The Culture Wars Come for the American Historical AssociationRoundup
tags: American Historical Association, culture war, critical race theory
DANIEL J. SAMET is a Ph.D. student in history at the University of Texas at Austin.
On June 16, I received an email from the American Historical Association (AHA), of which I am a member, trumpeting its “firm opposition” to anti–critical race theory legislation nationwide. Amid our culture of near-omnipresent virtue signaling, wherein businesses and organizations rush to embrace the woke cause du jour, I could have been forgiven for paying this instance no mind.
It turned out to be worth a closer look. The message noted that the AHA had authored a statement, joined by the American Association of University Professors, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and PEN America, bemoaning “Legislative Efforts to Restrict Education about Racism and American History.” It has since been co-signed by 130 organizations and counting, many of which represent institutions of higher education.
The statement is a tour de force in presenting both disingenuous arguments and fake narratives.
These bills, the statement reads, intend “to suppress teaching and learning about the role of racism in the history of the United States.” If that were the aim of the legislation, we all should share their outrage.
Yet state governments are not trying to expunge racism from history textbooks. Consider the bill that was recently proposed in Texas. At no point does it mandate that public schools drop the history of racism in America from their curricula. Any class on American history worth taking can and should cover the transatlantic slave trade, chattel slavery, and Jim Crow, as well as emancipation and the civil-rights movement. Slavery and racism are indelible sins of our country’s past. On that you’ll find universal agreement, within the AHA and any other educational organization.
The trouble is that the torrent of critical race theory being foisted on schoolchildren goes far beyond giving them proper history lessons. It indoctrinates them in the notion that invisible systems of racial oppression infuse all parts of American life whereby a nebulous group of those deemed white subjugates a nebulous group of those deemed nonwhite. Take it from a mother in Virginia who survived Maoist China: Critical race theory, she says, is “the American version of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.” Rather than conduct an empirical examination of inequality of outcome, critical race theory dishonestly attributes all racial disparities to racial discrimination.
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