Republicans Hate American History

Do y’all remember ALEC? The American Legislative Exchange Council is a right-wing organization with a lot of wealthy supporters that creates model bills for state legislatures to copy and pass into law. It’s been around since the 1970s, but in 2012 it came to everyone’s attention. Political pressure caused a lot of their corporate donors to drop out.

But it didn’t die. Now ALEC is one of the forces — not the only one — pushing parents into a frenzy to ban Critical Race Theory from schools, even though it’s unlikely CRT really makes an appearance in elementary and secondary education. The people screaming about it mostly don’t know what it is.

In academia,  a “critical theory” in the social sciences is a focus on society, culture, law, etc. in order to reveal and challenge embedded power structures. And CRT, which has been around for decades, says that race is a social construct and that racism is not just a matter of individual bigotry but is baked into the legal and criminal justice systems and other widespread policies and practices. It’s a means to assess where racism is systemic, in other words. This isn’t something that would be introduced to third graders, I don’t believe.

ALEC’s web page speaks of CRT as if it were a disease. Here’s a screen shot

Note that they’ve been at this for over a year, at least. In June, NPR reported on how ALEC and other groups have been fueling the fight against CRT. ALEC has been hosting webinars and making YouTube videos that get widely circulated among righties on social media. By June there were at least 165 local and national groups “trying to disrupt or block lessons on race and gender.”

Few of those lessons had anything to do with CRT.  The parents and local activists inspired to show up at school board meetings and scream about CRT and making their little white children feel bad wouldn’t know CRT from a toaster. Opponents of CRT “are using critical race theory as really more of a catchall to include anything teaching students about systemic racism, any mention of white privilege, and, really, the definition that they’re using has expanded to include anything related to equity, diversity and inclusion,” the NPR report said.

Behind this is a bigger goal, which is to re-ignite something like the old Tea Party movement going in to the 2022 midterms. Instead of getting the rubes worked up about taxes and death panels, now they are worked up about confronting racism and everything else they don’t like about modernity in public schools. This appears to have worked pretty well in the recent Virginia gubernatorial election.

The banning of CRT has left teachers in the dark about how to teach race, since they weren’t teaching CRT to begin with, and it appears that any mention of race in any context brings out the zombies. A Tennessee high school teacher was fired for discussing race in a “contemporary issues” class. Those still teaching are probably doing a lot of self-censorship.

South Dakota recently passed a bill that explicitly bans CRT. No SD public school, from kindergarten to 12th grade, may teach CRT, which the bill defines as “the theory that racism is not merely the product of learned individual bias or prejudice, but that racism is systemically embedded in American society and the American legal system to facilitate racial inequality.”

Of course, the fact that South Dakota passed this law is pretty solid proof that CRT is needed.

Note also that while I was looking up the South Dakota law I found an innocuous-looking site labeled “Critical Race Training in Education.” The site is nothing but anti-CRT propaganda.

Oklahoma passed a law banning CRT as well as anything about gender and sexual diversity in classrooms last spring. Now a lawmaker wants to pass a more detailed bill that would pretty much stop Oklahoma teachers from teaching much of anything about American history. This bill bans the following

  1. Any teaching that America has more culpability, in general, than other nations for the institution of slavery;
  2. That one race is the unique oppressor in the institution of slavery;
  3. That another race is the unique victim in the institution of slavery;
  4. That America, in general, had slavery more extensively and for a later period of time than other nations; or
  5. The primary and overarching purpose for the founding of America was the initiation and perpetuation of slavery.

Basically, this guy wants to be sure U.S. schoolchildren aren’t taught the history of slavery.

First off, let’s be clear what we’re talking about when we are talking about slavery. Slavery in the U.S. was “chattel” slavery, in which one person entirely owns another.  It was also hereditary, meaning that an enslaved person’s children also were automatically enslaved. Through world history all kinds of people bound all kinds of other people into arrangements that get labeled “slavery,” but these arrangements weren’t always this extreme.

It’s also the case that slavery existed in most parts of the world at one time or another, and all kinds of people have enslaved all kinds of other people. But the United States came into existence in the latter part of the 18th century. That, for example, Spartans enslaved captured Athenians in the 5th century BCE is not an excuse.

To take these one at a time —

#1. It’s true that much of western Europe still permitted chattel slavery at the beginning of the 19th century, especially in those nations with colonies in Africa and the Western Hemisphere. Most if not all elminated slavery before the U.S. did, but not by a great many years.

In the Western Hemisphere, the last nation to eliminate slavery was Brazil, in 1888. Note that after the U.S. Civil War some plantation owners relocated to Brazil to continue their “way of life.” See The Confederacy Made Its Last Stand in Brazil.

Still, this is a “Spanky did it too” kind of defense. Just because other nations were doing it doesn’t make it right.

Chattel slavery actually became more entrenched in the Americas during the 18th and 19th centuries than it had been earlier. Plantation cash crops like cotton and tobacco required a lot of labor, and Africans were imported and enslaved to provide that labor.

#2 and #3. As I have already said, if you look at world history going back to its beginnings, you can find many forms of slavery among people of all races. However, if we’re looking at the formative years of the United States, it really was mostly white people enslaving mostly black people. The only exceptions I know of were that the Cherokee and some other indigenous tribes owned African slaves for a time. A very small number of free black slave owners have been documented.

Native Americans also were sold into chattel slavery, especially in the 18th century. As much as white supremacists claim otherwise, however, whites did not become chattel slaves in the American colonies. Slavery in North America was a permanent and inherited condition passed on to subsequent generations. Some whites who came here were indentured servants, which could be harsh, but once they had worked off their contracts they were free. Their children were born free. Families were not broken up and sold away from each other. That happened only to nonwhites.

Further, it was the big plantation owners of the Southern states who were determined to maintain the institution of slavery and spread it into the western territories. And the big plantations owners were white. Further, by the 18th and 19th centuries slavery was being justified by claims that black people were either not entirely human or were not capable of being civilized, so it was a kindness to enslave them.

To pretend that slavery in the United States was not an institution that allowed white people to own black people is to hallucinate.  Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, explained this in his infamous “cornerstone” speech:

“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

By the 19th century, and really long before that, the institution of slavery in the U.S. was all about enslaving people of African ancestry to labor for white people.  By the 19th century, in most slave states, black people found without papers proving their status as free could be seized and forced into slavery. Just because they were black. To pretend there was no racial component to slavery in the U.S. is beyond lunacy.

#4 — In 1850, 3,204,313 people were enslaved in the United States. This was out of a population of 23,191,876. I believe this means that more than 13 percent of the population of the U.S. was enslaved (you are cordially invited to check my math). I don’t have data on other countries in 1850 to know how that measures up, but I suspect that 13 percent of the population is on the high side.

#5 — I believe this statement is a distortion of a conclusion from the 1619 Project. Basically, the Project argues that “Enslavement is not marginal to the history of the United States; it is inextricable. So many of our traditions and institutions were shaped by slavery, and so many of our persistent racial inequalities stem from its enduring legacy.” That’s absolutely true. It’s also true, the Project says, that protecting the institution of slavery was one of the reasons colonists supported separation from Britain. Slavery was not illegal in Britain, but an abolitionist movement was gaining steam there by 1776. I think that’s what is being distorted into “The primary and overarching purpose for the founding of America was the initiation and perpetuation of slavery.”

Anyway — basically, the Oklahoma law, if passed, would outlaw the teaching of American history in Oklahoma. Teachers could only present a distorted and highly cherry picked version of it.

Along with banning the teaching of American history, Republicans are going whole hog into book banning and book burning these days. Books dealing with race and gender equality, or LBGTQ issues, or anything Republicans want to pretend isn’t there, are being yanked from school shelves. Some Republican politicians want these books burned.

Yep, we’re living in interesting times.

16 thoughts on “Republicans Hate American History

  1. OK, OK, let's not teach CRT in grade school. Don't want to upset the conservatives. 

    Instead, let's teach Higher Awareness Through Body Movement, Dreamwork, and Shamanic Drumming to all kids. 

  2. Today's RepubliKKKLANS are the New Know-Nothing Party.

    They hate science, history, math, languages, etc…

    More specifically, they HATE any and every one and thing that is different from what they are, and they stand for.

    It's too bad that the song "Don't Know Much (About History)" was written by a Jewish guy (Lou Adler), a Latino guy (Herb Alpert), and a Black guy, the great Sam Cooke, or else it could be the New Confederacy's national anthem.

    Well, that and the song's lyrics would have to be about hate, not love. Like this"

    'Don't know much about history

    Don't much biology

    Don't know much about a science book

    Don't know much about the French I took

    But I do know that I HATE you

    And I think that if you really HATE me too

    What a hateful world this would be!"

    Seriously, how do we continue as one nation?

    And these same GQP freaks love Putin and Russia!

    Why?  Because Putin's the dictator of their dreams.  And Russia is a mostly White Christ-Fascist country.



  3. Thank you. Maha. for this work up.  I have certainly been exposed to the propaganda points the Republicans have made damning critical race theory.  How can one miss their saturation propaganda bombing of that issue?  Like Pavlov's dogs I know how and when to politically salivate to their ringing of the CRT bell.  I had some vague information that CRT was a Law School Course, and a right-wing false flag, but without supporting information.  It will be another problem for those trying to properly educate students in red areas of control.  This is just one wave of the battles that has gone on for years to the detriment of public education.  Until reading this I had no idea what a mess it was becoming.

    Not only is living in a Republican controlled area of the country a hazard to you and your children's physical health in these pandemic times, but also to the quality of your children's education.  This is no secret to well informed parents.  Nor is it a secret for the college professors who get students from these schools who indoctrinate rather than educate.  Their students are not even close on the path to becoming world ready.  It is no wonder they perish in college unless they are good at sports. 


  4. "Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob." – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

  5. For all practical purposes slavery was illegal in Britain by 1775.  IIRC, there was a decree by William I or II making slavery illegal back around 1100 AD but just how well this worked out I am not sure.  The court case of Somerset v Stewart  1772 seems to have settled the issue.  Apparently the Gov't & the judiciary had been dodging the issue for years but, at last, got cornered.

    Slavery was legal in most or all of the colonies until the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 was passed which abolished slavery in most of the empire.

  6. I am surprised that ALEC is the organization leading the 'fight' against CRT.  Here in the Mississippi of the Midwest (aka Indiana), during the Mikey Pence governorship maladministration there were ZERO pieces of major legislation that were NOT written by ALEC or the Heritage Foundation.  ALEC consistently wrote the legislation to benefit corporations and the wealthy while the Heritage Foundation wrote the culture wars legislation.


    • It is 'reasonable' for rePuknicans to 'hate American history' as the truthful non-whitewashed version is antithetical to White Supremacy and Christian Supremacy.

    • The influence of ALEC was first made widespread when Trayvon Martin was murdered, since the organization was behind the infamous and racist "stand your ground" laws that were used to absolve Zimmerman of any responsibility for Martin's death.  Racist because we have since seen several cases where the law simply doesn’t apply to non whites. At the time a lot of big corporations that depend on minority dollars were "shamed" when their participation became known. Members included, at the time McDonalds, Walmart and others.  Some left ALEC after that.  

      This effort is even more insidious, as it is trying to rewrite history to ultimately excuse or justify continued racism.  Any member  corporation should be exposed as agents of racism and white supremacy, and treated as such, e.g. don't spend your dollars with them.

  7. "A key piece of the DeSantis proposal would give parents the power to sue local school districts that teach lessons rooted in critical race theory. This part, which also allows parents to collect attorney fees, is similar to the bounties permitted under Texas’ controversial abortion law. Under that law, ordinary citizens can sue those who provide abortions and collect attorney fees."

  8. Mr. Anal Retentive George Will waxed not so elegant discourse in the WP today related to the 1619 project and this issue.  It inspired quite a number of comments including this jewel authored by a commentor going by Not Dead.

    90% of the time when someone tells you, "The United States was founded on  …" whatever follows the preposition is either a deception, a misconception, or a woefully inadequate simplification of reality.  The truth is that the act of creating this country and its ideals was an incredibly complex interplay of political ideology, economic interest, regional factionalism, religious as well as anti-religious fervor, stirred by myriad personal idiosyncrasies and abilities. It is likely that Charles Beard (whose An Economic Interpretation of the Constitutional Convention kicked off the fashion in focusing on the monetary interests of the Founders), Bernard Bailyn, James Roche (An early 60's scholar who challenged Beard's approach), and The 1619 Project are all correct and in various measures wrong. 

    It is the nature of scholarly inquiry that each generation of researchers brings a different point of view to the study of a given moment in history.  Will, like so many, insists that clarity derives from a single vision and version of history.  How then to reconcile Ben Franklin, the wise elder statesman of the Constitutional Convention with the author of the essay "Fart Proudly" and the doddering drunk who was assigned an escort throughout the deliberations for fear he would wag his tongue in the local taverns and give away the negotiations to critics?  How to weigh the image of Hamilton's brilliant essays in The Federalist with the organizer of a military coup to overthrow the Continental Congress near the war's end.  Does Jefferson's hypocrisy regarding slave ownership really detract from the weight, power, and inestimable influence of his words, "All men are created equal?"

    Those who insist there is only one correct interpretation of an event or time commit themselves to imprisonment in intellectual amber.  It is the weighing of multiple perspectives that enriches our understanding of the past and makes it clearer through nuance rather than through dogma.

  9. Thanks, Maha for the responses to the five issues.  They are brilliant in their simplicity and directness in terms of a recap and explanation of the history.  I'm saving this to share with others.

    What blows my mind about the CRT thing is, the engineers of it think they are being too slick by half, but its obvious to all this is really about hiding and denying the history of racism and slavery.  By channeling the historical Nazis with their book banning and burning, they make it clear what this movement is about, and its not "education." 

    When it comes to the history of racism and slavery, and granted, the history is not pretty, but its history, some white folk are quick to say, that has nothing to do with me, I didn't own any slaves.  My question for such people is, then why get into your feelings when the history is taught if, "it has nothing to do with you"?  Obviously, that means you do feel some guilt about it, deservedly or not.  If someone does something they may feel is bad in their life and later recognize it as wrong, you never get past it by pretending it doesn't exist, and worse, insisting that the victim also pretend it didn't happen, so you could "feel better." Ultimately, if you have a soul you are conscience of, it makes you feel worse. 

    Eventually there has to be a reckoning, but just when we are at a point where that might happen, here come the forces of white supremacy to drag us all backward.  That's the role of the republican party and the so-called conservative movement, and that’s what they’re doing with CRT.  Trying to make people “feel better” about themselves while excusing any acknowledgement of the history they apparently still feel guilty about.  They don’t want to be seen as “bad people” but this, really makes them look even worse.  They’re going to need a lot more than Candace Owens to make them feel better.

    What I don't understand is why is it so hard to just acknowledge the history, ask for forgiveness and move on, whether moving on takes the shape of actually working with non whites or not?  Black people have shown themselves to be, as a people, more than forgiving, not to mention that we've had to be.  We are also being asked to set aside the impact of the denial of history has on our children, so that the children of some white people can feel good about themselves.  How do they think banning books on Rosa Parks will impact our children?  They apparently have no answer for that.  Lastly, what kind of person, when knowingly propagating a lie or a denial about something truthful, “feels good” about getting away with it?  (And I would imagine more of their children don’t feel the same way.)  It certainly doesn’t solve the problem, because black people, and a lot of white people, will never go along with that, simply because its just not right. 

    That in a nutshell is the root cause of why we can’t get past race and the history of it in this country. 


    • Thanks for this Swami. I'm glad 1) Palmer appears to have felt genuine remorse, but nonetheless 2) the judge threw the book at him. Cheers!

      • moonbat… I'm not so sure Palmer is experiencing genuine remorse. I suspect that if Palmer couldn't accumulate enough common sense between his ears in 54 years to know that storming the Capitol was a bad idea than he was probably experiencing something closer to an epiphany when the judge handed down his sentence. He was all loaded up with patriotic testosterone on Jan 6th with pride in his devotion to Trump, but today he was balling is eyes out like a new found Christian  showered in the love of Christ. His tears are more likely tears of gratitude than remorse for being put on the 5 year path of redemption.

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