The genocide inflicted on Native Americans, slavery, the horrors of Jim Crow, the incarceration of Japanese Americans, the rise of the carceral state, the My Lai massacre and George W. Bush’s torture chambers and black sites, among other historical events, now disappear into a disavowal of past events made even more unethical with the emergence of a right-wing political and pedagogical language of erasure. For example, the Republican Party’s attack on the teaching of “critical race theory” — labeled as “ideological or faddish” — denies both the history of racism as well as the ways in which it is enforced through policy, laws and institutions.
For many Republicans, racial hatred takes on the ludicrous claim of protecting students from learning about the diverse ways in which racism persists in American society. For instance, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida stated that “There is no room in our classrooms for things like critical race theory. Teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other is not worth one red cent of taxpayer money.” In this updated version of historical and racial cleansing, the call for racial justice is equated to a form of racial hatred, leaving intact the refusal to acknowledge, condemn and confront in the public imagination the history and tenacity of racism in American society.
There is also a need to develop a more comprehensive view of oppression, political struggle and ongoing efforts to align progressive movements. Such movements must be willing to embrace an alternative vision for change that includes the destruction of the ideological and structural foundations of neoliberal capitalism. At stake here is not only the recognition that capitalism and democracy are at odds with each other, but also that neoliberal capitalism has morphed into an updated form of fascist politics. In this instance, any viable notion of resistance must address specific crises ranging from mass poverty and staggering inequality to the destruction of the environment and systemic racism as strands of a larger general crisis threatening society as a whole.
As democratic socialist congressional candidate Nina Turner makes clear, “good ideas are not enough — we need to marry our ideas to power.” Radicalizing the public imagination suggests viewing democracy as part of a project that can be both recovered and radicalized through the combined struggles for emancipation, social justice, economic equality and minority rights. Central to such a challenge would be adopting a common agenda dedicated to developing a vast educational movement in defense of public goods. Any struggle against the dictatorship of ignorance will not only have to take matters of education seriously in the effort to address the current crisis of consciousness but will also have to bring diverse movements together to build a common agenda under the rubric of creating a critically engaged populace willing to fight for a democratic socialist society.