Behind Virginia’s CRT Governor’s Loss

Crossposted at Chapman's News & Ideas

When you tell people that something they see right before them does not exist, you lose their vote. That’s what Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe did as he campaigned for governor, and, no surprise, he lost. If Democrats continue on this course in 2022, they’ll lose again.

Specifically, McAuliffe said of critical race theory, or CRT, on “Meet the Press,” “Let me explain: It’s never been taught in Virginia.”

That’s just not true today, as countless parents attest, and it wasn’t true when McAuliffe was Virginia governor in 2015.

The day after McAuliffe lost, nonetheless, The Washington Post reported that Republican Glenn Youngkin, who beat McAuliffe, “promised to ban the teaching of critical race theory, an academic approach to racial history that’s not part of the Virginia K-12 curriculum.”

This is why so many voters don’t trust big media: Papers like the Post keep telling their readers that they should not believe their lying eyes.

It didn’t take me long to find a Virginia Department of Education memo dated Feb. 22, 2019, that included a suggested reading list for school superintendents because “we know that our students continue to be inundated with racist images linked to Virginia’s history of civil rights oppression.”

As resources to promote “social justice,” it includes the book “Foundations of Critical Race Theory in Education.” Also on the list, two books that have become popular CRT manifestos, Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me.”

No worries, the National School Boards Association likewise asserted “critical race theory is not taught in public schools and remains a complex law school and graduate school subject well beyond the scope of a K-12 class.”

Like we’re with stupid.

Oddly, as McAuliffe has insisted Virginia schools don’t teach CRT, he nonetheless dismissed the nonexistent curriculum as “a racist dog whistle.”

I asked John McWhorter, an African American Columbia professor and author of “Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America,” during a Commonwealth Club interview on Election Day, is McAuliffe right about CRT not being taught?

“He’s wrong,” McWhorter responded. “If he means they don’t teach the works of [legal scholars] Richard Delgado and Kimberle Crenshaw, he’s right. But if he means … all the parents and friends who write me saying, ‘Guess what sorts of things my child’s history teacher is teaching,’ McAuliffe is very wrong.”

“It doesn’t have to be critical race theory itself,” McWhorter added, “but if your kids are being taught that whiteness is a kind of inherent guilt, if your kids are being taught that blackness is a kind of eternal victimhood, if your kids are being taught that all subjects need to be looked at through the lens of what they signal for power relations, especially between white and brown people,” and it gets to the point that your kids confess they’re not liking what they’re learning at school, “that’s critical race theory.”

There have been unruly confrontations between angry parents and school board members over CRT. You’ve seen it on the news — what seems like an asymmetrical dynamic of rooms packed with angry parents shouting at beleaguered school board members.

In a Sept. 29 letter to Biden, the National School Boards Association called these confrontations “a form of domestic terrorism” and suggested that the PATRIOT Act and other federal authorities be used to “examine appropriate enforceable actions against these crimes and acts of violence.”

The association later backed down and issued an apology for its poor choice of language. After all, the education group had revealed its true view of parents, that they’re supposed to hand over their kids and their wallets and shut up.

Or as McAuliffe famously said during a gubernatorial debate, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

In the future, Democratic politicians may think as much, but they’ll know better than to say it.

Debra J. Saunders

Fellow, Chapman Center for Citizenship Leadership
A fellow with Discovery Institute’s Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership, Debra J. Saunders worked for more than thirty years covering politics on the ground and in Washington, as well as American culture, the news media, the criminal justice system, and dubious trends in public schools and prestigious universities. Her column is nationally syndicated with Creators Syndicate.