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“This is the tea party in the tenth power,” said Steve Bannon, Trump’s former advisor who has focused on the local school board’s struggle over critical racial theories, in an interview. “That’s not Q, these are mainstream suburban mothers – and a lot of these people aren’t Trump voters.”
Concern over the critical theory of race, which examines how race and racism permeate society, has been intruding for months into what activists describe as a sincere, parent-led, grassroots phenomenon. Critical racial theory dates back to the 1970s, but with the country remaining in lengthy conversation about races after the death of George Floyd, a new political struggle has arisen over how American history can be taught.
It has increasingly become a primary focus of the Republican establishment, which has tried to capitalize on fear, although some incumbents have failed to define what critical racial theory is and what threat it poses. (Critical racial theory, for example, does not mean that white students should feel guilty about past civil rights issues and is not taught in many schools where lawmakers seek to ban it).
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For example, Google searches for “Critical Race Theory” soared on March 18, the same day that Republican Governor Ron DeSantis proposed that it be banned from the Florida curriculum. Fox News mentioned critical race theory nearly 1,300 times over a period of three and a half months, according to an analysis by liberal watchdog Media Matters for America. Last week, Texas became the fifth state to pass legislation targeting critical racial theory or similar issues, and more than a dozen other states have proposed legislation.
Democrats, liberal political analysts, and even celebrities have used the power of the black press and the news broadcasts to push back.
Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association and a friend of the White House of Biden, endorsed a thorough delivery of American history – including the more painful parts – in an NBC interview last week. “We made a lot of mistakes in this country, but our children, our children deserve to know all this truth,” she said.
Journalist and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and Hollywood actress and LGBTQ activist Lena Waithe, along with dozens of academics and writers, are also supporting efforts to educate students about systemic racism. They penned an open letter in The Root in support of Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, which many Republicans consider a key tool in promoting critical racial theory.
You are fighting the decision of the great Trump World and other national republican figures who increasingly intervene in the fight. Earlier this month, Republicans jumped to the GOP’s annual meeting in North Carolina with enthusiastic applause when Trump called for a ban on critical racial theory from the local school level to the federal government. Some top Republicans aren’t shy about discussing the electoral advantages such a culture war theme could bring.
“I look at this and say, ‘Hey, this is how we’re going to win.’ I see 50 [House Republican] Seats in 2022. Keep it up, ”said Bannon. “I think you’re going to put a lot more emphasis on it from Trump and DeSantis and others. People who mean business in 2024 and beyond will focus on that. “
Jessica Anderson, executive director of the Heritage Foundation’s advocacy arm, said critical racial theory is one of the top two issues her group is working on alongside efforts to tighten electoral laws. Anderson’s Heritage Action for America, a former official in the Trump administration’s bureau of management and budget, published a pamphlet on Monday calling critical racial theory a “destructive” ideology and calling on voters to urge their lawmakers to adopt the Laws introduced to support anti-critical racial theory by Reps. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Dan Bishop (RN.C.). She also urges voters to use the Freedom of Information Act requests as a tactic to identify critical elements of racial theory in school curricula.
“It could turn out to be one of the most important grassroots conservative struggles since the tea party movement,” she said.
In addition to Heritage Action, a new group called Citizens for Renewing America, a team formed by Russ Vought, Trump’s former bureau of management and budget, has rushed to support anti-critical efforts on racial theory.
As OMB director, Vought penned a memo in September warning federal agencies that Trump would “stop and refrain from using taxpayers’ money to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions.” More recently, Citizens for Renewing America has a 33-page document entitled “An A to Z Guide on How to Stop Critical Race Theory and Reclaim Your Local School Board”.
In Washington, Heritage Action is pursuing a farsighted strategy to incorporate the anti-critical language of racial theory into compelling laws such as the annual Defense Spending Bill. Vought’s group, meanwhile, is pushing for Republicans to force the provisions of Bishop’s bill to be incorporated into law to raise the debt ceiling this fall.
“We believe it is necessary for us to find leverage points to get this on bills that need to happen,” Vought said in an interview.