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There is nothing wrong with Critical Race Theory… except the name

The term should never have escaped the halls of academe. But, a more appropriate name for it would be the truth.

Children in Virginia protest against Critical Race Theory claiming it teaches white people to see themselves oppressors of Black Americans. Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/ AFP via Getty Images.

Critical Race Theory is one of those terms you would be given a promotion for coming up with at some Far Right think tank.

Its beauty, in terms of scaring Republican Party deserters away from the Democrats, is exquisite.

CRT even comes with a bonus for Rightists. Since it is an approach to education, they argue, the Left will end up teaching it to very young children.

That last bit is, of course, nonsense. A Big Scare. But the urban myth is strong enough to have given the Republicans the governor’s mansion in Virginia in November, a state Joe Biden won in 2020 by a comfortable margin.

The Democratic Party candidate made the mistake of saying that parents should not dictate to schools. This triggered a huge backlash built on a fraught year of home-schooling, Covid fatigue, and fear of CRT.

Downstate Virginia was no surprise, but the fact that the suburbs just outside Washington D.C. voted Republican is a real big, fat shock – as well as being really bad news for the midterms next November.

In midterms, the President’s party usually loses the House and Senate, or is handed a reduced majority because the elections are a referendum on the White House.

Some members of the press are already comparing Biden’s administration to Jimmy Carter’s in the 1970s, a near-death experience for the Democrats until another Southerner came to the rescue years later: William Jefferson Clinton.

Recently, I suggested, over a meal with a bunch of friends, that the name of CRT should be changed to something less ominous. I got yelled at. “Why should we have to accommodate them,” I was asked.

Why indeed? Well, there is the little matter of votes. Of winning. Of keeping the Republican Party, now almost feral at its grassroots, away from the levers of federal power.

Because the USA is not a great place right now.

Critical Race Theory emerged from legal studies, borrowing analysis of what lay at the foundation of the United States. These legal studies consider race to be at the core of the American experience, and of course, this is correct.

A look at the life of George Floyd, for example, makes this easy to see. Floyd was a descendant of enslaved people who were then allowed to be sharecroppers. He was raised by a single mother who did her best in a neighbourhood from which the white people had fled and therefore the investment, the services, the whole nine yards had disappeared.

He grew up on a decaying Houston housing estate where the young were used to the cops showing up to harass, not to help. His secondary school was underfunded and underperforming, not able to prepare him for the world.

His minor offences got him serious jail time, and his record kept him from being hired. He spent a quarter of his life incarcerated in a criminal justice system that, CRT rightly points out, targets African-Americans and other people of colour.

His longest time inside was spent in a private prison in a predominately white town that got a third of its revenue from having that prison in its midst. That state and federal cash gave plenty of incentive for keeping that prison full to the brim.

He was a victim of several of the ailments that afflict the poor, and poor African-Americans, and he had Covid-19, too. He committed robbery and had a drug problem. He admitted in a video that he was not perfect. But that he was trying.

What Critical Race Theory explains is that the United States is a white settler country. That it is a country settled by Europeans fleeing oppression of all kinds, many just looking for an opportunity and a new start.

The United States favoured, and still does favour, people with white skin. James Baldwin, for example, said that the Irish did not know that they were white until they came to America.

Now, with the nation inevitably and irreversibly becoming a minority/ majority country whose main religion may be “other”, we are witnessing the death of a demographic.

The Unite the Right march in Charlottesville in 2017, where white men chanted: “Jews will not replace us. You will not replace us, ” and the sack of the Capitol in January 2021 are evidence of the death throes of what Trump labels MAGA: Make America Great Again.

The not-so-subtle subtext is “Make America White Again.”

CRT names and nails all of this, but as a producer once told a robust, young, male star-in-the-making: “Look, I know what your real name is. But you can’t use it. You can’t call yourself Marion.”

So the star-to-be renamed himself John Wayne. The package is still the same, you just don’t get put off by the handle.

But I’m afraid that the name Critical Race Theory will stay because there are people out there who believe that to change it would be capitulation and worse.

Yet, unless we listen to those women who call themselves “suburban housewives” and say it with pride, the Far Right will continue to be the political Covid of the Republican Party and maybe of the Conservatives here in the UK. That spells big trouble.

This all matters because the Conservatives are in power here and the Republicans will probably be back in power over there. I have no alternative name to replace Critical Race Theory, a term that should never have escaped the halls of academe.

But when I think of it, it should just be called “The Truth”.

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