By: Taifha Natalee Alexander
Pausing diversity trainings. Withdrawing educational resources. Inaccurately attributing "divisive concepts” to Critical Race Theory (CRT). Ignoring calls from community members to understand the value of ensuring access to truthful information about CRT, systemic racism, and race. Commenting that “[the school board] just want[s] to make sure that American exceptionalism is noted, that in all mankind, nobody has brought freedom to the world like America has” while neglecting the evidenced-based portrayal of American history as a racialization and subordination project, as detailed in the New York Times 1619 Project. These anti-Critical Race Theory (anti-CRT) measures have taken place not only in the American deep south, but in local school boards across California, a state that is recognized as a haven for liberal and progressive ideals.
Up until now, little was known about the patterns, trends, and comprehensive scope of the overwhelming pervasiveness of the assault on CRT. The recently launched CRT Forward Tracking Project, an initiative of UCLA School of Law’s Critical Race Studies Program, has demonstrated that the assault on CRT and antiracist teaching, training, and research, is not limited to traditionally conservative states like Texas, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Instead, the assault on CRT has infiltrated nearly every state, conservative and liberal alike, including California where local school boards have enacted more anti-CRT measures at different school boards than any other state in the country.
Local school boards throughout California have enacted seven of eight introduced anti-CRT measures across six different school districts. Thirty miles from Los Angeles, the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District enacted an anti-CRT resolution that banned CRT, as a framework for recognizing, analyzing, and combatting the systemic nature of racism, and instead advanced a colorblind ideology of “…see[ing] one another as humans first,” which ignores the pervasiveness of racism and functionally upholds racial discrimination within our contemporary society. Less than twenty miles away from the Placenita-Yorba Linda Unified School District, in Costa Mesa, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District moved to pause a contract with New York non-profit, the Anti-Defamation League, which would provide robust diversity and anti-bias trainings for students and teachers. In San Luis Obispo County, the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District passed an anti-CRT measure, despite a former school board member and a psychologist opposing the measure by outlining the value of CRT and accurately stating that CRT does not teach hate or guilt. In San Diego County, the Ramona Unified School District enacted an anti-CRT measure even though the prohibited concepts were not attributable to CRT. Just outside of Fresno, the Visalia Unified School District considered whether to ban Newsela, a leveled and standards-aligned informational content resource relied upon by educators to support relevancy in their curriculum. In enacting the anti-CRT measure, educators’ professionalism and capacity to teach their students, the next generation of leaders poised to resolve some of the most pressing racial and social issues of our time, were targeted for speculation.
In comprehending the full breadth and scope of the attacks on CRT and antiracist interventions, it is imperative to recognize that California is not an outlier. In fact, in states with comparable political leanings to California, anti-CRT measures at the local school board level have been enacted at higher rates in comparison to state, legislative anti-CRT measures. In Colorado, 100% of the local school board anti-CRT measures have been enacted, while neither of the proposed legislative anti-CRT measures were enacted. In Rhode Island, since 2021, 100% of local school board anti-CRT measures have been enacted, while four anti-CRT legislative measures are still pending. In Pennsylvania, at least six local school board anti-CRT measures have been enacted across four different school boards, while none of the state’s anti-CRT legislative measures have been enacted. In Washington state all three anti-CRT measures have been limited to the local school board level. Two have been enacted.
The enacted anti-CRT measures in California, and other liberal states, exposes a pervasive, anti-democratic, national effort against CRT and antiracist interventions. This effort includes utilizing a disinformation campaign that wrongfully villainizes CRT and antiracism to establish and expand conservative strongholds in liberal states. This allows for the politicization of traditionally nonpartisan governing bodies, particularly local school boards, while also supporting anti-CRT candidates at the local, state, and federal levels. One example of this effort can be found in the newly formed anti-CRT PAC, the 1776 Project PAC, which has raised funds in support of anti-CRT local school board candidates across the country who seek to limit access to truthful information about CRT, race, and systemic racism. CRT Forward Tracking Project data shows that of Colorado’s three enacted local school board anti-CRT measures, two were passed in districts where anti-CRT school board candidates were funded, endorsed, and eventually elected to their positions with the support of an anti-CRT PAC.
While national media attention focused on anti-CRT measures within conservative legislatures, anti-CRT measures were simultaneously infiltrating liberal states through local school boards and city and county governments with the support and guidance of well-funded PACs and conservative organizations. In the past two years, access to truthful information about CRT, race, and systemic racism has been restricted as evidenced in the nearly 400 anti-CRT measures available in the CRT Forward Tracking Project. As the number of anti-CRT measures grows, with California leading in the number of enacted local school board measures across different school boards, so does the assault on racial justice. However, all hope is not lost. The CRT Forward Tracking Project provides relevant information to advance CRT in support of racial justice to identify trends and patterns, to not only respond to this current moment, but future moments as well.