Shielding a culture of racism: Why Anti-CRT legislation should really be called “White Comfort Bills” instead
I must acknowledge that the term “White Comfort bills” is not mine. I recently had the pleasure of meeting a brilliant scholar who made a point that resonated with me. As I have tried to say many times, the so-called “anti-CRT” bills really have nothing to do with critical race theory. She calls them “White Comfort bills.” I’m going to borrow her term because it perfectly articulates the essence of these new laws.
If you read the text of the bills that are spreading exponentially across the country, one line you find in most of them is a line about prohibiting training or teaching about “divisive concepts.” One of the tenets included is the idea that “any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.”
The language comes directly from former President Donald Trump’s September 2020 executive order, Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping, which launched the many bills that people often mistakingly call “anti-CRT” bills.
The language of that executive order has been copied and pasted into bills in multiple states. The lawmakers did not even think it was necessary to paraphrase or use their own words in these bills they have proposed and passed in over a dozens states.
The terms CRT and critical race theory have been used as a proxy for a whole host of ideas, related to systemic discrimination in this country. An organization called Citizens for Renewing America has created what they call a “Toolkit: Combating Critical Race Theory in Your Community.”
In this “toolkit” is “Model School Board Language to Prohibit Critical Race Theory.” This is the playbook being used to push these “White Comfort bills” around the country.
They include eight tenets, all eight copied and pasted from the Trump Executive Order. Included in this list is the banning of teachings that make White people feel uncomfortable. This discomfort is so stressful that lawmakers across the country are willing to continue whitewashing American history in the nation’s schools.
In this playbook is a list of terms they claim sit under the CRT umbrella. Never mind the fact that it’s untrue. What this list tells you is what they really mean when they say “CRT” or “critical race theory.” This is a short list of things they have fought hard to convince all of us are “divisive concepts” that should be outlawed.
- Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
- Culturally responsive teaching
- Anti-bias training
- Cultural competence
- Diversity training
- Implicit/Explicit bias
- Land acknowledgment
- Racial justice
- Social justice
- Systemic racism
- White privilege
This is just a short list of ideas they find threatening. For marginalized communities, these terms are the language of defiance to American racism, sexism, homophobia, and ethnocentrism.
The authors of these “White Comfort bills” want to ensure that the system of racism can continue unabated and shield White people from acknowledging the past and present damage done to marginalized communities particularly communities of color.
It is time people recognize that the are being tricked. The lines in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X movie that express this point best are when Malcolm said:
“Oh, I say and I say it again, ya been had!
Ya been took!
Ya been hoodwinked!
Once again Americans are being bamboozled by the so-called anti-CRT crowd. They do not care about, or know anything substantial about critical race theory. They want you to believe they’ve studied it but they haven’t. They want you to believe all of these things they call “divisive concepts” come out of a legal theory called critical race theory. They don’t. These people are not shy about using bald-faced lies to “prove” their point.
They want us to believe White children should be comfortable not learning about the ugly past of their ancestors. In order to make this happen they want to “cleanse” our history classes of the ugly past of racism. They want to pretend America has never been bad to people of color. They want students of color to sit in their “discomfort,” not learning anything about past or present injustices they live with, so that their White peers can be “comfortable.”
You cannot erase the evidence of America’s horrendous treatment of Native Americans from the history books. The evidence of bad deeds perpetrated by Whites in America is well documented by the people who were proud of their bad deeds. Books, diaries, speeches, and thousands of laws were written to detail what these individuals saw as the right way to treat people of color.
The evidence they left behind shows us how proud they were of these horrible actions. The words of the infamous 1854 U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision in the Dred Scott case says it all. These White Comfort bills want to take us back in time to when this sentiment was cemented into law. Speaking of Black people in America, SCOTUS said:
“They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the White race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the White man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.”