By Molly Minta
Brittany Murphree was born and raised in Rankin County, Mississippi, one of the most Republican counties in one of the most Republican states.
She went to Northwest Rankin High School where she was the president of the school’s chapter of Teenage Republicans of Mississippi. She interned for Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, and her parents voted for Donald Trump twice (she did too, one time). At the University of Mississippi Law School, where Murphree is now in her second year, her friends are mostly conservative white people.
In early January, Murphree shocked them all when she announced that one of the courses she was taking this semester was “Law 743: Critical Race Theory.”
“Why would you take that class?” her dad vented on the phone. “It’s the most ridiculous concept.”
“Brittany, that class is just gonna make you feel so guilty about being white,” some of her classmates warned.
“You’re gonna get canceled.”
Their tone was teasing, but Murphree thought they sounded genuinely worried. She understood why. Critical race theory had become a flashpoint of national politics in 2021 as conservative media latched onto the term, deeming it “hostile, academic, divisive, race-obsessed, poisonous, elitist, anti-American.” In speeches, both House Speaker Philip Gunn and Gov. Tate Reeves had vowed to ban the theory from being taught in schools. Murphree didn’t know much about critical race theory, but she knew some people in Mississippi thought it was taboo.
Still, Murphree wanted to know what the “hotly debated topic” was really about. “Law 743: Critical Race Theory” is the only law class in Mississippi solely dedicated to teaching the high-level legal framework. To Murphree, the class seemed like an opportunity — one she might not get again.
Picture: college.library, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons