Last night, Bill Maher hosted a debate on Critical Race Theory with his guests Ben Shapiro and Malcolm Nance. Most Hot Air readers are probably familiar with Ben Shapiro. The relevant point here is that he went to Harvard Law School where CRT was developed and taught so he has a strong familiarity with the topic. Malcolm Nance is a Navy veteran and author who has a background in counterterrorism and has written five books on the topic. He’s also an MSNBC contributor who seems to have spent a lot of time talking about Russia’s influence on our elections.
Last night, Maher turned the topic of discussion to Critical Race Theory and asked Shapiro to summarize what it was and why it was getting attention. In about a minute, Shapiro brought up Derrick Bell, the founder of CRT at Harvard, and his criticism of Brown v. Board of Education and used that as an example of how CRT approaches the issue of race in general. He then connected this to the the principles of CRT and what that meant with regard to what is being introduced in schools. Here’s that portion of his answer. Granted, there’s much more that could be said about this, but as a quick sketch of the controversy you can’t do much better than this in one minute.
WATCH: In only 65 seconds, @BenShapiro gives the best and most substantive definition of critical race theory you'll ever hear or read. pic.twitter.com/7pXXIxQHo6
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) August 7, 2021
Maher then turned to Nance and said, “So, Malcolm, you tell me your definition.” Instead of doing that, Nance replied, “Oh, I agree with everything he just said. And I appreciate you being honest defining what it’s like to be a black American.”
What? Shapiro had answered the question and talked about CRT. Nance doesn’t even try to respond except for this non-sequitur claiming Shapiro is white-splaining. Even Maher thought it was out of line and said, “That’s not fair.” And of course it’s not fair because it’s non-responsive to the question and asserts a claim that isn’t supported by what Shapiro said.
Nance cut him off saying, “No, I’m saying I agree with all of those suppositions because they are grounded in truth. It’s not just African-Americans. It’s also the scalp act of 1749 where for $300 modern dollars you had to cut off the head or the hair of an Indian to prove that you’ve got them out of the way so they could settle. That’s a little bit of American history that people should know about.” Then he brought up the Chinese Exclusion Act and claimed Shapiro didn’t want these things talked about.
Shapiro responded by calling him a liar, saying he wasn’t asking anyone not to talk about these aspects of history. Again, you can faintly hear Maher say “I agree.” He thinks Nance is not engaging in the actual discussion. Shapiro then argued that Nance was a beneficiary of the meritocracy that CRT opposes.
“You know when my great, great grandfather ran away from slavery to join the 111 US colored troops and fight against the south, keeping human beings as slaves, he didn’t think you know what in 150 years my great-great grandson’s going to have to sit on stage and argue with a guy who thinks all that’s bullshit,” Nance said.
“All of what is bullshit?” Shapiro said. Again, Maher can’t get a word in edgewise but the look on his face suggests he’s not impressed with Nance’s argument.
“There is no controversy,” Nance claimed. He added, “The controversy that’s made up is people saying that this is being discussed, that this is being taught in schools, it’s not even a real controversy.”
Shapiro offered an example from Clark County schools which involved changes to grading and which allows students to turn in work with no deadlines. He noted that this was done for the sake of equity.
Eventually Maher interjected with a question for Nance: “Are we talking about 2021 or are we talking about 1861?”
“The point is can we talk about 1861 in 2021?” Nance asked.
“I don’t know who is against talking about history,” Maher said.
“In Texas, they’re talking about removing references to the Ku Klux Klan,” Nance replied.
That claim got a lot of attention last month but it is fundamentally misleading. Here’s what actually happened:
Democrats added a bunch of concepts and documents that schoolkids should know in the anti-CRT [critical race theory] bill that passed the House a few weeks ago.
The list was incredibly detailed and extensive, when it’s the role of the state board of education, not the legislature, to get into the weeds of the specifics of the curriculum. Besides, many of the items are already covered in the curriculum.
It was widely expected that the Senate would pare down the House bill, and that’s what it did, including cutting a provision citing the KKK.
Nothing in the Texas bill prevents schools from teaching about the KKK. In fact the bill explicitly says “Nothing in this section may be construed as limiting the teaching of or instruction in the essential knowledge and skills adopted under this subchapter.” This is the only relevant fact about the current controversy that Nance has attempted to inject into the discussion and he’s wrong. Unfortunately, Maher didn’t know that and went along with him on this claim.
The back and forth kept devolving until Nance is literally telling Shapiro his show sucks and Shapiro, who is clearly irritated, says he’ll comfort himself by sleeping on his mattress made of money. I don’t blame Shapiro for getting angry after several minutes of personal attacks but unfortunately Nance succeeded in dragging the whole segment down to his level.
You can watch the full 9-minute segment below. It’s emblematic of the larger discussion that has been going on for the past few months. The right points out that some fairly extreme ideas about liberalism, meritocracy, equality, science, etc. (all of which are derived from CRT) are being introduced to schools under the guise of anti-racism. The left’s disingenuous response is always some version of “Why are Republicans against teaching history?” It’s exactly the same tactic AOC used on Don Lemon’s show.
Malcolm Nance appears to be a fairly smart guy but you wouldn’t know it from this discussion. All he offers is derision and attempts to derail the conversation. Ben Shapiro, who does actually know a lot about this topic, would have been better off talking to Maher who, unlike Nance, mostly seemed to understand what the debate was about.