Critical race theory has marched its way through many of America’s educational institutions. Angry elementary school parents noticed during the pandemic that their kids’ teachers were more inclined to teach them that white people were evil than to teach them to read.
Unfortunately, critical race theory—which views everything through the lenses of race and oppression—also has found fertile ground in America’s colleges and universities. More disturbingly, medical schools and military academies have fallen victim to it.
William “Bill” Jacobson, a law professor at Cornell Law School and founder of Legal Insurrection, has been tracking which institutions teach critical race theory, and how deep the rot goes, in a database at criticalrace.org. It’s not pretty, he says.
“It’s so widespread that it’s harder to find places where it’s not being taught, either directly or indirectly, than it is where it is being taught,” Jacobson says, adding:
When you have an educational system, which, almost [from] kindergarten now through higher education in most places in the country, teaches children and teachers that the most important thing in their life and the way to look at everything is through skin color—what do you expect to happen?
Jacobson joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss his database, and what the implications are for the rapid spread of critical race theory.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Doug Blair: My guest today is Bill Jacobson, a Cornell law professor and founder of Legal Insurrection. Bill, welcome back to the show.
Bill Jacobson: Thank you for having me back.
Blair: It’s always a pleasure. And we’re going to talk about your newest project, which is centered around critical race theory. You have a database right now that is tracking where critical race theory is being taught around the country in several different institutions, higher learning, elite private schools, all of these sort of places you wouldn’t expect to see critical race theory. What have you found out about how widespread this is as you’ve compiled the database?
Jacobson: Well, it’s so widespread that it’s harder to find places where it’s not being taught, either directly or indirectly, than it is where it is being taught.
So the website is criticalrace.org. And we started with a database of higher education, colleges and universities. We started with a little over 200, that’s when we turned the website live, and we’ve built that out now to over 500 and it’s pervasive.
Now it’s called different things in different places. Sometimes it’s called critical race theory. Sometimes it’s called diversity, equity, and inclusion. Sometimes it’s called anti-racism. But no matter what it’s called, the point is to focus the study of society and the evaluation of society through a racial lens.
We then expanded the database because we got a tip that this was also very pervasive in the elite private schools. The national private schools, private K-12, that could cost $50,000 or $60,000 or $70,000 a year, basically what college costs, and where the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country send their children.
And we found that as bad as it was in higher ed, it was even worse in these elite private schools. And we cover the top 50 ranked private schools, and it’s almost everywhere.
We then went one step further and we started to look at medical schools because I’ve written a lot about medical schools and the problems there. And so we rolled out a database of the top 50 ranked research medical schools. And as bad as it is in higher ed and as bad as it is in elite private schools, it’s even worse in medical schools.
What’s happening in the medical school community is truly frightening, and it is working its way into actual medical care where you see some states giving preferences based on race and skin color for different sort of therapeutics.
And last but not least, the final piece we rolled out, which is a much smaller one because there are fewer of them, were military service academies. And so just about a month or two ago, we rolled out that database of the obvious ones, the Air Force Academy, West Point, Naval Academy, Merchant Marine Academy, Coast Guard Academy.
And so we did that and there’s good and bad news there, which is, it’s not nearly as bad as every place else, but I would describe it as a beachhead that these theories and this approach has established a beachhead at the military academy.
So at criticalrace.org, we have this ever expanding, intensifying database. Each of these databases has an interactive map. So you can hover over the state and you can click on a state and then you can click on a school. And every single piece of data there is sourced and it has not just a source link, but an archived link in case it disappears.
And so that’s what we’ve done. We’ve created this thing that documents what’s going on.
Blair: I mean, it’s a really in-depth database and it’s so scary to see where this critical race theory has spread to. I think the one that shocked me the most was military schools, because you would expect the values of the military are so antithetical to what critical race theory is all about that this wouldn’t be here.
So Bill, could you explain maybe how, one, it got there, how did it infiltrate these military places? And then two, how are we seeing it manifest in these academies?
Jacobson: Well, it got there the way it got everywhere else, is that there’s a certain ideology that has spread far and wide and has captured a lot of the culture.
And you saw it, it was a controversy. I think it was about a year ago Gen. [Mark] Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave statements about white supremacy and white anger and how he’s not opposed to the teaching of critical race theory at the military academies.
And so the military you would not think would have that culture, but from the highest level, literally the highest level, there is a push to focus on these sort of things. And this is in many ways a post-George Floyd phenomenon and the push to get this into the military academies.
So when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is embracing this sort of ideology, it’s inevitable that it would trickle down and it would have an impact. And we’ve seen that impact in the military academies.
There was a professor at the Air Force Academy who actually wrote an op-ed—I forget if it was in The Wall Street Journal or wherever it was, but some major publication—about, sure, she’s teaching critical race theory in her political science courses at the Air Force Academy.
