The White Pushback Against "Critical Race Theory"
Updated: Jul 2
By: Donald V. Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on June 27, 2021
There has been a lot in the news lately about what white far-right conservatives in America have called a "critical race theory." They have railed against all efforts by today's public schools, historians, and journalists to present the naked truth about the atrocities, violence, and subjugation white Americans have committed against African-Americans, Native-Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian-Americans since the 1600s. Much of this history is highlighted in my November 17, 2019 article titled, "Why America Can't Rid Itself of Its Racism Problem."
White far-right conservatives have reduced the documented history of white America's systemic violence and sustained racial discrimination against these ethnic minority groups to a "theory," which they say must be rejected. If these documented injustices are recognized, accepted as true, and accurately reported in today's textbooks and included in current school and university curricula, these conservatives fear that white students: (a) might feel "guilty" about the misconduct of many of their "hero" ancestors who committed these barbaric acts, and (b) might be tempted to abandon the present-day vestiges of hundreds of years of systemic racial discrimination and violence inflicted upon America's racial minority groups by joining today's social justice movement.
A few examples of the far-right's rejection of documented history includes the following:
1. Far-right conservatives reject the notion that white settlers from Europe ever mistreated Native-Americans. To the contrary, they insist that these settlers tried to peacefully co-exist with the "merciless Indian Savages" (as they are described in the Declaration of Independence). They claim that white settlers "discovered" America, even though it was occupied for a thousand years by 559 sovereign Indian Nations that inhabited defined territories from coast-to-coast. When these Native-American tribes resisted the forceful taking of their territorial lands to accommodate white settlers and their commercial enterprises, the white "Founding Fathers" and their offspring labeled them "Savages" and committed unabated acts of genocide against an estimated 60 million Native-Americans over a 400-year period that included thousands of massacres, starvation along the "Trail of Tears" and on designated "Indian reservations," and their widespread exposure to untreated diseases of European origin. Until the 21st century, American history books refused to present any information regarding the true nature and scope of the genocide, subjugation, and racial discrimination experienced by Native-Americans.
2. While far-right conservatives acknowledge that the enslavement of Africans and Native Americans occurred for hundreds of years in America, they paint an entirely different and benign picture of slavery. Theirs is Margaret Mitchell's romanticized view of slavery, as depicted in her 1936 novel, "Gone With the Wind." Mitchell believed that African slaves were happy and singing as they enjoyed free housing, food, clothing, and the full employment provided by their slave masters on Southern plantations. Today's right-wingers reject all claims that African slaves were abused by their white slave masters. These conservatives still believe that slavery is ordained by God in the Bible. They take pride in the fact that a form of pre-1865 slavery has been preserved in the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and is routinely administered today by prison officials as punishment for state and federal crimes.
3. Far-right conservatives acknowledge that white European peasants were openly recruited by the federal government to come to America for 124 years, from 1862 to 1986, as part of the government's Homestead Act of 1862. Three million of these recruited white immigrants were awarded 160 acres of free land located between the Mississippi River and the California and Alaskan coasts. In all, these white peasants were given 270 million acres of free land that was taken by force, for the most part, from Native America tribes. This documented history of land confiscation from Native American tribes and the subsequent giveaway to whites is now being reduced to a "theory" by white right-wing conservatives. This whitewashing of history is analogous to what is occurring with regard to the January 6, 2021 violent Insurrection at the National Capitol. Today's white far-right conservatives have likened the Insurrection to a "normal tourist visit" of the Capitol.
4. Far-right conservatives pretend that "Black Wall Street" in Tulsa, Oklahoma never existed. In fact, historians and journalists of their ilk suppressed the May 1921 massacre of 300 black Tulsa residents during the destruction of "Black Wall Street" by an angry white mob. No member of this mob was ever prosecuted for murder or the criminal destruction of property. Today's white conservatives have also downplayed the significance of "Black Wall Street" and the psychological and financial impact of its destruction on black America for the next one hundred years.
5. Far-right conservatives still attempt to justify the secret, federal and state government-sponsored, 40-year, inhumane medical experiments on 600 poor black Macon County, Alabama men from 1932 to 1972 during the now infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which ended only after it was exposed in the national media. Some of today's conservatives in the South still contend that the Study's unlawful medical experiments on unsuspecting human beings were necessary to understand the effects of untreated syphilis in the human population and actually advanced modern medicine.
6. Far-right conservatives claim that all-white appellate courts in Alabama, which has a 26.8% black population, are the product of smart political choices by the state's electorate and not racial discrimination embedded in the state's at-large voting scheme for appellate judges. They say the state's black population is happy and satisfied with a political structure that completely shuts out black membership on the Alabama Supreme Court, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, in addition to all of Alabama's state-wide Constitutional offices.
7. Far-right conservatives claim that blacks have enjoyed the right to vote in America since the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified in 1870 and they have freely participated in the political system since that time. These conservatives also claim that new voting laws are needed to promote election security in the wake of Donald Trump's sound defeat in the 2020 presidential election. They reject the notion that these new laws, which are sweeping the nation in states where Republicans control the legislatures, are strikingly similar in purpose and effect to the old 20th century voter suppression laws in southern states that imposed poll taxes on black voters and subjected them to literacy tests as preconditions for voter registration.
8. Far-right conservatives have portrayed today's non-violent "Black Lives Matter" movement in the same negative light that former FBI director and diehard racist Herbert Hoover, his federal law enforcement agency, and collaborating segregationist state and local governments did in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s as they attempted to discredit and destroy a host of black social justice activists and non-violent civil rights organizations. Some of the more well-known civil rights leaders and organizations that were targeted by Hoover's racist COINTELPRO counterintelligence campaign included: (a) A. Philip Randolph and the New York-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; (b) Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference; (c) Mrs. Johnnie Carr and her Montgomery Improvement Association: (d) Julian Bond and John Lewis and their Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee; and (e) James Forman and his Congress on Racial Equality. In the view of many of today's far-right conservatives, the only good "Negroes" are dead ones and modern-day "Uncle Toms" like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who is viewed by blacks and whites as the "gold standard" for "Uncle Tomism" in the U.S.
This list of suppressed or whitewashed history is endless. The examples cited in this article illustrate the lengths far-right white conservatives will go to avoid and/or suppress the truth about systemic and historical racism in America. Unfortunately for these conservatives, their children's and grandchildren's generations are learning the cold, hard truth about systemic white racism through their independent research, self-taught online instruction, and the "critical race theory" that is emerging in textbooks and school curriculum. What is more, these children and grandchildren may be rightfully ashamed of the atrocities and sustained acts of violence committed by their ancestors for hundreds of years against people of color under the mantra of "making America great," but the knowledge they have gained from "critical race theory" will likely make them more enlightened adults in their daily interaction with America's various ethnic groups.
In reality, the far right-wing white conservative pushback against the teaching of "critical race theory" is simply a renaissance of old-school white racism. Like uncomfortable stomach gas and diarrhea, this, too, shall pass.
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