Mrs. Robinson and Mr. Santorum

Paper Invite for OUP Handbook of Philosophy and Race | MYISHA CHERRYPaul Simon penned some of music’s most memorable lyrics and tunes during his lengthy career. Occasionally, snatches of words and lines from Mrs. Robinson (1968) are heard “softly creeping” (Sounds of Silence) while considering a current political issue. These snippets “left their seeds” recently during research on critical race theory (CRT) and former Senator Rick Santorum’s (R-PA) dismissal as a CNN panelist  commentator for remarks characterizing Native American culture as nonexistent:

We’d like to help you learn to help yourself
Look around you, all you see are sympathetic eyes
Stroll around the grounds awhile until you feel at home

Most of all you got to hide it from the kids

Going to the candidates debate
Laugh about it, shout about it, when you got to choose
Every way you look at it you lose.

Santorum’s ignorance about Native American culture was expressed recently to an audience of young, mostly Catholic, assumedly conservative GOP students during a lecture at Young America’s Foundation (formerly Young Americans for Freedom) in Reston, Virginia. Cultural ignorance is one of the failings CRT seeks to penetrate in an effort to clarify the contemporary existence of racial bias. Whether such ignorance is hidden from the kids or kids are not exposed to race realities are only degrees of difference promising the same result—systemic ignorance and perpetuation of bias.

CRT has been gaining traction across the nation largely as a civics tool in education. Its focus upon race as a defining criterion systemically sustaining racism excites blowback from conservative Republicans who publicly champion hallowed virtues of the United States to the exclusion of its offenses.

CRT has been gaining traction across the nation largely as a civics tool in education. Its focus upon race as a defining criterion systemically sustaining racism excites blowback from conservative Republicans who publicly champion hallowed virtues of the United States to the exclusion of its offenses. A stunning example of this aversion appeared on a recent 60 Minutes broadcast where residents of Tulsa, Oklahoma, revealed that the destruction of the Greenwood neighborhood (‘Black Wall Street’) was not taught in schools at any level, from elementary to college.

CRT is a broad set of ideas about systemic bias and privilege with roots in legal academia. VoxFairfax’s companion book review [https://wp.me/p9wDCF-2Fr] follows in this vein. The grandfather of this approach was Harvard Law School professor Derrick Bell, who in the mid-1970s voiced frustration at the limited impact of landmark civil rights laws and US Supreme Court rulings of the previous decade. While those changes aimed to broaden access to high-quality education, jobs, and housing, they fell short. As an example, these scholars often cite the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, observing that virtually no actual efforts to desegregate schools were made until 10 years later. Racial bias, the critique maintains, remains embedded in a set of values and practices that discriminates against people of color.

Conservative Republican pushback against CRT is taking shape in the form of state legislative intervention, sometimes banning the practice outright and, in other cases, defining curricular limits.

Conservative Republican pushback against CRT is taking shape in the form of state legislative intervention, sometimes banning the practice outright and, in other cases, defining curricular limits. Always on the cusp of such reactions, Florida’s governor proudly offered:

 “Let me be clear, there’s no room in our classrooms for things like critical race theory,” Ron DeSantis said at a March press conference in Naples. “Teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other is not worth one red cent of taxpayer money.” DeSantis’ comment represents the broad theme among conservative Republicans opposing CRT in school curricula.

This conservative argument presumes current inequalities as natural occurrences and inevitable as part of the national heritage.  Thus, the colorblind ignorance of Rick Santorum.  Views like CRT are labeled unpatriotic and unnecessary to understanding history.  Ignorance and avoidance are preferable to critical insight.

Likely the political key to conservative Republican opposition is the assertion that the subordination continues into the present, effectively painting Republican dominance in state and national politics as a party to maintaining underclasses of people based upon race. This same bold opposition is evident in voter suppression measures reflecting not only an ignorance of political realities but defiance.

The ignorance and defiance offers little by way of any contrary intellectual analysis. For example, the highly regarded and well-received 1619 Project was met with excitable condemnation by prominent conservatives such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Newt Gingrich. Where the publisher – The New York Times – described the project as a “reframing” of American history, Cruz accused it of revising history and functioning beyond the purview of a newspaper by characterizing the material as propaganda, not news. Similar conservative criticism has been raised in defense of maintaining Confederate statuary and memorials in the face of efforts to diminish contemporary laurels to the Lost Cause.

Population dynamics predicate significant and substantial changes in the nation’s racial and ethnic constituency and ultimately in its voting electorate.

Population dynamics predicate significant and substantial changes in the nation’s racial and ethnic constituency and ultimately in its voting electorate. Blacks constitute some 47.5 million, while Census Bureau estimates for Native Americans is 10 million. Five Native Americans were elected to the present 117th Congress. In contemplating iconic national heroes, contrary to the Senator from Texas, this nation of immigrants continues to evolve and offer its residents exceptionalism.

Paul Simon mused about Joe DiMaggio’s heroic stature in American culture. Neither Rick Santorum nor Ron DeSantis are likely to be remembered so fondly. Every way you look at it, they lose.



Categories: CIVIL RIGHTS, Issues, National, native americans, politics, racial symbols

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