My appearance on the John DePetro Show: “there’s this specific, significant part of our society who controls education, who believes that perpetual, never-ending racial conflict is a good thing…. It almost becomes a religion. And it’s going to take us to a very bad place.”
The recent survey by Gallup showing a precipitous decline in positive views on race relations would not come as a shock to Legal Insurrection readers who have followed our coverage dating back to Obama’s campaign, the false narratives of the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown cases, and the more recent rise of Critical Race Theory activism.
It’s a theme I was able to talk about on the John DePetro radio show on July 21, the day the Gallup survey was released but before I knew about it. DePetro is a radio talk show host who was voted Best of Rhode Island in 2020. He’s also someone who doesn’t hesitate to get out of the studio and onto the streets to video protests and other news events, and has tons of sources and is very keyed-into the local political intrigue.
DePetro has had both Nicole Solas and Ramona Bessinger on his show. During my appearance, I was able to talk about the work Legal Insurrection has been doing in bringing forth and taking national stories about how critical race theory is playing out in schools.
What I liked about the interview is that he didn’t try to force a view on me. He asked questions and gave me the room to answer. The video and transcript are below.
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John DePetro, Host of “The John DePetro Show” (00:00):
So we’re going to speak, coming up with William Jacobson, Cornell Law School professor, founder of Legal Insurrection. And he also has the CriticalRace.org website. President of the Rhode Island-based Legal Insurrection Foundation. His work is tremendous, and he is a champion. We’re going to talk to him coming up in just a few moments, but he is the one, Bill Jacobson, William Jacobson, he is the one who in fact introduced, and he’s joining us right now, us about our friend Nicole [Solas].
Folks, joining us right now, as I said, is Cornell Law School professor, founder of Legal Insurrection, and now CriticalRace.org, President of the Rhode Island-based Legal Insurrection Foundation. It is my absolute pleasure and honor to welcome to the program, the one and only, William Jacobson. Good afternoon, Bill Jacobson…
William A. Jacobson, Cornell Law professor and president, Legal Insurrection Foundation (0o:53):
Thanks for having me on.
First of all, thank you for everything you do. Your website is absolutely rocketing right now. You introduced us to Nicole Solas. You introduced us to Ramona Bessinger. And Bill Jacobson, I’m willing to bet that there are other teachers out there that probably have a similar story to tell.
Well, I think there are. I think people just need some examples of coming forward. And Nicole is not a teacher; she’s just a local mother. Also Ramona, who is a teacher. People need to alert the world to what’s going on. And at Legal Insurrection Foundation, this is what we do. We bring forward stories. We vet them. We are highly rated for accuracy of our reporting. And we want to hear from people. If you’re a parent, if you’re a teacher, and you see things that are going on, you can come to LegalInsurrection.com. We have a contact form, and you can contact us. And we want to hear from you. I can’t promise that we’ll publish something. We do an extensive vetting process to make sure that you are who you say you are and that your facts are right. But if the story checks out, and if we think it’s newsworthy, we want to put it on the website and get it some attention.
Bill Jacobson, right now we’re in mid to late July. When did critical race theory first start to appear on your radar and the radar of Legal Insurrection?
Well, I’ve actually followed it really almost since law school, because one of my classmates, Kimberle Crenshaw is one of the developers of critical legal theory, and eventually critical race theory. So I’ve always been aware of it. That’s going back to 1984. And I was at Harvard Law School, which is where critical race theory and critical legal theory really developed. If you look at the early people, the early professors doing it, that’s where it was. So I’ve been aware of it for over 30 years. It was more and more on our radar, but it really jumped onto my radar last summer. It was almost now to the day that the president of Cornell University announced, in the wake of the George Floyd killing and the protests and the riots, that Cornell was going to become an “anti-racist” campus. And I really wasn’t sure what that meant, and they proposed summer reading for the entire university, Ibram Kendi’s book, “How to be an Antiracist.”
And it was available for free to people who had a Cornell ID. So I read it, and I was absolutely horrified. It was an ideology which while they use the term “anti-racist,” that’s complete deception. It is actually a very racially discriminatory ideology. And so I read this thing, and I said, “Oh my God.” And we started to look into it at the foundation. We have researchers. And originally I was going to write an op-ed or an article someplace about it. And the deeper we got into it, the more we realized how pervasive it was. And so we rolled out a website in February  called CriticalRace.org, which documents critical race training in higher education. We have an interactive map. You can click on a state, click on a school, and see what’s happening. And then we began to hear from people all over the country because the website got a lot of attention. We got a million views within a day of us taking it public.
Wow, Holy Cow.
So, we began to hear from parents saying, “When are you going to do K-12?” And so we hadn’t really been alerted until about February that K-12 is really where the problem is. Higher Ed is pretty far gone already, but K-12 is where the action is. So, I’d say it’s been a progression since last summer, but certainly by February of this year, it was front and center for us.
