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What 2021 Taught Us About Racial Justice Struggles

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tags: racism, voting rights, critical race theory



We witnessed the destructive power of anger and resentment this year.

Brandishing Confederate iconography, insurrectionists laid siege to the US Capitol, in what amounted to an assault on multiracial democracy. Republican-led state legislatures enacted laws making it more difficult for people of color to vote, and also waged war on transgender kids. Within the GOP, Islamophobia proved to be as potent as ever.

Cruelty didn’t go unchallenged, of course. For instance, in the aftermath of the massacre in Atlanta that left eight people—including six women of Asian descent—dead, people across the country poured into the streets to demand change and combat hate. Still, 2021 was marked by a number of prominent issues, particularly on the race and equality front.

To explore some of these issues, I reached out to experts. They broke down some of the most important 2021 moments and trends—and reflected on how they might inform race and equality conversations as we trudge into the year ahead.

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Racial resentment in a new guise

By Angie Maxwell

A disturbingly memorable moment for me in 2021 was watching the parents of elementary school children take their turns berating my family’s local school board members about so-called “Critical Race Theory,” and hearing their supporters cheer and applaud from the lobby hallway to which they had been relegated for refusing to wear masks.

Their comments ranged from generic talking points that I recognized as having come from the national conservative organizations manufacturing the anti-CRT outrage to disjointed diatribes against masks, vaccines, globalism and government “co-parenting.” The information deluging these folks may have been fake, but I could see clearly that their emotional reactions to it—mostly rage—were very, very real.

Racial resentment is a hell of a drug. Add to it a general sense of (faux) entitlement, the hatred that results from decades of “us vs. them” polarization (including the working mom/stay-at-home mom wars) and a shot of Christian nationalism, and the resulting cocktail is so potent that it renders wild conspiracy theories credible, lost causes winnable and democracies vulnerable.

Maybe most disturbing is that this intoxicating recipe for racial resentment isn’t new. It’s just got a fancy new acronym for its name on the menu, and too many Republican leaders will only continue to serve it to their base in the year ahead.

Angie Maxwell is an associate professor of political science at the University of Arkansas.

Read entire article at CNN

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