GOP Culture War Over Critical Race Theory Bleeds Into School Board Recalls

People hold up signs during a rally against "critical race theory" (CRT) being taught in schools at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Virginia on June 12, 2021. - "Are you ready to take back our schoo... People hold up signs during a rally against "critical race theory" (CRT) being taught in schools at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Virginia on June 12, 2021. - "Are you ready to take back our schools?" Republican activist Patti Menders shouted at a rally opposing anti-racism teaching that critics like her say trains white children to see themselves as "oppressors." "Yes!", answered in unison the hundreds of demonstrators gathered this weekend near Washington to fight against "critical race theory," the latest battleground of America's ongoing culture wars. The term "critical race theory" defines a strand of thought that appeared in American law schools in the late 1970s and which looks at racism as a system, enabled by laws and institutions, rather than at the level of individual prejudices. But critics use it as a catch-all phrase that attacks teachers' efforts to confront dark episodes in American history, including slavery and segregation, as well as to tackle racist stereotypes. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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July 6, 2021 12:03 p.m.

Efforts to recall school board members as the GOP hijacks “critical race theory” to manufacture another faux culture war are rising nationwide.

Axios first reported Tuesday that at least 51 recall efforts involving K-12 school boards have been initiated so far this year, which target at least 130 elected members of those boards, citing data from Ballotpedia.

According to Ballotpedia, recall efforts within school boards this year are more than twice the annual average. Between 2006 and 2020, Ballotpedia found a yearly average of 23 recall efforts against 52 school board members in comparison.

California alone holds 22 of the current recall efforts, while Arizona and Idaho hold six and four recall efforts, respectively.

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Although school board recalls have largely been apolitical in the past — typically spurred from issues over mismanagement or allegations of corruption — this year’s recall efforts center around mask mandates and the critical race theory culture war that the right-wing has hijacked and appropriated, according to Ballotpedia’s analysis.

Some examples of this: a political action committee spearheaded by former Trump Justice Department official Ian Prior is sponsoring a recall of school board members in Loudoun County, Virginia over critical race theory. Another recall effort targeting two of the five members of the Litchfield Elementary School District Governing Board in Arizona is due to members’ objections regarding critical race theory.

The push to recall school board members comes as the GOP has taken on critical race theory as one of its flailing efforts to hype divisive culture wars — the party has attempted to create a caricature of the academic theory that differs dramatically from the academic and legal concept that was first developed in law schools in the 1970s.

Conservatives in recent weeks have attempted to make “critical race theory” a national issue as pundits and right-wing pressure groups push for state legislatures to ban or discourage teaching on systemic racism in public schools.

Local Trump-aligned pressure groups have also prompted an exodus of election officials recently as the former president continues to espouse falsehoods of a stolen election. Election workers have faced threats and intimidation during and after the 2020 presidential election amid Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud.

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