By Andrew Sullivan
There’s a liberal way to fight illiberalism. And it’s beginning to work.
The stories in the mainstream media this past week about the broadening campaign to ban critical race theory in public schools have been fascinating — and particularly in how they describe what CRT is. Here’s the Atlantic’s benign summary of CRT: “recent reexaminations of the role that slavery and segregation have played in American history and the attempts to redress those historical offenses.” NBC News calls it the “academic study of racism’s pervasive impact.” NPR calls CRT: “teaching about the effects of racism.” The New York Times calls it, with a straight face, “classroom discussion of race, racism” and goes on to describe it as a “framework used to look at how racism is woven into seemingly neutral laws and institutions.”
How on earth could merely teaching students about the history of racism and its pervasiveness in the United States provoke such a fuss? No wonder Charles Blow is mystified. But don’t worry. The MSM have a ready explanation: the GOP needs an inflammatory issue to rile their racist base, and so this entire foofaraw is really just an astro-turfed, ginned-up partisan gambit about nothing. The MSM get particular pleasure in ridiculing parents who use the term “critical race theory” as shorthand for things that just, well, make them uncomfortable — when the parents obviously have no idea what CRT really is.
When pushed to describe it themselves, elite journalists refer to the legal theories Derrick Bell came up with, in the 1970s — obscure, esoteric and nothing really to do with high-school teaching. “If your kid is learning CRT, your kid is in law/grad school,” snarked one. Marc Lamont Hill even tried to pull off some strained references to Gramsci to prove his Marxian intellectual cred, and to condescend to his opponents.