The Republicans have created a new boogeyman, and it’s critical race theory (CRT). Tate Reeves announced on Monday that he was going to target CRT in his 2023 budget recommendations. Traditionally, the Fiscal Year Executive Budget recommendations outline a plan for the state’s long-term economic growth. So, the governor is proposing that we spend a portion of this state’s money fighting something that currently “doesn’t exist here”. I can’t think of anything that further illustrates Tate’s “race to the bottom” mentality than that.
Critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that race is a social construct, and racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice. It is also something embedded in legal systems and policies. For instance, in the 1930s, government officials drew lines around areas deemed poor financial risks, often explicitly due to the race of its inhabitants. Banks subsequently refused to offer mortgages to Black people in those areas in a process called Redlining.
Or how about poll taxes and literacy tests implemented in the 1890s as a legal way to keep Blacks from voting? And then there’s the not so startling fact that non-white school districts across the country annually receive $23 billion less than white school districts. There’s plenty more where that came from. And that doesn’t include the atrocities committed against Native Americans, Asians, and immigrants.
See, racism is an institution. By definition, it is a group of people who use their power to create laws and regulations that contribute to less-favorable outcomes for minority groups. It’s as American as apple pie. In Mississippi, it’s omnipresent like the magnolia. Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn started their Don Quixote-esque crusade back at the Neshoba County Fair. Before this is over, we’re going to hear from hundreds of Republicans and conservative pundits whining that this country is an “inspirational” story and CRT paints all white people as racist.
The fact of the matter is, this country is inspirational because it was built on the backs of Black folks and immigrants. While I don’t believe “every” white person to be inherently racist, every white person benefits from systems and laws put in place by racism. These aren’t theories, these are facts. If you’re going to properly teach history, you must deal with the sordid, horrible, disgusting facts. Robert E. Lee wasn’t a hero. Ross Barnett wasn’t a hero. The Confederacy wasn’t an homage to state’s rights, it was a temper tantrum because the south was told they couldn’t have slaves. Not discussing white supremacy as the foundation of this country and the means by which white folks held power in Mississippi is doing every student – Black and white – a disservice. But again, critical race theory isn’t even taught in our schools. But the very thought of it has scared Tate and his cronies enough that they would throw money at something that “doesn’t exist” to manipulate a narrative.