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Deconstructing the argument against Critical Race Theory from a DeVos operative and President of the Michigan Freedom Fund, Greg McNeilly

August 25, 2021

Last week, Chairman of the Michigan Freedom Fund and DeVos-operative Greg McNeilly, wrote an opinion piece for the Detroit News, entitled, Where do Michigan leaders stand on critical race theory? 

Now, we all know that the far right loves to use wedge issues to rally their base and to attack their political opponents. Therefore, it is no surprise that the head of the Michigan Freedom Fund would write an opinion piece in one of Michigan’s largest newspapers use one of the major wedge issues of 2021, Critical Race Theory (CRT).

However, it is useful to deconstruct the argument that McNeilly presents, which ultimately demonstrates how weak their arguments are. The DeVos-operative begins the opinion piece with this paragraph:

There’s a debate raging in Washington, D.C., Lansing, local governments and school districts over the merits of individual freedom, equality and even capitalism: Do we embrace the American dream and our commitment to liberty — the qualities that have long made the United States “a shining city on a hill,” or are equality and opportunity no longer worth protecting?

From the very get go, McNeilly wants to frame Critical Race Theory as being in opposition to freedom, equality and capitalism, without initially using the term Critical Race Theory. This is a standard approach when attempting to discredit an issue, by making sweeping generalizations or misrepresenting the issue you are attacking. While it is true that Critical Race Theory is highly critical of the economic system of Capitalism, saying that it is in opposition to equality and freedom is nothing short of ridiculous. Critical Race Theory challenges the dominant narrative about US history, one that is centered around privilege and White Supremacy. In fact, Critical Race Theory is deeply committed to freedom and equality, since it demonstrates that the those with power and privilege in the US, which are primary white people, have obtained their wealth and privilege at the expense of Black, indigenous and other communities that have been exploited and oppressed since the US was founded.

McNeilly’s “evidence” to back up his position on CRT, is to cite a critic, which is nothing more than a single article written in the New York Post by a writer from the Manhattan Institute. Now, the Manhattan Institute is a far right Think Tank that was founded by Reagan’s CIA Director, William Casey. Naturally, the Manhattan Institute would be opposed to CRT, since their existence is based on defending Capitalism. 

McNeilly continues his argument by stating that, “high-ranking Michigan politicos, from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to prominent metro Detroit members of Congress,” have avoided talking about CRT when confronted.

However, before McNeilly provides any evidence of this claim he says that we should really be concerned about where CRT is being pushed……”kindergarten classrooms.” Now, such a claim is absurd, but McNeilly wants readers to believe his point because he cites another Manhattan Institute writer, who claims to have “more than 1,000 stories in schools and other public institutions, where CRT policies have directed kids do things like celebrate communism.” However, the source that McNeilly is citing, which was an article that appeared in Newsweek, only has a few school examples, not 1,000 that McNeilly claims.

McNeilly then presents another sentence that misrepresents CRT, with language that is sure to wind up anyone who doesn’t believe in thinking for themselves, saying:

CRT advocates claim the American system is broken. They say our nation was never great, and it can’t be until things like capitalism, federalism and individual responsibility are upended.

The Chair of the Michigan Freedom Fund continues his weak argument by presenting a poll taken in January of this year, which appeared in The Economist. McNeilly says the “poll shows the overwhelming majority oppose CRT.” Overwhelming majority is a bit of a stretch and McNeilly omits that in the same poll most people those racism was not so much an individual problem, rather a larger structural problem. 

In the rest of the opinion piece, McNeilly then goes after Gov. Whitmer and two Metro Detroit Democratic Congress members. To “discredit” these Democratic officials, McNeilly cites an article from the Washington Free Beacon and The Center Square. Not surprising, both of these news sources embrace a far right political perspective.

Therefore, as anyone can see, Greg McNeilly has no real argument against Critical Race Theory. McNeilly simply presents a series of weak positions that are all coming from sources that embrace and defend far right political policies. However, if people didn’t know who these sources were, then it would be easy to buy into their rhetoric about how scary Critical Race Theory is.

Besides not presenting an accurate view of what Critical Race Theory is all about, McNeilly conveniently omits the fact that Republican state legislators introduced a bill in the Michigan Senate to ban Critical Race Theory from being taught in public schools.

Lastly, it is important to point out that Greg McNeilly is the Windquest Group’s Chief Operating Officer (owned by Dick & Betsy DeVos), has served on the Board of Directors of the DeVos-created Great Lakes Education Project, and is a board member of the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority. So, it is very clear that in every aspect of Greg McNeilly’s professional life, he would want to oppose Critical Race Theory, since he works to defend the system of Capitalism and those that benefit from it.

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