Antifandom of CRT as Fannish Attachment to Whiteness

Curator's Note

Beginning in 2021, “Critical Race Theory” became a buzzword in popular discourse, used to describe everything from lectures about civil rights history [1] to books by and about Black people. [2] But why did right-wing activists target an academic theory primarily taught in law schools? The CRT panic doesn't make a lot of sense unless you understand it as rooted in an emotional attachment to—and commitment to defending—whiteness. Using fan studies tools makes clear that what's happening here is an intense affective relationship to a narrative—a negative one—and can therefore usefully be thought of through the lens of antifandom. The CRT panic leverages feelings, in particular creating a sense of whiteness as embattled. A parent interviewed by CNN worried about what might happen to her (white) kids:

This is my taxpayer's money. I don't want it to go to indoctrinate kids that then are going to hate my kids because of the color of their skin and attack them because of the color of their skin. What happened in the summer, it twisted the minds of all kids. My kids can be attacked by Antifa kids or BLM kids if they're not black. They are white like my kids. But they are believing, they were indoctrinated. [3]

This statement does several things. It packages together a variety of bogeymen (Black Lives Matter, Antifa), and grievances (taxpayer dollars), and a belief that antiracist attitudes are a sign of indoctrination. [4] Additionally, there is a specific fear that CRT will lead to (possibly physical) “attacks” against white kids. Through such examples, we see how the CRT panic creates slippage from opposition to racism or white supremacy to opposition to (or even violence toward) white people. Through applying the lens of fan studies to something that by most definitions bears little resemblance to a fandom, we see both what the field has to offer and, more importantly, the power of (intense, negative) affect in shaping contemporary culture.


[1] Haley Harrison, “Local Professor Speaks out after School District Cancels Civil Rights Lecture over CRT Concerns,”, January 11, 2022,

[2] Tat Bellamy-Walker, “Book Bans in Schools Are Catching Fire. Black Authors Say Uproar Isn’t about Students.,” NBC News, January 6, 2022,

[3] “CDC: Delta Variant Now Makes Up More Than Half Of U.S. Cases,” Erin Burnett Outfront (CNN, July 6, 2021).

[4] “Antifa,” is the name for a loose confederation of often-combative activists whose “ideology is rooted in the belief that the Nazi party would never have been able to come to power in Germany if people had more aggressively fought them in the streets in the 1920s and 30s.” See “Who Are Antifa?,” Anti-Defamation League, accessed August 14, 2021,

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