C.R.T.- Critical Race Truthiness
Well, there sure seems to be a lot of discussion about C.R.T. (or Critical Race Theory) these days, especially since most of the people tossing the term around so much appear to have absolutely no idea what it really means. C.R.T. has been the basis for a significant upheaval in school boards across the nation and become the impetus for turmoil in many of the schools they represent. Here in Colorado, for example, Critical Race Theory moved to the center stage in the election of a grossly incompetent, conservative school board majority who ran on the message of eliminating C.R.T in Douglas County Schools only to then unceremoniously and illegally fire a beloved Superintendent who had loyally worked in the district for 26 years causing a huge backlash from parents and students culminating in 1000 teachers staging a walk-out protest that impacted thousands of families and students. In the midst of all this, I asked one of the supporters of this school board why they had voted for them in the first place. His response? Getting Critical Race Theory out of our schools. When I then asked him what he thought Critical Race Theory meant, he responded by saying that he refused to discuss this topic with a “racist”. So yeah, even though this dog whistle buzzword was the entire basis for his vote to create a devastating cataclysm in the district’s school management, he clearly had no fucking clue what it really even meant. So perhaps it is well about time to talk about what Critical Race Theory denotes and, even more importantly, what it does not.
Critical Race Theory is the teaching that the history of the United States involves a systemic oppression of particular ethnic minorities and that this long-standing discrimination, despite some monumental progress in society since the 1950’s, continues to perpetuate a system of advantage for white Americans while disenfranchising black Americans, as well as other racial minorities. That’s it. It is not propaganda advancing a particular political agenda. It does not tell white children that they are bad people or inherently racist. It does not suggest that modern white Americans are guilty of the atrocities of slavery or that they owe some sort of reparations or atonement for the sins of their ancestors. What it does suggest instead is that racism has been and continues to be a blight on the realization of the American ideals of democracy and equality, and that in order for America to reach its full potential as originally envisioned by our Founding Fathers, we ALL have an obligation to acknowledge this systemic racism and do our part to eradicate it. In other words Critical Race Theory is something of a misnomer as it really isn’t a theory at all. It’s truth and history, plain and simple, and teaching anything less is an insult to educational honesty.
Now before I go any further, let’s get it out there right now that everything Critical Race Theory teaches is historical fact and current reality. To deny the history of slavery or its lingering impacts in this country is pure, willful ignorance. We can’t just sit there and ignore that Africans were brought here against their will and sold into the bondage of slavery for nearly two hundred years and that the Southern states desire to preserve this hateful institution was a major impetus for the Civil War that nearly split this country apart. We cannot teach our children about the optimistic ideals of equality and rights for all as espoused in the founding documents that underpin American democracy without likewise noting how those same principles were denied to a major segment of our population until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s attempted to guarantee equal protection under the law for all American citizens. And if you do not believe that black Americans continue to suffer from systemic inequalities of opportunity and racial prejudice within the criminal justice system, I ask you this: How do you explain the racial wage gap where black Americans continue to earn 30% less than their white counterparts and criminal justice research studies show how black Americans are more likely to be arrested, convicted, and sentenced to more significant penalties than white Americans? Either you acknowledge that systemic racism persists in our society causing black Americans to have fewer opportunities and thus be pushed more towards criminal conduct, or you are, by definition, a racist. I don’t mean that as some sort of loosely-hurled epithet. I mean that this opinion is the very definition of what racism is, as it implicitly suggests that the reason blacks get paid less and face criminal prosecution more often lies in the inherent characteristics associated with their ethnicity. They get paid less because they’re just plain less capable than whites. They get arrested more because they are more prone to commit crimes. Yeah, that perspective, my friends, is the very definition of racism.
Now, of course you have every right to pull your kid out of public schools and teach them whatever you want at home. But that just means that your kid is going to grow up to be a dumb ass, an ignorant fool who does not fully grasp the subtle racial overtones that inform modern society. You have every right to keep your kid blind to the realities of our common American history and its ramifications in the modern context. But public education is not here to make your kid feel comfortable or delude them about their country’s racial past and present. As the creator of an informed citizenry, public education’s only allegiance is to teaching kids the truth about the world around them. Public education should never allow the teaching of history to become politicized for the purpose of advancing a particular group’s agenda.
But that’s exactly what it has become. “Critical Race Theory” shouldn’t even be a thing. It should just be called “American History”. But conservatives have turned this into a racial dog whistle to rally their base around the fear of their kids being taught that they are personally responsible for slavery and all of its modern implications. They write angry and threatening emails, stage hateful protests targeting individual teachers, and, most importantly to Republican leadership, show up to vote for conservative school boards and ballot initiatives aimed at removing Critical Race Theory from their schools. These people don’t even know what Critical Race Theory really is, but they know that they don’t like it and that they don’t want it taught in their kids’ schools. All of this, of course, puts educators in the unenviable spot of bending to political pressure/bullying or remaining adherent to their allegiance to teaching truth. Unfortunately, more and more of them will continue to opt for a third option: leaving the profession for a career that grants them the autonomy of educational honesty and removes them from the crosshairs of political division.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com