Federalist Writer Shares Incredible Trauma Of Learning 'Critical Race Theory' In School
Conservatives are always freaking out about schools in one way or another. Are they saying the Pledge enough? Why can't there be prayer in schools? Why can't we teach the controversy that just maybe the earth is actually only 6,000 years old and Adam and Eve were real people who hung out with dinosaurs? What if instead of giving children comprehensive sex-ed, a thing that has been proven to be effective, we tell them to just save themselves for their wedding day unless they want to be an icky piece of chewed gum? Why are trans children being allowed to go to the bathroom?
Now, as you've probably noticed, they're on about Critical Race Theory, or whatever it is that they think "Critical Race Theory" is, because none of them can actually define it. Most, however, seem to define it as learning anything whatsoever about the existence of systemic racism. Because if no one ever talks about systemic racism, those who benefit from it are free to go on doing so, unbothered.
As such, conservatives are trying their level best to show how incredibly frightening "Critical Race Theory" is, frequently with hilarious results — as in the article The Federalist published today.
In the very dramatically titled "My High School Taught Me Critical Race Theory Six Years Ago And Tried To Reeducate Me When I Fought Back," Federalist intern Spencer Lindquist tells the terrifying story of the time his Tennessee high school briefly tried to teach him how not to be a racist asshole.
Now, we must be fair. It is entirely possible that we are the ones who don't understand "Critical Race Theory" and that what Lindquist was exposed to was truly bad and traumatizing.
My first encounter with critical race theory was in my freshman year, when we skipped our P.E. class to engage in a racial struggle session, hosted by a teacher and a special cadre of students who had been handpicked and placed in her equity advisory class.
I began to catch on when the presenters played a video titled "What kind of Asian are you?" The clip features a buffoonish caricature of an insensitive white man, the video's antagonist, who becomes the subject of scorn after he commits several "microaggressions" as he attempts to relate with the video's heroine, an Asian woman. She then humiliates him and trots off.
The video in question was all of two minutes and 19 seconds long and taught a fairly reasonable lesson along the lines of "Don't be rude to Asian people, assume they are immigrants or fetishize their culture" — things that should be obvious but apparently are not. It's clear that his sympathy here lies with the "buffoonish" man who is simply trying to "relate" to the woman and sees her turning around and doing what he just did to her as "humiliating" him. It's one thing if he makes her feel awkward and uncomfortable, it's another for her to let him know he made her feel that way, thus making him feel awkward and uncomfortable.
The issue most conservatives have with anti-racism education is that it requires them to learn about things they're accustomed to being shielded from. They're used to not having to worry about saying insensitive things because they can trust that the person they say them to will suffer through feeling awkward and uncomfortable themselves in order to prevent them from feeling that way. They're used to being protected. The more people are aware of these things, the less likely it is that they can trust anyone to do that.
But hey! That was just one two-minute video. Perhaps it got more sincerely traumatizing after that. Like, having to stand outside for in the school's courtyard for probably about a half-hour traumatizing.
I was beginning to wonder if our conversation was really about advancing "equity," or if it was about scapegoating those who pose an obstacle to progressivism's long march. They didn't leave me wondering for long. Shortly after the video, we were taken into the school courtyard, where chalk lines had been meticulously drawn on the pavement, where we were then told to stand on the center line. We then started our privilege walk.
The presenters asked us a series of questions, telling us to step forward or backward depending on our answers to inquiries like "Have you ever felt like you've been racially profiled?" or "Did your parents graduate from college?" By the time it was over, whites were in the front, then Asians, Hispanics, and finally African Americans. The verdict was in.
And poor Spencer Lindquist was summarily sentenced to be beaten about his body with Peggy McIntosh's invisible knapsack.
But while trivial questions like "Can you easily find Band-Aids that match your skin tone?" were used to substantiate sweeping claims of privilege and oppression, more pertinent inquiries that would've jammed the narrative were excluded.
The issue isn't that the Band-Aids don't match exactly — it's that for a very long time, Band-Aids were sold as "flesh colored" with the assumption that "flesh" was white skin, that white skin was the default. And while that may seem "trivial" to Spencer Lindquist, a lifetime of feeling othered in a million tiny ways certainly does add up after a while.
But that is nothing, Lindquist thought, compared to the horrors faced by white men like himself.
We were never asked, for example, to take a step back if we'd be systematically discriminated against when we applied for college. Nor were we asked if we had ever felt that the media had ever weaponized our ancestry against us to brand us as oppressors, or if violence against us had been ignored because of our race, either in America or abroad.
Probably because two of those are not things and one is literally just a delusion.
Now, if you thought perhaps that our pal Spencer was merely ignorant and happy to remain that way ... you would be wrong. This would be the point where he spins out into full on Nazi talk. For in his next paragraph, he cites the trollish white nationalist "It's Okay To Be White" nonsense as evidence of discrimination against white people.
Similar exercises held today likely don't ask questions that account for recent developments, like multi-million-dollar organizations branding phrases like "It's Okay To Be White" as hate slogans, critical race theory teaching white children to hate themselves, or the adoption of the language of genocide by academics who dub whiteness a "parasitic condition" without a "permanent cure," or fantasize about committing acts of racial violence against white people.
Yes, the ADL did "brand" that phrase as a hate slogan, because that was its actual purpose, as explained at the link. The white nationalists who came up with the slogan and the plan to plaster "It's Okay To Be White" flyers across the country did so entirely in the open, on a message board that anyone could read. What were we supposed to do? Pretend we didn't know?
And no one is teaching white children to hate themselves. They're just teaching them about the racism that non-white children have to deal with, instead of shielding them from it, so they don't grow up and become assholes like our pal Spence.
Of course, teaching people empathy doesn't always work, as Lindquist explains. After being encouraged to join the same class that had done the demonstration that day when he became a sophomore — which he claims was a twisted plot by his teachers to educate him, probably in the hopes that he would not grow up to write a bunch of white supremacist nonsense at The Federalist — Lindquist says he was required to watch Emma Watson's speech to the UN, read Peggy McIntosh's "White Privilege: Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack," and learn about other forms of structural oppression and privilege. And this, he said, made him dig his heels in further.
Rather than soften my conservative proclivities, the class hardened my disposition towards the "social justice" movement and what would soon be known as critical race theory. When it came time for us to run the struggle session that I had been subjected to the previous year, my dignity nagged at me, and I refused to take part.
I noticed the tragic irony of being told that I was the beneficiary of structural racism while a government school that my family helped fund marched in lockstep with much of the media and higher education, telling me on a weekly basis that, because I am a straight, white, Christian male, recognizing these facets of my identity as anything other than a source of shame was evidence of my own wickedness.
While Lindquist may be all of those things, it would be unfair to blame them for his choice to be a giant asshole.
Lindquist goes on to offer support for the conspiracy theory of "white genocide" so popular among white supremacists, list various other ways in which he felt he was discriminated against for being white, and generally repeat a bunch of other Daily Stormer nonsense. Thus it is not too surprising that he decided to cap the whole thing off with some good old-fashioned anti-Semitism.
Moving forward, it will be incumbent not only on lawmakers and commentators but on parents, educators, and even students to continue to organize against ideologies like critical race theory that use appeals to egalitarianism as a smokescreen while they engage in blood libel.
Nope, not surprising at all.
The Spencer Lindquists of the world are the reason why these kinds of lessons in schools are so important in the first place. They may never develop empathy themselves, they may cling to their scraps of privilege forever, and they may very likely end up writing whitewashed Daily Stormer content for The Federalist. But such lessons will teach other children that they don't have to put up with that shit and empower them to take those motherfuckers down.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse