Comedian and podcast host Bill Maher has clashed with actor Bryan Cranston over the controversial issue of critical race theory, after the Breaking Bad star said the woke issue should be taught in schools.
The pair were debating whether CRT should be taught in schools on Maher’s podcast Club Random.
The topic came up after the pair discussed slavery, which saw Maher expressing his belief historical figures such as former presidents should not be ‘canceled’ for having owned slaves.
Maher said he felt former Presidents Thomas Jefferson and George Washington should not be chastised since it was not uncommon to own slaves at that the time, both at home and overseas.
Actor Bryan Cranston, pictured, stated that he believes critical race theory is essential in schools in order to understand the systemic racism in the country
But Bill Maher, pictured, argued CRT is a catch-all term and that teaching children that they are oppressors is introducing ideas that are not appropriate for their age
Cranston argued that critical race theory is ‘essential’ in schools, as it examines how race, racism and the slave trade have affected government and social activities.
‘It’s 400 f**king years that we’ve dealt with this, and our country still has not taken responsibility or accountability,’ Cranston said.
‘For what?’ Maher asked.
‘For the history of the systemic racism that’s in this country.’
‘What should we do more?’ Maher asked.
‘Well, I mean, for one thing, critical race theory, I think is essential to be teaching.’
‘It depends on what you mean by that,’ Maher said.
The teaching of CRT in schools has proved to be controversial often leading to protests (file)
‘I mean, teaching how the race trade and racism is systemic in everything we’ve done in government, in social activities,’ Cranston responded.
‘It’s like, for example, why the Second Amendment really has to do with, in a country where you were keeping a hostile people in chains, you needed guns to keep the lid on that. So that’s a lot to do with why other countries don’t have a Second Amendment the way we do,’ Maher said.
Maher said he felt that critical race theory is a ‘catch-all term’ and that the notion that America is irredeemable is incorrect.
‘Critical race theory, I mean, it’s just one of these catch-all terms, if you mean we should honestly teach our past, of course, if you mean more what the 1619 book says, which is that it’s just the essence of America and that we are irredeemable, that’s just wrong.’
‘Yes, I agree with that,’ Cranston said. ‘But, even teaching our past and being honest, and owning up to who we are as a country and the history?’
‘Most schools are doing that,’ Maher said.
The 1619 Project aims to reframe American history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the national narrative. The project was developed by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, pictured above
‘In Florida they want to do away with critical race theory, and a lot of other states, because sometimes it veers off into things that are really not appropriate in schools,’ Cranston said.
Maher expressed concerns about teaching children that they are oppressors suggesting that it is effectively ‘introducing ideas about race that are inappropriate for kids that age who can’t understand it.’
Maher noted that common sense is ‘lacking in this country.’
CRITICAL RACE THEORY: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
The fight over critical race theory in schools has escalated in the United States in recent years.
The theory has sparked a fierce nationwide debate in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests around the country over the last year and the introduction of the 1619 Project.
The 1619 Project, which was published by the New York Times in 2019 to mark 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived on American shores, reframes American history by ‘placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the center of the US narrative’.
The debate surrounding critical race theory regards concerns that some children are being indoctrinated into thinking that white people are inherently racist or sexist.
Those against critical race theory have argued it reduces people to the categories of ‘privileged’ or ‘oppressed’ based on their skin color.
Supporters, however, say the theory is vital to eliminating racism because it examines the ways in which race influences American politics, culture and the law.
Despite their disagreement, both Cranston and Maher agreed that some ‘woke’ topics should not be taught in schools.
Critical race theory is a way of looking at how race and racism affect society and how it’s interwoven with other forms of oppression like class and gender, in order to maintain systems of power and privilege.
It is a framework that emerged in the 1970s as a critique of traditional civil rights approaches, which focused on individual discrimination and legal equality, instead CRT looks at ways in which racism is built into the very structures of society.
The 1619 Project, referred to by Maher, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning initiative by the New York Times, which aims to reframe American history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the national narrative.
The project was developed by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and it was published in August 2019, on the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans in the British colonies.
The project includes a series of essays, poems, photographs, and a podcast that examine the long shadow of slavery on the United States, including the economy, politics, education, and culture.
The project also presents the case that the true founding of America was not in 1776, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but in 1619, when the first enslaved Africans were brought to the colonies.
The 1619 Project will continue to spread in media circles with the debut of a six-part documentary that will stream on Hulu later this year, produced by Oprah Winfrey.
New York Times’ 1619 Project
In August 2019 the New York Times Magazine published the 1619 project, a collection of essays, photo essays, short fiction pieces and poems aimed to ‘reframe’ American history based on the impact of slaves brought to the US.
It was published to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans in the English colonies.
The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story expands upon the New York Times Magazine publication from 2019 that centers the country’s history around slavery and led to a Pulitzer for commentary for the project’s creator, Nikole Hannah-Jones
It argues that the nation’s birth was not 1776 with independence from the British crown, but in August 1619 with the arrival of a cargo ship of 20 to 30 enslaved Africans at Point Comfort in the colony of Virginia, which inaugurated the system of slavery.
The project argues that slavery was the country’s origin and out of it ‘grew nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional.’
That includes economic might, industry, the electoral system, music, public health and education inequities, violence, income inequality, slang, and racial hatred.
However, the project is debated among historians for its factual accuracy.
In March 2020 historian Leslie M. Harris who served as a fact checker for the project said authors ignored her corrections, but believed the project was needed to correct prevailing historical narratives.
One aspect up for debate is the timeline.
Time Magazine said the first slaves arrived in 1526 in a Spanish colony in what is now South Carolina, 93 years prior to the landing in Jamestown.
Some experts say slaves first arrived at present-day Fort Monroe in Hampton, instead of Jamestown.
Others argue the first Africans in Virginia were indentured servants as laws on lifetime slavery didn’t appear till 17th century and early 18th century, but worked essentially as slaves.