With critical race theory back in vogue, legal activists take counteroffensive to courts
"It's teaching our young students to hate one another," says public interest law attorney Kimberly Hermann about critical race theory
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During the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, moderator Chris Wallace asked the then-president why he had signed an executive order ending "racial-sensitivity training" for federal agencies that addressed "white privilege and critical race theory."
Trump responded that he did so because the programs were "racist." He argued employees "were asked to do things that were absolutely insane" and "were teaching people to hate our country."
Biden jumped in to say, "Nobody's doing that."
On his first day in the Oval Office, President Biden rescinded the Trump order banning critical race theory (CRT) training programs for employees of the federal government. Once again, federal employees — at the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Election Commission, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, the Department of the Treasury and elsewhere — are being placed in mandatory training sessions during which, for example, white employees are told to "sit in the discomfort" of the white supremacy they are complicit in "by automatic response to the ways we're taught."
Some employees have been taught about the "myth of meritocracy" in America and why the expression "color-blindness" is a racist microaggression. Trainers told employees at DHS that statements including "America is the land of opportunity," "everybody can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough," and "the most qualified person should get the job," are based in harmful racist stereotypes and will no longer be tolerated.
The curriculum is now rapidly spreading through American public education, with students across the nation being taught that "everything about our country and culture, our classes, our law, is based in white supremacy," according to Kimberly Hermann, general counsel at Southeastern Legal Foundation, a constitutional public interest law firm.
"It's teaching our young students to hate one another," said Hermann, whose organization has joined the Stop Critical Race Theory coalition, an alliance formed recently to fight the curriculum in the courts. "It sounds like it's extreme, but that's because it is,"
The coalition, which aims to "effectively abolish critical race theory programs from American life," is led by Discovery Institute researcher Christopher Rufo, who has studied the expansion of CRT throughout the U.S. government and school system.
Hermann and Rufo hope to elevate the issue of critical race theory all the way to the Supreme Court. Hermann explained that the legal team hopes to prevail in court on a First Amendment argument.
"We've got teachers in classes telling students if you do not affirm these statements and say that you are a racist, or say that you have white privilege, and what that means, then you will get a failing grade," Hermann told Just the News AM recently. "So we need the courts to affirm that that violates the Constitution."
According to one recent lawsuit, a student was instructed to "unlearn" the "basic Judeo-Christian principles [his mother] imparted to him" before being required to reveal his "racial, sexual, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities and religious identity" as part of an assignment — all for the sake of sorting him into various categories as either the "oppressed" or the "oppressor."
Especially for minority students, learning to sort themselves into the "oppressed" category will do great damage in the long term, Hermann argued.
"Everyone has fought for them, for decades, to not be in that place," she said. "They are not oppressed, they are not victims. They are strong, and they are smart, and they need to be able to speak their minds."
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently made headlines by banning CRT from his state's school curriculums.
Proponents of the critical race theory say it has the potential to sensitize institutions to the need for social justice and is being misconstrued. "CRT can be misunderstood and misapplied. It has been distorted and attacked," an American Bar Association article said last fall. "And it continues to change and evolve. The hope in CRT is in its recognition that the same policies, structures, and scholarship that can function to disenfranchise and oppress so many also holds the potential to emancipate and empower many."
Critical race theory originated as an academic movement created by a group of civil-rights scholars and activists who sought to examine the law through the lens of race in America. The theory focuses on the idea that white supremacy exists and maintains power in American society through the law and various socio-cultural institutions.
But since its development in the late 1970s and 1980s, the theory has morphed into multiple sets of race-based school and work curriculums that are being force-fed to students from pre-school all the way through graduate studies programs, and to employees in both the private and public sectors.
CRT provides the basis for some work that has now been incorporated into high school classrooms across the country, including the New York Times' 1619 Project, which locates the institution of slavery at the center of America's historical narrative.
While promoting itself as a social justice initiative, critical race theory has become a big industry.
Howard Ross, for instance, is the consultant who created training that is used throughout many of the federal agencies. In the last 15 years, Ross has billed the government upwards of $5 million for his services instructing government employees in CRT training, according to information made public by Rufo.
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