Folks, again, we’re speaking with Bill Jacobson, Cornell Law professor, also founder of Legal Insurrection, but we’re really trying to highlight the website now, which is CriticalRace.org. And he’s also the president of Rhode Island-based Legal Insurrection Foundation.
You know, Bill, you’ve been in academia and been in that world. What really stood out to me, in speaking to Ramona yesterday, was that suddenly she noticed all of these poorly written pamphlets being distributed and [the district] cleaned out these books. And this is the new way. Just that in itself raises red flags because it’s pretty unprecedented. And it’s normally pretty difficult to get onto the list of required reading and really have schools pick up your published literature. And that to me really stood out simply because I have family members that are in education, and they talk about how difficult it is to somehow get something in and approved in school departments to pick it up. And boy, that was a real red flag that they just started arriving in, not even in book form, but in pamphlet form.
Yes, that is truly astounding that something could just show up like that. Usually it’s a whole process to change a curriculum. And particularly where the books that were being used, which were written by great authors and including great African-American authors, just being literally people coming into the classroom and boxing them up to be recycled. This is something out of like a horror movie about a totalitarian society where they just come in and they start grabbing great novels, and replacing them with propaganda pamphlets. That’s something you would expect in the Chinese Cultural Revolution time. So that really jumped out at me that, you know, this change, how does this happen? And I don’t know how it happened in Providence. That’s something that maybe we’ll get into, but one of the things people need to realize.
There is enormous, enormous, I can’t emphasize[enough] how much money is behind the effort to change curriculums around the country, to change and to push things towards a race-based or race-oriented curriculum. There are hundreds of organizations. We documented this on the website. We found that one of them, a coalition of over 300 groups, including the National Education Association, created a Messaging Guide, a group called “Future of Learning.” It’s 300 groups, a coalition, including national unions. And they are funding a lot of this stuff. Their members are funding, huge foundations. This myth that somehow there’s all sorts of rightwing dark money behind the anti CRT movement, it’s exactly the opposite. There’s hundreds of millions of dollars going into pushing this stuff. And what you have in reality is a lot of parents like Nicole, standing up and saying, “Wait a second. This isn’t what I bargained for here.”
What is the “win” for in fact, say the AFT, NEA Rhode Island, Randi Weingarten? What’s their angle of why they’re going so deep on this and getting behind it?
I don’t know, but the unions are behind a lot of this. They are all on board with it. I don’t know what their ultimate agenda is. So I can’t really speak to that. Some of them are probably true believers. They believe this stuff. And others it’s a power thing. So I don’t really know what their end game is, but I know that what the result is going to be is more racial strife, not less. And it’s going to be more teachers like Ramona who feel they’re being targeted because of their skin color. So that’s what’s going to happen. But I don’t know what the unions have for this.
Folks, again we’re speaking with Bill Jacobson, Cornell Law School professor, founder of Legal Insurrection, also president of the Rhode Island-based Legal Insurrection Foundation. If you’re listening right now and you happen to be a teacher, related to one, please visit the website. Or folks, if you’re just a parent and you want to learn more, visit the website, which is CriticalRace.org.
You know, Bill, something that also stood out to me with both Nicole and Ramona is they went into this trying to… well, I’ll start with Nicole. She started out as just a parent that wanted to find out more information and was almost taken aback at how quickly they go to the mat. And that was really still incredible how they put her name, and they may take legal action. They don’t hesitate to immediately bring out the big guns and try to make an example out of it her.
Well, that was what was so amazing about Nicole is that she was, in a sense, an involuntary activist. She became publicly known when they put her name on the school committee agenda to possibly sue her. I mean, who does that? Nobody does that. Then they issued these horrific statements, smearing her, which we now know were drafted by a public relations firm, trying to associate her with national racist groups, which is completely untrue. They went after her pretty seriously. And one thing that came out at the school committee meeting, cause I watched it online (it was zoomed), is that they never approached her to try to resolve anything. They just went right after her, tried to attack her legally, tried to attack her reputation. I don’t understand this unless they’re hiding something. You know, people who act like they have something to hide, very frequently are hiding something. And when they get to that, who knows.
Also, the situation with Ramona, the old expression, “Don’t kill the messenger.” It’s like they’re not even, whoever put this together, are they even realizing the consequences of forcing a Caucasian instructor to attempt to teach this and put out the information and suddenly she can truly feel the tense environment that it creates. And it’s not her imagination. They are getting resentful towards her and really anyone who happens to be Caucasian.
Well, I don’t know again what the goal is here, unless it’s just a pure power play, which it might be. Or unless they are people who just feel so aggrieved that they have to visit whatever pain they think they’ve been through on other people. So, it’s a societal dead end. There was just an article in the New York Post. I think it was yesterday. An op-ed, by a guy who was an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa, so he’s got credibility. And he wrote about what this critical race theory is doing in the U S and he said, it is exactly what has happened in the last few years in post-apartheid South Africa, where you have all the strife because everything centers around race. And he said, I really recommend people do look for that.
