On a recent episode of Late Night with Stephen Colbert, Jeff Daniels spoke about reprising his role on Broadway as Atticus Finch in Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” He said that the play is about “white blindness” and claimed that white people were only taught one side of American history and that we need to “welcome in a new America” where we all recognize systemic racism.
“White people are the ones who need to hear it,” Daniels said. “You have to choose now. You have to decide whether you’re for eliminating or at least marginalizing systemic racism or are you against that? You have to choose. You can’t just sit back and say ‘Please cut my taxes’ and look the other way.” Daniels also advocated for the teachings of Critical Race Theorists like Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Critical Race Theory is the idea that the United States was founded upon white supremacy and that these principles are still at work in our society today. It’s essentially the belief that all white people are racist, regardless of what they do or say, and must actively work to become “anti-racist.” Critical Race Theory has been a hotly debated issue in America recently, especially when it comes to the classroom.
Chaos has broken out at school board meetings across the country after parents learned that educators were teaching Critical Race Theory to their children. In states such as Tennessee and North Carolina, for example, parents and lawmakers alike have argued that CRT is akin to propaganda and that it teaches children to hate each other on the basis of skin color alone. A frustrated Black father recently went viral at a school board meeting, saying, “What kept me down? What oppressed me? I worked for myself from off the streets to where I am right now and you’re gonna sit here and tell me this lie of Critical Race Theory? That the reason Black folks can’t get ahead is because of white folks?”
That’s exactly what actors-turned-activists like Daniels and Colbert are using their platforms to do. In that same Late Night interview, Daniels stated that culture always changes before politics which is, ironically enough, the exact same thing conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart used to argue. It’s true that politics is downstream of culture, and if people like Daniels and Colbert have it their way, Critical Race Theory will not be constrained to the classroom but will be pushed out to the masses — and especially younger generations — via Hollywood. In his “New America,” Daniels does not want children to be judged based on the content of their character, but on the color of their skin.