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In its coverage of President Joseph Biden’s first State of the Union Address last night, right wing media targeted a guest of First Lady Dr. Jill Biden—Melissa Isaac, Saginaw Chippewa. 

Fox News wrote in a feature titled, “Jill Biden SOTU guest is critical race theory supporter,” that Isaac “has a history of rejecting arguments on social media made against the teaching of critical race theory.” 

The New York Post wrote of Issac, “Eight special guests will accompany first lady Jill Biden to her husband’s State of the Union address Tuesday, including one educator who has frequently advocated for teaching Critical Race Theory, which proposes that racism is systemic in America, in schools.”

“This is all a distraction from the goodness of the event and having Anishinaabe representation in such a historic event,” Isaac told Native News Online. “Taking away from the progress that myself and Deb Haaland—Indigenous women—who are reclaiming and taking up space and places they never thought they’d see us.”

“To me that’s the real headline, all the other things are a distraction,” she said. 

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“My social media has blown up, and I’ve seen some of the articles that are out there, but I haven’t read everything,” said Isaac, who works for Michigan’s Department of Education. “I can’t speak exactly to what is being said, but I did get a random message asking if I’m a supporter of critical race theory.” 

The First Lady's guests included Ukraine Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova. Isaac sat directly behind Markarova, with a predominant presence at the internationally televised annual Presidential address. 

Isaac also made headlines for wearing a ribbon-skirt.

Critical race theory acknowledges that the country’s institutions, including the criminal justice system, education system, labor market, housing, and healthcare are what upholds racism in the U.S., and that racism is embedded in U.S. laws, regulations, and policies. Nine states have passed legislation banning critical race theory from its classroom and nearly 20 additional states have introduced or plan to introduce similar legislation. 

Criticism of critical race theory stresses that it teaches that every social interaction with every person is based on race.

Native News Online publisher Levi Rickert has written that critical race theory criticism is "a scare tactic used by right-wing people who don’t want the truth taught about the genocidal practices perpetrated against Native Americans throughout American history."

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About The Author
Author: Darren ThompsonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a freelance journalist and based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, where he also contributes to Unicorn Riot, an alternative media publication. Thompson has reported on political unrest, tribal sovereignty, and Indigenous issues for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, Powwows.com and Unicorn Riot. He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in international conversation. He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology & Law Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.