The Ostrich Conundrum

Critical Race Theory (CRT) has been around since about the 1980’s but all of a sudden you are hearing about Critical Race Theory on the news. What is it and what is it not? Why are you suddenly hearing about it? What will be the result of banning it? It started as a movement among legal scholars to explain why the liberal tactics of affirmative action, elections, and federal action which were the blueprint for Civil Rights Movement, haven’t produced the longed-for end of racism in our country. It seeks to understand how the social structure and the professed ideals of “equal protection,” and the “rule of law,” have helped maintain white supremacy and the subordination of people of color. It elucidates these connections in order to change them. It has been largely an academic movement discussed intellectually though some of its ideas have seeped into the mainstream especially as police violence against people of color has become a more prominent issue. Republican politicians and legislators are now starting to make it the figurehead whipping boy of an all-out assault on teaching about racism in public education from primary schools to university. Why? It doesn’t take much to convince people of color of the white supremacy in the politics, laws, and economic policies of this country. Preventing racism from being questioned or taught will not convince them of the absence of racism when their daily lived experience tells them otherwise. It is obviously addressed to white people and possibly their fringe hangers-on of color. We are seeing this movement to halt discussion of racism because of recent Republican losses in the presidency and the Senate. Republicans are appealing to whites who are threatened by the loss of their supremacy by painting themselves as the defenders against attacks against them and the growing threat of people of color or the politicians who support them. They are trying to regain the presidency and the Congress in the next elections.

Whether these politicians are honestly ignorant and do not believe there is structural racism or whether they are cynically doing it to gain voters, is largely irrelevant to me. I am sure there are both. I am more concerned about the effects their actions will have in the real world. Structural racism will continue whether they acknowledge it or not. In a world in which people of color are becoming a majority in this country (it is already true for the population entering grade school) attempts to plead that structural racism does not exist will become a harder and harder sell. This of course makes little difference to politicians who only look to the next election and not to the long run. If they did, they would come out against structural racism to put themselves on the side of the angels and the most voters. Indeed, we may be at a tipping point when their support of white supremacy has created such a backlash against them particularly among voters of color, but among some whites as well, that they will increasingly find it more and more difficult to win elections. That is why the suppression of voting rights is also important to them. They cannot even now win fair and open elections so they have to resort to limiting the franchise to “the right (read white) people.” Regardless of success or failure of federal efforts to protect voting rights, their voter suppression efforts, although they may appear to work for the next election cycle, will eventually fail to secure their victory among a declining white electorate. In fact, their voter suppression measures like restricting mail in voting and days, places, and times for voting may affect their own supporters who are aging. Control of state legislatures and governorships which has been sustained by outsized power of voters in rural areas, will be overwhelmed by the votes in urban areas and increasingly diverse suburban areas. This is even happening in Texas where I live which has been a solidly red state. Whether this happens by 2022, 2024 or later I cannot predict. I can say that eventually it will happen.

The problem with the ostrich proverbially sticking his head in the ground to ignore the danger approaching, will eventually plague the Republicans. While they may soothe themselves with palliative measures like banning public school discussion of racism, reality is coming for them and they may not be ready for it.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *