Tennessee moms' group tears the veil off the whole 'critical race theory' panic


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  john-russell  •  8 months ago  •  11 comments

By:   lauraclawson (Daily Kos)

Tennessee moms' group tears the veil off the whole 'critical race theory' panic
Thanks are due to the Williamson County, Tennessee, chapter of Moms for Liberty for once again clarifying what the “critical race theory” (CRT) uproar is really about. We can say until we’re blue in the face that critical race theory is a graduate-level school of thought not taught in K-12 schools, and along comes an anti-CRT group to show that what they really object to is any teaching that shows that racism is or has ever been a real thing.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

Thanks are due to the Williamson County, Tennessee, chapter of Moms for Liberty for   once again clarifying what the “critical race theory” (CRT) uproar is  really  about . We can say until we’re blue in the face that critical race theory is a graduate-level school of thought not taught in K-12 schools, and along comes an anti-CRT group to show that what they really object to is any teaching that shows that racism is or has ever been a real thing.

The group, run by a woman whose children do not attend public school,   filed a complaint   with the Tennessee Department of Education claiming that some texts being taught to grade-school students violate the state’s new law against teaching about “privilege” or “guilt” or “discomfort” based on race or sex. The texts? Books for  second-graders  including  Martin Luther King, Jr. and the March on Washington  and  Ruby Bridges Goes to School,  along with  Separate is Never Equal  and  The Story of Ruby Bridges

While the complaint was rejected, Popular Info’s Judd Legum notes that it was rejected on a technicality and could be refiled after that technicality was fixed.

In the first book listed, Moms for Liberty specifically object to the following:

Pages 22-23 shows photographs of white firemen blasting black children to the point of "bruising their bodies and ripping off their clothes."
Pages 18-19 show photographs of white and colored drinking fountains, asking "Which of these fountains looks nicer to you."

This is not an objection to an academic theory about the way race structures U.S. law. This is an objection to simply showing children photographs from events in the nation’s relatively recent history. The right likes to use about two lines of quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. to object to its own false representation of CRT, but it turns out the objection is equally to teaching about the events that shaped King’s life, and the activism that made him famous.

It’s not hard to figure out why some people might not want kids knowing that history.

Similarly, Moms for Liberty thinks it is against Tennessee law that, in  Ruby Bridges Goes to School ,

Pages 2-3 depict photographs of a neighborhood sign that reads “WE WANT WHITE TENANTS IN OUR WHITE COMMUNITY” and a smiling white boy holding a sign that says “We wont [sic] go to school with Negroes.”

Pages 14-15 shows a group of white people holding up signs that read “We want segragation [sic]” and “We don’t want to Integrate.”

Pages 24-25 shows the Normal Rockwell painting  The Problem We All Live With , depicting Ruby Bridges walking to school with the “N word” in the background. 

(A note: Moms for Liberty is awfully insistent about including “[sic]” on historical signs while their own complaint is riddled with errors. Yes, they really said Normal Rockwell. Related, yes, they really objected to a Norman Rockwell painting being shown to second-graders.)

As with the book about King, these are not objections to students being taught about the ways that racism continues to shape U.S. law and policy. These are objections to students being acquainted with the basic historical record through photographs of things that really happened—and that happened often enough for a whole lot of such images to be easily available. The story of Ruby Bridges is something that happened to a child younger than the second-graders who the Moms for Liberty think shouldn’t be reading about it. And that child is now a woman younger than the grandparents of some of those second-graders, showing how very recent this history is.

What Moms for Liberty’s complaint doesn’t say is that  Ruby Bridges Goes to School  ends on this note:

Now black children and white children can go to the same schools.

I like to visit schools.

I tell my story to children.

I tell children that black people and white people can be friends.

And most important, I tell children to be kind to each other.

That’s the kind of children’s book the anti-CRT crowd is talking about when they claim that their precious white children are being taught to feel guilt or shame. And Williamson County, Tennessee,  is, by the way,  a place where  in 2019, two teachers required eighth-graders to  imagine themselves as slave-owners  and “Create a list of expectations for your family’s slaves.”

What  do  they want taught? Moms for Liberty recommend a textbook by W. Cleon Skousen, a conspiracy theorist and John Birch Society supporter. “ Skousen's book  characterizes  ‘black children as 'pickaninnies' and American slave owners as the 'worst victims' of slavery,’” Legum writes. “The book  claims  that the Founders wished to free the slaves but ‘[m]ost of [the slaves] were woefully unprepared for a life of competitive independence.’ Skousen  asserts  that abolitionists ‘did much to perpetuate slavery’ by taking a ‘too militant’ approach.”

That’s the history they do want taught. The explicitly white supremacist history.

The thing is, I get their objections to teaching  Ruby Bridges Goes to School . It’s a scary book if you’re a committed racist who doesn’t want anything getting in between your kids and the racism you’re teaching them. After the Moms for Liberty started agitating against the book, I got a copy and read it to my kindergartener. He was fascinated and appalled. He had a lot of questions. It opened up avenues for us to discuss racism in other settings.

This book actually does not once use the word “racist” or, in the text, attribute the racist beliefs it lays out in simple, direct language (“A long time ago, some people thought that black people and white people should not be friends”) to white people in particular. It’s always “some people.” Even in describing the crowds of people opposed to Bridges going to “a school for white children,” it’s just “some people.” Now, even a young child can see in the pictures that all the people are white, but there is never any implication that  all  white people believed this.

In fact, the book makes much of Bridges’ white teacher, Mrs. Henry (who “loved me,” Bridges writes), not mentioning that Mrs. Henry was the only teacher at the school who would teach a Black child. In addition to three pictures of Mrs. Henry, the book includes a picture of Bridges with the white children who eventually did come back to school and were willing to play with her and be pictured with her. It includes a picture of John Steinbeck and a discussion of his praise of Bridges. It mentions Eleanor Roosevelt writing to Bridges. But even though the book bends over backwards to never, ever imply that all white people are racist and to amply picture and describe white people supporting Bridges, it is a powerful teaching tool for young children relating how racism operated in the United States well within living memory. And that makes it a very dangerous book, if you’re racists like Moms for Liberty. ( Ruby Bridges Goes to School  doesn’t say “racist,” but I sure as hell do.)

This  is what the anti-CRT crowd really opposes. They say “critical race theory” but they mean this book that essentially tells a redemption story, from a nation in which “in some places, black children and white children could not go to the same schools” to one in which they can and do, and the woman who was once the child who had to be protected by marshals now tells children most of all to be kind to each other.


jrDiscussion - desc
Professor Principal
1  seeder  JohnRussell    8 months ago
what they really object to is any teaching that shows that racism is or has ever been a real thing.
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2  Trout Giggles    8 months ago

These anti-CRT people want to whitewash our ugly, warty history.

"Ruby Bridges Goes to School" sounds like a wonderful book. If I ever have grandchildren I'm going to buy it for them

Professor Principal
3  seeder  JohnRussell    8 months ago

I saw the head of Moms For Liberty in a television interview a few weeks ago. She said, quite plainly, that she does not want her child being taught anything about racism because it is an ugly subject.

Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
3.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  JohnRussell @3    8 months ago

That lady needs some serious education. Racism is ugly...not talking about it

Dismayed Patriot
Professor Participates
3.2  Dismayed Patriot  replied to  JohnRussell @3    8 months ago

I watched this film with my 12 year old daughter and highly recommend it to any person or parent. We both learned a lot, and while much might be disturbing, these are the facts about our nation, the unvarnished truth, and it also contains hope and pride and a desire to change the status quo. Hiding the truth from our children will just foster a general sense that those who are still trying to stand up for justice and equality are making a big deal over nothing, that they are just the "Boy who Cried Wolf" like so many right wing conservative Christians screaming about their religious freedoms being under attack but can't provide any actual examples of it. With racial injustice in America the evidence is overwhelming if you're willing to look, covering our children's eye's to it is only something bitter closeted bigots do to weasel out of any feeling of responsibility and guilt.

Masters Expert
3.3  Veronica  replied to  JohnRussell @3    8 months ago
that she does not want her child being taught anything about racism because it is an ugly subject.

She probably also believes not discussing sex with her children will keep them from having it.

Professor Principal
3.3.1  Kavika   replied to  Veronica @3.3    8 months ago

I wonder what she thinks about kids, black, brown, red, yellow that have to live through it. I'm sure she doesn't give a shit.

