today in black history

July 30, 2021

Law professor Anita Hill, who courageously testified against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, was born in 1956 in Lone Tree, OK.

The Attack on the Truth

POSTED: June 18, 2021, 12:00 am

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If you are a Baby Boomer, and were educated in America’s public schools, you likely received a whitewashed version of American history. The Founding Fathers of the nation were painted as virtuous, slavery depicted as a brief ‘mistake,’ and were rarely informed of the atrocities committed against individual Blacks and wholesale communities. Likewise, the Civil War was depicted as the ‘War of the States’ and the foundational role of slavery in that conflict painted as an unfortunate side effect of domestic conflict. The arc of American history was George Washington to the civil rights movement, but rarely having the latter fully examined for the depravity and violence being committed against Black people at that time. Despite decades of efforts to interject truth in the historical narrative of the founding and development of the United States, there is a concerted campaign to sanitize America’s past for the sake of advancing a narrative of White supremacy in the post-civil rights era.

Across the country, motivated by the near hysteria created after the loss of Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential elections, conservatives are mounting a campaign that superficially targets ‘critical race theory’ and the New York Times 1619 Project, but is really aimed at the forestalling of the browning of America by obscuring the truth of the nation’s past and present. Conservative Republicans have launched a state-by-state assault on public school districts, claiming the teaching of critical race theory is an attempt to invoke White guilt and to make Americans feel bad about their country. The truth of course is that critical race theory, conceived by legal scholars such as Derrick Bell and Kimberle Crenshaw, among many academicians who have contributed to its framework, simply places race as central to the nation’s formation and deconstructs the manner in which White supremacy has disabused Blacks of full citizenship. Likewise the Pulitzer Prize winning 1619 Project, a brilliant historical analysis on race and racism edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones of The New York Times, has come under attack by conservatives who see the epic journalism project as a plot to undermine American culture.

Of course, neither of the objections raised by conservatives is remotely based on truth. What those on the right are attempting to do is perpetuate a false narrative that places Black and brown people as marginal to the economic success and wealth of the United States. The fact that critical race theory is beyond the curricula of K-12 schools and the 1619 Project has been widely praised, is of little meaning to conservative Republicans. The irrational reaction by the right is driven by the paranoia and ignorance of a party now in the grip of Donald Trump and his legion of liars. Their real aim is the depoliticization of Black Americans by creating a narrative of the culture’s insignificance in the development of the economic power that the United States is today. It comes as no surprise that this attack comes on the heels of a presidential election in which a candidate seen as the vanguard of Whiteness, Donald Trump, was defeated and the United States heads down the path of becoming a ‘majority-minority’ nation. This attempt to craft a narrative of Black inferiority combined with the suppression of Black votes is meant to inflict a blow to the psyche of Black Americans. By muzzling the teaching of the history of Black people as primary contributors to the development and standing of the United States, conservatives hope to temper the ascension of Black people in the political and economic spheres.

It is no accident that these attacks are occurring in states that supported Donald Trump and where critical race theory is non-existent in the curricula of public schools. When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis deems “there’s no room in our classrooms for things like critical race theory’ the hypocrisy becomes clear. DeSantis knows little, if anything, about critical race theory, but sees a window of opportunity to score political points with his political base that is obsessively loyal to Donald Trust. This is fabricated outrage that conservatives hope to churn as fodder for the 2022 midterm and 2024 presidential elections. Conservatives are simply desperate to find ways to turn back the 2020 presidential election.

We are witnessing this mania across the nation. Using a legitimate scholarly theory and journalism project as subterfuge, conservatives are attempting to chill the teaching of an accurate accounting of American history, and by doing so, implant in the minds of children that Blacks contributed little, if anything, to the nation we live in today. It is a calculated attempt to marginalize the existence of Black Americans and place our experience as tangentially related to the development of the Republic. After decades of struggle in local schools districts to have the true history and contributions of Blacks woven into curriculum, conservatives seek a paler version that overcompensates on whiteness.

Republican lawmakers in dozens of states have introduced legislation that targets teaching that might be considered aligned with critical race theory. Legislation has been proposed in 22 states and signed into law in five – Idaho, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas, and Tennessee. In Idaho and Missouri, legislation specifically bans any mention of critical race theory. In other states, the suppression is much more subtle in the form of specific prohibitions that seek to chill the discussion of race and systemic racism in the classroom. Texas passed HB 3979, signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott, that forbids teachers from being compelled to teach and discuss a “current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs,” specifically focused on race and racism in the United States. A group of Republicans in Congress, led by Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT) have introduced legislation and a resolution condemning critical race theory. It is one of many baseless attacks that are being launched as a stealth attack on instruction that acknowledges the impact of race and systemic racism in the United States. The leadership of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) spoke critically of these attacks on public education. In a statement released July 11th, AFT President Randi Weingarten stated “As educators, we are facing the challenge of this complicated issue by developing nuanced professional learning opportunities and sharing vetted lesson plans—like those from the 1619 Project—to help educators tackle the hard conversations around our country’s history and its impact on today and tomorrow. It’s deeply concerning to watch this debate become yet another culture war, as states like Florida and governors like DeSantis try to pretend this history doesn’t exist, or that legislators should be the arbiters of what our kids learn in the classroom.”

This is an unprecedented attack on the truth in America, and is one element of a larger cultural war that conservatives have launched to destabilize the nation and marginalize Black and brown citizens. Combined with efforts to suppress the vote in states that Donald Trump lost in the presidential election in November 2020, relaxing gun restrictions as has occurred in Texas, continued attacks on immigration, and contesting efforts by the Biden administration to address the nation’s infrastructure deficit, glaringly evident in America’s cities, the Republican Party has formally embraced a neo-racist framework as foundational to the party’s future.

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