Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) got into it Sunday with a questioner at a town hall event in Dutchess County over the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools, at one point claiming the controversy had been whipped up by “a bunch of smart demagogues at Fox News and elsewhere.”
In video from the event in Hopewell Junction seen by the Post, an unidentified man asks Maloney: “What’s your stance on critical race theory being taught to our kids? I want to know why you think it might be a good idea to teach kids that, black and white, you’re suppressed and you’re the suppressor?” The man goes on to reference Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech and its hope that Americans would one day be judged “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
“I think somebody’s trying to get you all mad about this for no reason,” Maloney begins before his questioner cuts him off.
“Listen, I’m an intelligent individual,” the man says. “I read and I watch a lot of news.”
“Then you know,” says Maloney, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, “that no one’s teaching critical race theory in the school right here.”
“That’s nonsense, Congressman!” the man fires back. “That’s absolute nonsense! Don’t stand there and insult my intelligence and tell me that’s not happening, because it is happening.”
Noticing Maloney’s smile as he tries to get a word in, the man continues: “I’m glad you think it’s funny, because I don’t!”
“I think what’s happening in our country right now,” Maloney begins again, “is that there’s an effort for political reasons to get you mad about these things.”
“Nonsense, sir! Nonsense!” the man interrupts again. “This stuff is being taught to kids in schools today … and you’re gonna stand there and tell me that it’s not being taught. That’s disingenuous and don’t insult my intelligence.”
After Maloney insists again that critical race theory is not being taught in local schools, he tells the man that “the point is, some of us believe that the country still has work to do on the road to full racial equality and racial justice. I believe that very strongly. You may think we’re good, I don’t.”
“I know we had a black president,” the man responds. “And I know there are plenty of black lawyers, plenty of black doctors, plenty of black successful people, just as there are many white people who are not as successful. It’s not about dictating by your skin color, it’s the choices you make in life, and I don’t want my kids in school where they’re being taught that ‘You’re white, you’re bad. You’re black. You’re suppressed.’ It’s nonsense.”
“I strongly disagree with you,” Maloney answers, “that we’re done with racial justice in America because Dr. King gave a speech and because of black lawyers.”
Later in the exchange, Maloney tells the man that “critical race theory, as I understand it, is a law school academic methodology to look at the development of certain systems and laws and say, ‘were these influenced by race?’ And a bunch of smart demagogues at Fox News and elsewhere — and this is the truth — picked it up and they’re trying to make everybody pissed off about it.”
Critical race theory, which teaches that racism — particularly white supremacy — underpins America’s laws and institutions has become the latest battlefront in the culture war. School board meetings across the country have erupted in chaos as parents protest proposed curriculum changes, while Republican-led states have either proposed or enacted laws preventing the teaching of critical race theory principles in elementary and secondary schools.
On the other side, teachers union leaders like American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten have accused critical race theory opponents of, in Weingarten’s words, “trying to stop us from teaching kids honest history” and “trying to raise the temperature on race relations because of the next election.”
Last month, a California school district voted unanimously to implement an ethnic studies curriculum based on critical race theory starting in preschool. The Hayward Unified School District, in the Bay Area, set aside $40 million to to cover recruiting, training and materials for the policy.