Masters Expert
3.3.2  Veronica  replied to  Kavika @3.3.1    8 months ago

I have come to the realization that these types of people just do not care.  If it does not affect their snowglobe world they just do not care.  And I am beginning to treat them that way.  Don't care about their prejudices and worries - what goes around comes around.  I am currently looking for a new stylist because mine went off her rocker with this white victimization shit.  Her boss is not too happy.

Greg Jones
Professor Guide
4  Greg Jones    8 months ago

 It would appear that some would rather whine and wallow in our ugly, warty history, rather than doing something constructive about it

Dismayed Patriot
Professor Participates
4.1  Dismayed Patriot  replied to  Greg Jones @4    8 months ago
It would appear that some would rather whine and wallow in our ugly, warty history, rather than doing something constructive about it

Teaching the truth about our past is not whining and wallowing in it. It's about accepting that these things did happen and their effects are still with us today. There is no actual curriculum teaching white kids that they are inherently evil, my 12 year old watched many ugly warty scenes perpetrated by seemingly average white people but didn't come away thinking she must be evil, she came away with the correct understanding which is that anyone of any race or faith that believes or teaches their children that other races or faiths and inferior to theirs, then that is evil. Teaching our children to cherish diversity and equality is 'something constructive'. Pretending like the past didn't happen or that there are no lingering effects of the hundreds of years of racial inequality and abuse of minorities is destructive.

It seems today many right wing white conservative Christians want to tear down the diverse melting pot that America has become and re-institute the pedestal upon which white conservative Christians had enjoyed as they lorded it over the minorities. To them "tolerance" was begrudgingly allowing minorities to live across the tracks in the poor side of town and serve the ruling class as their maids, housekeepers, gardener's and laborers. Now that most industries have adopted diversity policies and we are seeing more and more minorities doing the jobs that were previously exclusively white's only it has sadly created a backlash among some white conservatives who are gnashing their teeth and whining about reverse racism or claiming those policies are anti-white when it really couldn't be further from the truth. It just shows how deeply ingrained the prejudice is after being raised by the white supremacist's depicted in those videos and photos of whites turning fire hoses and police dogs on black children trying to go to school just over half a century ago.

If a white child feels that showing them those scenes is telling them they're evil, then it's likely they didn't fall far from the trees that justified those actions and were raised to believe minorities are inferior and that treating them that way is normal and now a school or teacher dares to tell them that kind of conduct is evil thus they self diagnose and feel guilt and shame and go running to their prejudiced parent who then rages at the school district for daring to expose them.

Professor Principal
4.1.1  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Dismayed Patriot @4.1    8 months ago
Schoolchildren aren't really being taught critical race theory, but critical race theory — the actual framework, not the right-wing scare term — is a legitimate academic pursuit that has turned up important facts that white supremacists of yore have covered up. And it's those   facts     things like the practice of redlining ,   the truth about what the Confederacy stood for ,   what Martin Luther King Jr. really believed , and   the history of lynching   and events   like the Tulsa race massacre   — that conservatives want to silence.

That is why, for instance, they are so afraid of schools teaching the  1619 Project by the New York Times . Not because, as they falsely claim, it's inaccurate. No, the real objection underlying all the noise is that the 1619 Project is true. Conservatives want facts, the thing that all people claim they want children to learn, to be replaced with flat-out lies about American history. 

That's why the feigned umbrage over "critical race theory" is such an effective troll. Responding requires nuance, an explanation of why it's both false that critical race theory is being taught in schools, but also that the real-world practice of critical race theory is not bad or scary or "anti-white." Unfortunately, our political discourse doesn't have much room for nuance, much less lengthy explanations. And so it's easy to get Republican voters, already wanting to believe that white people are under attack from "woke mobs," to get all ginned up on conspiracy theories about "critical race theory," and not look at what the real-world critical race theory actually is, much less the historical facts that Republican politicians want to cover up. While they scare white voters into a panic over their children learning too many details about Jim Crow, Republican legislators are busy passing up   draconian restrictions on the right to vote reminiscent of that era of racial segregation

Why the panic over "critical race theory" is the perfect right-wing troll | Salon.com

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