School board members across the county have been threatened with violence from local parents incensed over concerns ranging from COVID-19 restrictions, like mask mandates in classrooms, to the way their children are being taught about race and racism. These acts echo the threats and attacks that election officials have experienced from Trump supporters who refused to accede to the ex-President’s insistence upon altering the results of the 2020 election so that they certified his Big Lie that he had won.
Exploiting the frustrations of suburban parents, and their free-floating rage around the accommodations they were forced to make for pandemic-era schooling, Republicans have seized on education as an issue with which to gain voter support. In addition to COVID restrictions, this discontent of suburban parents — particularly mothers, many of whom had to quit their jobs to stay home during the COVID crisis to manage their children, and now just want to have their lives back — has been exacerbated by a lie about the alleged teaching of Critical Race Theory.
CRT is a body of legal scholarship and an academic movement of US civil-rights scholars and activists who seek to examine the intersection of race and US law and to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to racial justice. Around a slogan of “Parent Rights,” however, Republicans have misrepresented it to successfully fire up the significant reservoir of racial resentments that already exists to oppose teaching the truth of slavery, the Reconstruction Era, and Black history, in general. This was seen in the recent Gubernatorial contest in Virginia where, as the New York Times described it, the Republican candidate, “released an ad that was a throwback to the days of banning books, highlighting objections by a white mother and her high-school-age son to ‘Beloved,’ the canonical novel about slavery by the Black Nobel laureate Toni Morrison.”
The fact is that CRT is not being taught in schools. Rather, as Rashad Robinson, the president of the racial justice organization, Color of Change, noted, the campaign against it “is a strategy to prevent our kids from learning all of our history. It’s about banning Black history, but it’s also about banning American history.” As Mr. Robinson suggests, this manufactured crisis is an attempt to suppress the truth about this country, its origins and development as a world power through slavery and genocide.
But this is just the latest instance of the war on truth that Republicans have been waging, and with demonstrable success. A poll released this month, for example, by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that, even after the tumultuous events of Jan. 6, 70 percent of Republicans still accept Trump’s Big Lie, and 3 in 10, or 39 percent of these respondents believe violence might be justified “to save our country.”
The success of their mendacity has been particularly evident in the ability of the claim that Trump was robbed to capture one of the nation’s two major parties. Additionally, it has created the rationale for 19 Republican-controlled states to pass 33 election laws potentially disenfranchising millions of BIPOC voters under the pretext of preventing spurious voter fraud, while empowering their legislatures to decide who wins a Presidential election. In other words, the Big Lie has permissioned Republicans to bend, spindle and mutilate the democratic process to do a legal variation of the voter fraud they accuse others of committing illegally. It is through “democratic” maneuvers such as this that autocratic regimes in the Soviet Union, Hungary, the Philippines, Brazil, and Venezuela have come to power.
The GOP has also been busy rewriting the history of 6 January by claiming that the people who stormed the Capital were overzealous “tourists” or persecuted “patriots” exercising their constitutional rights. Imagine this lie appearing in your child’s history text if the forces who are currently trying to suppress teaching the truth of our nation’s past succeed under the guise of attacking the CRT straw man.
To counter this, we have to create a culture of honesty and truth, one that can help counter this spreading web of lies that are the fertile soil of fascism. As it is with most virtues, this begins at home, amongst ourselves and our everyday interactions and relationships with our families and friends, acquaintances and strangers. This is where we begin to penetrate the gauze of false consciousness that has enveloped white folks and especially white males, preventing us from calling out and standing up to, instead of going along with the lies that whitewash patriarchy, white supremacy, and other expressions of injustice and oppression that make a mockery of our democracy.
But even more than the truth, itself, it is how we speak truth that allows it to potentially be received as such by folks beyond the choir. A righteous statement, for example, cannot be delivered self-righteously, and truth cannot be represented as The Truth.
Rather, it is a way of behaving that is informed by compassion, modesty and respect, minus an agenda to triumph over the other. In so being, we display an integrity of purpose and an openness beyond the issue at hand. Rather than being hammered with our version of reality, the other feels accepted, instead, as a fellow living being. Truth emerges when it is embodied within expressions of heartfelt lovingkindness. This allows for the transparency and vulnerability where honesty lives.