Ask any two people on the street what critical race theory means and you’ll likely get a different answer from each. Ask Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves and Republican state senators, however, and you are guaranteed to get an incorrect answer.
The Mississippi State Senate recently passed a bill with a 32-2 vote to ban the teaching of critical race theory in all public Mississippi K-12 schools and universities, including our very own. The bill now awaits a vote from the House, where it is likely to pass.
“There has been a push from radical leftists across the nation to teach children a vicious lie: that this country is fundamentally racist and that your skin color makes you inherently racist,” Reeves said.
Of course, this is far from the truth. Nowhere near espousing that every white person is fundamentally, irredeemably racist, critical race theory is the idea that racism in society does not merely stem from prejudiced individuals spreading hatred, but that systems crafted by racist individuals throughout history have built racism, often covertly, into U.S. social institutions.
Despite the fact that the author of the bill, Republican Sen. Michael McLendon, admitted that he was unaware of critical race theory being taught in any public K-12 schools in the state, (revealing that the push to ban critical race theory in Mississippi is nothing less than empty fear mongering) the bill has dominated conversation among Mississippi’s conservative lawmakers.
It’s clear that the people advocating for this ban are conservatives: What I wonder is how they reconcile their actions with their ideology?
American conservatism lays out its tenets plainly, championing the family unit, economic liberty and small government. For many conservatives, the goal of small government doesn’t mean reducing police and military spending, but rather making sure that the government does not infringe upon individuals’ constitutional right to live their lives how they please. It is the idea that governments should not interfere in personal affairs, especially affairs that relate to children and the family unit such as education. In line with this, the school privatization movement and rise of charter schools in the past decade has largely been pushed forward by waves of conservative parents and lawmakers, who don’t take kindly to what is perceived as overbearing governmental involvement in education.
Ironically, it’s these very same people, conservatives, that are perpetuating the largest governmental overreach in education that Mississippi has seen since the enforcement of segregation. To make matters worse, the concept these lawmakers are attempting to ban is education about racism itself.
The ideology of conservatism is irreconcilable with the actions of Reeves and the Mississippi Republicans that voted for the critical race theory ban. How can these lawmakers claim to be the party of small government, of personal liberty, while trying to enact educational authoritarianism?
They can’t. In their frantic pursuit of identity politics, conservatives have abandoned their values.
The writing is on the wall: To Reeves and Mississippi Senate Republicans, conservatism is dead. Long live the new conservatism for the new Republican Party, the party of censorship and governmental overreach.
Hal Fox is a sophomore majoring in Chinese and international studies from Robert, Louisiana.