One of the hot topics in educational news these days in Critical Race Theory, which is, in essence, a study which shows that America’s legal system has systemic racism built into its very foundation. The aim of the study is to raise awareness in order to combat the issue and to work to bring the legal system into balance. Unfortunately, like everything else these days, what is a fairly straightforward and clear study has been politicized and even weaponized, often by people who haven’t bothered to study the issue at all.
Last Friday Bill Maher hosted a round table on Real Time which featured author and professor Michael Eric Dyson and Glenn Loury, who was the first African American tenured professor of economics in the history of Harvard. Here is the clip of this revealing conversation:
I actually watched that discussion three times because I was trying to absorb everything they were saying and fairly assess the various arguments for their merits. You see, this has been a big issue in the news recently. It was highly influential in costing former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe re-election earlier this month and this week in Dallas we saw a high school principal fired for going against a state ban against teaching CRT.
The first time I ever heard of CRT was in line for an attraction at Universal Studios back in June. My extremely social daughter struck up a conversation with the little boy in front of us in line, and his grandmother decided to engage me on the “outrage” of Texas schools teaching Critical Race Theory to elementary school students. So I turned to my Texas elementary school student/daughter and asked her if she knew what it was. She didn’t. I didn’t, either. When I asked the lady to explain CRT to me she told me it was teaching white students that black students are better than they are because Black people are superior.
Sensing from her conspiratorial tone and subsequent (not shocking) rant about how Donald Trump was really still President that perhaps she might not be the best source of information, I pulled out my phone and Googled CRT. It seemed complicated and we were about to be shrunk and turned into Minions, so I bookmarked it in my mind and made sure we took a different exit from Trump lady after the show/ride was over.
Of course, CRT has nothing to do with teaching that one race is better than another and focuses on the kind of system racism that routinely sees White (do we capitalize the W now??) criminals like Kyle Rittenhouse treated preferentially as compared to Black criminals like George Floyd. Floyd paid for his criminal past with his life; Rittenhouse, who carried a military-style assault rifle into demonstrations/protests and opened fire, killing two people and injuring another in the process. The reason for the demonstrations? A white police officer had recently pulled a Black man (armed with a knife) out of his SUV and shot him seven times in the back. The episode was caught on cell phone video (of course) and chaos ensued.
Let’s be real; no matter what the man in the SUV had done, shooting him in the back seven times is beyond excessive. That’s true no matter the races of the people involved. The details only make the case that perhaps we should do a better job of working to heal race relations in our country. Can CRT be a part of that? I see no reason why not.
But that’s not the real issue here. This is not a rational conversation taking place in a nation of well-informed people who have studied the issues. Most people have no idea what CRT is, and many have relied on what passes for news in our country to inform them. That’s where things get sticky. The left-wing media wants us to focus on how unfairly Black people are being treated by law enforcement without any reference to the other side of the argument. The right-wing media is simply striking a match to the kindling that is American ignorance. Neither approach is useful towards having a civil discussion on the subject.
No, CRT is not being routinely taught as a part of the curriculum in Texas, nor was it being taught in any of the other states who have passed legislation attempting to limit schools from acknowledging racism in our criminal justice system. This is nothing more than yet another attempt to fire up the gullible and get the money flowing to right-wing candidates who can use the issue as a straw man to run against.
We have to be better than this. We have to stop allowing corporate talking heads do our thinking for us. We have to be better than the lady who insisted CRT was teaching students that Black kids are better than White kids and actually do our own research, even if that research is limited to asking a kid whether or not they’ve heard the concept.
If we don’t, we might as well just stay on the ride and remain Minions for life.
Thoughts on CRT? Share them in the comments below!