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Games People Play: On Critical Race Theory and the astounding naivety of Democrats

by | Jul 5, 2021

From Fox News to the pages of the Portland Press Herald to my inbox, Republicans are going wild about Critical Race Theory (CRT)! Anti-CRT protests are turning violent across the country, and according to an analysis by the news organization Education Week, as of June 18, 25 states have “introduced bills or taken other steps that would restrict teaching critical race theory or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism. Eight states have enacted these bans, either through legislation or other avenues.

If you’re not familiar, CRT is a more than 40-year-old academic concept pertaining to how law intersects with race in the U.S. It’s mostly a law-school thing, and unless your second-grader has jumped from spelling out numbers to Introduction to Municipal Regulation Interpretation, these teaching restrictions don’t immediately make a lot of sense.

That is, until you consider even the slightest amount of American History. If you do, then it’s quite easy to understand that from slavery to sharecropping to Jim Crow to segregation to redlining to current Republican voter-suppression efforts, the right wing continues to need racism. It’s fundamental to their existence, so their reaction to CRT and any other imaginary, self-victimizing grievance that might suddenly inspire them to destroy the country is fairly predictable.

The frustrating part is the white liberal response. The immeasurable amount of hate in the right-wing identity has resulted in the Republican Party housing all the hate speech, hate crimes and hate groups — and, therefore, all the domestic terrorists. So often, the white liberal response to this stark reality is the belief that this is somehow an accident. The stereotypically liberal reaction is to remove right-wing agency and behave as though Republicans have simply been misled, that they just don’t know any better. It is apparently impossible to see the obvious truth that their philosophies, morals and identities rely on entirely different concepts of what is better.

That said, I did see a video of an insurrectionist on Jan. 6 saying, “Whoa! Whoa! Everyone! Hang on a minute! Do any of you have any ideas on how we can get the Democrats on board?”

Just kidding.

Anyway, this is all a little bleak, so I’ll end with a joke:

A Democrat and a Republican meet up in a park for a game of chess. The Democrat brings a small table, folding chairs, the chessboard, the pieces and a bagged lunch. The Republican brings only a bagged lunch, which he starts to eat as the Democrat sets things up. The Democrat puts down the table and chairs. He carefully lays out the board, putting all the pieces in their proper places, painstakingly putting each one in the very center of its square. The Republican just stands there, silently watching, eating his lunch.

After he finishes setting up, the Democrat sits down and begins a careful deliberation over his first move. The Republican continues to stand in the same place, watching and eating. It takes a while, but eventually the Democrat makes a decision. In that moment — just as the Democrat is reaching to move his first pawn — the Republican finishes his last bite, slaps all the pieces off the board, flips the table, kicks the Democrat between his legs, steals his lunch and starts eating it as he walks away laughing.

The next day they meet up again. The Democrat brings the table and chairs, chessboard and pieces, and a bagged lunch. Again, the Republican brings only his lunch. The Democrat sets up, the Republican watches and eats. The Democrat sits and deliberates. The Republican watches and eats. And just as the Democrat is about to make his first move, the Republican does the same thing he did the day before: scatters the chess pieces, flips the table, kicks the Democrat between his legs, steals his lunch and eats it as he walks away laughing.

The third day comes and it’s the same as the previous two. Democrat brings everything, including his lunch; Republican only brings his lunch. Democrat sets up, Republican watches and eats. Democrat deliberates, Republican watches and eats. And right as the Democrat begins his first move, slap-crash-boom-crunch, and the Republican walks away laughing through mouthfuls of his opponent’s meal.

This time, as the Democrat is laying there in agony, an old man walks over to him and asks, “Are you OK?”

Coughing and heaving, the Democrat says, “I think so.”

The old man then says, “You know, I come to this park every day about this time, and every day I watch you go through this. Why do you keep letting him do this to you?”

The Democrat answers, “It’s not his fault. The poor simpleton just doesn’t understand how to play chess. I’m sure he’ll figure it out tomorrow.”


Samuel James is an internationally renowned bluesman and storyteller, as well as a locally known filmmaker. He can be reached at


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