Montana is not perfect, but President Lincoln would be proud of how it is handling the fight against Critical Race Theory (CRT), or more accurately, the Critical Social Justice (CSJ) movement that has grown out of it. If you are not familiar with these terms or the problems associated with them check out What do we Mean by Critical Social Justice by Helen Pluckrose. Last month, the Montana state attorney general released a statement affirming that treating people differently based on their race violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is not merely a political performance; the formal opinion of the Attorney General of Montana carries the weight of law in that state. This is the way to fight CRT in the United States. Other states and the federal government should follow Montana’s lead.
CRT proponents have been waging ideological war in the realm of academia for decades. More recently, they have been waging it in the realm of business, with “diversity, equity, and inclusion” initiatives becoming standard practice very quickly. Recent examples are industry giants Coca-Cola and Disney implementing dubious and ideologically driven diversity initiatives. The latest battleground in this ideological war is K-12 schools. Unfortunately for CRT, parents tend to bristle at their children being taught that they are racist (if they’re white) or helpless (if they’re black). With remote learning being so prevalent over the last year due to COVID-19, parents became more aware than ever of what their children were learning.
Understandably, the instinct of many—who have come to see CSJ ideology for what it is—is to ban it through institutional policy changes or laws. The first major example of this was President Trump’s executive order banning CRT training from federal agencies and contractors in September. It’s important to note that executive orders aren’t laws and that this order did not prohibit CRT training in the US, only in the federal agencies over which the president has ultimate authority. President Biden wasted no time rescinding that order on his first day in office. However, Trump’s executive order seemed to have signaled that it was okay for people to resist these ideas. And resist they did. A very notable example is that of a black woman whose son (who is biracial) was given a failing grade for refusing to put himself in racial categories that were described as oppressive, among other things.
Since President Biden took office, many states have introduced bills that would make CRT training illegal. Some of them, like Idaho’s, call out CRT by name. Other states, like Arkansas, modeled their bills more like Trump’s executive order and used more generic terminology like “race and sex stereotyping.” Some bills, like North Carolina’s, specifically limit the ban to public primary education. Others, like New Hampshire’s, include additional areas such as government agencies and contractors. Some have been defeated, some have been signed into law, and some are still in the legislative process. As far as first efforts to resist CRT go, these at least get the fight started. Opponents of CRT are on the defensive, and most didn’t even know they were in a battle until far too late for their own liking, so they’re just glad to be returning fire, even if it’s not with the best aim.
It is inevitable that these bills, once passed into law, will be challenged by CRT proponents, but they should also be challenged by freedom-loving Americans of many stripes. All laws should be challenged if they infringe on Americans’ rights, and we have to be very careful with banning ideas. Who gets to decide what constitutes a “divisive concept?” If the goal is to ban racist practices, that was already done most effectively by the Civil Right Act (CRA) of 1964.
If it’s racist (meaning to discriminate against any individual due to race) and it’s impacting people in school, work, or business, the CRA already says it’s illegal, which brings us back to Montana.
As everyone’s favorite new Mandalorian says, “This is the way.” CRT advocates like to wrap their ideology in words like “anti-racism” and want to assume the mantle of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. But as everyone knows, that movement was about judging people not “by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” CRT, however, often does the opposite, explicitly and unapologetically, such as the aforementioned Coca-Cola training that encouraged employees to be less white by being less oppressive, less arrogant, and less ignorant. Therefore, it obviously violates the CRA, as Montana’s attorney general has made clear. Banning a theory or an idea or even an ideology is illiberal. Writing a law to ban these things introduces all kinds of opportunities for exploitation and unnecessary curtailment of liberty. Yes, those laws can then be challenged, but if we can resist something already illegal with laws already in place we can avoid problems caused by vague language and other potential flaws in new legislation. Perhaps more importantly, using this specific law to strike down CRT-based practices that discriminate based on race is the most crushing blow to its claim to Civil Rights Era morality.
To be clear, banning the teaching of ideas is a bad idea, but if those ideas lead to practices that discriminate based on race, then teaching them as if they are true is already illegal under the CRA. This is how Jim Crow laws—which were based on the idea that black Americans were inferior to white Americans—were declared illegal, but not the ideas they were based on, despite their immorality. Morality is the entire basis of CRT proponents’ claims. Showing its immorality, especially by using a true moral paragon of racial equality like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is all that’s needed.
Craig Carroll is a retired US Marine Corps martial arts instructor and intelligence analyst. He retired from the US Intelligence Community as a contractor last year. He is now road-tripping around the US to connect with friends new and old while reading and writing about topics of import, particularly Critical Social Justice.