"Critical Race Theory" and GOP Efforts to Sanitize America's Racial History
Today, it seems that when Republican legislators aren't engaged in voter suppression efforts, they are trying to stop high school students from hearing about "Critical Race Theory [CRT]," which is pretty ironic because their efforts to make voting more difficult seem aimed, at least in part, at voters of color.
There are dozens of frequently cited definitions of CRT, but the central tenet is that since our founding racism has been a fundamental part of America's laws and society, not simply an aberration that can be easily corrected by new legislation. They argue that even after the civil rights era racism persists and cite "white privilege," environmental justice issues, financial "redlining," the underfunding of schools with large populations of black and brown students, and much higher drug possession arrest rates for blacks relative to whites. Many adherents believe that true racial justice will be difficult to achieve because of a fundamental problem with the “distribution of political and economic power” in America. Blacks gained equal rights in the 1960s, but still lacked the clout and resources to compete with whites on a level playing field.
The theory, often associated with the late Harvard Law School professor Derrick Bell, has been around since the 1970s and has been taught as part of various college social science classes since the 1980s. It's one theory among many others regarding the role that racism has played in American society. Historians, economists, sociologists, and political scientists all agree that CRT has many valid points which help us to better understand both our history and our institutions today.
Conservatives often lump CRT in with other racial justice movements and argue that rehashing slavery and Jim Crow in the the nation's history classes undermines national cohesion and makes white students feel guilty. Moreover, many, like Donald Trump's Attorney General, William Barr, argue that systemic racism has been expunged from our society by the Johnson era Civil Rights Acts and their progeny. As a result, they oppose racial justice legislation like affirmative action and voting rights laws and prefer that students get a more sanitized version of our history that highlights our slow but steady advance toward equality under the law. Many seemed pleased with Donald Trump's pop-up book version of American history known as the "1776 Commission" report which was created to "restore patriotic education" to our schools.
So, right now, Republicans across the country are trying to limit what high school students hear about race relations in America.
Tampa Bay Times: "Conservative lawmakers in over a dozen states, including Missouri, Idaho, Tennessee, have introduced bills aimed at barring critical race theory in the classroom. The bills generally forbid teachers from offering any instruction that suggests that the United States is fundamentally racist, or that leads students to feel guilty for past actions by white people. Some of the bills expressly use the term “critical race theory” while others ban certain practices."
Such legislation is mostly posturing, more culture war nonsense aimed directly at those in the Republican base fearful of the nation's growing racial diversity. First, few public high schools teach CRT and when they do, it's integrated into a more general discussion of race relations, slavery and Jim Crow. As any history or civics teacher can tell you, high school students are not being "indoctrinated" with complex theories about racial injustice.
Tampa Bay Times: University of Missouri education professor LaGarrett King said the problem is blown out of proportion. “The majority of teachers are not even familiar with what critical race theory is, nor do they teach it in their classrooms,” King said.
King and his colleagues have worked on study plans to help high school teachers get at tough issues, including slavery and economic inequality. None mention critical race theory itself, but some draw on the idea of systemic racism. “It’s a lens, but it’s just one of the things taught in that class,” King said. “It doesn’t define the whole curriculum.”
Second, CRT is an important theory that helps students understand the marginalization of racial minorities and trying to "hide" it from them is a fools errand, akin to earlier efforts to prevent the teaching of evolution in the public schools. Ideas are powerful things and efforts to prevent their dissemination always fail. Moreover, smart students have nothing but contempt for folks who try to keep "uncomfortable" knowledge from them. The gatekeepers always end up looking like fools or worse.
The Bottom Line: Republicans will get points from their base for passing laws to ban the discussion of CRT, but their efforts will simply spark greater interest in the theory. In the long run, CRT will rise or fall on its merits, not because it scares Fox News viewers.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content