The teaching of critical race theory in American schools has come under attack recently. Critics argue critical race theory is racist, anti- White, and un -American. I disagree. Studying critical race theory is not racist, but enables us to identify and confront blind spots that are inherently racist within American culture. Critical race theory simply means critically examining the present through a historical race lens. It is not pitting cultures against each other.
History is important. American history should be taught in its entirety including the dark era: Slavery, Jim Crow, etc. Avoiding these topics delegitimizes the sufferings of African Americans during these era including events that contributed to ill- health and premature deaths. This is akin to asking Germany not to teach about the Holocaust which will be a disservice to the six million Jews exterminated by the Third Reich in the Nazi Final Solution.
We learn history to prevent a repeat. To understand the agitation of certain groups, and why they felt emboldened to stage a Nazi style protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. Holding placards and screaming, “Jews will not replace us,” or in the words of General Milley of the US Military Academy “what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the constitution,” while referencing the January 6th assault on the US Capitol.
To stop the teaching of critical race theory is to do a disservice to America and Americans. Racism is not a thing of the past as evidenced by events of the last five years. The FBI warns white power movements are an increasing threat in America(1). The FBI Annual Hate Crimes Statistics (HCSA) Report while acknowledging 2019 as the deadliest year on record, reports a 113 percent increase in hate crime murders from 2018 and 63 percent of hate motivated attacks directed at Jews(2).
To ignore these occurrences is to ignore the threats that they pose. A little discomfort in the teaching of critical race theory is essential to understanding the present. Studying critical race theory empowers people to ask critical questions. For instance, why are there more black males incarcerated in prisons? What accounts for the higher incidence of black male confrontations with law enforcement and fatalities by the police?
These questions are important for a democratic society invested in the rule of law. You don’t run from your past, you address it head on. Asking these questions and encouraging these conversations align with the principles of fairness and equality which are the hallmarks of democracy. Stopping the teaching of critical race theory in schools is not addressing these and other critical questions bordering on race and law but denying them the attention they deserve.
(1) Cohen, M.( April 4,2019). “FBI director says white supremacy is a ‘persistent, pervasive threat’ to the US.” CNN. https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/04/04/politics/fbi-director-wray-white-supremacy/index.html
(2) ADL Calls for Improved Hate Crime Reporting in Response to New FBI Data (November 16, 2020). https://www.adl.org/news/press-releases/adl-calls-for-improved-hate-crime-reporting-in-response-to-new-fbi-data
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