Last June, in the days after George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police, the equity committee with a far-away school district in Maine released a stunning letter.
Not only did committee members want the entire Cumberland and North Yarmouth community to know that they, too, were calling for justice for Floyd, but they also were ready to make radical changes in their majority white school district. “It is our duty,” they wrote, to dismantle the violent and oppressive structures that “have kept us divided,” and to “recognize that Black people experience violence every single day because of our white supremacist society.”
“We will work to assess our curriculum, educate our community within and outside of our school campus, dismantle the anti-Blackness all of us have internalized by living in a society built on white supremacy, and provide tools to interrupt anti-Black racism,” the letter read.
The letter was unapologetic and blunt. It led to sharp divisions in the community, and it’s what led Shawn McBreairty to essentially go to war with the district.
But readers of an NBC News story published this week examining how battles over critical race theory have invaded local school boards would know nothing about it. The 3,400-word NBC report, which focuses on McBreairty’s contentious battle with the school district, never bothered to explain what McBreairty’s beef is actually about.
According to NBC News, the district had simply “denounced white supremacy.” The story mentioned that McBreairty was accusing the district of trying to indoctrinate his children by teaching critical race theory, but there was no effort by NBC News to probe why he believes that, or what had triggered his year-long battle with the district.
“The issue with NBC is they started the story at the end,” McBreairty told National Review. “They didn’t do their homework about the root cause of the problem.”
McBreairty is one of several people featured in the NBC News story who are pushing back on the report, saying the network failed to engage with their concerns about the spread of critical race theory in the nation’s schools. They say NBC failed to take a critical look at any of the countless examples of racial extremism popping up in classrooms across the country.
When NBC News did address critical race theory, or CRT – a self-avowedly activist political movement – they watered it down to be nothing more than “the academic study of racism’s impact,” and a “catch-all term” that activists and parents use to refer to “equity programs, teaching about racism or LGBTQ-inclusive policies.”
The report failed to mention CRT’s Marxist roots, or that its adherents often call for radically altering the American and capitalist systems. For example, while the NBC story did note that the Maine school district had paid over $12,000 to the nonprofit Community Change Inc. for diversity and equity training, it failed to mention that Community Change Inc. also advocates to “end capitalism” and to “look at other economic models … such as socialism and anarchism.”
“They simply report the story as, these parents oppose teaching about racism and trying to address systemic inequality. And it’s a complete lie from the very foundation,” said Christopher Rufo, a critical race theory opponent and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Rufo, who was mentioned in the NBC article but declined the outlet’s interview request, has jousted with one of the three NBC reporters on Twitter since the story was published on Tuesday.
“These parents are not opposed to teaching about racism,” Rufo said. “They’re not opposed to addressing systemic inequalities. They’re opposed to a divisive, hostile, and pseudo-scientific ideology that is teaching their kids that they are inherently oppressor or oppressed based on their race, that seeks to implicate individual children in historical crimes based on shared identity, and then in some cases seeks to actually separate classrooms on the basis of race, which is reminiscent of kind of old-school racial segregation wrapped in this new language.”
According to the NBC News report, “virtually all school districts insist they are not teaching critical race theory.” To Rufo, mainstream media and school leaders are playing a kind of linguistic shell game, always hiding the ball and “hoping you can’t pin them down on language.” Ultimately, he said, much of what school leaders are passing as diversity, equity and inclusiveness initiatives – including so-called “anti-racism” advocacy, and teaching about white privilege and white fragility – are direct extensions of critical race theory, which dates back to the 1960s.
“Because they don’t know what they’re teaching doesn’t mean that they’re not teaching that thing,” Rufo said. “Even if they’re not self-conscious of the lineage of the ideas behind their lessons, they’re still teaching the lessons that are still ultimately derived from that theory.”
Rufo said the media treats critical race theory in the same way that it covers Antifa, by essentially denying it’s a problem even when there’s ample public evidence.
“It’s the same process, where they say we’re not going to even acknowledge reality,” Rufo said.
NBCNews reporter @BrandyZadrozny misrepresents my work, asks for comment, then refuses to publish it because her editors will not allow statements "disagreeing with on-record experts [and] activists."
They pick the "experts," push the narrative, and exclude dissent. Propaganda. pic.twitter.com/1kpiuBeenT
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) June 15, 2021
Rufo also has accused NBC of misrepresenting his work. The NBC story notes that in a March tweet, Rufo had promised to make critical race theory “toxic” in the public imagination.
“The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory,’” Rufo wrote in the tweet. “We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.”
The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think "critical race theory." We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) March 15, 2021
Rufo is upfront about his intent to persuade Americans to oppose critical race theory. He said he wants to teach people to understand the theory’s framework so they can identify CRT-related policies in schools and elsewhere, whether it’s race-based vaccine access in Vermont or ending competitive admissions at Thomas Jefferson High School in Virginia.
The language about decodifying and recodifying the term “critical race theory,” is actually a reference to a Brazilian critical pedagogist who used the same language.
“We need to take the critical theorists’ own subversive techniques and apply it to their own movement,” he said.
McBreairty said he’s never paid much attention to the national news. It’s too negative, he said.
“I’m generally a positive person,” he said. “But this last year has taught me a lot more about what’s going on in the world.”
He said he believes NBC “wanted to make me look like the villain.”
“I’ve gone back and forth over the last year between villain and hero,” he said, “depending on (which news station) you’re looking at.”