Dan Siegel Original Race

Critical Race Theory Is Dangerous. That’s Why It Should Be Mandatory in American Schools.

The right-wing leadership is correct that critical race theory could change our country permanently—just not in the way they claim.
The 1963 March on Washington. [Screen shot / YouTube]

By Dan Siegel / Original to ScheerPost

Glenn Youngkin, the new governor of Virginia, announced during his first day in office this month that he is banning discussion of critical race theory in his state. Many expect him to forbid discussion of the impact of viruses in causing the coronavirus next.

Rather than running away from it, the Democratic Party leadership must embrace critical race theory as the basis for educating our young people – and many of their parents – to overcome the divisions that are tearing this country apart and paving the way for a right-wing takeover. America’s culture warriors subscribe to the idea that ignorance is bliss, that is until Covid kills you or a member of your family. Their efforts to suppress history plays a similar role, enforcing ignorance, maintaining the status quo, and suppressing efforts to create a just society.

The critical race hobgoblin demands that our children remain uneducated and ignorant to keep them from feeling guilty about the ingrained nature of racism in America. Or the genocide committed by our brave forefathers against the Indigenous people who lived here before Columbus arrived. Or sexism. Or the destruction of the planet. 

Perhaps guilt is not really the worry. Knowledge is power, and the more people learn the more likely they may be to fight for the kind of change that will benefit the majority and restrict the wealth and power of America’s elite. Some of the most positive signs in American society flow from the awareness more common in the younger generation than the older. Crazy ideas like people of all races and ethnicities are actually people with more in common than not and God is unlikely to smite LGBTQ, transgender, or gender non-conforming people and those who exercise reproductive choices. 

Critical race theory teaches that the wealth and power of the United States today flows from the enslavement of Africans and the destruction of the Indigenous communities who lived in what became the United States. Historians conclude that before Columbus arrived in 1492, the Indigenous population of North America was between four and 18 million people. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz estimates that the population of the entire western hemisphere was 100 million people at the end of the 15th century, including 15 million in North America. Most were farmers who lived in towns, not the savages of racist Hollywood movies. They were healthy and had enough to eat. Today that population is estimated between 2.5 to 6 million, many living in poverty on reservations and in urban ghettos. Murder, disease, and forced assimilation of the Indigenous people are the result of colonization and the imposition of Western civilization. The other term applicable to this history is genocide.

Settlers and colonialists transformed the former Indigenous lands into slave plantations throughout the Confederacy, most notably in the cotton-producing states of the Mississippi River Valley. About 600,000 Africans were stolen from their homelands and brought to what became the United States. By the start of the Civil War there were four million enslaved people in the U.S., about one eighth of the total population.

The Cotton Kingdom was the engine that powered the U.S. economy from the Revolutionary War to the late 19th century and the Industrial Revolution. America’s economic success was based on slave labor, and slaves were the developing nation’s most valuable assets. The wealth created on the cotton plantations enriched every aspect of the U.S. economy, from banking to transportation to the nascent manufacturing industry. 

Slave labor created the wealth that enabled America to become the rising economic and military power it had become by the early 20th century and remains today. The wealth that allowed the U.S. to emerge successfully from the First and Second World Wars was the product of slave labor. The standard of living enjoyed by every American who does not live in poverty today includes the ongoing benefits of 250 years of slavery.

The lessons of history should not be reduced to issues of personal guilt. Relatively few of today’s Americans are descendants of slavers or the traitors who fought for the South during the Civil War. But all Americans have a stake in this country’s future history. America will be made great – at last – only if its people understand its history and begin to take the steps necessary to overcome the violence of the past to create a stable democracy that reflects the rights and interests of the majority.

This country’s history informs the current debate about voting rights and restrictions. America’s political institutions are deformed by the exclusion of tens of millions of people from the opportunity to participate in the creation of policy and the selection of leaders through the vote. Struggles over the right to vote have been a dominant feature of American politics since before the Civil War.

