Anyone watching Fox News looking for the latest mountain of damning revelations about, say, the former president’s personal lawyer being caught on tape committing treason, or the former president’s White House lawyer admitting under oath that said twice-impeached, one-term loser ordered him to obstruct justice will likely come away disappointed. Or, rather, they would if Fox News viewers didn’t go there specifically to have their innate prejudices stridently reinforced while sticking their fingers in their ears and yelling, “La la laaa—can’t hear you!” whenever inconvenient truths accidentally swim into view.
Nope, what you’re most likely to hear about—in the sort of sneeringly alarmist tones reserved for things right-wing propagandists fear most—is critical race theory. That’s the boogeyman du jour judged by Fox’s in-house white fragility detector to be the thing most likely to divert viewers’ attention from, say, the fact that the former president and Fox pin-up idol directed the supposedly independent Department of Justice to seek damning personal information on his political enemies. And, as Amber Ruffin examined the contentious issue of, you know, actually telling the truth about American history, it’s not surprising that states like Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and other states where “you can buy Confederate flags at gas stations” are passing laws banning the teaching of actual facts about slavery and its enduring harm.
As Ruffin explained (while Fox News viewers accidentally tuning into Peacock stick their fingers in their ears and shout about that Black lady telling them what to do), critical race theory (and the Pulitzer Prize winning 1619 Project) isn’t just a way to understand the nefarious cheat mechanics in Mario Kart. (Rubber-banding, indeed.) No, it’s merely the “well-researched and award winning journalism” (of renowned journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and others) intended, as Ruffin put it, to “talk a lot more about the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black people” in American history. Thus, Ruffin elaborated, critical race theory is exactly the sort of white supremacy-challenging idea that conservatives rightly view as threatening to their carefully curated myth of an American history where slavery wasn’t so bad, and 400 years of systematic oppression and bigotry have had no effect whatsoever on public policy, the perpetuation of hateful stereotypes, or policing.
As Ruffin pointed out in discussing how a poll showed that only eight percent of high school seniors could identify slavery as the root cause of the Civil War (that’s the one with those mini-mart Confederate flags), critical race theory is sorely needed to redress the meticulously designed and curated intentional ignorance of Americans about the messily bigoted truths about how we got here. Here, of course, being the place where a South Carolina school textbook was in use for 130 years despite (or, indeed, because of) the fact that its version of history was more about assuaging and eliding potentially damning facts about that state’s own racist history than—as Ruffin suggested is actually the point of History class—providing students with “the tools to examine our history in an open an honest way.” Ruffin also suggested that that system of schooling might help explain why Tim Scott (R-SC) is one of the only elected Black Republicans joining the anti-critical race theory Confederate History Day parade.
Ruffin, after musing ruefully about the lack of some “prize-winning Black history curriculum developed by the greatest scholars in the country” to redress this insidiously whitewashed view of race in America, brought the segment home with customary bluntness. “You shouldn’t fix history to make you feel better,” Ruffin proclaimed concerning the sweaty machinations of Fox News and other red-faced white people to shut down any deconstruction of the central national myth. As Ruffin told such people (convincingly enough to penetrate a few blocked-up ears, one can only hope), “Learning about slavery feels awful—too bad! Try living with its repercussions while white people tell you there weren’t any.” Thus endeth Professor Ruffin’s lesson.