Critical race theory has been a central focus of news reports, op-eds and social media punditry ever since the Trump administration’s release of a memo condemning the federal funding of any training based on it.
In his debate with Joe Biden, Donald Trump claimed that critical race theory is racist and teaches people that America is a horrible place to which Biden responded weakly by claiming that Trump was the racist. Trump’s previous attacks on critical race theory produced a mass of conflicting claims about what critical race theory is, what precisely has been proscribed by the administration and what its motivations were for doing so.
The memo stated: “[A]ll agencies are directed to begin to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on “critical race theory”, “white privilege” or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil.”
The memo also says that “employees across the Executive Branch have been required to attend trainings where they are told that ‘virtually all White people contribute to racism’ or where they are required to say that they ‘benefit from racism’”. The memo describes critical race theory as “propaganda” five times, “divisive” five times, “unAmerican” twice, and “anti-American” once. Critical race theory is declared to be “contrary to all we stand for as Americans.”
This is an odd claim, since racial inequality and attempts to remedy it have been a constant in American history. Consequently, there have been two centuries of scholarship and activism by African-Americans and others in the realm of American race relations.