How A Right-Wing Foundation Made Critical Race Theory a Big Deal


One of the most unexplainable events in modern social media-dominated society is how obscure teachings, fantasies, and conspiracies suddenly become significant topics of conversation.

This includes the “big lies” surrounding the most recent election, QAnon conspiracy theories, and the latest big deal, Critical Race Theory.

If you have never heard of Critical Race Theory, you are not alone.  Just a year or so ago, it was an academic discussion that was not part of everyday life. It exists in academia where, it seems, too many intelligent people have too much time on their hands when it comes to dissecting and explaining current culture.

But it turns out that Critical Race Theory became a big deal because 21 right-wing foundations, such as the Heritage Foundation and the Manhattan Institute, needed to attack black studies in the national debate, especially after the police killing of unarmed Blacks in the US. (For the complete list of the right-wing foundations that received donations from the Smith Foundation, see the Popular Information article.)

The wealthy foundation pushing Critical Race Theory into becoming the new significant threat to American society is a Boca Raton, Florida-based foundation called the Thomas W. Smith Foundation. The foundation donated over $12.7 million to 21 organizations attacking Critical Race Theory. These right-wing foundations and their media allies at FOX, Prager, and the neo-Nazi Daily Caller, spread the message that CRT was going to undermine the nation, even though 99% of the population never heard of it and didn’t know what it meant.

According to a story in Popular Information, “between 2017 and 2019, the Thomas W. Smith Foundation has granted at least $12.75 million to organizations that publicly attack Critical Race Theory, according to a review of tax disclosures by Popular Information. The foundation’s grants for 2020 will not be disclosed until late-2021.”

No Shortage of Bigots

Aside from Smith, a hedge fund manager, the other person pushing the attacks on teaching about race is a man called James Piereson, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. According to the foundation’s 2019 990-PF report, Piereson was paid $283,333 to work for The Thomas W. Smith Foundation for 25 hours per week, according to Popular Information.

While Smith is an extreme right-winger, Piereson is to the right of Smith. In a 2017 column, Piereson criticized liberal philanthropists for focusing on “climate change, income inequality, [and] immigrant rights,” describing these as “radical causes.” He stressed the need for “a counterbalance provided by right-leaning philanthropies.”

And since Pierson is an equal opportunity bigot, he also opposes classes dedicated to the study of women, Black people, or the LGBTQ community in universities. He doesn’t like these topics because he says they lack “academic rigor.”

The article goes into great detail about the foundation and its anti-gay, anti-Black, and anti-welfare motives. Still, it shows how wealthy right-wing groups and foundations can foment national debates on esoteric issues and make them seem as if American civilization is about to collapse.

Read the complete article here in Popular Information.

Thomas W Smith Foundation Financials

IRS 501(c) type
Num. employees
Year formed
Most recent tax filings
NTEE code, primary
Financials as of 2019-12
$121k: Investment income
$68k: Non-investment sales, net
$18k: Misc revenue
$13m: Grants
$305k: Comp, officers
$258k: Expense, other
$31k: Misc other expenses
$12m: Stocks & bonds
$5m: Cash



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