Lauren Dennehy counter protests the public forum on critical race theory on June 24, 2021. Sofie Brandt / The Hartford Courant

Anyone who is semi-conscious knows that Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a hot topic. The doctrine emerged from silent implementation and hit general awareness when it became publicized by Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow at The Manhattan Institute whose reporting showed that it is being taught in schools, businesses and other organizations across America. In September 2020, the publicity prompted President Donald Trump to issue an executive order that “it shall be the policy of the United States not to promote race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating” in the Federal, uniformed, grant funded or federal contractor workforces. Seems reasonable.

Alan Calandro

But the words were penned by Trump whose hatred by the left quickly made it controversial when it should not be to reasonable people. In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the shock amongst the general population that followed, ideologues and opportunity-driven politicians recognized what Winston Churchill knew (and lots of politicians and managers know): “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Often, this can be a good thing, allowing a manager to get important changes made that bureaucratic inertia usually prevents. But many times it is used to evil ends such Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933 after the burning of the Reichstag.

CRT is in the latter category and is an extreme doctrine by most any standard. But many inexplicably continue to defend it as either: 1) not actually existing, 2) only existing in faraway sophisticated graduate/law schools, 3) portraying it as consisting of normal, necessary values, and/or 4) painting its critics as the one’s with hateful beliefs. Some of these methods were used in a commentary published in the CT Mirror on October 25. The opinion headline calls it: “…teaching for life.”

The piece starts by saying “If you’re like me … you’re growing increasingly impatient with the politically motivated narrative being spun about critical race theory.” Except, the political spin is mostly occurring on the left who in this case can count on the big media outlets to support them. Remember Colin Kaepernick and others kneeling during the National Anthem? At first, there was criticism based on how it obviously appeared – disrespectful. But over time, media sympathizers somehow alchemized them into “patriots” because the kneelers were “exercising their First Amendment rights.” I’m not saying that Colin Kaepernick is a horrible person or that he didn’t have a point to make, but kneeling to the national anthem is disrespectful to your country. But the power of today’s media, heavy with self-righteousness, allows truths to be made or unmade.

Back to CRT. The commentary is full of rhetorical flourishes – such as those who oppose CRT are against an honest “reckoning with our nation’s history” and are “opposed to culturally conscious curricula.” Throughout the piece it sidesteps the objectionable parts of the theory itself and instead defends its teaching as needed to give kids the “tools” needed in today’s world. Ideological sympathizers in the East Hartford and West Hartford schools as well as the ACLU go along in support.

But in practice, CRT teaches “white Bad” and then forces people, even little kids, to say so. But if you knew nothing else about CRT, reading the commentary alone would have you conclude that it is just another attempt at achieving long sought racial fairness and equality. Parts of it do sound like that but other parts are alarming. There are three issues about CRT that should be easy for a reasonable American to accept as reality:  1) that parts of it are racist in nature, 2) that it is being taught in some K-12 schools in the U.S.  with intent to expand – not just to higher education or law schools, and 3) it is part of required training of adults in various large companies/organizations across America.

If you want a good overview of the history of CRT see the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Although it contains some good information and tries to be accurate for a while, it eventually succumbs to a brazen and ridiculous left-wing description of what is happening today: “In a later, successful effort to deflect public attention from the problem of racism and to manufacture provocative social issues that would galvanize conservative Americans, Trump and other Republican leaders opted to attack CRT.” That’s how a trusted encyclopedia becomes a rag. Newsflash to people who believe that characterization: have you seen the large amounts of regular people complaining about it? It’s not opposed by just Republicans, by just white people, and it’s not opposed because of nefarious racist motives. It’s opposed by regular people who see racist and divisive content being forced on their kids. But it’s the Kaepernick strategy: make something that is one way the opposite of itself. It’s not the doctrine that’s racist – it’s the parents that are racist. That is not to say that either party to some extent will use almost anything that will advantage their party. Republicans were handed red meat that they of course used to help themselves and the Democrats responded in kind.

In reality, many on the left embrace CRT in schools. Just last summer, the Biden Administration via Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, planned on tying school funding across America to the teaching of CRT but had to walk back the plans after an outcry. Although the “official” CRT expansion effort was curtailed, rest assured it will be pursued unofficially and quietly expanded. For example, third grade students in Cupertino, CA “were forced to rank themselves according to power and privilege” and list “their race, class, gender, religion, family structure, and other characteristics” to structure their relative power maps. In Springfield Missouri, middle school teachers were required to form an oppression matrix with overt and covert white supremacy. Covert white supremacy including calling the police on black people, anything MAGA, funding education through property tax and “white silence.”

