At a rally on Saturday in Florence, South Carolina, former President Donald Trump condemned Critical Race Theory (CRT), wrongly portraying the academic discipline as a social ill that is harming the nation.
Trump attacked the theory, which is usually reserved for advanced college classes, by falsely claiming that it is indoctrinating K-12 schoolchildren across the country with socialist ideals. He also said that ensuring that Critical Race Theory remains out of classrooms is a “matter of national survival.”
“We have no choice” but to ban CRT lessons, Trump insisted during the rally. “The fate of any nation ultimately depends on the willingness of its citizens to lay down and they must do this — lay down their very lives to defend their country.”
“If we allow the Marxists and commies and socialists to teach our children to hate America, there will be no one left to defend our flag or to protect our great country or its freedom,” Trump added.
Aside from the obvious red-baiting, Trump’s incendiary words were reminiscent of his call to action on January 6, 2021, which led to hundreds of his loyalists breaching the U.S. Capitol building to interrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election.
Trump calls on his supporters to "lay down their very lives" in the fight against critical race theory pic.twitter.com/ZtbOizUDTa
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 13, 2022
Far from being a devious plot to indoctrinate children, Critical Race Theory has been described by academics as a “diverse work of a small group of scholars who write about the shortcomings of conventional civil rights approaches to understanding and transforming racial power in American society.” In short, CRT discusses how legal frameworks have failed to adequately address institutional racism.
But Republican fearmongering on the topic — likely as a means of fueling a culture war to distract from people’s actual material conditions — has resulted in demands from conservative parents and far-right political groups for Critical Race Theory to be banned from K-12 classrooms.
Many Republicans have pushed anti-CRT policies in response to these demands, passing laws that purportedly ban CRT but which actually restrict broader studies of racism in U.S. history, denying teachers the right to teach indisputable historical facts. Parents and right-wing political groups in favor of banning CRT have often cited their worry that lessons about racism will make white students feel “discomfort.”
“This isn’t about education, it’s about racism… Black feelings are being disregarded while white feelings are being catered to,” Zack Linly wrote for The Root last May.
Given that 3 in 10 voters in the U.S. don’t actually know what Critical Race Theory is, experts are already predicting that Republicans will push the issue in the 2022 midterm elections, hoping to capitalize on the prejudices of their base. Trump’s comments over the weekend indicate that he will also push the matter in this year’s races, and may make the issue central to his 2024 campaign should he decide to run for president again.