F.lorida’s governor Ron DeSantis is one of the most loyal supporters of Donald Trump and at the same time a possible candidate for his successor. His new role, which should also bring him more supporters nationally, is that of a leader in the culture war of the right. It goes against anti-racist teaching content in schools: In Florida, teachers should in future be prevented from discussing “structural racism” without guidelines in the classroom – or, in DeSantis’ words, “teaching children to hate our country”.
The catchphrase under which conservatives want to save the previous, in many places rather uncritical history lessons, is “Critical Race Theory”, in German about “Critical Theory of Racism”. Fox News mentioned the term 1,300 times in the past few months, according to the Brookings Institution think tank.
The murder of George Floyd caused a rethink
Six states have passed laws that could restrict how racism is talked about in schools. The aim is to prevent teachers from portraying the United States or people with a certain skin color as “inherently racist,” according to Oklahoma’s regulation. Nobody should be obliged to continue training on the topic of diversity.
Almost twenty other states are discussing similar laws – and in many places school authorities have explicitly banned the Critical Race Theory without precisely defining its content. A lot has been subsumed under the buzzword these days – from teaching to structural racism to history curricula that focus on slavery or the genocide of the indigenous people.
Quite a few schools have actually started to add curricula to their curricula following the murder of African American George Floyd and the ensuing mass protests last year. According to experts, until recently events such as the Tulsa massacre of hundreds of blacks in 1921 were not taught in schools – not even in Tulsa, Oklahoma itself.
Critical Race Theory, however, is an academic theory that has existed for more than forty years. The generic term for the study of structural racism in the legal system originated in jurisprudence in the 1970s. Theorists like Richard Delgado and Kimberlé Crenshaw wanted to show how supposedly neutral legislation can perpetuate racist structures – and that this happens regardless of the possible hatred of the actors.
Poverty and African American origins are often closely linked
This can be observed in building law or criminal law, for example: building regulations that make it easy to exclude apartment buildings in a neighborhood are ultimately directed against social housing and lead to divided cities.
In the United States, poverty and African American ancestry are statistically closely linked because blacks have been unable to build wealth for generations. If the law now assumes that all people have the same starting opportunities socially, it can continue the state of inequality in an extremely unequal society. For the Conservatives, however, this unspectacular observation goes to the very foundations of the American self-image, because it calls into question the meritocracy and its institutions: the idea that anyone in the United States can do it through hard work – and that the who do not make it, are ultimately responsible for it themselves.