Kiara Alfonseca: Critical race theory thrust into spotlight by misinformation
Earlier this month, reporter Kiera Alfonsica filed this report with ABC which includes a good explanati0n of how, exactly, the critical race theory panic spread.
Controversy over critical race theory took shape in 2020, following months of calls for racial equality and anti-racism efforts.
Many industries and institutions vowed to respond to the calls for a racial reckoning. For some, that meant implementing lessons on diversity and oppression to improve equity in the workplace and in schools.
That September, then-President Donald Trump responded by banning any diversity training for the federal workforce that included lessons on “white privilege” or “critical race theory,” according to an Office of Management and Budget memo.
The White House directed federal agencies to “cease and desist” funding for race and diversity training, according to the memo.
According to the memo, OMB director Russell Vought said that certain racial bias training efforts are “un-American” and “divisive” and that Trump wanted to end it.
Later that month, Trump issued an executive order to that effect, without mentioning critical race theory. In it, he argued that the “pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country” was undercutting the notion of the Founding Fathers that all men are created equal.
The anti-critical race theory movement gained traction when Christopher Rufo, a conservative activist and reporter, began amplifying reports and allegations in 2020 against agencies and schools that held training on “white privilege,” “antiracism” and how white people perpetuate systems of oppression. He appeared on Fox News to discuss his findings shortly before Trump declared his attacks on the theory.
From September 2020 onward, the vast majority of national news stories about critical race theory came from conservative news sources, with mainstream news sources and liberal news sources falling behind, according to recent research from UCLA and UC San Diego.
The research found there were more than seven stories from national conservative news sources about critical race theory for every one story from a national liberal media source. In conservative media sources, news of the theory was paired with phrases like “Marxism,” “oppression matrix,” “state-sanctioned racism,” “oppressor and oppressed,” and “collective guilt.”
The study also noted incendiary language used in school board arguments against critical race theory that called it “child abuse” and “the cancer” of school districts.
In March 2021, Rufo tweeted: “We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category. The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory.'”
And this effort to attack education on race and diversity has worked, researchers say, through the waves of legislation and debate.