Nebraska's GOP governor goes down in flames trying to explain critical race theory

Republican Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts this week came out against the teaching of critical race theory -- and then went down in flames when he tried to explain what it is.

The Omaha World-Herald reports that Ricketts told radio listeners this week that critical race theory was "Marxist" and "really un-American" and then issued a jumbled explanation for it.

"So, the critical race theory -- and I can't think of the author right off the top of my head who wrote about this -- really had a theory that, at the high level, is one that really starts creating those divisions between us about defining who we are based on race and that sort of thing and really not about how to bring us together as Americans rather than — and dividing us and also having a lot of very socialist-type ideas about how that would be implemented in our state," Ricketts said.

In reality, critical race theory looks at various laws and customs and analyzes them through the lens of racial power in the United States.

One classic example of critical race theory at work is criticism of sentencing laws that delivered harsher penalties for possession of crack compared to possession of powder cocaine, even though the two are variants on the same drug. At the time drug sentencing laws were written in the 1980s, Black people were more likely to be arrested for possession of crack than white people, who were more likely to be consumers of cocaine than crack.

Jeannette Jones, an associate professor of history and ethnic studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, tells the World-Herald that Ricketts's definition of critical race theory is like nothing she's ever read.

"I think most of the people who are using it (the term) now don't even know what it is," she said. "So, when they're asked to define it, they don't even know how to define it."