PragerU, a right-wing propaganda engine masquerading as an educational YouTube channel, attempted to push back on Twitter against arguments advanced by young Americans about racism. In general, getting involved in Twitter battles is a bad idea. To use an AD&D analogy, Twitter fights are often like punching green slime: the more you attack, the more you hurt yourself. And you end up covered in slime. It is usually best to avoid rather than engage.
In the case of PragerU, they fired off what they presumed would be a sick burn of the youth: “Young people are enamored with ‘anti-racist’ rhetoric because they think they are fighting racist systems in America. The TRUTH is they are fighting America itself and the very values the country was founded on.” Ironically, PragerU could have used some schooling in writing clearly.
Their intended meaning, given the ideology evident in their videos, is that the youth think they are fighting racism, but they are wrong about this. Instead, they are fighting America and its founding values. Which are totally not racist. However, the tweet as written states that the youth think they are fighting racist systems in America, but they do not realize that the racist systems are America itself and its founding values. That is, PragerU seems to be tweeting openly what they are supposed to keep quiet: they believe that America was founded on racism and that the racist systems are America. Sometimes they are willing to acknowledge that there were some racist things in America’s past, but quickly rush to explain that they were not so bad and, of course, have no meaningful consequences for the present day. These are the same people who defend “Civil War” statues on the grounds that history must be preserved—which is a bad faith argument for obvious reasons. While a statue can be an historical artifact, a statue is not history. As comedians have noted, we do not have statues of Bin Laden in New York City, even though he is obviously historically significant to the city. We do not do this because these sorts of statues are political statements. There is also the obvious problem that the history presented by PragerU and its fellows is generally an attempt to whitewash the past and ignore the truth. Attacking Critical Race Theory has become a key part of this strategic attack on history and facts.
Ironically, PragerU (and those who share their ideology) do agree with the key factual claims accepted by most Critical Race Theorists about racism. These include the fact that the United States political, economic, and social systems have been dominated by white Americans to their advantage. The critical difference is that Critical Race Theorists generally see the racism (systematic and otherwise) as morally wrong and something that needs to be addressed. PragerU and their fellows see these systems as generally good; although they are obviously reluctant to openly assert that. Instead, they engage in revisionist history and take great effort to block criticism of the existing system.
Fortunately, PragerU is (as is usually the case) is mistaken in its key claims. While the United States founding values obviously include racist values (they are explicitly laid out in the Constitution, political philosophy, and laws) there are other professed values that are not racist—some are even anti-racist. As Dr. King noted, the Declaration of Independence makes promises to all Americans—whether those promises were sincere or not. While America is racist, it is also anti-racist. Obviously enough, America is not monolithic. There are those, like PragerU, who fight for the racist elements of the system and those, like the young Americans they tried to attack, who are fighting racism.
PragerU, like many other right-wing propaganda engines, is engaged in a project akin to that of a comic book villain, but it is all too real. While they do admit that America did some racism in the past, they contend that it was not that bad. They take special pains to present slavery in a positive light and present many Confederates as heroic figures. They refuse to accept that past racism has had any significant systematic effect on the present. While sometimes willing to admit that there might a racist bad apple or two, they refuse to accept that racism exists in a significant and systematic form. They do all this while defending and enhancing racism, even “cleverly” accusing those critical of racism of being “the real racists.” As always, I am unsure if ordinary citizens who profess to believe these things are unwitting victims or accomplices who know the lies are lies but put on a show of pretending to believe. One must thus either think them to be ignorant or dishonest; neither of which is a pleasant thing to think. I prefer to think that many believe out of ignorance, if only because ignorance is easier to overcome than dishonesty.