Critical race theory laws are unnecessary, harmful


Henry B

States that have passed or proposed legislation banning critical race theory.

In recent months and weeks, the words critical race theory (CRT) have graced the pages of newspapers across the country because Republican lawmakers have been addressing it as a destructive and unfair lens through which to view history. Laws have been proposed in many Republican states that look innocent on the surface, but have scholars and legal experts worried because they would ban the discussion of critical race theory in schools. Is this a valid criticism? Looking at the facts void of political bias yields a simple answer: the criticism from the right is invalid and a thinly veiled attempt at rewriting an unpleasant history.

To address the validity of this claim, one first must understand what critical race theory is. On a its most basic level, it is a system of thinking that came about in the early 1980’s that addresses the topic of race from a fundamentally different framework. CRT examines race as something that is not a natural or biological division among humans, but as a socially constructed category. Furthermore, it holds that the institutions of the United States are racist because they perpetuate inequality along the basis of race.

Think critical race theory is radical? It’s rather easy to fall into this trap when prominent politicians like Govern Kevin Sitt of Oklahoma refer to it as something that “draws us apart,” and Fox News published articles like “Angry ‘woke’ parents and teachers are trying to silence critics of critical race theory,” but I (and a vast number of academics and scholars) contend that it is far from radical.

The evidence is rather clear, and it has everything to do with systemic racism. Take, for example, the disparity of incarceration rates among African American and white men or look at the unemployment rates between the two groups. It is truly difficult to deny structural racism, but I am not here to argue for systemic racism (which is a true, evidence-based claim). I would like simply to stress that one cannot accept systemic racism but reject critical race theory. Critical Race theory is, fundamentally, the study of structural racism today and throughout history.

Republican Governor Kevin Sitt said in part of his public address last week on one of the new education policy laws in his state that we must, “Continue teaching history in all of its complexities and encourage honest and tough conversation.” Why then should we ban critical race theory? CRT appears to be a framework that encourages and supports critical thinking on its most basic level. Sitt said in the same speech that we should not be teaching our youth that one race is superior to another. I am very much in agreement. It seems that Sitt and many other Republicans do not understand what CRT entails. It is the acknowledgement of the fact that the white race has been superior in the U.S. and continues to be seen as superior in the eyes of our institutions. Banning the teaching of this concept is doing an injustice to children in schools across the country.

A new low has truly been reached in American politics now that a culture war born of one party’s inability to accept an unfortunate and history is making its way towards our children’s classrooms.”

The hypocrisy in the right’s defense of their stand is sometimes overwhelming. The same party who advocates for creationism to be taught on the grounds that “there are many ways to interpret the history of our universe” are now holding a steadfast view that the only way to learn about American history is in an education framework devoid of diversity and nuance. A pro-creationism bill founded on these grounds was proposed by Republican lawmakers in Governor Sitt’s own state of Oklahoma just last year.

Lastly, it feels important to note that critical race theory was designed as a GRADUATE school framework. It was, frankly, a rather obscure philosophy outside of academic circles until Republican lawmakers recently latched onto it as the latest threat to America. It’s odd that such a sophisticated philosophy that has been around for almost 30 years is just now supposedly having such a big impact on the education of children.

Much of the rhetoric coming from the right seems to be that parents should be worried that their children’s minds are being corrupted in the education system. The idea that public school history teachers are now the ‘enemy’ of true Americans and that they would be corrupting the minds of youth without these new bills is nothing short of a fantasy. It’s disrespectful to the hardworking educators of our country (many of whom are concerned about what these bills could mean if signed into law). A new low has truly been reached in American politics now that a culture war born of one party’s inability to accept an unfortunate and history is making its way towards our children’s classrooms.