Critical Racial Theory is an intellectual movement that by and large (and with many thoughts) holds that racism, as Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic explain in the Introduction to Critical Racial Theory: An Introduction, “is the usual way of society is doing business, the everyday experience of most people of color in this country ”; that “large parts of society have little incentive to exterminate them”; this race itself is socially constructed; that “the dominant society racializes different minority groups at different times in order to respond to changing needs such as the labor market”; that “no person has a single, easily formulated, uniform identity” (an idea that is often discussed as intersectionality); and that people of color know things about their own experiences that white people should hear.
Given the continued disproportionate police violence against blacks and other people of color, a pandemic that killed blacks and Latinos disproportionately, and economic inequality exacerbated by the economic impact of the pandemic, Republican lawmakers insist the law should teach teachers force to essentially teach that racism ended after slavery, or possibly something that came with a watered-down account of segregation and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has to do.
And some of them go even further when it comes to how we should talk about racism in US history. During a debate over an anti-critical racial theory bill in Tennessee, the following happened:
Now at Tennessee House, Rep. Justin Lafferty is screaming about how good the three-fifths compromise was. Republicans applaud. Members of the black caucus crowd into groups.
– Natalie Allison (@natalie_allison) May 4, 2021
The sponsor of a bill passed by the Texas Senate says its bill is intended to promote “traditional history.” You know, a story that takes white supremacy for granted rather than mildly challenging it.
By asking that “A teacher may not be compelled to discuss current events or much debated and currently controversial public policy or social issues. “This bill directly contradicts the standards of the State Board of Education. “It is essentially stupid to appease our students and keep them from thinking about real conversations and problems – things that are expected of students on a daily basis,” said Marisa Pérez-Díaz, a member of the state board.
The Oklahoma Bill will “prohibit Oklahoma public schools, colleges, and universities from including certain messages about sex and race in any classroom instruction.” Seriously, “certain messages”. Idaho Bill prohibits the doctrine that “any gender, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior” … a view she attributes to critical racial theory. There is a real “anti-racism is real racism” contortionism there.
Time and again we see that what Republicans are striving for is not really a critical racial theory as their scholars and practitioners put it. They’re just angry that kids might learn that racism didn’t magically go away when Dr. King said he had a dream. They fear children will grow up believing that things have to change in US society and US law. And in their anger and horror, they try to ban the teaching of actual facts from the schools and use it as a rally not only for the republican base, but also for “color-blind” nice white liberals. If we cannot think critically about US history and US laws and power structures, we can never move forward. That is what this foray against “critical race theory” is about, which is hardly about the reality of critical race theory.