The debate over Critical Race Theory: A denial of America’s past/present
“Critical race theory didn’t make Black people critical of white supremacy, racism did. Our ability to create theories and write books — on critical theory or any subject — is a reflection of our rising power in this country. Critical race theorists reflect the analytic reasoning of the enslaved, those subjected to housing and employment discrimination, and basically any person who can see how inequitably privileges and burdens are distributed in the country.”
— Andre Perry, Brookings Institution
It’s fair to say that racism exists in the United States — as a byproduct of slavery, the free system of labor that relied on the blood, sweat, and tears of enslaved Black people, and Jim Crow laws at the federal, state, and local levels (housing, employment, criminal justice, education, and other facets of life) that legalized segregation — introducing “separate but equal” to Black and white Americans.
America’s legacy of slavery and segregationist and anti-black policies, old and new, can be examined via the lens of Critical Race Theory (CRT), an academic and legal concept, that originated in the 1970s/1980s. CRT maintains that racism is part of society and embedded in systems, institutions, and policies, which ultimately replicate racial inequality. Thus, the concept suggests that systemic racism is real — a daunting reality that many Black people throughout different walks of life can attest to. In recent weeks, CRT has become a polarizing topic as conservative lawmakers (at all levels of government, including school officials) are debating its importance and value — proposing new laws and legislation to ban the concept from classroom curriculums.
At the epicenter of the debate is CRT’s portrayal of the U.S. as a racist country, which fails to resonate with conservative lawmakers, their supporters, many parents, and numerous conservative organizations that oppose CRT. Critics believe the theory teaches children to hate one another based on race and hate their country. They describe the concept as divisive — positioning Black people against white people, or vice versa.
On the other hand, CRT supporters say the effort to eliminate/minimize CRT — the legacy of slavery, segregation, and second-class citizenship for Black people — is a ploy to cover up America’s past (hiding or whitewashing history). Supporters believe attacks on the theory are an effort to excuse the U.S. from acknowledging/reckoning with its racialized past/present.
CRT looks at how racism intersects with inequality, segregation, unfair banking/lending practices, unfair labor practices, access to education, access to technology (digital equity and access), white privilege, and other issues that impact Black Americans.
As the debate continues in states and cities across the nation, it’s fair to assume that criticism of CRT has emerged by way of conservative backlash against America’s social justice movement, which is grounded in Black Lives Matter, the popularity of “woke” culture among Black people, and highly-publicized deaths of several Black Americans, such as Breonna Taylor (Kentucky), George Floyd (Minnesota), Daunte Wright (Minnesota), Andrew Brown Jr. (North Carolina), and others. Ironically, opposition to CRT has gained momentum after conservatives questioned the legitimacy/outcome of the 2020 Presidential election and supported the introduction/passage of new voting laws in various states across the U.S.
As people around the nation watch/observe and voice their thoughts/opinions about CRT, I’ve come to the conclusion that critics are in denial that today’s systemic inequities and injustices are manifested in America’s history — one that for decades allowed tragedies such as the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre (Black Wall Street) and celebrations such as Juneteenth, which is Saturday, June 19, to be untold and omitted from mainstream history. No doubt, this debate about CRT demonstrates the importance of understanding history (the facts about racism in the U.S.) and talking about the relevance of the past — in the context of the present.