Trump Is Now Talking About Critical Race Theory Like It’s a Holy War

Trump told rally attendees that conservatives must “lay down their very lives to defend their country”—from critical race theory.
Former US President Donald Trump speaks to the crowd during a rally at the Florence Regional Airport on March 12, 2022 in Florence, South Carolina. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Former US President Donald Trump speaks to the crowd during a rally at the Florence Regional Airport on March 12, 2022 in Florence, South Carolina. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump told attendees at a rally in South Carolina Saturday that conservatives must “lay down their very lives to defend their country”—against critical race theory. 

During an hour-long speech in which he leaned heavily into recent right-wing culture war themes, Trump said that “getting critical race theory out of our schools is not just a matter of values, it’s also a matter of national survival. We have no choice.”

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“The fate of any nation ultimately depends upon the willingness of its citizens to lay down—and they must do this—lay down their very lives to defend their country,” Trump said. “If we allow the Marxists and communists and socialists to teach our children to hate America, there will be no one left to defend our flag or protect our great country or its freedom.”

Trump’s vitriolic comments come amid a reactionary storm against changes in American culture over the past several years that have impacted education, including the #MeToo movement and the national reckoning with racism following George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020. 

According to EducationWeek, 14 states have banned the teaching of critical race theory—a previously obscure academic theory of America’s legal system, which over the past few years has turned into a catchall on the right to describe diversity training and perspectives challenging long-held American orthodoxy regarding race, gender, and class.

Florida became the latest state to pass a bill purporting to ban critical race theory last week, making it illegal to teach that a person’s status as “privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by his or her race, color, national origin, or sex.” Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the bill into law.

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During the rally, Trump also said that American parents “should get a veto over anyone, anything teaching far-left gender ideologies to their children without parental consent,” and purposely misgendered Lia Thomas, a transgender member of the University of Pennsylvania swim team

The former president, who also effectively confirmed during the rally that he plans to run for a third time in 2024, convened what he dubbed the “1776 Commission,” a direct response to the New York Times’ “1619 Project.” Two days before he left office, Trump released the commission’s report, which said that describing the Founding Fathers as hypocrites because they owned slaves was “untrue, and has done enormous damage, especially in recent years, with a devastating effect on our civic unity and social fabric.”

President Joe Biden issued an executive order immediately upon taking office that dissolved the 1776 Commission, saying Trump’s commission “has sought to erase America’s history of racial injustice.” 

But according to Trump, if the GOP wins control of the House in November, Republicans will “ban critical race theory once and for all” and “defund the racist equity mandates across the federal government.”

“No more illegal discrimination in anything,” said the man who was once sued by Richard Nixon’s Justice Department for housing discrimination against Black people. 

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