Judicial Watch obtained documents showing how deeply this had penetrated at West Point, and that there were various programs going on about white privilege and things like that that take place at West Point. And in our database, we document numerous other instances.
Now, in the military academies, most of this is not mandatory. It is voluntary, but it’s still part of the curriculum. It’s still there. And it’s still part of the culture through the DEI programs—diversity, equity, inclusion, which is the euphemism that’s given to this hyper-racialization of education.
And so the military academies are a mixed bag. There are clearly professors who are teaching it, the military top brass has embraced it. And there is a fair amount of voluntary programming at these institutions.
Again, I do want to emphasize, it’s nothing at the level that’s taking place elsewhere in higher education, but it is there, it’s been reacted to with a fair amount of controversy. Some of the schools had to kind of walk back what they were doing because of public controversy, but it’s there. And that’s why I describe it as a beachhead. It’s there, it’s being taught, it’s being embraced, but it hasn’t spread far and wide.
Blair: Right. Well, one of the things that strikes me as a sort of interesting part about this is that it’s voluntary. It seems like it’s been embraced by top brass by a lot of these administrators, the DEI folks that are always going to be there. How has the rank and file sort of responded to this? Are we finding that they’re willingly going to these classes or they’re being pressured into them? How is the rank and file responding?
Jacobson: Well, we don’t have that sort of data because that’s not something that would be public, course enrollments, things like that.
But one thing we do see is that when you have a DEI bureaucracy at a school, it almost becomes similar to political commissariats in the Soviet union, where you have people who are there to enforce an ideological viewpoint, and you don’t have a bureaucracy enforcing the opposing viewpoint. So it’s a completely one-sided bureaucracy.
So voluntary becomes really questionable when things pervade a university. And we see that particularly in higher ed, it becomes part of the culture and dissent over it is really not permitted.
So it’s hard to know how it’s been embraced by the rank and file in the military academies. That’s not something we have access to, but the fact that I know that people have reached out to us, people who are graduates of these military academies, and have said that the alums, former military officers are very upset.
And I know there have been some groups formed for alums of the military academies who are trying to raise awareness of this and push back against it. And if they are doing that, I have to believe people in the rank and file feel the same way.
But of course, when you’re in the military, you’re not really supposed to dissent from the commands from above. So I think it would be very hard-pressed to expect someone who’s enrolled at West Point, for example, to protest this sort of stuff. That’s just not, I think, the culture.
So I think that probably what we see in many places, there are a lot of people who think it’s ridiculous, who don’t approve of it, who know how pernicious and damaging it is to our society, but who just keep their mouth shut because it’s not worth the risk. And I have to believe that’s what’s going on at the military academies.
Blair: The other massive one that you mentioned is medical schools, which seems like such an odd place to put a theory that’s going to essentially make race the prime determinant in what you do. I mean, you mentioned that one of the ways they’re doing this is who gets medicine, who gets treatment based on historical discrimination and prejudice. I mean, what justification can they have for this type of—it just seems so antithetical to medicine as a concept.
Jacobson: It’s truly frightening what’s happening in the medical community. And I am actually a named plaintiff individually in a lawsuit against the state of New York because when COVID therapeutics were in short supply, they issued guidelines, the Health Department, and these were guidelines arising out of this critical race view of the world. And in the guidelines, people who were non-white, which they did not define, got preference for these medications.
So everybody had to show you had COVID, you had symptoms presenting within five days, because the medications only work if you catch it early. But the fourth category was that you needed to show a risk factor, a personal risk factor, merely being non-white was deemed in writing by the Department of Health in New York as a risk factor. But if you were white, which of course they don’t define what that means, but if you were white, you would then have to show that you had a personal medical condition, like diabetes or heart trouble or something else, that put you at risk.
And so I’ve sued the state of New York. It’s now up on appeal because the issue was whether I had standing to sue because I hadn’t caught at that time COVID and I hadn’t sought the medication and that’ll be decided.
But that is a prime example of how this DEI/CRT ideology in medical schools is having real-world impacts medical providers. Medical health officials are actually acting upon it and implementing it in the way they treat patients. And it is a disaster in the making. It’s the exact opposite.
If two people walk into an emergency room with COVID and they meet the other qualifications, the question as to who gets the medicine should be who is sicker, who is more personally at risk, not what the color of your skin is.
But when you have an educational system which really almost through kindergarten now through higher education, in most places in the country, teaches children and teachers that the most important thing in their life and the way to look at everything is through skin color, what do you expect to happen?
And we will see this work out in other professions, not just medical school. You see it in law schools, but we don’t have a database on law schools about it because it would be literally every law school. But we do have a database on medical schools and it’s a wake-up call it. People need to be aware what is going on.
Blair: Something that strikes me as I’m reading through this, I was browsing through a lot of the colleges that I know, I went and looked up my alma mater, the University of Portland in Portland, Oregon, and was shocked. I was shocked, I tell you, that it showed up on this list.
