Inside the GOP's obsession with Critical Race Theory

Inside the GOP's obsession with Critical Race Theory
A Black Lives matter demonstration in New York City in 2014, Wikimedia Commons

In recent years, the educational standard for critical race theory (CRT) has risen far more than Republicans can bear. As calls intensify for schools to add CRT education to curriculum plans, Republicans' obsession over the controversial topic is taking center stage.

The Atlantic's Adam Harris explains how Republicans are seeking to control education through legislation. The piece of legislation introduced by Kevin Ammon, a Republican member of New Hampshire's state House of Representatives proposes that schools and organizations "that have entered into a contract or subcontract with the state" would be barred from supporting "divisive concepts."

"Specifically, the measure would forbid 'race or sex scapegoating,' questioning the value of meritocracy, and suggesting that New Hampshire—or the United States—is 'fundamentally racist,'" Harris said.

There are dozens of proposed bills like Ammon's that have been presented across the country.

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To highlight the prevalence of Republicans' push to censor CRT, Harris also noted bills like Ammon's that have already passed in other states.

"In Arkansas, lawmakers have approved a measure that would ban state contractors from offering training that promotes "division between, resentment of, or social justice for" groups based on race, gender, or political affiliation," Harris wrote. "The Idaho legislature just passed a bill that would bar institutions of public education from compelling 'students to personally affirm, adopt, or adhere' to specific beliefs about race, sex, or religion. The Louisiana legislature is weighing a nearly identical measure."

"The language of these bills is anodyne and fuzzy—compel, for instance, is never defined in the Idaho legislation—and that ambiguity appears to be deliberate," Harris wrote.

Critics warn "the bills would effectively prevent public schools and universities from holding discussions about racism." Ammon's bill in New Hampshire goes a step further even barring companies that have business relationships with the government from providing training and programs for "diversity, equity, and inclusion programs."

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Speaking to Harris, Leah Cohen, an organizer with the liberal nonprofit organization Granite State Progress, explained the significance of the language in the proposed pieces of legislation.

"The vagueness of the language is really the point," Cohen said. "With this really broad brushstroke, we anticipate that that will be used more to censor conversations about race and equity."

Although there is a persistent, nationwide effort to silence critical race theory, legal experts believe many of the bills infringe upon free speech.

"Of the legislative language so far, none of the bills are fully constitutional," said Joe Cohn, legislative and policy director at Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, "and if it isn't fully constitutional, there's a word for that: It means it's unconstitutional."

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