Frederick Douglass and the Trouble with Critical Race Theory

Robert S. Levine in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

Once a specialized school of thought developed in law schools, critical race theory (CRT) has become a favorite wedge issue for the Republican Party. During the final months of his presidency, Trump warned that CRT was infiltrating American schools and ordered a halt to what he claimed was CRT-inspired diversity training in federal agencies. Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, regularly refers to CRT as a Marxist plot to undermine the nation, and Christopher Rufo, director of the Center on Wealth and Poverty at the conservative Discovery Institute, terms it “a grave threat to the American way of life.”

In a recent Washington Post piece, Christine Emba attempts to explain why conservatives find CRT so threatening: they become anxious when they believe white people are under attack, and their anxiety is exacerbated by the fact that they view CRT as standing in “for anything that reexamines the United States’ racial history.” In Idaho, one state legislator, in the service of promoting anti-CRT legislation, cited To Kill a Mockingbird to call for banning Critical Race Theory from public schools because the book supposedly makes white people look bad.

Frederick Douglass could just as easily be banned from school systems in states adopting anti-CRT legislation, for this is a man who from the beginning of his career in the late 1830s to his death in 1895 viscerally and intellectually understood the centrality of slavery and race to American history and culture.

More here.