This year, right-wing media like Fox News aggressively attacked Critical Race Theory, a scientific framework that examines the role of law and other institutions in perpetuating racial inequality, rather than focusing on individual prejudices. Critics say it is a divisive belief system that portrays whiteness as inherently bad and unfairly portrays the country as hopelessly racist, but academics who embrace Critical Race Theory say it has been intentionally distorted and widely misused.
The problem has escalated into a cultural storm, as the Republican Party plans to focus on cultural war issues in its efforts to take over the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections. At least 21 states have introduced or passed legislation that restricts how schools can tackle race or racism, sometimes specifically calling for critical race theory, according to the States Education Commission, which follows education policy .
In this atmosphere, many books that explore race and racism have been incorrectly labeled Critical Race Theory. At a school board meeting on Long Island last month, some parents objected to Jacqueline Woodson’s âBrown Girl Dreamingâ. A dissertation written in free verse for young readers, “Brown Girl Dreaming” is about growing up as an African American and becoming a writer. What it isn’t, Ms. Woodson said in an interview, is Critical Race Theory.
The problem, she said, âis not a critical theory of race. This is the race.
In June 2020, just after Mr. Floyd’s assassination, sales of books on race and racism skyrocketed. Headlines in the Discrimination category, which primarily includes books on race, sold 850,000 copies that month, according to NPD BookScan, which tracks sales of most print books. In the previous June, that figure was 34,000.
The category has been solid ever since. In the first five months of 2021, BookScan found that books on discrimination sold three times more than in the same period the year before, reaching around 90,000 copies in June. Sales of civil rights books more than quadrupled in those same five months compared to the previous year.
Even the titles released years ago have done exceptionally well. A 1996 book titled “Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement”, ” edited by lawyer KimberlÃ© Crenshaw, saw its sales more than triple from 2019 to 2020, according to its editor, The New Press. Sales so far this year have already doubled compared to last year.