Shane is a freelance writer, independent researcher, comedian and sarcastic jackass. He's worked in media and entertainment for 20+ years.
Our MAIN story tonight concerns Critical Race Theory. Specifically: What it is, What it is not, where the idea started, where it’s actually being taught, and whether or not society has any use for it.
So...what IS it?
Critical Race Theory (CRT) originated way back in the 1960’s and 70’s in the writings of a handful of legal scholars. They were taking a good hard look at various American institutions to figure out if racial biases were baked into the legal framework of some of our laws and policies. Specifically, they were trying to understand why a lot of the social progress the Civil Right’s movement of the 1960’s had managed to make suddenly seemed to be losing steam and sputtering out.
If judges were making rulings in courtrooms that don’t appear to be Constitutional – but do appear to have some racial prejudices behind them – it would suggest that racism is baked into parts of our legal system. Yes? And if it’s there, where else might it be?
Is it baked into policing practices and policies? Ronald Reagan's War on Drugs in the 1980’s disproportionately locked up black people. And if convicted of a crime, people of color – but particularly African Americans – were generally imprisoned more often and for longer periods of time than white people who commit the exact same crime. By 1989, black drug offenders were receiving an average prison sentence 49% longer than white offenders for identical drug offenses.
Comedian John Mulaney nailed this one on the nose when he did a stand-up bit about marijuana being legalized:
“All right, don’t “whoo” if you’re white. It’s always been legal for us. Come on, sir. We don’t go to jail for marijuana, you silly billy."
The banking system? Some research into that found that people of color were more likely to get denied loans than their white counterparts even if their credit and financial situations were identical. In fact, it happens twice as often.
The housing industry? They discovered that home appraisals could often come back as much as 70% lower for a house with a black homeowner than an identical one with a white homeowner. Remember that last one because we’re gonna come back to it.
So…What is it NOT?
It’s definitely NOT a ”reverse racist” ideology that teaches white kids to feel bad about being white! That happy pile of horses*** was the best guess some white trash hillbilly in South Carolina came up with at a PTA meeting when he couldn’t understand why his 4th-grade son wasn’t allowed to wear a Confederate flag t-shirt that said “F*** N-----s!” on it to school.
And this is where the whole recent debate about CRT has gone off the rails. Like we mentioned, CRT has been around for 60 years. But did anyone happen to notice that none of you ever heard a word about it before last summer?!? Anyone care to take a stab at who and what kicked off the sudden societal feeding frenzy on the most anger-inducing buzz-word-of-the-day topic nobody who’s mad about can actually define? I’ll give you a tiny hint: it was Donald Trump.
But let’s back up a hair and get some context. You first have to know about something called “The 1619 Project.” This was a long-form journalism project written by a handful of writers for the NY Times Magazine, August 2019 edition. It was written to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first African slaves’ arrival in America, and the magazine wanted to do an in-depth report on all the ramifications that unfortunate black eye in our national history had on us all. Specifically, it addressed the legacy and lingering effects of slavery in the US.
This caused Trump to blow a gasket.
Now, if you didn’t ever hear the SiriusXM interview with Salena Zito where Trump reveals just how little he knows about American history, you should give it a listen. It’s eye opening. The Donald starts off by praising Andrew Jackson, remarking:
"..he was really angry that... he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War."
To be very clear, Andrew Jackson was never angry about anything related to the Civil War...because he died 16 years before it started. But Trump, never one to let a little thing like "facts" get in the way of a good opinion, continued musing:
"People don't realize, you know, the Civil War...why? People don't ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”
When the president of the United States tells the entire nation he doesn't understand what the Civil War was over and why they couldn’t just "work that one out,” it’s not hard to figure out why someone with his onion-thin skin would get all hot and bothered to discover the vast majority of us had known for about 150 years what we were all getting to watch him learn about in real-time.
So in response to this 1619 project, Trump formed an advisory committee called the “1776 Commission” to support what he called “Patriotic Education.” This 18-member “historical commission” – which included no actual historians – was tasked with coming up with new curriculum for grade school students that just focused on all the stuff Americans should feel proud about instead of spending time learning about the bits of our history that were embarrassing.
The Civil War was no longer about “slavery.” It was now all about “economic disagreements” and “State’s rights.” The White Man no longer “stole” any land from Native Americans. We – through our Christian generosity – “shared” it with them. All those Chinese forced to build America’s railroads? Forget about it. The Japanese internment camps during WW2? We have no idea what you’re talking about. In fact, “Japanese” kinda sounds like a totally made up word you just invented!
It was a glorious piece of political propaganda trash where the White Man came off sounding like the savior of everything and wasn’t guilty of anything. You know, kinda like Trump thinks of himself all the time about everything.
Historians lambasted the report, finding it riddled with “errors, misinformation, falsehoods, and partisan politics.” The 1776 Commission report was officially released on Jan 18, two days before Trump left office. And the program was immediately terminated as soon as Biden got in because Biden’s senile, not Caligula.
