COMMENTARY-Politics has gotten everyone mad. From the left to the right, to those annoyed by the noise outside, it’s clear that voices are getting louder but not necessarily more productive.
As a conservative activist myself, I have grown disillusioned with my own side’s messaging, as it fails to move towards solutions, and then becomes a broken record. No other issue has this been more evident in, than with Critical Race Theory in 2021, where there is high passion around the right’s unity on the issue, but it is not making further inroads to those who are less educated on the issue or are on the fence.
While I have led protests against the abuse of certain school districts ramming through Critical Race Theory without consulting with parents or allowing for public comment in Los Alamitos, I was equally surprised at the politicization of this all. From the local media taking a default position protecting the Superintendent of the district and vilifying parents, to the summation of Critical Race Theory on the right, relying too much on the fear factor and unable to talk about it in a way that brings those on the fence in, the whole situation just looks overly tribalized, ignoring important nuance.
While it is nice to have national figures weigh in on a hot topic issue, such as Tucker Carlson, in the end, it is our communities that suffer from the ensuing tribalization. When Ted Cruz wanted to make a political point and called a losing vote on eradicating affirmative action in higher education, it was very satisfying at the time, but looking back, it became just another symbolism of losing the overall argument in the culture. School districts simply paused the best laid plans and are now resuming discussions to integrate CRT into all aspects of public education.
The only solution to this is to activate communities on a state level, county level or school board level. It is the community that can brew awareness and true change. Top down, especially on an issue like Critical Race Theory, is ineffective, as proven, especially when the federal government tries it. The solution will always brew from bottom up, such as when the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District rejected CRT. Last year, we rejected affirmative action in California through Prop 16 by an overwhelming majority, 57-43.
Multiple states, like Idaho, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Iowa, New Hampshire, Arizona, and South Carolina have outright banned CRT and many others have put parameters in place to prevent the divisiveness. I don’t hear enough voices speaking on the emotional rub of CRT and Prop 16. I have spoken many times on this topic to audiences and I focus on how CRT and all this race talk, creates low self-esteem victims. Many people don’t care to think how this plays out from the perspective of a child, but I do my best to lead them down that path. Children deal with enough emotions -- CRT makes them “other’-ed, and that is never healthy. Life does that enough, the last thing we want is our teachers and adults doing that.
It is not as easy to effect legislative change in blue states like California, where the public is on the side of CRT. The fervor on the right in California is not producing the results to build bridges to a culture that is processing CRT as anti-ethnic studies, in general. In states like California, the strategy cannot be about scoring a “gotcha” on paper or being a nagging mother on an issue. It’s about actual results, even if small, that can be replicated.
My biggest frustration in California is that conservatives live in their own world. It is a sad by-product of feeling so cornered that they just become angry and reactive. But through this, they retreat, become myopic, more ideological and less practical. And that is the current state of play, to the point that opportunities are missed.
It’s not surprising that Asian hate crimes are higher in places that promote CRT and the talk about race in schools. But yet so few are talking about this reality and discussions are more about how they’re ideologically correct and how others are wrong, providing no solutions.
Meanwhile, the conservatives are currently ignoring the economic collapse while their attention is on the race wars around CRT because in some strange way, they become reactive and would rather talk about CRT than other issues that come up. This detracts from the overall cause if you can’t pivot once in a while.
Many of my friends are losing their jobs due to the vaccine mandates in places like hospitals. Small businesses are also on the verge of collapse due to the mandates, which hardly gets talked about. Or for those enforcing the mandates, they can’t get enough talent to work. The cost to enforce this, including, say, one employee at the door checking COVID status, also includes the lost business as people walk away. This includes Vietnamese nail salons, where a significant portion of customers can’t come in due to mandates. Maybe we should talk about how current events and struggles, are a result of our government which seems to be more concerned about race discussions than people’s lives, especially those of minorities they claim to care about most?
But national news is still fixated on CRT while forgetting about a more pressing issue, because the food fight is more interesting. Yet, we don’t have articulate voices on the right to talk about race, and what the left hears is “Republicans don’t want ethnic studies in the curriculum” and the right feels neglected on issues outside CRT, where many conservatives aren’t even moving the needle to get new people in on the issue. Can we try refining our approach and become more results focused?
CRT is an emotional issue, especially in blue states, but we must actually empathize in the granular, about how any kid would experience the whole process of being around so much race talk and its adverse emotional impact. But both sides must access some empathy to do so.
(Marc Ang ([email protected]) is the President of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance in Orange County, co-chair of “Recall Gascon Now”, was the Director of Outreach for the “No on 16” campaign, a community organizer in Southern California and the founder of Asian Industry B2B who specializes in race relations and the minority conservative experience. His book “Minority Retort” will be released in late 2021.) Photo: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.