New Hampshire schools and state agencies would be prohibited from teaching “divisive concepts” under a bill proposed by a New Boston Republican, who filed the legislation in response to the spread of “critical race theory” (CRT) in American institutions. His proposal set off a firestorm of namecalling, attacks and self-described “virtue signaling” from Granite State progressives.
“This bill is racist,” testified Tim Horrigan (D-Durham). “Yes, I did say this is a racist bill. And yes, I’m virtue signaling.”
Many Democrats and activists agree with Horrigan’s point of view. Rep. Jean Jeudy (D-Manchester) went as far as to ask the prime sponsor if he was, in fact, a racist. And, critical race theory scholars, like Ian Haney López, decry the bill as “dog whistle” politics.
Rep. Keith Ammon, the prime sponsor, told NHJournal he believes the bill is anti-racist, and he wants to prevent public institutions from promoting racist ideas, including CRT.
Cornell Law School professor William Jacobson describes CRT as “a radical ideology that focuses on race as the key to understanding society, and objectifies people based on race.” It teaches that white Americans are engaged in racism no matter what their views are on race or how much they reject racism, and that society and its elements — education, businesses, the justice system — are inherently racist, too.
It’s the underpinning of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) claim that the criminal justice system “is racist from front to back,” even in communities where the police officers, prosecutors and judges are black.
CRT is also at the bottom of a controversy at Smith College that has become a hot media topic, in which a black student at the elite college falsely accused three blue-collar staffers of racism, ruining their reputations and costing them jobs. The student is still defending by the ACLU and the university refuses to apologize to the wronged employees.
Jacobson has created a website, Criticalrace.org, featuring a state-by-state list of more than 200 colleges and universities promoting critical race theory around the country.
Ammon’s bill, similar to bills being filed around the country, lists the divisive concepts that would be prohibited, including teaching that one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex. Also prohibited would be teaching that an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Ian Haney López, Professor of Public Law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, told NHPR host Peter Biello that “we’ve seen a purposeful effort by some politicians to mobilize racial resentment in the form of divide and distract politics” dating back to the days of Richard Nixon.
“That’s what you see in New Hampshire right now. Not a legitimate engagement with a studied, a careful and honest engagement with critical race theory, but an effort to turn critical race theory into yet another racial boogeyman,” Haney López said.
Conservative critics who reject CRT also have questions about the bill based on free speech concerns. How can a state government limit speech in a classroom or during a state board meeting? Still, opponents of the philosophy spoke out during a recent hearing.
“Critical Race Theory (CRT) is based on skin color and race, pure and simple. It creates hatred, guilt, and division in our country. It is a tool to be used by the radical left to divide and conquer,” Lily Tang Williams, a Chinese immigrant, wrote in a letter to the House Executive Departments & Agencies Committee supporting the bill.
Williams says she grew up in communist China. “I grew up during the reign of Mao and experienced his entire 10 years cultural revolution. Let me tell you – This racist theory is nothing more than a tactic to separate citizens into ‘oppressed’ and ‘oppressor’ classes, and it is something I have heard before.”
“I want to warn you, my fellow citizens: do not allow the Cultural Revolution to happen here, don’t teach and train our young people becoming like Red Guards in the name of “anti-racism” or “social justice”. We have lots of common ground to work together, have conversations about what is the best for our country and reduce racism. CRT is not the answer. CRT is a tool used by Marxists/Communists to divide us and destroy our country, take away our individual rights and freedom,” Williams wrote.
Haney López and supporters say they just want the United States to be a better place.
“I wish more people were talking about who we want to become, what we are to each other as citizens, as members of this society, and frankly, I think more of us need to be having a sustained conversation about where the real hardships in our lives originate from, because things are going wrong in the United States,” he told NHPR.
But former Smith College employee Jodi Shaw has a different view. She resigned from her position at the college, claiming the race-obsessed campus culture left her “physically and mentally debilitated.” Shaw claims critical race theory was the culprit.
“Every day, I watch my colleagues manage student conflict through the lens of race, projecting rigid assumptions and stereotypes on students, thereby reducing them to the color of their skin. I am asked to do the same, as well as to support a curriculum for students that teaches them to project those same stereotypes and assumptions onto themselves and others. I believe such a curriculum is dehumanizing, prevents authentic connection, and undermines the moral agency of young people who are just beginning to find their way in the world,” Shaw wrote in her resignation letter.
“I endured meetings in which another staff member violently banged his fist on the table, chanting ‘Rich, white women! Rich, white women!’ in reference to Smith alumnae.”
Shaw continued, “later, the facilitators told everyone present that a white person’s discomfort at discussing their race is a symptom of ‘white fragility.’ They said that the white person may seem like they are in distress but that it is actually a ‘power play.'”
“In other words, because I am white, my genuine discomfort was framed as an act of aggression. I was ashamed and humiliated in front of all of my colleagues.”