The great abolitionist Frederick Douglass fought against the dominant forces in white America, including the majority in the North who opposed secession and slavery, in that order, but opposed voting rights for freed Blacks and those who would be freed after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Douglass insisted that African Americans could never be free if they were excluded from political power. In 1866 he opposed the Fourteenth Amendment because it did not provide for Black suffrage. He said, “I looked upon suffrage for the Negro as the only measure which would prevent him from being thrust back into slavery.” Douglass celebrated when the Fifteenth Amendment was passed three years later.

While today the Republican Party is leading the assault on Black suffrage, the Democrats played that role from before the Civil War up until the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. The Democrats reviled President Lincoln as “Abraham Africanus” and warned the country that the end of slavery would empower Black rapists. Conservative Democratic politicians dominated the South and opposed civil rights legislation until Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon embraced the racist “Southern Strategy” in response to the gains of the civil rights movement to move the South into the Republican Party in the 1960s.

Much of the violence in the South during Reconstruction was directed against the Black vote. More Blacks were elected to political office in the first years after the Civil War than at any time up to very recent years. (When Raphael Warnock was elected from Georgia last year, he became the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate from a southern state since Reconstruction.) White supremacists carried out horrific massacres of Blacks attempting to gain and hold political power in Memphis and New Orleans in 1866. 

When Lincoln was assassinated, his pro-slavery successor Democrat Andrew Johnson did everything he could to reverse Reconstruction and facilitate racist violence against the Black communities of the former slave states. General Ulysses Grant, who had successfully lobbied Lincoln to embrace Black troops in the Union Army, sent troops to the South to suppress racist violence and protect Black communities. Taking office in 1869, President Grant mobilized federal military power against the Ku Klux Klan and defended Blacks’ right to vote. But by the time Grant left office eight years later, the nation had lost its interest in promoting Black political power.

By the late 1870s the South was firmly back in the hands of violent white supremacists who retained their power with little substantial opposition until the rise of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. The KKK, other violent white organizations, and the Democratic Party crushed efforts at Black empowerment. In 1896, the Supreme Court issued its Plessy v. Ferguson decision, upholding segregation in public accommodations. Plessy remained the law of the land until Martin Luther King, Jr.  challenged segregated public transportation with the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955.

In communities such as Wilmington, North Carolina, African Americans built bastions of economic and political power, creating successful businesses of every kind and electing a wide range of officials including the only Black member of Congress. But in 1898 state Democratic leaders, militia commanders, and white supremacist gangs such as the Red Shirts organized a coup in Wilmington to force Black elected officials from office, terrorize voters, and burn Black businesses, including the town newspaper. They murdered over 60 people and destroyed what had been a thriving community. Racist mobs continued to attack successful Black communities into the 20th century, including in the infamous 1921 Tulsa massacre.

White supremacists in Georgia and other southern states studied the Wilmington model and adopted it to disenfranchise Black voters and terrorize their communities. Poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses were developed to supplement violence as tools for suppressing Black political power. The consistency of these approaches and the thorough commitment to their implementation foreshadowed today’s efforts in state legislatures to adopt measures to suppress the Black vote.

The civil rights movement of the 1960s, with its focus on registering African American voters, finally began to successfully confront white supremacy. The movement’s veterans, including John Lewis, successfully sought political office. Lewis became a legendary member of Congress, and others successfully ran to become the mayors of Atlanta and other southern cities. The election of Barack Obama as President in 2008 reflects the success of the civil rights movement. But Trump’s election in 2016 and the rise of the new right demonstrates the persistent power of the post-Civil War divide.

The battle for political democracy remains front page news. The Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder all but obliterated the protections created by the 1965 Voting Rights Act and paved the way for the current avalanche of voter suppression measures being passed in state legislatures. The racist reaction to Obama’s presidency helped empower the movement that elected Trump and inspired the “we shall not be replaced” marchers in Charlottesville in 2017. The Republican stranglehold in the Senate, with a near majority elected from states with just one-fourth of the country’s population, stymies efforts to pass even minor Democratic reforms.

