Thoughts on Critical Race Theory

When news about the teaching of Critical Race Theory becoming a “hot-button” topic started trickling into my social media feeds, I knew I needed to do some research. I had never heard of CRT, and I suspect the issue may even be new to many history teachers. That’s why I thought I would include a few links on the topic in this week’s anti-racist post. I did my best to look for different perspectives on CRT because I think it’s important to understand why people support it as well as why people would like to ban it. The first thing I noticed was, well, there are a lot of words in any article I look for a definition. So, as often happens, I think that people are trying to simplify something that is quite complicated.

The first thing those of us new to the term need to know is that, “CRT is not itself a substantive course or workshop; it is a practice. It is an approach or lens through which an educator can help students examine the role of race and racism in American society,” as Janel George writes in this article for EdWeek. George goes on to explain, “In the K-12 classroom, CRT can be an approach to help students understand how racism has endured past the civil rights era through systems, laws, and policies—and how those same systems, laws, and policies can be transformed.”

What, then, is the threat of Critical Race Theory, according to its opponents? Some people believe that it vilifies White people, and some Black adversaries believe that it actually promotes racism. “I don’t know about you, but telling my child or any child that they are in a permanent oppressed status in America because they are Black is racist – and saying that White people are automatically above me, my children, or any child is racist as well,” stated Keisha King to the Florida Board of Education, according to this article by Sam Dorman of Fox News.

Polarizing attitudes like these generate anger on all sides. I even felt enraged before I knew anything about Critical Race Theory. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for teachers to find themselves in the middle of these battles, and then put into the precarious position of dealing with controversial issues in the classroom. In this NPR interview with Scott Simon, Julian Haynter, a professor at the University of Richmond, advises, “That racial reconciliation is not a zero-sum game, that we can tell a more complete story of American history without making people feel guilty or being made to feel guilty.”

In the Twitter thread below, you can read some other valid points, made by author and historian Justin Hart (@foredoma74):

It seems that many people are forgetting that teachers are practiced in giving information while we remain neutral. I’ve had students discuss and question me about: abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, gun control, and hunting many times over the years, and have never revealed my very strong feelings about any of these issues. We give them the facts and tools to make their own decisions. Though there may be some unprofessional educators out there who “indoctrinate” students, the vast majority of us recognize the value of diverse perspectives and values. More importantly, we want all of our students to feel safe and treasured, so the better educated we are, the better we can help them.

As someone who was never taught about the Tulsa Massacre, Jim Crow laws, or Japanese Internment camps during my K-12 years, I am an advocate for giving our students a complete picture of our past so we can learn from the mistakes of our ancestors and do better in the future. Learning for Justice has curriculum materials for “Teaching Hard History: American Slavery,” here. And Edutopia has a very helpful article by Hedreich Nichols for “Productive Classroom Debates on Sensitive Topics.”

Skipping over the difficult parts of our history, where we were anything but heroic and benevolent, will continue to weaken us as a nation, and contribute to destroying us from within.

This post will be added to my collection of Anti-Racism resources here.

Tower of Reconciliation, Tulsa, Image by redkudu from Pixabay

Crash Course: Black American History

Clint Smith, author of How the Word is Passed, and staff writer at The Atlantic, hosts a new series called Black American History on the Crash Course YouTube Channel. As of today, June 4, 2021, there are 5 short videos on the channel, including an introductory preview. Though the videos are short (less than 15 minutes each), they probably already cover more Black American history than the textbooks that are currently in our public schools. For example, the 4th video covers Elizabeth Key’s legal battle for freedom — certainly a piece of history that was never covered in any of my classes.

Watching these videos can help people to understand the complexity of our country’s past and how it still has a strong hold over our present. For example, in the video that teaches about the slave codes that were written even before the United States was a country, the following quote refers to these laws of the 17th and 18th centuries:

From Crash Course Black American History “Slave Codes”

Unfortunately, statistics show that the disparity among races in consequences for breaking the law is still true in some places in our country today. While our current laws are not overtly racist like the slave codes, they are often enforced that way.

I look forward to learning more from this Crash Course series, and I hope that teachers will be able to use it in their classrooms — though, ironically, teachers in Texas and some other states may not have the freedom to do so.

I will be adding this post to my Wakelet of Anti-racism Resources.

Racist, Sexist Boy

Tomorrow will be a year since I wrote the first of my weekly anti-racist posts. It was my reaction to the murder of George Floyd, and a barely controlled rant. Since then, I’ve tried to be more constructive by sharing resources and collecting them in this Wakelet.

I wish I had the talent and tenacity of this young group, the Linda Lindas, who wrote and performed this song in response to a boy’s cruel comment to Mila, the drummer. My favorite line is, “We rebuild what you destroy.”

You can see the entire concert performed by the Linda Lindas, courtesy of the LA Public Library, here. And you can find out more about this talented group of young women in this article from Pitchfork.

As we close out AAPI Heritage Month, let’s all do what we can to support the creativity of the Linda Lindas and children around the world by inspiring them instead of dealing out insults and injuries.

Anti-Asian Violence Resources

As AAPI Heritage Month (May) continues, I want to share this very thorough collection of Anti-Asian Violence resources. Note the ones under the heading of “Education,” as those may be of particular benefit for those of you who read this blog. There are many ways to take action, such as reporting incidents, educating people about why these hateful acts occur and how to respond, and working in our communities to prevent this violence from happening. I know that educators are carrying so many burdens these days and that it is difficult to take on “one more thing.” But as people and professionals we cannot ignore what is happening if we want it to stop. Please take a look at this resource and the others I have posted on my Anti-Racism Wakelet in order to take meaningful action against hate in all of its forms.

space rocket orbit galaxy

Wind and Float from Pixar

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, as I mentioned in last Friday’s blog post. To show their support for the AAPI community, Pixar issued this statement with its short video, Float:

The same statement appears on the YouTube page for Wind. Both animations are beautiful, though a bit melancholy. I think that gifted students will certainly identify with many of the emotions in Float, and they will admire the ingenuity of the main character in Wind.

To bring home the message of Wind, be sure to watch the very brief (1:25) message from its creator, and how the film became a tribute to his grandmother and the sacrifices made by immigrants and those they leave behind. And Bobby Rubio, who wrote Float and based it on his son who was diagnosed with autism, discusses fan reactions in this video with Erica Milsom whose film, Loop (available on Disney+), also has an autistic character.

This post will be added to my Wakelet of Anti-Racism posts. Check it out for more ideas!

May is AAPI Heritage Month

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. If you want to know a bit about the history of how this came to be, Mental Floss has a good summary in its article, “6 Facts about Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.” With recent events showing an escalation of violence against AAPI people in the United States, you may want to take a look at these resources from Learning for Justice to help you discuss both the past and the present with your students so we can combat racism and stereotypes that lead to the kind of hatred that some people use to justify these vile acts. For more ideas on how to end racism in our country, I invite you to follow my Anti-Racism Wakelet, to which I add a new educational resource each week.