No longer burdened by keeping up the pretense of bipartisanship, former President Barack Obama says that some right-wing media feed off fear.
In an interview Monday with Anderson Cooper, Obama discussed the topic of race and the difficulty some white Americans seem to have with reconciling their pride in America and immoral acts done in its name. He also said part of the problem is certain right-wing media outlets that fan the flames and cause confusion.
Outraged at his comments, right-wing commentators complained across various platforms, including Fox News and Youtube, about Obama’s criticism. But Obama’s right. For example, he pointed to Republicans’ current fixation on critical race theory, which is used as a scapegoat to attack efforts to provide a more balanced and accurate history.
Conservatives and their far-right counterparts play on people’s desires to be right and not “feel bad.” Republican-controlled legislatures and parents groups claim critical race theory is about teaching one race is superior to another, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.
By claiming to teach about racism, and America’s racist history as a “political belief” or “divisive,” conservatives distract from ongoing harms across multiple segments of society. Recently, a school board in New Jersey compared critical race theory to Holocaust Denial Theory.
Unlike conspiracy theories that deny the pain and experiences of marginalized groups, Critical Race Theory is a framework that provides a way of understanding the intersection of race and society. Emerging from the work of the late Derrick Bell, a law professor and authority on race and the law, Critical Race Theory
The attack on critical race theory and claims that it is anti-American is not new. As an explainer in The Atlantic pointed out, critical race theory became a part of public discourse during the confirmation hearing of Lani Guinier, a Black professor nominated by former President Bill Clinton to serve as the head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.
White parents are so worried about their children being exposed to the basic concept of Black lives mattering. Still, they somehow are oblivious to the countless indignities put upon Black children in schools, like getting auctioned as slaves or white children crafting tweets like “Slavery for Life” for a class assignment.
There are glaring examples every year of offensive and inadequate lessons around racism and slavery. Also, teaching about slavery, racism, and other forms of oppression isn’t indoctrination. These are fear tactics that rile people up.
Republicans are not happy about people learning about the existence of systemic racism. This goes along with the current war being waged on anything involving equality, such as voting rights, the right to protest, or protecting vulnerable communities.
Obama is also right to be concerned about the misinformation being consumed by Americans. The role of misinformation is something that needs more consideration, particularly as the mistaken beliefs last election cycle that the election was “stolen” and that voter fraud was widespread.
A recent research study found that misinformation influenced politics as well as what Americans understood about social issues. Misinformation was far more prominent among republican leaning consumers. The researchers defined misinformation as “factual beliefs that are false or contradict the best available evidence in the public domain.” They do not focus on conspiracy theories or rumors.
A part of the Cambridge Elements series on Race, Ethnicity, and Politics, the report also touched on the role media plays in processing information. While bias in the media is not new, particularly in the portrayal of Black and other people of color,
“White Americans, along with those who are racially resentful, ideologically conservative, and consumers of conservative news outlets are particularly vulnerable to being misinformed about socially marginalized groups,” read the report in part.