The right-wing leadership is correct. Critical race theory is dangerous, even seditious. By shining light on this country’s history and explaining how we came to be where we are today, critical race theory can help people understand the inequalities and inequities that exist today and points the way to a legitimately democratic future.

20 comments

  1. Who does this? K12 is abysmal, and this country is broken because of the colonizing of kids and parents by the commercial interests, the high net worth folks now drumming their social impact investment drums.

    School will be on line, soon, and alas, here, read up:

    Stakeholder capitalism or social entrepreneurship has been cultivated in Brazil by the Aspen Institute, The Inter-American Development Bank, The International Finance Corporation, the Catholic Church through the First fund, and Oikocredit (World Council of Churches) going back at least to 2003. Brazil is one of thirty-three member nations of Sir Ronald Cohen’s Global Steering Group for Impact Investment, which was launched in 2017.

    Aspen Institute, with assistance from the University of St. Gallen in São Paulo, documented impact investing opportunities in Brazil in 2014, targeting BOP (base of pyramid) favela residents. The report identifies investment potential in the areas of education and healthcare access and banking since Brazil is one of the fifteen countries with the greatest income inequality. Favelas would be seen by venture philanthropists and social entrepreneurs as significant and potentially profitable sources of data if they can be “properly developed” with “evidence-based solutions.” This game of speculation can only proceed once rules are created, consensus is established, players are recruited, and the gameboard is set up. The human capital finance game runs on metrics.

    In the coming years, global financiers, will attempt to meld dynamic pricing and mobile payments with biometric digital identity, Internet of Body sensors, and blockchain smart contracts and then weave it all into an expansive spatial web meant to control our social and economic relations in both the material world and, through digital assets, rights and privileges, in the Metaverse, as well. Click here to listen to an interview I did with Bonnie Faulkner of Guns and Butter that goes into more detail about how impact investing connects to digital twins, and mixed reality.

    Surely it is twisted to view communities as resource deposits of untapped data, but that is the logic of end-stage capitalism. The infrastructure needed to scale human capital finance profit are ICT (Individual Communication Technology) devices including phones, tablets, and inexpensive computers like chrome books; wearable technologies and biosensors; and 5-6G used in combination with data-dashboards that verify impact data against predictions and success metrics laid out in the terms of the deals. These are all things one finds in recreation centers in the United States now, and given inroads made by the Aspen Institute, Stanford, Harvard and the like, they will very likely become standard issue in the favelas, too. Not because any of it is good for children, but because the children’s data has value, and their compliance has value.

    https://wrenchinthegears.com/2022/01/20/the-internet-of-bodies-and-human-capital-futures-bets-in-brazil/

  2. The nation has foused on the plight of the Black community, either in a positive or negative form, especially so lately, But where is the public focus on the Indigenous population of this country? They stand as a poor cousin in comparison. The same might be said of the Latinos, particuarly Mexicans whose land we usurped in the 1840’s. Then there is the Orientals, of whom initially built the railroads that now span and unite our coasts east and west and the lands in between. I neglect to mention the Scandinavians, Germans (who suffered discrimination in the Mid-west in the 19th century), Italians, Irish, Jews , Gypsies, Muslims and any other group that did not fit in with the status quo. All have thrown their cultures into our nation and made it richer. However, in our close to 250 years of being a nation, we are still too young to have developed a deep and lasting culture. Let’s hope we can.

  3. The photograph accompanying this article says it all – the identical signs could be used today. There are millions of white Americans whose response to BLM has been “all lives matter”; betraying a cringe inducing ignorance about their own history and relative privilege. Howard Zinn’s classic work “A People’s History Of The United States” should be required reading in middle or high school. Another invaluable book is Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” – which exhaustively delves into the prison industrial complex and the racist legacy of the 14th Amendments slavery loophole that Joe Biden and the Clinton administration turbo charged with the disasterous Omnibus Crime Bill. But to state -“The election of Barack Obama as president in 2008 reflects the success of the civil rights movement.” is woefully incorrect. Obama’s presidency amounted to an aggressively cynical betrayal of all the progressive values that he espoused. Millions of people – many of colour – lost there homes in the economic crash and we’re offered no compensation. Obama’s response was to reward the criminal malfeasance of the big banks and Wall Street who caused the economic meltdown. The ACA was a gift to insurance companies. His presidency’s embrace of corporatism and the neoliberal assault on the working class (especially black Americans, who always fare the worst in bad times) is what gave us Donald Trump.

