Some left-of-center folk probably think the Great Critical-Race-Theory Scare of 2021 will just blow over once it becomes obvious that its proponents are fighting an imaginary war. The latest in a very old series of alarums over the alleged Marxist indoctrination of children by public schools, CRT has become the vague term for all sorts of social-science, history, and literature pedagogy that conservative parents and their activist allies find objectionable.
But the anti-CRT crusade is only getting more virulent. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis is now threatening to deploy the pernicious vigilante enforcement scheme of the Texas abortion law to encourage the harassment of schools — or even corporate personnel — that dare teach about the evils of racism. He held a rally-style media event on Wednesday to announce this authoritarian initiative (the “Stop WOKE Act”) on behalf of the alleged right to feel good about American history, as Politico explains:
A key piece of the DeSantis proposal would give parents the power to sue local school districts that teach lessons rooted in critical race theory. This part, which also allows parents to collect attorney fees, is similar to the bounties permitted under Texas’ controversial abortion law. Under that law, ordinary citizens can sue those who provide abortions and collect attorney fees.
Teaching anything related to CRT, mind you, has already been banned in Florida public schools since June. This new initiative would just create a witch-hunt atmosphere complete with financial incentives for nuisance lawsuits. And while it isn’t entirely clear what DeSantis has in mind to encourage the harassment of those conducting corporate-diversity programs, he appears to want to make training programs with content on, say, white male privilege, an unfair labor practice. This is all about protecting regular working people from “elites,” you see. Per Politico:
DeSantis announced the moves under a new “Stop WOKE Act” at a press conference held near The Villages, a bulwark of Republican support in central Florida. The event functioned more as a de facto campaign rally as a crowd of onlookers applauded loudly and waved signs handed out to them ahead of the event as DeSantis bashed liberal cities and states, and companies like Bank of America and Verizon, over their policies.
“Nobody wants this crap,” DeSantis told the crowd.
“This is an elite-driven phenomenon being driven by bureaucratic elites, elites in universities and elites in corporate America. And they’re trying to shove it down the throats of the American people. You’re not doing that in the state of Florida,” he said.
This initiative will undoubtedly please some corporate “elites” who would like an excuse to save some money in their HR budgets by no longer pretending to give a damn about racist or sexist conduct in the workplace. As for Florida teachers, why would any of them invite a lawsuit from the local MAGA commissar by suggesting their nation was anything other than the divinely blessed paradise of freedom and opportunity?
DeSantis is providing a fine example of how today’s conservatives can quickly pivot from whiny complaints about persecution by “elites” to the most aggressive kind of state action to promote their own reactionary cultural viewpoints. The Texas abortion law, with its bounties for right-wing litigation, has supplied an extra ingredient to the mix: Strike a blow against wokeness and get paid! And the whole overweening initiative is supposedly necessary to fight communism, as DeSantis’s lieutenant governor asserted (per Florida Politics):
Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez, Education Secretary Richard Corcoran and various lawmakers and activists from around the state joined DeSantis for his announcement.
Núñez invoked her parents, who left Cuba in 1961, saying they were fleeing “the oppression and the indoctrination that we are seeing at the hands of CRT.”
That’s right: Allow any criticism of Jim Crow to creep into the classrooms, and next thing you know, the sugar plantations will be nationalized and people will be herded into camps. Better to shut it all down once and for all and let freedom ring.