But Trump’s promotion and sideshow carnival barking about this new whitewashed curriculum he’d “invented” struck a chord with all the people who’d show up to his deranged rallies dressed up like Uncle Sam and Down Syndrome had a baby, waving homemade poster-board-and-crayon signs with genius, unironic slogans like “RESPECT ARE COUNTRY. LERN ENGLISH!!!”
Trump kept using the term “Critical Race Theory” at his rallies, and all his supporters started yelling it too, even though Trump’s (and their) backwards-brained working definition of CRT was “not being allowed to delete 35% of our history books because those stories make us sad.”
And it’s not hard to fathom why so many people would get on board so readily - if you’ve ever watched a Trump rally, you understand that the three black people occasionally standing directly behind Trump’s podium are the only three black people in the entire arena - conveniently plucked out of the crowd by someone on his PR team who understands optics, and given a good seat in full view of the camera to show “diversity.” The only place on earth that has a higher white people-to-black people ratio is a Klan rally or a Darius Rucker concert.
So...Where IS CRT being taught?
Aside from failing to comprehend what CRT meant in the first place, where Trump further screwed up the national discussion was constantly yammering incoherently about his pet 1776 Commission…which was being planned for K-12. CRT, on the other hand, is only taught at law school. It’s not grade school material. It’s not even undergrad course study. If you want to be taught CRT from an educator in American society, you’ve got to:
1) Graduate high school.
2) Get into college and graduate that as well.
3) Get high enough grades in college to pass the LSAT and get accepted into one of the 200 law schools in the country that actually teach it.
Did you catch that last one? As reported by the uber-right wing New York Post, there’s an actual website created by Cornell Law School professor, William Jacboson, that tracks every school in the country where CRT is taught, and it’s only 200 of them. According to the US Dept of Education, there are just under 4,000 colleges and universities in America, but only 200 of those teach CRT. That’s less than 5%.
CRT is not taught in grade schools!!! It’s not even taught at 95% of Universities, and the only way you’d learn about it there was if you were trying to get a freaking law degree!!!
Which brings us back to our earlier example about home appraisals. Keep in mind, this story isn’t from 1968, it’s from May…of this year:
Carlette Duffy – an Indianapolis resident in an historic Black neighborhood required a home appraisal to get refinanced. She knew how hot the Indy housing market was, had done some basic research on Zillow, and guessed her home value to be around $190k based on comps. The appraisal came back $125k. A couple months later she tried again, and this time it came back $110k. So she went to a different lender to try a third time, but this time she left her race and gender off the application, and got her friend’s [white] husband to come over and pretend to be the homeowner. They swapped out the family pictures on the wall, and she removed any decorations around the house that might suggest black culture. The third appraisal came back more than double the first: $259k.
An attorney who might by considering a civil suit on a matter like that would be very keen to know if that appraisal situation was an anomaly….or something systemic. A 2018 study published by the Brookings Institute found that black homeowners’ cumulative losses to undervaluation add up to $156 billion dollars!
Those finding would seem to indicate some racial bias baked into the housing/financing industry. Critical Race Theory is the legal framework that helps lawyers, judges, and policy-makers understand why that is and how to address it.
Telling 9-year olds to feel bad about being white isn’t any part of it. Unless your 9-year old is writing duplex appraisals for some reason, or filing complaints against banks who are intentionally undervaluing them – CRT is never going to come up in their life.
In fact, it might be the exact opposite.
Because there are six Basic Pillars CRT proposes, and the very first one is that race is a social construct rather than a biological one. Yes, people come in all different colors with different hair textures and different facial structures, but we’re all the same underneath the skin. If you wanted to use dogs as an analogy, you could have a Yellow Lab, a Brown Lab, and a Chocolate Lab and you wouldn’t consider them “different races of Labs,” right? They’re just Labs who happen to be different colors. You wouldn’t treat them any differently, and you sure as hell wouldn’t force the Chocolate one to drink out of a separate toilet.
I mean, most of the major religions teach something to this effect. “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight…” We all learned that back in Sunday School. Nobody is born racist. That’s a function of nurture, not nature. Racism is something you pick up over time because people in more powerful positions than you drill it into your head through endless repetition. Children – without any adult influences – kinda know how to treat each other equally before you show up and start downloading your whacked-out ideologies on their pristine little hard drive minds.
And maybe this is what the anti-CRT folks are really bothered about. The whole premise behind racism is that some races are inferior. So the most threatening thing you can do to someone who imagines they belong to a superior race is telling their kids everybody is created equal and “race” isn’t even a real thing. It doesn’t matter to them that you’re not actually doing it, it just matters that they think you are.
But the most important thing to understand about the CRT issue is that the easiest way to get an anti-CRT squawk box to shut the hell up when they’re verbal-diarrhea-ing about how they don’t want it being taught to their kids is 3 simple words:
“What is CRT?”
Trust me. They won’t know how to respond.
Thank you, that’s our show.
See you next week.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Shane Almgren