    1. I would humbly suggest that “All lives matter” has been the basis for every ethical tradition for eons – that when one puts a limiting descriptive in front of “lives matter”, anything short of “all” is bound to sow resentment and division which is precisely what we don’t need any more of ….

  4. CRT is not dangerous. it is racist and fascist. it opposes everything that a Marxian or Leninist or any civilized person regards as important. the actual fascists in USA are the “progressives”; everything they want is what the nazis preached—the radicals in civilized nations most align with a USA conservative…this kind of thinking is expected when people are stupid and an empire is on the verge of collapse

  5. Yes, Democrats have been exploiting race to keep attention off of class. 26 years into the Democrats’ war on the poor, we’re middle class vs. poor, workers vs. those left jobless.

  6. In a corrupted system in which, the only real thing our education system teaches is conformity and compliance, I take articles like this with more then a little skepticism. What our education system needs is an equal playing field for all in which each student can achieve and succeed based on their efforts. It’s not that complicated.

    Nothing will change in our schools until the system itself is changed. To think otherwise is at this point is simple minded ignorance. You put garbage in and you get garbage out.

  7. Here’s an idea – how about starting a critical race theory being critical of the concept of “race” that there are no such things as separate “races” – that we are all members of one “race” – the human race. I think it would be interesting to see who would be opposed to that idea,

    1. Agreed SH. For as long as we use descriptions such as “us and them” nothing of significance will change.

  8. This article is typical of the social engineering force-fed by the radical left.

    Where I live, most people mind their own business. It’s a nice mix of both liberals and conservatives without anyone trying to shove their ideology down the others throat. In other words there are no militant factions of either stripe to upset our otherwise peaceful coexistence.

    My dad was a corporate executive back in America’s heydays after the war, which is to say I grew up in a fairly conservative household. I have also lived in mill towns and worked on construction sites where the politics went hard right, so I am very familiar with the mind set of conservative thinking and the ideology they support.

    I comment on Scheerpost to try to better understand leftist ideology and thinking. Books by Haidt, Hoffer, Hedges, and others answer a lot of the questions but nothing beats getting it from the horses mouth. Scheerpost is probably the best take-no-prisoners liberal site on the web. Not Woke in the true sense, but hardcore in their beliefs. Hedges is the main attraction, with his militant agenda-driven views, followed by a really great cast of writers. And while I hold the opinion that this site is highly divisive in an already polarized society, I get the war mentality at a time when the system is heading down the toilet.

    My main concern is you’re gona get yourselves a civil war out of this when hard times hit with full force. Worse, if the power structure in America feel threatened enough by such an event they may try diverting attention away from civil strife by starting a bigger war somewhere else.

    Hedges has already explained what to expect when SHTF and has even given it a timeline. I agree with him 100%, but I don’t share his all of his liberal views because much of it is unrealistic and supported by nothing more than blind faith. It only sells to the True Believers who Feel the same way.

    If I can leave you with one obvious observation it is this. Liberals, especially the SJW types, so firmly believe in their ideology that they cannot understand why everyone can’t think this way. They arrogantly believe that the knuckle draggers just need some better education to make them see the light, and double and triple down on this belief when election results show a clear divide, let alone someone like Trump actually winning. Middle of the road conservatives like me don’t feel the same way liberals do on many issues, and “feel” is a key word here. Trying to change the world where everyone thinks the same, share the same values and have the same emotional attachment to a particular ideology is a fools errand. And only in a world where everyone thinks the same will get you your Nirvana. The realistic odds of that are pretty much Zero. 😉

    1. Hi Chris,

      I’m wondering if you could help me and perhaps others, understand how to communicate with a segment of the population which appear to be completely phobic to factual reality. Take the idea that Trump won the election. People like me, simply can not understand how many people, despite the lack of factual information to support their beliefs, believe non the less that Trump won? How do you communicate with that?

