How critical race theory became the latest battle in the culture war

Signs are seen on a bench during a rally.
Signs are seen on a bench during a rally against critical race theory being taught in schools at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Va., on June 12.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP via Getty Images

The never-ending culture wars have a new battle, and this time, it’s playing out in America’s classrooms.

It focuses on critical race theory, an academic pursuit developed in the 1960s that examines how race and racism function in law and society. In recent weeks, Republican legislatures in more than a dozen states have either passed or advanced bills that ban or limit the teaching of critical race theory, calling it divisive and unpatriotic to force students to consider the influence of racism on history.

Educators are worried about the chilling effect it could have on their ability to teach a robust view of history — especially since in some towns, conservative activists and parents are inflaming the issue with local school boards.

Why is critical race theory the latest rallying cry? Is there really a threat? And what are the implications? Host Kerri Miller spoke with two experts on Wednesday to get the context.

Guests:

  • Clint Smith is a staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of “How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America.”

  • Leslie Fenwick is dean emeritus and a professor in the School of Education at Howard University.

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

Subscribe to the MPR News with Kerri Miller podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or RSS

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.