Critical Race Theory is an academic framework noting that current racial inequalities, often presented as happenstance, are inextricably linked to centuries of overt racist violence and subjugation, often at the hands of revered government institutions and historical icons.
Because the theory doesn't unconditionally praise the United States or insist that racism was something terrible from which America has since moved on, the theory is the latest target in the culture wars instigated by far-right lawmakers and media outlets.
They falsely insist that children are being taught Critical Race Theory in classrooms and being indoctrinated to hate America. The pundits lie that Critical Race Theory teaches its scholars to hate white people. The fearmongering around the theory has led to legislation barring it from being taught.
Tennessee is one such state. Its legislature passed a bill banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory, as well as white privilege and racism, this past May.
If that weren't enough, the penalties being considered by state education officials are extreme, to say the least.
The state's Department of Education released a guidance on the penalties being considered for violating the ban. Listed as potential penalties were a $1 million fine for the first offense, and $5 million for repeat offenses. According to the Washington Post, the $1 million fine amounts to a year's worth of schooling for around 100 children.
The guidance drew immediate backlash and concern, including from journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, whose groundbreaking 1619 Project sparked much of the right's hysteria on Critical Race Theory.
People also pointed out the hypocrisy coming from a party that breathlessly rails against so-called "cancel culture."
The Tennessee Department of Education is accepting public comment submissions on the proposed penalties through August 11.