Starting a conversation

It’s interesting when legislators make laws to ban things without knowing what the things are.

There’s been a lot of talk about critical race theory lately, and I’ve felt at a loss. I’ve heard so many conflicting things about critical race theory, I’ve gotten more and more confused.

So I did what middle-aged white men are prone to do — I asked another middle-aged white man. But not just any. I called an Alabama lawmaker, state Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, who wants to make it illegal to teach critical race theory in Alabama.

Pringle recently pre-filed a bill for the next legislative session (eight months away…) and he’s been bragging about it on talk radio. Please tell us what critical race theory is, sir.

“It’s pretty simple,” Pringle said. “All it says is you can’t teach critical race theory in K-12 or higher education in the state of Alabama.”

That is a short bill, if not a simple one. But it didn’t answer my question: What is this critical race theory educators would be forbidden to teach? Pringle has seen enough legislation to understand the law requires specificity. Many bills begin by laying out their legal definitions. How would his bill define critical race theory?

“It basically teaches that certain children are inherently bad people because of the color of their skin, period,” Pringle said.

Ohhhh, is that what it is. That’s terrible! Show us the teachings! Which theorists?

“Yeah, uh, well — I can assure you — I’ll have to read a lot more,” he said.

Wait what? You will have to read more? I think you were supposed to do that before introducing the bill.

I began to get the feeling that Pringle didn’t know as much about critical race theory as I had hoped. Were there other examples he could give me where critical race theory was being put into practice?

Other besides the zero he’s given so far.

“These people, when they were doing the training programs — and the government — if you didn’t buy into what they taught you a hundred percent, they sent you away to a reeducation camp,” Pringle said.

And, is that true, or do you have to do more reading?

The reporter asked, Pringle fumbled around for a bit but didn’t come up with anything except another assertion.

“The white male executives are sent to a three-day re-education camp, where they were told that their white male culture wasn’t their —” he trailed off again.

Show us. Show us on the doll. Show us on the doll where the critical race theory touched you.

I was worried that we’d lost our connection. These sorts of conversations sometimes end abruptly, but Pringle was still on the line and after a little more hemming and hawing he retreated to a common safe-space of politicians who’ve crawled too far out on a limb: He just wanted to start a conversation, he said.

And the way to do that is to ban something you know literally nothing about.

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