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Targeting ‘Critical Race Theory,’ Republicans Rattle American Schools

To recognize that systemic racism endures in America, he said, one need look no further than how it is often harder for Black home buyers to acquire mortgages than it is for white people of equal means. “The whole point of systemic racism is, once it’s embedded in our power structure, it works on its own,” he said in an interview. “You don’t need to wear a K.K.K. cloak.”

Still, he acknowledged that Republicans had “figured out how to message this.”

The messaging goes back to Mr. Trump, who, in the final weeks of the 2020 campaign, announced the formation of the 1776 Commission, set up explicitly to link what he said was “left-wing indoctrination” in schools to the sometimes violent protests over police killings.

A report by the commission was derided by mainstream historians; Mr. Biden canceled the project on his first day in office, but its impact endures on the right.

Media Matters for America, a liberal group, documented a surge of negative coverage of critical race theory by Fox News beginning in mid-2020 and spiking in April, with 235 mentions. And the Pew Research Center found last year that Americans were deeply divided over their perceptions of racial discrimination. Over 60 percent of conservatives said it was a bigger problem that people see discrimination where it does not exist, rather than ignoring discrimination that really does exist. Only 9 percent of liberals agreed.

Some Democratic strategists said the issue was a political liability for their party. Ruy Teixeira, a longtime political scientist and the co-editor of a Substack newsletter called The Liberal Patriot, recently wrote, “The steady march of ‘anti-racist’ ideology” into school curriculums “will generate a backlash among normie parents.”

In an interview, he criticized leading Democrats for not calling out critical race theory because of their fear that “it will bring down the wrath of the woker elements of the party.”

In Loudoun County, Va., dueling parent groups are squaring off, one that calls itself “anti-racist” and the other opposed to what it sees as the creep of critical race theory in the school district, which enrolls 81,000 students from a rapidly diversifying region outside Washington.

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