“When Hitler cracked down on them.” It sure sounds like right-wing podcaster and former Love Connection host Chuck Woolery thinks it was a good thing Hitler cracked down on those darned Marxists, most of whom just coincidentally were also Jewish. Which you get the feeling Woolery knows full well, from the Hitler part to the NYC part. In fact, Woolery has quite the history of just mentioning that various figures are both Jewish and Marxist or socialist, from Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin (the latter of whom was not, in fact, Jewish) to Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Woolery isn’t the only right-wing figure to give the game away recently. Where he exposed the connection between antisemitism and opposition to teaching that systemic racism is real, prominent critical race theory opponent Christopher Rufo—whose Fox News appearance ranting about the issue may have drawn Donald Trump’s personal attention to the issue—explained the plan behind all these state-level efforts to ban the teaching of an academic theory that isn’t even being taught in schools.
“We have successfully frozen their brand—‘critical race theory’—into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category,” Rufo tweeted in March. “The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory.’ We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.”
In other words, the Republican war on “critical race theory” is not about actual critical race theory. It’s about coming up with a term to use as a catch-all for “stuff we don’t like about race,” extending to the radical notion that racism is a real force in U.S. history and remains a force in the U.S. today.
“Critical race theory is a dangerous and flat-out wrong theory,” Ohio state Rep. Don Jones, the lead sponsor of an anti-critical race theory bill, said in a statement. “Students should not be asked to ‘examine their whiteness’ or ‘check their privilege.’”
In translation: There can be no challenge to an existing, white-centered, white-focused version of history and understanding of how power operates in today’s United States. Not even a little bit. Whiteness is the valued norm and it will remain such under penalty of law if Republicans get their way. And, uh, “Mr. Jones, in an interview, could not cite any examples of such teaching taking place now in Ohio,” The New York Times reports.
As scholar and television host Marc Lamont Hill showed, with a set of questions that should be directed at every single Republican making an issue of critical race theory in schools, at least some Republicans—and, honestly, probably most of them—don’t even know what critical race theory is. They are just following Rufo and other masterminds of their party in using the term to make any teaching at all about race or racism sound complicated and scary, like what’s being taught is not historical facts and current reality but rather some exotic theory. The twin goals are scaring white voters into believing that kids are being indoctrinated and banning any teaching at all that challenges a racist vision of U.S. history.