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Noem releases misleading statement on CRT in SD schools as politicians use Critical Race Theory to widen American political divide

Governor Kristi Noem released a statement regarding Critical Race Theory (CRT) on August 5 in response to a four-page report from the South Dakota Board of Regents, the body charged with oversight of higher education in the state.

In its statement, the SD Board of Regents sought to clarify the use of CRT in the state’s institutions of higher education, saying the theory is not “a basis for instruction.” Noem’s office chose to interpret the statement to say the Board of Regents is “restricting the teaching of Critical Race Theory at state colleges and universities.”

Critical Race Theory is a framework of thought sometimes used in academic settings to interrogate the role of race in the interpretation of history, particularly in the law. It tries to inject the lived experience of minorities into the historical record.

Christopher Vondracek reported in the Mitchell Republic that State Sen. Reynold Nesiba, a Sioux Falls Democrat and economics professor at Augustana University, called the terminology used by Noem “purposely vague,” and pointed out that neither the statement from her office nor from the Board of Regents provided guidance for use of “particular articles, texts, or authors” with the CRT label.

“What is banned and what is not?” asked Nesiba. “Still, this has a chilling effect on any education related to race and is a major governmental overreach by the governor.” He called the tactics a political “diversion.”

Politicians and special-interest groups promote conflict over Critical Race Theory I order to electrify political tropes. 

Noem’s staff echoed this tactic in the recent statement, “I am grateful the Board of Regents is taking steps to address this divisive subject and limit its application in our university classrooms. Critical Race Theory, the [New York Times Magazine’s] 1619 Project, and the works of Ibram Kendi divide students, distort their understanding of history, and seek to indoctrinate them with anti-patriotic rhetoric.”

The comments follow Conservative talking points and deepen artificial divides in American society. They highlight the myths of urban danger versus rural peace and quiet; a dangerous socialist government establishment versus color-blind and patriotic middle America; hard-working people versus lazy impoverished people on programs like SNAP and Medicaid.

The goal is to drive the American people farther apart.

Before 2020, CRT was not a topic of controversial debate in academia. The issue arose in 2020 when Seattle journalist Christopher Rufo appeared on Tucker Carlson on September 2, 2020, month after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery made headlines. His comments caught the attention of the Trump administration, Twitter, and Fox News.

In his July 30 opinion piece, “Racial Battle Fatigue: The exhaustion of reproving what has already been proven,” reporter Reggie Jackson of the Milwaukee Independent offers a critique of the CRT debate as it is currently being waged by politicians on both sides of the aisle.

“Despite what some would have us believe nowadays, systemic racism is real and always has been. It is not some new concept, it is one that has been clearly articulated by scholars of diverse backgrounds for a number of decades in this country.”

Jackson acknowledges the 2020 deaths of Floyd, Taylor and Arbery were a teachable moment in American history. “None of these events, which should naturally provide an opportunity to mourn, worked the same for all Americans. Unfortunately, many in the White community sat by silently celebrating,” he said.

Jackson goes on to say the lived experiences of people of color over the past 18 months provides evidence to the reality of systemic racism. “No one can say they don’t know at least more than they did a year ago.”

He says racial battle fatigue is brought on by reproving the impact of racism in America over and over again, but it will not slow him down. “In fact, this latest battle against those that want to end the teaching of systemic racism — what they are simply calling critical race theory — has given me more fuel and more energy to work even harder.”

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