AMAC Exclusive – By Seamus Brennan
Despite the left’s insistence that Critical Race Theory (CRT) is either a made-up hoax propagated by conservatives or an esoteric legal theory only taught in law schools, no other issue has taken over American political discourse in 2021 like CRT has. From becoming a central issue in Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin’s successful campaign in Virginia to the growing number of states introducing and passing legislation to ban the teaching of CRT and similar ideologies in school classrooms, it has become increasingly clear that CRT is on the move everywhere—and Americans are noticing.
But as the left and other forces in American culture continue to disparage the United States and its Founding, many would rightly expect historians to step in and set the record straight—as many historians did in response to the New York Times’ infamous “1619 Project.”
Overlooking the rising objections from many Americans, however, important historical associations appear to have taken the side of the ahistorical anti-American radicals.
The American Historical Association (AHA), the oldest professional association for historians in the United States and the “largest membership association of professional historians in the world,” has become a paragon of the new anti-history historian class. Following the wave of state-level initiatives to ban CRT in classrooms, for instance, the AHA released a statement falsely claiming that anti-CRT bills—which the association lamented as “deeply troubling”—are intended to “target” all “discussions of racism and related issues in American history in schools, colleges, and universities.” Dismissing CRT as an “indefinite buzzword,” the Association suggested that any efforts to counter CRT in classrooms amount to a “white-washed view of history” that is contrary to a “free and open society.”
In a similar vein, the AHA has repeatedly defended the largely debunked “1619 Project,” recently going so far as to promote its book adaptation, which was also authored by Nikole Hannah-Jones, in the AHA’s 2022 annual program. Opposition to the “1619 Project,” the Association’s Executive Director wrote, is nothing more than an “objectionable” agenda-driven ploy to stifle academic debate.
Perhaps most concerning, however, was the AHA response to the release last January of the “1776 Report” by President Trump’s advisory 1776 Commission. The report, authored by “some of America’s most distinguished scholars and historians,” sought to “restore understanding of the greatness of the American Founding” that the 1619 Project and others on the left tried to distort. Upon its release, the AHA immediately released a statement condemning the Report. The Association charged, without evidence, that the report was reliant upon “falsehoods, inaccuracies, omissions, and misleading statements,” and baselessly asserted that the report calls for “government indoctrination” rooted in “ignorance about the past.”
Though progressives, including those at the AHA, are eager to dismiss any concerns about CRT and anti-American revisionism as overwrought attempts to stop the teaching of racism and slavery, the facts paint a decidedly different picture. State legislators seeking to ban CRT in schools have no interest in expunging accurate historical accounts of racism, slavery, and Jim Crow from lesson plans and history books. As Daniel Samet writes for National Review, “Slavery and racism are indelible sins of our country’s past,” and remain an important part of our country’s story of progress and redemption.
But the race- and identity-based indoctrination perpetuated by CRT and other Marxist theories goes far beyond a fact-based history curriculum. CRT posits that all of human history, and particularly American history, is rooted in racism and oppression – a clearly revisionist approach to history intended to delegitimize our country and its institutions for contemporary political purposes.
As seen in pre-schools and elementary schools throughout the nation this year, teachers have asked their students, some as young as five and six years old, to rank themselves on the basis of “power and privilege,” requested that parents commit themselves to “white abolition,” and engaged in efforts to “infiltrate” and publicly “expose” parents who have dared to question CRT. As a parent who grew up in Communist China said at a Loudon County, Virginia school board meeting earlier this year, CRT is the “American version of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.”
The woke takeover of a once esteemed association of American history scholars is just the latest example of the left’s ever-tightening grip on seemingly every major American institution. When even self-professed “historians” are more inclined to pay lip service to progressive causes than to practice their chosen profession history, one might have difficulty remaining optimistic about America’s future. But even as our nation’s most ostensibly prestigious historical associations remain complicit in the left’s spread of lies about the Founding, there is growing evidence that Americans of all races and backgrounds have had enough.
In addition to Glenn Youngkin’s surprise victory in Virginia, this fall and growing state-level efforts against left-wing indoctrination, a poll conducted in battleground states earlier this year found that independents reject CRT by an overwhelming 76 percent to 20 percent. Nonetheless, the left seems keen on doubling down.
Should the left opt to continue down this disturbing path of racial essentialism, reclaiming institutions like the American Historical Association will be a necessary task in the mission to uphold the timeless American principles of freedom and equality?