      1. Tough question because not everyone thinks alike. And those that do think alike can’t be reached. In his talks back in the 80’s, Yuri Bezmenov called the condition “ideological subversion”. These days it’s termed “mass formation psychosis”. Google up images of a Hitler rally or a massive crowd waving Mao’s little red book and ask yourself what your odds would be to convince these people they are wrong in their beliefs. And does it really matter if Trump won or not, given that all of these political figures are just front men and women for the powers that be? Keep in mind what Carlin said about the “Big Club”. This is what Scheerpost is up against and they know it! 😉

    2. Please be very careful when using terms like “liberal” and “leftist.” I find that I can’t hold a conversation with someone who uses “socialist” as a slur and doesn’t have a clue what it means to a self-described socialist like myself (it isn’t the state controling the means of production, but that workers do!) Divisive mischaracterization happens across the political spectrum, granted.
      I need to be more careful myself about using “liberal” as a slur. I don’t want to throw the baby (individual rights) out with the bathwater of corporate dem psyop garbage that, for example, has elevated trans rights above feminist gains, as well as to justify transhumanism. This is no joke. We need all hands on board to counter the Great Reset, so let’s not alienate potential comrades (heh, I refuse to use the PMC buzzword “ally”) with terms that have been distorted to do exactly that.

      1. There are only so many words in the English language. I’d use the word “progressive” but I see it as more “regressive” in the way left-leaning people think these days.

        As for socialism, it’s an interesting but nonetheless unsustainable concept because it will eventually be co-opted by the Monsters, same as in any other system. And while you and I may well agree on universal health care we may disagree on such things as universal basic income, so you’ll never get a real consensus to make it work the way you envision. All you really get is a slight majority dictating and enforcing their beliefs on everyone else. Sound familiar? The bigger threat here is handing more and more power to a political structure that can’t be trusted.

        My upbringing taught me not to look at the world through rose-colored glasses and my reading of history tells me the species is less than stable. Anyone who disagrees with that statement need only look at The History of the Twentieth Century to prove my point. The best that we can hope for are brief periods of calm before the storm. After that it’s pick your poison.

        Personally, I don’t believe in any ism. Capitalism kept the monsters busy for a while before they co-opted the system. Socialism kept people happy for a while before the radical extremists co-opted the system and gave us another mess with a hundred million dead. None of it works and there are no workable solutions for everlasting peace and harmony. Having said that doesn’t mean to stop paying attention, but I’ll leave saving the world to Robert Scheer and Chris Hedges. 🙂

  9. Today regardless of race everyone is a DEBT SLAVE… and we should be fighting to stop this insanity once and for all. One there is financial equality, many of society’s ills will be minimized. Some will remail, perhaps others will emerge, but if we do nothing, then nothing wll change.

  10. For whom is this article written? It has very little to say outside of a no shit Sherlock history lesson. It feels like Republicans bad, mkay. I smell shitlibbery, which I come to this site to hopefully avoid, the vote blue no matter who, identity politics over class struggle virtue signaling of the corporate right of center party.

  11. Uh-huh.

    But, cheer up.

    Between the unattainable ‘NIRVANA ‘ and the pathetic toilet bound ‘system ‘ we have been stuck stuck with… there’s a lot of territory !

    I can’t wait to complain about the NEXT arrangement … & trust we’ll keep the toilet handy just in case our best socio-political efforts don’t hold up over time !

  12. Critical ‘race’ theory is incomplete in several ways. It is not just genocide or slavery that provided the wealth in the U.S, it is also the continued exploitation of the working class. Nor are there many ‘races’ – there is only one. Critical ‘race’ theory is blind to capitalism for the most part, which benefits from institutional racism and indigenous destruction across the world.

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