• By: Tom Marino
  • November 29, 2021
Candidate Brings Critical Race Theory Into Local Campaign

Since September 2020 the phrase “critical race theory” has exploded into the public debate across the country. The phrase also recently found its way into the 2022 race to represent the second Massachusetts congressional district.

Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette, of Shrewsbury, announced early this summer he will run as a Republican in 2022 for the congressional seat currently held by Congressman Jim McGovern.

On his campaign website, Sossa-Paquette says he founded a pet grooming shop and grew it to seven locations and 112 employees with $6 million in revenue before selling it at age 29. He also has experience in the banking industry. 

With election day over eleven months away, the Sossa-Paquette campaign is starting to ramp up, announcing events, asking for volunteers and producing a consistent social media presence. 

On November 7, the campaign posted on the subject of critical race theory to its Facebook page.

Full post text:

Critical Race Theory isn’t always presented as “Critical Race Theory” our school boards along with teachers unions and teachers themselves have disguised “CRT” in concepts such as Action Civics, Anti-racism, Anti-blackness, Collective guilt, Unconscious bias, Critical self-awareness, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Educational justice, Institutional oppression, Marginalized identities, Systems of power and oppression, White privilege, White supremacy, Whiteness, Woke behavior, pro-nouns.

As a result, our children have become depressed, have extreme anxiety, and withdraw. We are witnessing an increase in teenage suicide by 32%, while school boards and our children’s teachers think they have the right to cut parents out of the social and emotional wellbeing of our children. Our schools are there to educate our children in Math, English, Reading, Science, History, and civics.

What teachers have no place teaching our children is ‘CRT” as a parent if my child struggles with self-identity, depression, anxiety, or any other personal concerns that is between my child and myself, not my child’s teacher or school psychologist, nor should any parent owe an explanation to how we handle our personal family concerns with our schools. Teachers teach and Parents raise our children, more importantly, we name our children not ‘Woke’ teachers and their dangerous pro-nouns.

I will spend the next twelve months traveling district 2 of Massachusetts visiting every school board determining how are federal dollars are being used to harm our children.

– Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette for Congress Facebook Page,  November 7, 2021

In comments to ThisWeekinWorcester.com, Sossa-Paquette said he seeks a conversation about the real issues, not mislabeling them all as critical race theory.

Sossa-Paquette also drew a distinction between issues in high school classrooms and levels below. “I am not against having these conversations, I’m against having these conversations with my five year old,” he said. 

What is Critical Race Theory

Since September 2020, critical race theory has been framed as a loosely defined as an all-encompassing term for controversial social issues. The people who created the phrase and the decades-long  body of scholarship with it, defined it with specificity quite different from its use over the last year. 

Critical race theory is an academic framework created by legal scholars. Its intended audience is attorneys, legal researchers and law school students. It is specifically not interested in the racism of individuals. It is a framework from which to study the legal system as a means of inquiry about its role in creating inequality along racial lines.

The scholarship of Derek Bell, who administered over 300 civil cases to force local governments to implement desegregation in the 1960’s, is the primary inspiration for Critical Race Theory. Bell oversaw these cases after being hired in 1960 by Thurgood Marshall at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [NAACP] Legal Defense Fund. In 1967, Marshall became the first Black person to serve as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Kendall Thomas is a Nash professor of law at Columbia Law School who earned his J.D. at Yale Law School in 1983. He was as one of fewer than two dozen invited guests who attended the first conference on critical race theory in 1989.  Thomas has contributed to its study for more than 30 years and teaches a course on critical race theory at Columbia. There are few people with more experience and credibility in critical race theory scholarship than Thomas. He offers this definition:

“Critical Race Theory is an effort really to move beyond the focus on finding fault by impugning racist motives, racist bias, racist prejudice, racist animus and hatred to individuals, and looking at how racial inequality is embedded in structures in ways of which we are very often unaware.”

When the first conference on critical race theory was held in 1989, Kimberlé Crenshaw was its primary organizer. Crenshaw is an Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. She earned an LL.M. at the University of Wisconsin in 1985 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1984.

The definitions of critical race theory promoted during the last year are often vastly different from the beliefs of those that inspired its creation as an area of academic study or the definitions offered by those that contributed to its scholarship over the last three decades. Some influential Republicans on the national stage that are outspoken about critical race theory would seem to have previous exposure to the concept, but any knowledge is not present in their public comments. 

At the Faith and Freedom Conference in June,  Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who earned his J.D. from the University of Miami School of Law in 1996, said “You’ve heard a lot about this critical race theory and stuff that’s wound up in our schools. It certainly the prevalent ideology in the media. And Hollywood. And music. And in government.” He went on to attribute the concept as derived from Marxism.

The University of Miami School of Law website has 424 pages with references to critical race theory.

The hardest to believe of the misrepresentations around this divisive debate can be attributed to Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz not only studied law, but received his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1986, where critical race theory and the legal concept it emerged from were both pioneered at the very same time it was emerging. While Cruz’s concentration was economic law, not civil rights, the idea he never came across the subject is hard to believe.

Here is how Cruz defined critical race theory during his speech at the same Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in June.

Cruz claimed that critical race theory says:

“… all of America and all of the world is a battle between the races. Critical race theory says every white person is a racist. Critical race theory says America is fundamentally racist and irredeemably racist. Critical race theory seeks to turn us against each other and if someone has a different color skin it seeks to make us hate that person. And let me tell you right now. Critical race theory is bigoted. It is a lie, and it is every bit as racist as the Klansman and white sheets.”

Harvard Law Reviewwhich Cruz was the primary editor of while at Harvard Law School, has curated a series of papers and articles on the critical race theory. Each has an overview with a link to the full resource for download.

As additional resources, readers can find below an overview derived from research done for this piece. It includes some of the people influential in developing critical race theory and crafting it into an academic framework over the last 30 years.  Included among those resources are videos of those scholars, speaking in their own words, about the concepts they created.

Nothing in the work of over 30 years on critical race theory suggests anything about hate. These people study law, not the feelings of individuals.

Nothing you will find is found in your local public school.