Impact of ‘Critical Race Theory’ in Virginia race, politics discussed at UVA event

University of Virginia Center for Politics "American Democracy Conference"
University of Virginia Center for Politics "American Democracy Conference"(WVIR)
Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 9:38 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - We all heard countless ads and talking points for months during the Virginia gubernatorial race about parents, education, and ‘Critical Race Theory.’

Now, political analysts are talking about the role it played in the race and will play moving forward.

That dialogue happened at the University of Virginia Center for Politics’ annual American Democracy Conference.

“Nobody’s enforcing [Critical Race Theory] in K-12,” said former Virginia Del. David Ramadan, a Republican. “It doesn’t exist in K-12 in Virginia, doesn’t exist in k12 anywhere, but if we’re just going to talk over each other, and that’s what’s happening.”

That was a warning from Ramadan, which was a common cautionary tale as the panelists discussed political polarization.

As for why the CRT platform may have played a role in Virginia’s race -- UVA’s Daman Irby, the University of Virginia Center for Politics Director of Global Initiatives, has a theory.

“Parents have been cooped up in their homes for a year with many of their children and they’ve had a special look into education that they previously have not, and they’re more involved in the lives of their children than they used to be,” Irby said.

Of course, the other part of the strategy is race.

“It is a powerful force. It has been from the beginning of the republic’s history,” said Jamelle Bouie, a Charlottesville-based opinion columnist for the New York Times. “Politicians have won elections on sort of demagoguing on racial issues.”

Bouie said that may not change anytime soon.

“In the presence of these things which serve to kind of reinscribe racial difference, that serve to reinforce racial ideologies, I don’t -- this is the most depressing answer I can give -- but I don’t think that race is going to sort of vanish or diminish in salience in American politics.”

A main topic of the conference was a new project from “Project Home Fire,” an initiative working with the UVA Center for Politics. That project asked hundreds of questions to both Biden and Trump voters to learn more about political polarization. You can read about the project and some of its findings here.

Copyright 2021 WVIR. All rights reserved.

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