Ian Prior, executive director of Fight for Schools, leads a rally against critical race theory in Loudoun County VA. Photo: Nathaniel Cline, Loudoun Times-Mirror
Anti-Black racism is at the heart of the debate on Critical Race Theory and use of the word "woke" as a pejorative. The white peoples party, republicans, have new weapons, and democrats, the putative black peoples party, shove their constituents under the bus. Appeals to racism are once again the keys to electoral victory.
Perpetual fear of something is characteristic of the white American psyche. Especially when the fear is about non-white people. Among the newest race related fears haunting white people are ‘Critical Race Theory’ (CRT) and ‘Wokeness.’ Both of these terms are being used as harmful code language employed by both Democrats, and Republicans and promoted by their propaganda arm — the white-owned corporate media. What makes these terms harmful is that they are being used to counter Black people’s long-standing demands for justice.
A recent report published by the Manhattan Institute, titled, ‘Woke Schooling: A Toolkit For Concerned Parents,’ is an example of how the terms have been turned into a boogeyman for white people. The report argues against CRT by using cherry-picked, misrepresented and out of context ideas about racism, pulled from a variety of incongruous sources and lumps them all under the obscure heading of ‘critical pedagogy.’ The report offers a race-baited, one-sided analysis that frames CRT as something white parents should be worried about. It completely ignores a thorough analysis of the horrific violence, destroyed families and ongoing trauma suffered by Black people in America, which underlies the emergence of restorative ideas such as CRT and Wokeness.
The report masquerades as concern for white parents and amounts to a form of ‘blaming the victim.’ That is to say, Black people’s response to anti-Black racism in the form of rectifying historical narratives is the problem white people have chosen to be wary of. It is another example of white supremacists’ obsessive desire to control and dictate Black people’s reaction to their own racial oppression.
On a side note, the Manhattan Institute is one of many conservative think tanks that produces covert anti-Black talking points used by politicians. One of the Manhattan Institute’s founders, William J. Casey, was director of the CIA from 1981 to 1987. And former Manhattan Institute fellow, Charles Murray, is author of the infamous racist screed, The Bell Curve. This is what the Manhattan institute is all about — racial propaganda that pretends to be scholarship.
Outside of graduate level studies, no grade school is actually teaching CRT. So, what’s really the play here? Why the CRT hysteria? The term is being used as code for Black people and Black interests and is weaponized as a race-baiting scare tactic designed to galvanize conservative leaning voters. This was demonstrated by Glenn Youngkin’s victory over Terry McAuliffe in Virginia’s gubernatorial race.
CRT has become a convenient target for attack because its meaning is obscure to most people. This allows critics to distort its meaning and apply it to any classroom history discussion that white parents might consider to be ‘critical’. Thus, opponents of CRT are able to use it as a method of deceptive and distracting argumentation. The focus on CRT by conservatives is a way to attack Black interests without saying the word Black.
Concerning ‘wokeness,’ the term was popularized by young Black people who used being ‘woke’ to refer to a state of being conscious and aware of white supremacy and its long history of injustice against Black people. For Black people, wokeness is about taking a stand against systemic racism and demanding justice by calling for the punishment of police, ending racially targeted policing and ending Black mass incarceration.
Even the liberal news media is revealing its racist tendencies by playing the dog-whistle game. In a recent episode of CNN’s ‘The Point’ with Chris Cillizza, titled, “Why 'wokeness' is the biggest threat to Democrats in 2022," the terms ‘woke’ and ‘wokeness’ are used as euphemisms for Black people. Cillizza’s thinly veiled spin was obvious. He incorporated images of Black people labeled as ‘woke’ or ‘woke mob’ to make it clear that the issue is about Black people. He then put emphasis on ‘defund the police’ as an element of ‘wokeness’ calling it the biggest threat facing Democrats in next year’s mid-term elections. He also threw in the Green New Deal and detention of immigrants as being elements of ‘wokeness.’
Of course, these are all issues which Republicans and conservatives are stridently against. But apparently Cillizza, along with Democrat strategist, James Carville, think Democrats should be against those issues as well. The goal of Cillizza’s anti-Black propaganda piece is to turn white liberals against things Black people want.
Use of the terms CRT and ‘woke’ represent clumsy cultural appropriation on the part of Republicans, Democrats and the white-owned corporate media. Their use of these terms as scare tactics is not really about threats to white parents or Democrats, but about the threat posed to white-supremacy and its status quo of injustice. It’s an
attempt to discourage any political platform that might incorporate demands being made by Black people. Message to Democrats, Republicans and corporate media: It will take more than cheap dog-whistle scare tactics to stop the universal demand for justice — which is the real meaning of CRT and “Wokeness.”
Thad Baltimore has over 15 years experience in marketing, design and brand development at companies such as MTV Networks and Nickelodeon. He’s taken particular interest in how deceptive language is used consistently by media, politicians, and government and is currently writing a book on the topic. He can be reached at www.tbaltimore.com.