Critical Race Theory. CRT. One of the buzz terms surrounding school board elections across the nation.
Bishop Unified School District candidate Jim Liles, during a candidate forum, referred to CRT as a “lie” that mirrors Marxism and, if taught, will make white children “go home and ask their mother, ‘Mommy, why do you dislike black people? You’re white, and you probably don’t know that you’re racist.’”
Last week, MUSD school board candidate Cindie Wormhoudt wrote to The Sheet (see page four of our October 22nd issue), explaining that she is against CRT. She said she does “not believe that we are a systemically racist society” and that “one of the main premises of CRT teaches that all white people are suppressors and all people of color are victims.”
Former POTUS Donald Trump – according to NBCNews – called CRT “divisive, anti-American propaganda.”
Florida Gov. DeSantis told a 2021 press conference, according to the News-Press, that “Florida civics curriculum will… expressly exclude unsanctioned narratives like critical race theory and other unsubstantiated theories” because “there’s no room in our classrooms” for CRT and “teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other is not worth one red cent of taxpayer money.”
When parents and community members hear quotes like these – quotes that repackage CRT into an unpatriotic framework of racial division – they begin to advocate for its ban.
Let’s look at what CRT is.
According to Education Week, the “core idea” of critical race theory is that “race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.” It emerged from “a framework for legal analysis in the late 1970s and early 1980s.”
According to an article in The Guardian, Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, “a law professor widely credited with coining the term,” defines CRT to the New York Times as “a way of seeing, attending to, accounting for, tracing and analyzing the ways that race is produced, the ways that racial inequality is facilitated, and the ways that our history has created these inequalities that now can be almost effortlessly reproduced unless we attend to the existence of these inequalities.”
Rashawn Ray and Alexandra Gibbons of the Brookings Institute write that, “CRT does not attribute racism to white people as individuals or even to entire groups of people. Simply put, critical race theory states that U.S. social institutions (e.g. the criminal justice system, education system, labor market, housing market, and healthcare system) are laced with racism embedded in laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that lead to differential outcomes by race.”
In a nutshell: CRT is a framework that describes our institutions and systems as inherently racist. It doesn’t, as Ray and Gibbons writes, “argu[e] that white people living now are to blame for what people did in the past. They are saying that white people living now have a moral responsibility to do something about how racism still impacts all of our lives today.”
CRT calls our institutions and systems racist.
Which is true.
From the Brookings Institute’s Rashawn Ray: “Black people compared to whites are more likely to attend schools with less funding per student, less likely to obtain a job because of our ‘Black-sounding’ name … less likely to obtain a home loan (even when having the same credit score )… more likely to experience pregnancy complications and maternal mortality, and more likely to have contact with police and the criminal justice system.”
Research indicates that “white people with a criminal record are more likely to get called back for a job than black people without one,” writes Ray.
A 2022 PBS news article references the National Urban League’s report on the State of Black America, which released stark findings.
The median household income for black people is 37% less than that of white people.
Black couples are more than twice as likely as whites to be denied a mortgage or a home improvement loan.
The life expectancy of a black baby born today is four years shorter than that of a white baby. Black women are more likely to die during childbirth, and “31% more likely to die of breast cancer. Black men are 52% more likely to die of prostate cancer,” writes Michael Warren in the article.
“Schools with more minority students are more likely to have inexperienced, less trained, and even uncertified teachers … black students are less likely to graduate college,” Warren writes. In addition, “Black people have been more than twice as likely as white people to experience threats or uses of force during police encounters, and three times more likely to be jailed if arrested.”
The NAACP writes that “if African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates as whites, prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40%.”
And now Pike weighs in …
The question, then, becomes whether or not we should ban the discussion of these statistics. Whether we should ban the discussion of racism which appears inherent to our nation’s institutions.
Change doesn’t occur without conversation. Conversation cannot occur without knowledge. To ban discussing the fact that our society’s institutions neglect people of color because it might make us uncomfortable is irresponsible and dangerous. It promotes the false idea that there is nothing wrong with our society and that nothing needs to be fixed. It ignores and subsequently erases the struggles of our fellow Americans.
If we want to create positive change within our nation’s systems, we need to properly teach their flaws to the students that will, soon enough, be leading them. That’s what critical race theory offers. A lens through which to view the world, so that there’s a lens through which to change it.