At East Side, a sixth to 12th grade school in Manhattan, the principal sent out literature with “8 White Identities” ranging from white supremacist to white abolitionist for parents to reflect on. The author, a professor from Northwestern University argued that “It’s about time we build an ethnography of whiteness, since white people have been the ones writing about and governing Others.’’ In Oregon, and the Portland area in particular, schools have adopted the “pedagogy of the oppressed” to “replace education with activism.” The amount of indoctrination is too much too list but as an example, one district in Oregon “confessed that the district’s students of color, and Black students in particular, still regularly experience racism in [their] schools’” and that the superintendent “implement a ‘collective equity framework,’ establish ‘pillars for equity,’ deploy ‘Equity Teams’ … create racially segregated ‘Student Affinity Groups,’ and use ‘an equity lens for all future curriculum adoptions.’” In short, CRT is being taught in schools.

Just recently on October 12 CNN’s “New Day” show, hosted Asra Nomani, “a Virginia Muslim single mom” to debate CRT in schools and she brought tabbed children’s books that contain CRT elements including one young children’s book, “Not My Idea,” that prominently pastes “Whiteness is a bad deal – It Always Was” on one page with a Satan symbol on the next. The response of her debate companion, Kazique Prince, “Global Director, of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging” at a technology company? “We have too many people who know little or nothing about education trying to tell professionals…what education should look like” even though he has no training in education. Which is way better than Nomani’s fellow Virginian, failed governor candidate Democrat Terry MaCauliffe, who said in a televised debate on September 29 that “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” These are great illustrations of the blind spot that leftist ideologues have for unwittingly promoting authoritarianism (e.g. people like Stalin): these aren’t your kids, they are the government’s kids. After all, as Hillary Clinton said: It takes a village to raise a child – dopey “untrained” parents can’t do it.

Regarding CRT in organizations other than schools, it is not news to those that work for a living that CRT has infiltrated most companies and organizations. Rufo has uncovered swaths of evidence. AT&T’s CEO John Stankey (salary: $22.5 million) educates its employees that “racism is a uniquely white trait,” assesses employees on diversity and mandates participation in “discussion groups, book clubs, mentorship programs, and race reeducation exercises.” Walmart’s CEO John McMillon (salary: $21.6 million), who “runs” the largest company in the U.S., instituted a CRT effort that “denounces the United States as a ‘white supremacy system’ and teaches white, hourly wage employees that they are guilty of ‘white supremacy thinking’ and ‘internalized racial superiority.’” This is the company that doesn’t pay workers enough to avoid being on government health care but instead spends money on CRT. Larry Merlo (salary: $23 million), the head of CVS, the fourth largest company in the U.S., also felt it necessary to launch CRT trainings for his employees. According to documents Rufo obtained, “The training required employees to mark their race, gender, sexuality, and religion and reflect on their privilege which included ‘celebrat[ing] Christmas…hav[ing] a name that is easy to pronounce…feel[ing] safe in your neighborhood…[and]… feel[ing] confident in your leadership style.” The keynote speaker at the training told 25,000 CVS employees that they, including toddlers, are “walking through society …and functioning…completely soaked in racist ideas.” Amazon and Apple, the second and third largest companies in the U.S., follow right along.

This may not sound that unusual to you because we have all heard similar sounding things before and some of this can be seen as a ramp up of what many are used to. But not everyone, and that includes all races, have turned their brains off an just accepted this offensive ideology. But few will say so for fear of imperiling their jobs and careers. You think those CEOS got where they are by bucking the trends? In the case of rank and file workers at companies like CVS or Walmart, workers check whatever boxes they must to ensure their continued employment and the management institutes whatever it must to avoid negative publicity and justify/continue excessive executive pay.

CRT’s advantage is that anti-racism efforts overlap with parts of CRT, which have allowed extremist views a foothold to advance under seemingly benign banners like “cultural consciousness.” The fact that some states have passed a ban on CRT, being taught makes sense if one believes in equality for all. But the left, at least as exemplified by big media types and politicians, continues with its Kaepernick strategy: it’s those that want to ban something good that are bad! Judging by the reaction at school board meetings across the country, lots of people are not buying it.

This commentary has been revised since initial publication.

Alan Calandro of Burlington is the former Director of the state’s Nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis and is a lifelong independent.