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Chris Rufo gave a lecture on com­bating identity pol­itics in American life.
Andrew Dixon | Collegian

Ele­mentary school stu­dents are being forced to locate them­selves on a spectrum of priv­ilege, and Chris Rufo is trying to stop it. 

Rufo, director of the Center on Wealth and Poverty at the Dis­covery Institute and con­tributing editor at the City Journal in New York, delivered a speech on March 30 in which he out­lined the emer­gence of critical race theory and why he believes America is over­coming it. 

Critical race theory, a political phi­losophy that began in the 1990s, has pop­u­larized the concept of “anti-racism” that Rufo said now influ­ences every level of American gov­ernment, including public edu­cation. The result: people are called “racist” for things beyond their control. 

Although Rufo has led the jour­nal­istic movement to dis­credit critical race theory, he attributed much of the progress to legal battles. Rufo said lawyers across the country are filing local and state law­suits to ban its teaching. This “team of ragtag rebel lawyers” has been the driving force behind removing critical race theory from public institutions. 

Parents have also con­tributed to com­batting the ide­ology in their children’s schools. One Philadelphia public school failed to provide their stu­dents a decent edu­cation, though they suc­ceeded in pro­viding stu­dents an alter­native sense of purpose through political activism, Rufo said. 

For instance, a school dis­trict in Buffalo, New York, man­dated critical race theory for kinder­garteners, instructing them that all white people con­tribute to sys­temic racism. Part of this cur­riculum included a dra­ma­tized video of dead black children warning from beyond the grave that they could be mur­dered by racist police at any time, Rufo said.

“So a lot of these stories have gen­erated a lot of heat, a lot of attention,” Rufo said. “We’ve gen­erated about 20 million media impres­sions per story in the last three months.”

Since Rufo began reporting on critical race theory less than a year ago, he said he’s become very opti­mistic about the ground he’s covered. Fol­lowing his initial inves­tigative reports of the theory within public orga­ni­za­tions, Rufo appeared on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” to discuss his findings. The fol­lowing morning he received a call from former Pres­ident Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, informing him of the president’s plan to issue an exec­utive order banning the teaching of critical race theory across all federal institutions. 

Within four days, the White House released a memo and within weeks the pres­ident had fol­lowed through with the order. Weeks later, it arose as a major cam­paign issue. A few weeks after that, Rufo said critical race theory mate­ri­alized as a national cul­tural fight. 

“Frankly, almost any other pres­ident that was on this issue on the slate in 2016 would not have done that, and wouldn’t have done it that fast after the election. So even if you’re not a huge fan of Donald Trump, there are certain things that he did that nobody else would touch. And I respect him for that,” Rufo said. “This was a big moment, too, because the left, and the critical race the­o­rists in par­ticular had been winning for a long time with no oppo­sition. And all of a sudden, we had created a brand for them.”

The way con­ser­v­a­tives can move forward, Rufo said, begins with refo­cusing their goal. Rather than winning a debate on the logic of critical race theory, he said con­ser­v­a­tives ought to focus on the war. 

“We’re telling a story about why it is totally an antithesis of American values, prin­ciples and ideals,” Rufo said. “We’re telling con­ser­v­a­tives a new story, which is saying that just because someone tells you that you’re not qual­ified to talk about these issues is no longer an acceptable standard we reject. And that actually, most people are with us and they’re actually being harmed by these ideologies.”

Sarah Weaver, a student of the Van Andel Graduate School of States­manship, said she attended the talk to under­stand more about the issues caused by critical race theory.

“Chris did an amazing job dis­tilling the problems of critical race theory and what we can do about it. As someone who’s trying to dive deeper into what’s going on with CRT, I walked away better informed and eager to learn more,” Weaver said.

Lilly Duncan, another student in the graduate school, said she looks forward to a career in edu­cation and appre­ciated Rufo’s emphasis on revealing the prac­tices being imple­mented in class­rooms across the country. 

“His pre­sen­tation had a shock factor that needs to remain present in the nar­rative against critical race theory,” she said. 

The stories Rufo wrote last year were only the beginning of the fight to chip away at the instruction of critical race theory.

“I think it is some­thing that I’m more and more opti­mistic about, just having worked on this issue now for less than a year as a reporter and having fallen into doing some advocacy for it,” Rufo said. “We’ve made a lot of progress on this, and I think it’s really the guidance to cul­tural power.”