It didn’t really seem like the administration was trying to cover up what they were doing, though. Whereas when we look at this in elementary schools, it almost seems like they try to hide this behind other language.
Is this something that institutions are proud that they’re doing, that they want to advertise this? Or am I reading too far into this?
Jacobson: No, you’re exactly right. Our database is based on publicly available information. We have researchers who spend all day going to university websites—and university websites can be quite complex because you have not just the university website, then you have individual colleges and individual schools and individual departments. And what we do is we simply document what they are saying they are doing because they love to brag about it.
This is a bonus in higher ed. If you are providing Ibram Kendi’s book to students, if you are inviting him as a speaker, if you have this programming about white privilege, they love to talk about it. And so what we do is we document what they are talking about.
It’s a bigger problem in K-12 because they don’t love to talk about it. And that’s one of the challenges. It’s one of the reasons we didn’t do a K-12 database.
Although we have a ton of information about K-12 at the website, we didn’t do a database. One, there’s too many school districts. There’s 13,000 public school districts in the country, just too much to wrap our hands around. But also, they don’t tell you.
And one of the big pushes that is taking place at the state and local level are education, transparency laws that these materials should have to be put online because there’s really no way for parents or us creating a database to access what is taking place at K-12.
So you’re absolutely right that higher ed; medical schools; even to some extent, lesser extent, private elite K-12 schools love to talk about it. But public K-12, it’s like trying to pry information out of them. The teachers unions and the teachers administrations in public K-12 do not want people knowing what’s going on.
Blair: Given that it’s so open and that they don’t seem to be hiding it, are there any coordinated efforts to get critical race theory out of these institutions?
Jacobson: I think it’s mostly a local level and I’ve always argued that this is a local fight. There are obviously state actions, Florida getting the most press attention, where state authorities … who have control over public school curriculums are trying to get this out.
And I think it’s appropriate in K-12 for the state authorities to have input. These are state schools. You force students to attend them by the police powers of the state. You can arrest someone for being a truant. You can, in some states, arrest their parents. So because you have the police power of the state forcing students into state-run schools, I think it’s certainly appropriate for the state education authorities and the state legislatures to have a say in what is taught in the schools.
It’s a little more difficult situation with higher ed because you’ve got different concepts of academic freedom and things like that.
But at the state level, we’ve seen a lot of action, but also, the school board level. I always say to people, you can protest all you want. You can go to the school board meetings all you want and complain, but if the same people remain on that school board, nothing is going to change.
And one of the headlines I saw out of Florida last night, I assume it’s true, I don’t know if it’s true, but the headline was that 30 out of the 35 school board election races where [Florida Gov.] Ron DeSantis made an endorsement won. So there seems to be a big shift, at least in Florida, among school boards.
And that’s what has to take place in these 13,000 districts around the country. Parents need to unite locally and get people onto the school boards. That’s probably the single most important thing because the school boards have the most direct supervision and influence over what takes place in the schools.
Blair: Absolutely. Well, before we part, I wanted to follow up on what we talked about last time, because it seems so relevant to the conversation we’re having now. When we last spoke, you discussed the Oberlin College scandal with those bakery owners who were accused of being racist and racial profiling. I noticed as I was browsing through your database that Oberlin was on the list of schools that promote this type of content. Might those two things be connected?
Jacobson: Well, I think it is. I mean, at Oberlin you had perhaps a leading indicator of this hyper-focus on race as being at the heart of all problems. So when a white bakery owner stops a black Oberlin college student for shoplifting, the immediate college reaction was, “This is racial profiling. We need to look at the situation as white versus black, black victim of racial profiling, and not wait for the facts to come in.”
And the facts were that the student actually was shoplifting, later pleaded guilty to it. But the college, I should say, didn’t wait for the facts to come in.
So what happened in Gibson’s Bakery is one of the end results of an education which views everything through a racial lens.
And of course, we’ve seen it, many other places where you have riots and protests before the facts come out, such as Ferguson, the shooting of Michael Brown, which gave rise, national attention to the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014. And we now know that because they looked at it through a racial lens of a white policeman and a black person shot, it created riots and created a whole movement. But in fact, the narrative was false. Michael Brown was not shot with his hands up saying, “Don’t shoot.” He was shot because he punched a policeman in the face and tried to steal his gun.
So whether it’s Oberlin College and Gibson’s Bakery or the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement, this hyper-focus on viewing everything through race that’s taught throughout education has real-world consequences.
Blair: Well, hopefully we can get to a point where your database is no longer necessary, we just won’t have critical race theory in schools. But until then, that was Bill Jacobson, a Cornell law professor and founder of Legal Insurrection. If you want to check out his database, which I highly recommend you do, you can go to criticalrace.org.
Bill, thank you so much for coming. Always appreciate having you on.
Jacobson: Thank you.
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