This is what I think about…Critical Race Theory
America. Land of the free. Home of the brave. Everybody has rights. Everybody has free speech, but do we really? So then enters Critical Race Theory (CRT). Everybody has an opinion. Some are right and some are flat out inaccurate. Let’s go to the source of truth. Kimberle Crenshaw. She is the lawyer who created the term and the person who motivated my law review article on the intersection of race and gender. I digress. Crenshaw states, “…discrimination remains because of the “stubborn endurance of the structures of white dominance” — in other words, the American legal and socioeconomic order was largely built on racism.
What is it? In the words of Dr. Crenshaw, “It is a way to look at race. It’s asking why after so many decades do we have patterns of inequality. Originally, it was about how law contributed to the subordinate status of [all identities]. Personally, it is looking at why we have not met the original promise of the DOI “all men are created equal”…for Black folx, for Indigenous people and more in spite of laws that were designed to guarantee it.
Here are a few clarifications and confirmations:
Clarification: CRT was designed for lawyers. Confirmation: Sharing the story of American history in a way that opens honest legal analysis moves our country toward antiracism while thinking through ways to interrupt and break down individual, interpersonal, institutional and systemic racism.
Clarification: CRT is dangerous, racist and leftist. Confirmation: The identity of race is what divides us. Racism is dangerous not CRT.
Clarification: CRT has been taught in K-12. Confirmation: Historically, the theory has not been taught in K-12 schools. I will say that I embraced race and racism in the curricula I wrote years ago as a way that helps students understand the history of Black people so they find joy and pride in stories while recognizing their role in advocacy against injustices. So yes, I have used my knowledge to add Moot Court, teach from the actual Constitution and Juneteenth, take students to field trips to Mt. Vernon and Monticello to engage in discourse about gaps and grows of America. As a result of George Floyd’s murder, educators thought it important to begin discussing race in K-12 so this is part of why clarification is needed. Teachers should teach about the history of American by focusing on the stories of Black and Brown written by Black and Brown persons while embedding the domains of identity, diversity and action so eloquently outlined by Learning for Justice.
So what is the impact? Members of the GOP and supporters have incorrectly framed the question whether educators can teach CRT in K-12 schools. Actually, I believe the question we should ask is: In what ways can we prevent racism through educating students about race? Inherently, the opposition to teaching race is being purported by the few whose ancestors created the problem. While I am glad that there are White advocates on our side, some non-Black and Brown people want to maintain a system of control and supremacy that is the root cause of racism in our country. The problem being those individuals are in the seat of influence. Example #1. Senator Rubio and Senator said, “Critical Race Theory is racist.” Example #2. CRT is taught in schools. Example #3. My home state of Texas passed SB3 (18–4 vote) which makes it difficult for teachers to teach about race and racism explicitly. It should not have passed.
From my time on the Hill I understand there is always this need to be in control, take back power and/or retain power. It happens by constructing diversions and twisting a current topic as the current weapon of choice. In this case, CRT. See screenshot. Kimberle Crenshaw reminds us the same strategy was used during Brown v. Board when integration was framed as “damaging to white children.”
Why it should matter to allies, accomplices and co-conspirators? According to the news, “the Texas bill and others [aligned with it’s underlying purpose] remove the requirement to teach “the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong.”
Why should it matter to educators? “There are some things in our history that we just have to face head on,” Hayes said, “but the role of teachers is to give kids critical thinking skills, not tell them how to feel about certain events.” Why it matters to Black and African Americans? It prevents our histories from being taught. Why it matters to Native American and Indigenous People? It prevents your histories from being taught. Why it matters to Asian Americans and ethnicities within the culture? It prevents your histories from being taught. Why it matters to LatinX, Latino and Hispanic Americans? It prevents your histories from being taught. Why it matter to women? It prevents histories from being told for all of us. Children are smart and will walk away with an understanding on their own.
There is a real ramification if the rhetoric and tactics to continue. Currently, a Social Studies teacher was terminated for using Kyla Jenee Lacey poem on “White privilege,” there is a ban on The New York Times’ award-winning 1619 Project, Arkansas bans teaching “divisive concepts,” in some schools and even Texas signed a bill for the 1836 Project that promotes patriotic education & ensures future generations understand TX values. Can you guess the underlying purpose…
There is some good news on the horizon in another field. Companies and organizations are realizing that diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging are best practices, making concerted efforts to change the culture and promoting an antiracist workspace. If this can happen in corporate realm, then we can adopt similar principles in all spaces, including schools.
Now what do we do about it? Ultimately, we need to elect representation in public officials who look like me and you. This is why perspective matters. Run for office and Boards of Education. When is your next election? Secondly, parents and guardians in all states, the schools do not operate unless students are in it. Begin by taking a look at the curriculum and lessons used to teach your child. Ask about professional development being delivered. Determine if those in leadership have representation that has been historically excluded. If you have concern around who or what is left out email, call and tweet your positions. You can also go directly to your state or federal representatives and demand change in states considering similar bills. Find your representative at www.house.gov, www.senate.gov, state and local representation, Ballotpedia for a list of Superintendents of Schools, and boards of education. Since “race” was a constructed idea that led to a systemic racism, I believe principals and teachers have a duty to tell the stories of race in a way that honors the “justice and joy” experienced by people of color. It’s not just Social Studies, ELA or Humanities. Equally important, it requires embedding audits of curriculums in all content for all grade levels from the activators to assessments. It is a matter of asking for curriculum and lessons: Am I included or not? Do I learn from diverse voices or just one? Is there conversation of justice and joy or just trauma? Can I have voice and choice in my learning inside and outside the classroom or am I told what to do?
I am LaTonya Davis, a parent, lawyer, K-12 leader and founder of TonyaDavis.com. I shift people from good intent to exceptional impact! Reach out for training or speaking. Thanks for reading.