In an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, former President Barack Obama sought to downplay critical race theory, by saying in essence that the conservative protests against it in education are not part of essential discourse, and not particularly relevant to the problems facing America today.
"You would think, with all the public policy debates that are taking place right now," Obama said, "that the Republican party would be engaged in a significant debate about 'how are we going to deal with the economy,' 'what are we going to do about climate change,' 'what are we going to do about—' Low and behold the single most important issue to them is critical race theory. Who knew that that was the threat to our republic?"
To those who have been fighting against the propagation of critical race theory, like Christopher Rufo, the emergence of the former president to blast conservative efforts to undermine this tool of racial reeducation, means that the identitarian ideologues are on the run.
"They have now deployed former president Barack Obama to defend, downplay, and deflect from critical race theory," he wrote. "We are making incredible progress. Keep pushing forward."
Obama has spoken out about some of the ideas contained in critical race theory. In his notable 2008 speech A More Perfect Union, Obama spoke against the idea that white people are inherently and irredeemably racist. This came as part of the controversy surrounding his pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
Wright's views, Obama said at the time "expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country — a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
"As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems — two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change — problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all."
In now downplaying the issue of critical race theory, what Obama misses is that Wright's views, the same ones he spoke against in 2008, have now become mainstream. It is the mainstream, popular view that "elevates what is wrong with American above all that we know is right with America."
While distancing himself from it in 2008 was necessary to win the presidency, basically saying that it's an irrelevant obsession of conservatives who don't want to tackle real issues in 2021 is the way the political wind is blowing now. But it's that attitude, writ large, that critical race theory and the framing of Americans by their race, casting them in the mold of the sins of their ancestors, is not a big deal that has gotten us, in part, to this divisive place.
Conservatives have ignored what was happening in the universities, in the schools, and in the halls of progressivism for so long that what has emerged is a fully grown theory of racial blame and division.
Obama spoke against conservative positions across the board, saying that they were inconsistent with past party perspectives. "We have to worry," Obama said, "when one of our major political parties is willing to embrace a way of thinking about our democracy that would be unrecognizable and unacceptable even five years ago or a decade ago."
While he laid out some of these views, he did not take issue with the progressive notion that race is the ultimate definer of individual worth in the US. Instead, he called out congress members who voted not to certify the Electoral College votes for Joe Biden, a practice that has certainly been bipartisan. And of course, he blamed Trump for upholding his view that the elections were not conducted without fraud in several states.
In his discussion of race, however, he continued to blame conservatives, despite the fact that the racial reeducation is being pushed by the left. The divisions in the country, he said, are about race.
"We occupy different worlds," he said. "And it becomes that much more difficult for us to hear each other, see each other." For Obama, this was a result of politics and media
"We have more economic stratification and segregation. You combine that with racial stratification and the siloing of the media, so you don't have just Walter Cronkite delivering the news, but you have 1,000 different venues," Obama said.
Obama's solution is to bring people together. But how can that be done when conservative concerns are downplayed as mere irrelevancies? "The question now becomes how do we create those venues," Obama said, "those meeting places for people to do that. Because right now, we don't have them and we're seeing the consequences of that."
Christopher Rufo recently revealed that in the forums where people are brought together, notably in the workplace, the focus has not been on bringing people together in unity but in division.
The training started off with a "free association" exercise led by diversity trainers, who asked employees to list what they associate with the term "white men." According to Rufo, the trainers wrote down "old, racist, privileged, anti-women, angry, Aryan Nation, KKK, Founding Fathers, guns, guilty, and can't jump."
Rufo also found that Disney's diversity and inclusion program claims that America has a "long history of systemic racism and transphobia" and tells employees they must "take ownership of educating yourself about structural anti-Black racism" and "not rely on your Black colleagues to educate you," which is "emotionally taxing."
It would be hard for conservatives to downplay or ignore that which has become so pervasive in nearly every strata of public life, from work, to school, to social groups, to church. But that's exactly what they are being asked to do.