Why the ‘Critical Race Theory’ Outrage Makes no Sense, and What it Can Teach Us About Conservative Media.

Members+of+the+Students+of+PYLUSD+Student+Group+at+a+district+board+meeting+%28courtesy+of+Students+of+PYLUSD%29

Members of the ‘Students of PYLUSD’ Student Group at a district board meeting (courtesy of Students of PYLUSD)

Seth Diaz, Editor in Chief

Unless you are living under a rock, there is a good chance you have heard about something called Critical Race Theory. In 2021, this seemingly unproblematic subdivision of a college level legal analysis course became the centerpiece of a smear campaign by conservative news outlets, politicians, and political commentators that mainly stemmed from a rally Donald Trump held before the 2020 election after hearing it brought up on Fox News (we can blame Chris Rufo for that one). Major figures like Senator Ted Cruz, Tucker Carlson, Candace Owens, etc. have come to criticize Critical Race Theory, using words like “Marxist” and that it teaches kids to “hate white people”. But if you take a step back, you realize something: in the context of what Critical Race Theory actually is, you’ll find that not only do conservatives on talk shows do a crappy job at explaining what CRT is, but their misinformation campaign only reinforces the ideas that CRT was trying to make. But this misinformation is sparking outrage, and it could be pushing the US education system backwards.  

Critical Race Theory stems back to almost 50 years ago, to a group of scholars in the 1970s. These scholars were heavily influenced by the experiences they had in the various movements that were occurring during the time, which included the civil rights movement, anti war protests, women’s rights protests, etc. These experiences led to the creation of Critical Legal Studies. CLS around the idea that the law is not truly neutral, and that it is full of contradicting ideas. In turn, it also seeks to emphasize the fact that the basic principles that make up US law within the constitution do not actually mean anything until it is interpreted by lawyers and courts (which is why you can argue just about anything with the commerce clause).

It is within these various lenses that the subject of race comes into question, and with the assistance of Civil Rights Advocates and Law Professors, Critical Race Theory became a small category in the grand idea of Critical Legal Studies. Critical Race Theory more closely examines the US Legal System, and identifies aspects of it that are biased against people of a certain race (mostly African Americans).  And…that really is it, it’s just a college level law analysis class. How does this class somehow become a huge threat to children and society as we know it in the eyes of conservatives? It really comes down to the exploitation of a lack of information. 

Because Critical Race Theory, and Critical Legal Studies as a whole is a bit more of an obscure subject, there was not much information about it, or much interest in it online. Because there is little data about the subject other than large documents and college class resources that are hard for the average person to digest, outlets that want to lead a propaganda campaign can flood airwaves and the internet with false information without anybody being able to fact check their claims. This barrage of information makes it difficult to check the legitimacy of every claim because it is all happening so quickly in order to overwhelm and trigger an emotional reaction in the audience. This is why many conservative outlets were so successful in creating outrage about Critical Race Theory. 

But when you have people like Ben Shapiro, a man who received his degree from Harvard School of Law, who would have learned about CLS and CRT during his education, spreading false information about it on his podcast when he knows full well what he is doing, it really makes one question why he would say anything in the first place. What it comes down to is a simple necessity that every piece of media needs in order to exist: funding.

Outlets like Fox News, Daily Wire, Breitbart, and other conservative media are heavily funded by billionaires, and companies that frequently lobby and support politicians that help push their own agendas. When Daily Wire was first established in 2016, it received funding from Farris and Dan Wilks, who are pro-fracking billionaires from the state of Texas, who also assisted Ted Cruz in the 2016 presidential election.

Student non-profit organizations, including Turning Point USA and Young Americas Foundation, have also received funding from large GOP donors, and the two foundations frequently receive funding from foundations which receive contributions from prominent conservative billionaires. In 2018, TPUSA received criticism from YAF via an internal memo which leaked to the press which showed YAF condemning TPUSA’s increase in members who were Nazi Sympathizers and racists, as well as their history of falsifying records. The memo stated that TPUSA’s overall approach could harm the conservative movement as a whole. When a conservative non-profit begins to criticize another, one can begin to question their legitimacy. 

Media companies will often produce content that will not only please their viewers, but will also please their investors who fund their content. That’s how most of the business works. But if people like Shapiro were to be talking positively about CLS and CRT, it is extremely likely that because Shapiro’s takes would not align with the views of his investors or the other people they assist who rely on Shapiro in order to gain support, funding for his podcast would cease immediately (and maybe a drop in listeners, though I highly doubt it).

But sometimes, advertisers are scared away when the people they sponsor say something they genuinely shouldn’t. This was actually observed back in 2018, when Laura Ingraham of Fox News made fun of David Hogg, a Parkland Shooting survivor and a leader of March For Our Lives, for his lack of college acceptance letters. Hogg’s response was to take to twitter, and tag Ingraham and her sponsors in a tweet, which prompted many of them to pull out immediately, forcing Ingraham to apologize to Hogg. This also occurred with Sean Hannity in the same year, when several sponsors pulled their advertisements from his show after peddling conspiracy theories saying a DNC staffer was murdered. After stating he would no longer cover this subject, they resumed their advertisements. While just a small example, it shows the control that investors have over the media that many believe to be true. 

How does the ability for the wealthy to invest in media that promotes their beliefs relate to CLS? Well one of points made by CLS is that the law tends to cater to the wealthy, and protects them from various members of society. This includes minorities, the working class, LGBTQ+ people, and others. This prompts media outlets to pump out false information in order to protect these people, which hinders their viewers from researching what CLS and CRT are actually about, since they believe these media outlets deliver factual information. This will not only allow them to control the audience’s beliefs about various subjects, but it will also lead to their audience supporting people in power who will continue to pass legislation that protects the wealthy, which only proves the points that CLS makes.

At the end of the day, CRT is not being taught in K-12 schools like so many conservatives are saying. What is being taught in schools is the history of racism in the USA, and how to think critically about the subject of race. But even talking about race in schools is being demonized, and could be in danger of being removed completely if the misinformation and calls to “ban CRT” continue to prevail, since any mention of race is considered CRT in the eyes of many conservatives. But honestly, that is not likely to happen. And most parents who get riled up about it are doing so due to their lack of factual information, and the regurgitation of cable TV talking points.

So the next time there is a bunch of angry parents at your school district’s board meeting complaining about CRT, just remember that they’re unknowingly proving the points the founders of CLS and CRT were trying to make, and laugh at them. Because the ability to laugh at misinformation and continue to spread the truth is one of the most overlooked methods of protest.