Arizona Bans Critical Race Theory; Experts Say New Law Is Using An Incorrect Definition

By Jill Ryan
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Monday, July 12, 2021 - 12:42pm
Updated: Tuesday, July 13, 2021 - 8:12am

Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation Friday to block the use of public funds for what he calls "critical race theory." But there seems to be a disconnect between the description of what has become a favorite talking point of Ducey and other Republicans, and what “critical race theory” actually means.

Nolan Cabrera, a professor at the Center for Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona, says the term refers to the idea that racism stems from something more than just individual prejudice. 

“Governor Ducey doesn't have any clue what critical race theory is. The people who are lodging these arguments do not have any clue what it is that it is. It's a scare tactic. It's a boogeyman," Cabrera said. 

More general definitions center around institutionalized racism. One example has been segregation. The new legislation states employees cannot be required to undergo orientation, training or therapy that presents any "form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex."

Ducey, in signing the measure Friday, said using public funds for what he called "political commentary" is not responsible.

"I am not going to waste public dollars on lessons that imply the superiority of any race and hinder free speech," Ducey said. The governor expressed the same sentiments about a similar provision, buried in a budget bill he signed earlier, which imposes fines of up to $5,000 on schools that have similar teachings.

Mary Carol Combs, a University of Arizona professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Sociocultural Studies, says it's important to understand what critical race theory is not.

She says that, despite Ducey's statements, there is nothing teaching that a particular race, ethnicity or gender is superior to another. Nor, she said, does critical race theory teach hate against whites. She also says contrary to what Ducey claims, it does not limit free speech.

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