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Critical race theory becomes a top issue in Virginia governor's race

Kerry Picket, Senior Campaign Reporter

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The power of critical race theory as a political issue will be put to the test in the Virginia governor's race this year, as Republican Glenn Youngkin promises to eradicate the racially based education curriculum, while Democrat Terry McAuliffe alleged the concerns about it are a GOP "conspiracy."


Youngkin made his views about critical race theory known to Virginia Republicans when he was still running for the nomination. He reiterated his stance earlier this month when Loudoun County Public Schools suspended a physical education teacher for publicly stating that he could not abide by the school policy on transgender students.

“As governor, I will stand for excellence in education. We will not teach critical race theory, and I will stand up for teachers and parents against these kinds of cancel culture initiatives,” Youngkin said.

Democrats are hitting back, saying that Republicans are sounding the alarm over conspiracy theories or are not defining critical race theory correctly.

"That's another right-wing conspiracy," McAuliffe responded to Youngkin, according to audio obtained by Fox News last week. "This is totally made up by Donald Trump and Glenn Youngkin. This is who they are. It's a conspiracy theory."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, told the Washington Examiner that Republicans are “relying on ignorance because critical race theory is a very niche course that is reserved largely for law schools and not even taught widely at law schools in the United States.”

She added, “So to assert that we need to ban critical race theory in elementary school is to really just create a chilling effect to make people fear any teaching of our history around race or African American history and the role that racism played in shaping institutions like Jim Crow.”

Previously isolated to the halls of academia, critical race theory is regularly discussed and debated on cable news programs as an issue particularly important among Republicans. Trump banned its use by the federal government. President Joe Biden, however, reversed his order immediately upon his arrival at the White House earlier this year.

"Critical race theory, or CRT, is a framework developed in the 1970s by legal scholars that argues white supremacy maintains power through the law and other legal systems,” wrote Dorinda Carter Andrews, a professor and chairwoman for the Michigan State University College of Education.

She noted, “CRT dismisses the idea that racism stems from acts of individuals but rather rooted in a system of oppression based on socially constructed racial hierarchy where white people reap material benefits over people of color resulting from misuse of power.”

While Republican-led state legislatures across the country have passed laws banning critical race theory curriculum in their schools, Virginia has not. The state General Assembly flipped from Republican to Democratic control in both chambers in 2018, following the election of a Democratic governor in 2017.

The 2021 election cycle could potentially swing at least one of the commonwealth’s chambers to GOP control, and the governor’s race is considered competitive. This makes Virginia ground zero for the critical race theory battle.

The Loudoun County School Board became best known in the state over its fight with its parents over its curriculum starting back in March, when six members of its board formed a private Facebook group targeting parents who opposed critical race theory in the school system.

The vocal parents group organized and launched as well as a petition to recall the Loudoun County School Board members. Their actions have not gone unnoticed in the Old Dominion.

Loudoun County’s superintendent denied that critical race theory was ever taught in its schools, but a public records request by Fox News and remarks made by a school board member showed otherwise.

Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam slammed the actions of the Loudoun County parents in an interview with the New York Times this month, adding that critical race theory is a “dog whistle that the Republicans are using to frighten people.”