This was originally published for PoliticusUSA.
Back in September, two months before losing the election to Joe Biden, when Donald Trump was repeating the fallacy either he win the election or it’s “rigged,” Trump announced the formation of the “1776 Commission,” a retaliation against The New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning “1619 Project,” dedicated to chronicling the country’s history beginning the year Europeans shipped the first enslaved Africans to American shores.
In April, Senate Minority Leader Mitch “The Grim Reaper” McConnell led 39 Senate republicans in demanding Education Secretary Miguel Cardona retract a “divisive” education proposal to emphasize history and civics lessons about slavery and Black Americans’ contributions to the country as well as remove the 1619 Project from federal grant programs.
At this very moment, republican-led state legislatures are trying to make sure American schools teach how “great” America is by glossing over the history of slavery, critical race theory, colonialism that led to the Indigenous American holocaust, the Civil Rights Movement, and anything else deemed “controversial,” like systemic racism.
Earlier this month, Arizona republicans voted to impose a $5,000 fine on teachers and anyone who “knowingly aids another person” in teaching “controversial” topics.
This week, Florida joined the list.
Ahead of an hours-long public comment period on Thursday, Fla. republican Gov. Ron DeSantis claimed critical race theory would teach children “the country is rotten and that our institutions are illegitimate.”
Republicans have been screaming this jingoistic doublespeak since Trump proclaimed in a speech at the National Archives:
“[T]he crusade against American history is toxic propaganda [that] will destroy our country…Our mission is to defend the legacy of America’s founding, the virtue of America’s heroes, and the nobility of the American character…We want our sons and daughters to know that they are the citizens of the most exceptional nation in the history of the world.”
Why are republicans so afraid of critical race theory?
Why are they getting their supporters all ginned up about schools teaching students the truth about slavery and four centuries of institutionalized racism?
If we truly “aren’t a racist country,” what’s the problem?
The problem is, according to the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University director Ibram X. Kendi, the right is panicking over growing racial justice movements after last year’s police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and coalescing in an attempt to reverse the country’s racial awakening.
In an interview with The Guardian, Kendi explained:
“I do think there’s a concerted backlash from people who recognize that this time last year a growing number of Americans were either speaking out against racism or growing an awareness of the problem of racism. That growing awareness has put a spotlight on certain policies and certain ideas and even certain people who have been facilitating systemic racism and so those very people are like, ‘How do we turn off the spotlight? How do we make the problem the people identifying us and our racism as the actual problem as opposed to racism itself?’”
As charter-school darling Betsy DeVos exploited her position heading the Education Department to weaken public education, Trump’s propaganda campaign was another weapon against educators, predominantly Democrats, who are, according to republicans, “forcing Marxist critical race theory into our children’s schools.”
Although Donald Trump, thankfully, did not win another term, the party that to him has sold whatever it had left of its soul after 40 years of decline is ensuring future Americans are even more ignorant of its racist colonialist past.
If we don’t acknowledge our history we are condemned to repeat it, as George Santayana said.
The history the republican party wants to condemn us to repeat is the white ethno-state it took a civil war to break.
Republicans are more upset with protests against racism than actual racism.
That says it all about the former “party of Lincoln.”