CRT opponents fear the truth, because the truth is indeed “dangerous”

Mississippi evidently aims to join the wave of red state legislatures prohibiting the teaching of “critical race theory” in public schools of any kind, even though legislative sponsors cannot either define CRT, or identify any educational program actually teaching it. (See https://mississippitoday.org/2022/01/21/every-black-mississippi-senator-walked-out-as-white-colleagues-voted-to-ban-critical-race-theory/.) No matter: the political rightwing wants to crow about suppressing discussions of race, for at least two reasons, I think.

First, I can’t help but believe that belligerent authoritarians (sadly, a rising proportion of Republicans, displacing traditional consensus-oriented conservatives) want to raise a middle finger to the racial justice protesters of the George Floyd rebellion who filled the streets in cities and towns across the country in the summer of 2020. It’s a stern message to the discontented troublemakers: Take that you radical-socialist-unpatriotic-antifa-loving-rioters! How dare you challenge the fairness and legitimacy of the system we faithfully serve, the rewards and privileges of which we (and our generous funders) so enjoy raking in? To hell with your divisive complaints! Love it or leave it, baby.

Second and more substantively, CRT reveals painful truths about U.S. history, and the truth can indeed be dangerously disturbing to the status quo of power and privilege. The truth is that the U.S. owes its origins as a rich and powerful nation to a regime of violent settler-colonialism. Its wealth accumulation – critical to its rise to eventual (if now threatened) global dominance – was grounded squarely in (1) the near-extermination of the North American native peoples and the expropriation of native lands; and (2) the brutally exploited slave labor of millions of forcibly imported Africans and their descendants.

Recognizing this truth – teaching it to children, OMG! – may indeed create anxiety and distress with those who learn it. Educated and concerned citizens may well feel obligated to act to right the wrongs of U.S. history – not to bear “blame” or feel shame, but to take responsibility as citizens who care about building a truly just and fair society. Responsible citizens educated in the truth are all too likely to challenge the current structures of injustice, to demand an end to racism and efforts to legitimize white supremacy, to sexism and patriarchy, to the exploitation of workers, to xenophobia, to the expropriation of religion for the purpose of hate and bigotry, to obscene levels of economic inequality, to a culture of fear-stoked violence of neighbor against neighbor, to corporate socialism, and so much more of the structures and trappings of injustice. Educated and responsible citizens are likely to demand justice, and to replace the elites who stand in the way of establishing a genuinely just political-economic-social order.

Indeed, teaching the truth is dangerous, most of all for the political and economic elites benefiting most from things as they are. Of course, it must, therefore, be suppressed.

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