I forget his name, but it is really astounding. And he says, with this obsessive focus on race being the center of everything, the end result is perpetual societal strife, increased hatred. So it’s possible to be for equality. It’s possible to be for treating people respectfully without regard to race. But I think the problem that Ramona is facing and that we’re facing as a society, is there’s this specific, significant part of our society who controls education, who believes that perpetual, never-ending racial conflict is a good thing. That is the whole anti-racism narrative. That is the whole critical race narrative, that our society is systemically racist. You can never 100% get rid of it, but you have to fight it every day. It almost becomes a religion. And it’s going to take us to a very bad place. What Ramona is going through is really like the canary in the coal mine. It’s a warning to our society that what we are doing is really going to rip our society apart. And it is going to do the opposite of what a lot of naive, well-intentioned people think it’s going to achieve, which is greater racial equality.
What do you think of people like Mayor Elorza, the mayor of Providence, who now wants to offer reparations and really put this front and center. He’s also doing a side project of basically having a lottery to start to award people a monthly supplement to spend whatever they want. But he is still hell-bent going down this reparations path.
Yeah, I got to tell you, John. I don’t follow local politics. But I have seen news about reparations, obviously, both in a general matter. I think reparations is another thing. Reparations for people who were victims of [Jim] Crow themselves, or descendants, immediately in the generation after slavery, you can make an understanding for that. But you’re asking people who did nothing, people who were born 20 years ago, people who have never discriminated to bear that cost. And what is that going to do? It’s just going to create more resentment. It’s going to not really achieve anything. And I can’t speak to his plan, but I think a lot of these plans are just money grabs. People who think they can get money for something. People who may not themselves have ever been the victim of anything getting money from people who themselves never victimized anybody. And what it comes down to is that it’s everything based on the color of skin. So if you’re a white child born in Providence, you now have this obligation, because you’re an oppressor. And if you’re a black child born in Providence, you now are a victim. What kind of narrative is that for society? That is one of the worst things we could possibly do.
Folks, again we’re speaking with William Jacobson, Cornell Law School professor, founder of Legal Insurrection, president of the Rhode Island-based Legal Insurrection Foundation. And more importantly, again, the website is CriticalRace.org. Hey Bill, what about in Nicole’s case where some of the people that were speaking up in South Kingstown and this is one of the refrains you hear, “If you’re against critical race theory, then that makes you a racist!”?
I would argue just the opposite. Critical race theory, which focuses everything on race, is a very racial narrative. And so I don’t accept that at all. And certainly the narrative of the “anti-racism” as articulated by Kendi, who is the most commonly read book on it, advocates racial discrimination. Kendi’s most famous formulation is that current discrimination is justified to remedy past discrimination, and future discrimination is justified to remedy current discrimination. So that entire narrative is one of racial discrimination. So we have come to a bizarre point in our education system, and to some extent, our political and social media system, where advocating against being racist actually gets you called a racist. So I don’t accept their language. I think it’s very pernicious, and it is not something that people need to shy away from. But I can tell you, if you stand up and you say, this focus on race is not healthy, you will be called names without a doubt. And that’s how they silence people.
And what about finally otherwise intelligent people that sometimes I agree with, but writing things like, “Oh, no critical race theory is important because children need to know history”?
Well, one thing has nothing to do with the other. As Ramona wrote, and as I think she even testified before the State Senate, these are subjects that have been taught. They were reading books by great black authors about Jim Crow, about slavery. This was all being taught. The difference is it was being taught along with other things. And what critical race theory in education tries to do is to distort history. Like the 1619 project was maligned really seriously by historians, actual historians. Who said, what you’re saying is factually not correct. The revolutionary war was not about maintaining slavery. It’s just not true. You’re trying to make things up. So the 1619 project is a perfect example of a distortion of history in order to push a racial narrative. And Nikole Hannah-Jones even tweeted in a tweet that we saved, but it’s now been taken down, that her whole project is about the narrative of history.
Critical race theory in education, and what would be taught to your kindergarteners and your fifth graders, is not about teaching history. It’s about creating a narrative of the United States, as a systemically, irredeemably racist society, in order to justify a continued conflict and then justify shaming children because of their skin color. And when they shame white children, it’s also in a sense shaming black children, because it’s sending a message to those black children that somehow they are born victims, that they are somehow born less equal than their white compatriots. What is worse than that message?
DePetro (19:04): Folks, again, he is president of the Rhode Island-based Legal Insurrection Foundation, Cornell Law School professor, and also founder of Legal Insurrection. The website is CriticalRace.org. He is William Jacobson. Bill, it’s great to talk to you. Keep up the good work, and I’m sure we’ll talk again. All right, folks, there it is, Bill Jacobson. The guy is just incredible now.DONATE
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