Virginia school paid speaker $20K for lecture on critical race theory, white privilege

Editor’s note: This story was first reported by Asra Nomani

Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia paid an anti-racism advocate who specializes in critical race theory (CRT) $20,000 for a one-hour virtual lecture, according to the released contract, Quillette reported Wednesday.

The August 6 event, as part of Virginia’s “Race Truth and Reconciliation Week,” saw Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, an outspoken advocate of CRT, give a roughly 45-minute video lecture followed by a 15-minute question period. Kendi was paid $20,000 for the event, which is almost as much as the median salary of $27,920 that teacher assistants make in a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

CRT has been gaining traction among left-wing academics and activists for many years and, over the past few months, has become a target for right-wing thinkers and pundits, with the issue of race returning to the national spotlight this past summer. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced that he has ordered federal agencies to discontinue contracts with individuals and companies that promote CRT and white privilege through racial sensitivity seminars, calling such courses “divisive and harmful.”

Wednesday’s revelation of the speaker’s fee adds more controversy in a school district already grappling with an ongoing debate surrounding race and affirmative action.

For over a year, the issue of affirmative action has been a heated debate at the national level, prompting lawsuits against universities such as Harvard and Yale on the grounds that their admissions practices discriminated against applicants of Asian descent in particular. In this school District lies the number-one public school in the country, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHS), where 71 percent of students are of Asian origin.

Currently, TJHS’s admissions process is race-blind and merit-based, which, according to the Quillette piece, uses a combination of “standardized test scores, grade rankings, essays, and teacher recommendations” alongside “a process based on random selection from among applicants who have a core class GPA of 3.5 or greater (and are currently enrolled in algebra).” However, an effort starting in early June to replace this system has met fierce backlash from parents, with 200 of them taking part in a protest this week against the proposed change.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.