Saturday, June 19, 2021

Facts: What are they good for? Republicans: Absolutely nothing

By Emma Goldman
Social Policy Correspondent
with A.J. Liebling, Meta-Content Generator

We are hearing a lot about the effort to cancel the teaching of what is known as “Critical Race Theory.” Surely Bari Weiss will swoop down from her Substack lair any minute now to defend free and open intellectual inquiry, as is her wont.

While we are waiting for her to zoom out of Weiss Manor in her Barimobile (a 1997 Subaru Outback wagon), we thought we'd take a look at what's going on to the best of our measly ability.

If you watch Fox “News,” you'll be subjected to an endless assortment of supposedly typical moms and dads, who also just happen to be Trumpublican hatchet men and women (a fact not worthy of mention on Fox), fighting valiantly to protect their innocent babes from being subject to the evil that is “Critical Race Theory:”  


Of course, Fox also has no time in its 24/7 broadcast schedule to tell us what “Critical Race Theory” is.  It's an academic theory taught in graduate and law schools

focused on recognizing the effects slavery and institutional racism continue to have on the U.S. Critical race theory is an intellectual framework for analyzing American history introduced by legal scholars as a way to recognize the effects that racism has had on the U.S. . . .  Critical race theory has been applied to examine how the history of racism in the U.S. has affected multiple areas of society, such as discriminatory labor practices, access to education, bank lending, and housing segregation, as well as a host of microaggressions. One of the founders of critical race theory, KimberlĂ© Crenshaw, described it as “an approach to grappling with a history of White supremacy that rejects the belief that what's in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it.”

Let's see – it's a theory that purports to explain current social conditions. Therefore, it could be tested by seeing whether it is consistent with various facts about American life, e.g. George Floyd being murdered in cold blood by a white policeman on the streets of Minneapolis, the net worth of persons of color in Boston averaging $8, etc., and whether it helps explain those facts or is in fact falsified by them. That sounds like more hard work than we had in mind for a warm summer day, so we'll leave that to others, preferably those who can get tenure by writing about it.

But in any event, why is it a threat?  Either it's true or false, and unlike false theories about drinking bleach to prevent COVID, it's unlikely to be responsible for the deaths of 600,000 people.

Lumped together with but entirely separate from Critical Race Theory is the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones's path-breaking effort to put the experience of Black Americans at the center of American history, right up there with Robert E. Lee's heroic horse Traveler and George Washington's festive plantation at Mount Vernon.

It too has generated an enormous amount of what we used to call “white backlash” from thoughtful commentators like the Russian stooge sex offender who was in fact President of the United States (this is true), and the usual chorus of Republican rabble-rousers.

It even cost Prof. Hannah-Jones a tenured position at the University of North Carolina when a rich man who held the purse strings objected:

The Assembly reported that the board experienced some high-placed lobbying against Hannah-Jones’s appointment, in the form of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media’s biggest donor, school namesake and Arkansas media mogul Walter Hussman Jr.

“I worry about the controversy of tying the UNC journalism school to the 1619 project,” Hussman reportedly wrote in a now-ironic December message to Guskiewicz and at least one board member. “I find myself more in agreement with Pulitzer prize winning historians like James McPherson and Gordon Wood than I do Nikole Hannah-Jones.” [The James McPherson who has written that the sole cause of the Civil War was the South's demand to expand slavery into new territories?  That guy? – Ed.]

Asked if he agreed that racism ended in 1964,
Trayvon Martin declined to comment
Hussman reportedly wrote in another email to administrators that he didn’t like Hannah-Jones’s contention that Black Americans fought the civil rights battle largely alone, as “long before” Hannah-Jones won her Pulitzer, “courageous white southerners risking their lives standing up for the rights of blacks were winning Pulitzer prizes, too.”

Hussman has since said that he did not think he was pressuring Chapel Hill to act a certain way regarding Hannah-Jones, who was ultimately offered a five-year contract without tenure as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism.

But that’s apparently how it felt, at least to Susan King, dean of the journalism school. She told The Assembly that “I felt worried enough about Walter’s repeated questions challenging our hiring of Nikole Hannah-Jones as Knight Chair and his subsequent call to at least one other donor that I asked for help from others in the administration.”
. . .

If Hannah-Jones does get tenured and join Chapel Hill, she’d be just one of 32 tenured Black women professors out of 1,384 tenured professors total, according to federal data from 2019, the most recent year for which these figures are available.

Less than 3% of tenured professors at a flagship university located in the Old Confederacy are Black women?  Gee, if only there was a theory that might explain why that is.  Also that theory might explain why a university that lets Mr. Moneybags dictate tenure decisions gets to keep its accreditation.

Fortunately, you don't have to take the word of a rich fragile white man of what's in the 1619 Project.  You can see for yourself the curriculum that it offers to your impressionable children.  The lesson plan starts with that well-known subversive anti-white document, the Declaration of Independence:

Wow, the anti-American vitriol just steams off the page.

But wait there's more:

Why do I think Hannah-Jones refers to Monticello as a “forced-labor camp?” Because it was!  But others may disagree.  If you do, show your work, or at least your $25 million bankroll.

And why is learning facts about Thomas Jefferson's career as a slaveholder and Abraham Lincoln's early willingness to promote Black emigration so dangerous to young minds?  Are these facts false?  Are they utterly irrelevant to a balanced view of Jefferson and Lincoln (who eventually paid with his life to end slavery)?  Why is this all so threatening to rich white men who believe that their wealth entitles them to determine what is taught about America's sordid racist past and present?

We suspect two answers: first, white defenders of white supremacy don't like to be told that they are, wait for it, defending white supremacy.

Second, and related, it's all a crock, as Mr. Paul Waldman is happy to explain:

At least they won't be devastated when they learn
that Jefferson owned slaves

On one level, this is all a backlash to the national debate about race that emerged after George Floyd’s murder last year. That debate, which featured lots of institutions and people trying to grapple with the persistence of racism, left conservatives feeling intensely alienated, even threatened — feelings which were ripe for exploitation by right-wing political and media figures.

But it goes deeper, into the broader cultural alienation conservatives have been experiencing for years.

The idea that your own children will be taught something you disagree with has long been a potent weapon to rile people up, particularly conservatives who already feel their children are growing up in a world that rejects their values, and adopting ideas about race and sexuality and gender that are far more liberal than theirs.

They may even grasp that the large societal forces that fill them with anxiety — perhaps none more than the steady racial, ethnic and religious diversification of America — are out of their control. They can elect a xenophobic bigot as president, but immigrants will continue to arrive and he’ll fail in his project to make America white again.

That’s enough to make you despair. But you can pass a measure at your local school board or a law in the state legislature and say, “We banned critical race theory from the classroom! Victory is ours!” That’s the nice thing about imaginary enemies: They’re not hard to defeat. 

The not nice thing about imaginary enemies though is that Republican rabble-rousers will always pull another one out of the blowholes as part of their endless and thus far remarkably successful effort to stir up white anger and resentment with the goal of preventing lots of poor white folks (hello, West Virginia!) from noticing that the plutocrats who fund all this nonsense have been picking their pockets for half a century.

Oh, and, before we forget, Happy Juneteenth.

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