Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Why are conservatives throwing a tantrum about anti-racism? The George Floyd protests.

By Ryan Cooper, The Week

A ginned-up moral panic is an excuse to not do anything about racial injustice.

JUNE 24, 2021

Many school districts across the country are in the grips of a full-blown moral panic, supposedly over something called “critical race theory” (CRT). Fox News has been blaring deranged propaganda about CRT for months. In Loudon County, Virginia (home to many Republican political professionals), angry conservatives deluged a recent school board meeting, and were so loud and disruptive that two were eventually arrested. Similar stories can be found in Maine, Texas, Pennsylvania, and many other states.

This panic, as I’ve previously written, has nothing to do with the actual arguments of critical race theory scholars. But that raises the question of what it really is about. The answer is the George Floyd protests of last summer and the ongoing surge of anti-racist activism.

Ben Wallace-Wells recently published an excellent profile in The New Yorker of Christopher Rufo, the conservative activist who all but singlehandedly bootstrapped this moral panic. In Rufo’s own telling, it all started with someone sending him an annoying anti-racism seminar in July of last year. He then read books by Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi about anti-racism that surged to the top of bestseller lists last year and followed the footnotes therein to older articles about critical race theory. Then he went on Tucker Carlson and delivered a carefully-prepared harangue about CRT; President Trump (of course) was watching, leading to a call from then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Trump began to attack anti-racist trainings and scholarship, numerous conservative states have passed laws attacking CRT, and here we are.

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