The months leading up to last week’s boisterous Fort Worth school board meeting — where dozens of parents alternatively spoke for and against Critical Race Theory (CRT) — saw a precipitous uptick in the mention of CRT on Fox News.
A recent study by Media Matters, a left-leaning media watchdog, counted 1,300 mentions of CRT on Fox News in the last three and a half months alone — a sharp increase, the nonprofit reported. Reporting by Media Matters, NBC News, The Daily Beast, and many other news outlets have cited Fox News as a leading source of misinformation about CRT.
While right-wing pundits have taken it upon themselves to misrepresent the academic framework for understanding the role of racism in our country’s past and present institutions, scholars who actually use the theories have ramped up their efforts to rebuke misinformation and outright lies about CRT.
Altheria Caldera, who holds a doctorate in education from TCU and uses CRT in her daily research, recently laid out what CRT is used for (“ Educator Talks Critical Race Theory and Racism in America,” June 18).
“Critical Race Theory is a theory that is designed to help scholars who conduct research,” she recently told me. “I say that specifically because it is often misconstrued to be a teaching practice or a strategy that is taught in K-12 schools, and that is far from the truth. It is used by people who are conducting academic or scholarly research to how race and racism play out in institutions across the country. [People are] distorting this principle that was conceived from the minds of people of color, scholars of color, who are well respected and taking these ideas and using them to avoid real conversations about race and racism.”
Scholars like Caldera have voiced alarm at the demonization by conservative politicians and right-wing bloggers of an academic principle that seeks empirical truths about America’s past and present. Texas lawmakers recently made discussions about certain aspects of race and racism verboten in public school classrooms. Recent reporting by Vox, a media website that pioneered explanatory journalism, found that more than two dozen states proposed state bills that aim to limit discussions about race and racism in public schools. Supporters of equity see the moves as a jab against CRT, which has recently become a political boogeyman for conservatives.
Last week, hundreds packed the Fort Worth school district’s administrative building to speak during open comments at the beginning of the school board meeting. Several current and recent school district students spoke in favor of allowing free and open discussions on race relations in school curriculum. Dozens of parents alternatively spoke for and against the merits of CRT, which is not taught in Texas public schools.
“I’m proud to say my family was part of the Juneteenth walk,” said one Hispanic mother and early speaker. “On the other hand, you are further dividing our country by allowing Critical Race Theory to be in our school’s curriculum. You are condoning the same narrative of the racial divide which came from those who kept slavery alive. This is child endangerment. Parents like myself want our children to be educated, not indoctrinated. With your racist ideologies, you are instilling hate into our children.”
Her speech was followed by chants of “USA!” “USA!” “USA!”
“I’m standing up today to say that teaching and understanding unity is essential to our education in this country,” said Dr. Allison Campolo. “Racism is systemic, and it is institutional. Colorblindness does nothing but whitewash history. By maintaining a false narrative that no race has ever subjugated any other race, we take no responsibility for our history and we deny all of us the ability to move forward. It will take a pronounced effort from all of us to make our schools more equitable, and turning a blind eye to our past only dooms our future.”
A white mother who recently pulled her four children out of public school and placed them in private school said CRT is “is reformulated Marxism, a neo-racist worldview that exists to agitate and enable radical identity politics, divide people, and force children to see themselves as either an oppressor or a victim.”
A subsequent board meeting summary on the Weekly’s Instagram page (@FortWorthWeekly) drew 161 comments, many of which falsely stated that CRT was being used in Fort Worth schools to brainwash children.
Ashley Paz, who served as Fort Worth school board trustee until recently, said, “It is unfortunate that people who do not have the best interest of our schools at the center of their actions have misinformed so many good-natured people. Everything from the facts being presented around student achievement in Fort Worth ISD to what we are teaching in our schools have been grossly misrepresented.”
When it comes to academic success, the school board has a long way to go, she added, but CRT is not the culprit.
“The reality is that Fort Worth school district’s equity work has nothing to do with CRT, which is a graduate-level framework, and it has everything to do with giving marginalized students access that have previously not been available,” she said.
Many of the scholars who developed and refined CRT during the 1970s and ’80s have spoken out against efforts by conservative lawmakers to knowingly misrepresent CRT to constituents. Speaking to Vox, legal scholar and founding critical race theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw said that the controversy surrounding CRT is squashing discussions about racism when they are needed more than ever.
“When you’re really serious about addressing a problem, the last thing you do is punish people for building the tools to see the problem, to analyze the problem, and to develop the capacity to remove the problem,” she said. “You can’t fix a problem that you can’t name. Racism is a problem in the United States, and conservatives don’t want us to name it because they are uncomfortable with it.”