep a job increasingly in peril.
In Virginia, Glenn Youngkin shamelessly campaigned for governor on the supposed threat posed by critical race theory. In victory, he issued an executive order banning it, whatever the term means.
In practice, for instance,I presume it means Virginia school children have no chance of learning that Virginia passed the Racial Integrity Act in 1924, which, in prohibiting interracial marriage and otherwise legitimizing segregation, defined a white person as having “no trace whatsoever of any blood other than Caucasian.”
Institutional racism? A scurrilous claim!
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if the Buffalo shooter had repeatedly seen the truth about America’s history of racial exclusion and the hysteria historically aimed at the “others,” he would possess a shred of life-sparing empathy.
Jim Crow was at the height of his glory, the Ku Klux Klan ruling many statehouses, when in a speech to the Urban League in 1946, Albert Einstein said the truth about America’s racist underpinnings must never be obscured:
“The taboo ‘let’s-not-talk-about-it’ must be broken. It must be pointed out time and time again,” saying the treatment of people of color was “a slap in the face of the Constitution.”
This treatment of "the other" is the story of all of us. People who know it are far more prone to understand those of us who still feel the weight of yesterday’s oppression.
Education saves lives. Designer ignorance kills.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.