To hear some people howl with outrage about “Critical Race Theory,” one would think the Devil himself is about to unleash his minions upon all schools.
The hubbub is caused by misunderstandings – some of them well-meaning no doubt, but most of them caused by willful misinformation, distortions, prejudicial attitudes and unfounded fears.
To some people, “Critical Race Theory” has a threatening thud to it, like “The Communist Manifesto.” To others, the name smacks of snooty academic elitism.
The cacophony of complaints about CRT generally centers on a fear that radicals (likely Communists) are trying to sabotage schools’ learning programs by injecting reverse racism into lessons, instilling in children’s heads that Whites are racist villains and that Blacks and others of color are superior. That is not what CRT is about.
In the 1970s, legal scholars began to examine the ways that laws intersect with issues of race and to challenge traditional American liberalism’s solutions to end racism. The CRT movement is not a monolithic organization trapped in group-think; CRT advocates vary widely in their beliefs. Some of the theories are exceedingly complex and difficult to understand. In fact, most CRT studies would be appropriate only for advanced college courses.
However, one of the tenets agreed upon by most is that systemic racism still infects socio-economic relations in America – systemic meaning that unbalanced power relationships between Caucasians and people of color has seeped into our systems – the law, schools, housing, employment, health care and so forth.
CRT adherents believe, at the very least, that schools should teach the darker aspects of American history, such as 200-plus years of slavery, including all the White push-back laws (institutionalized racism) against Blacks. Those grim aspects include sharecrop slavery, “legal” rapes of Black women, lynchings, massacres, inability to vote, third-rate education, red-lining in housing markets and a thousand other barriers and indignities South and North.
Some people ask, “Why bring all that stuff up? What’s done is done!”
But as the great Southern novelist William Faulkner once wrote, wisely, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” In other words, the past – its good and its bad – “lives on” in all people and enhances but sometimes warps perceptions and relationships in one way or another.
On Jan. 6 at our nation’s Capitol, a mob of vicious attackers who heard the Big Lie that the presidential election had been “stolen” fought against police defenders, injuring many of them, one who later died. At one point, they taunted a black police officer with loud repeated chants of “f…..g n…..” The main attackers were members of white supremacist (racist) groups who have the gall to call themselves freedom-loving American patriots.
Closer to home, in Cold Spring on July 24, a man was charged with stealing a vehicle, placing a heavy stone on its accelerator and aiming the “weapon” to crash into a house of the mixed-race Robinson family. Inside the car was a Teddy bear hanging from a noose. It was the fifth time that family had been harassed by that man, who was allegedly upset when the mother of that family complained about her kids and others being bullied in school.
On July 26, at a Sartell City Council meeting, resident Zurya Anjum, a psychiatrist born and raised in Pakistan, pleaded with the council to help the school district develop programs to counter racism. Her children had been taunted with names such as “devil worshippers” and “terrorists.”
Faulkner was right: The past is not dead. It’s not even past.
We cannot build a more harmonious society if we refuse to study, reflect upon and discuss the racial inequities and racist crimes that have occurred in the past and in the present. That ongoing enlightenment should go on in schools and out of schools.
CRT may not be the answer, Equity Alliance MN recommendations may not be the be-all-end-all either, but that does not mean this school district or any other should not increase ongoing equity efforts.