All over the country, angry white people have been showing up at school board meetings, irate over the idea that CRT (Critical Race Theory) is being taught to their precious fragile children, and being indoctrinated into their malleable little minds.
So I thought that now would be as good a time as any to explain the difference between the two different kinds of Critical Race Theories… Namely, the actual Critical Race Theory, and then the OTHER “CRT” — The one republicans want to use as a rallying cry to motivate their “base” (angry white people) to get to the polls. For the purposes of this blog post the real Critical Race Theory will be abbreviated CRT, whereas the other one will appear in quotes as “CRT.” Much in the same way that there is the News, and then there is Fox”News.”
So here’s the deal: If you are a parent, angry that your 12 year old is being taught Critical Race Theory, you shouldn’t be angry — You should be very, very proud. Because that means your 12 year old is in college taking higher level courses… Because that is the only place CRT is being taught.
The ACTUAL Critical Race Theory is very hard to sum up in a neat paragraph. It is a branch of Critical Theory, but one which examines and critiques the many ways that racism (a social construct) is not simply/only the product of people being racist, biased, & prejudiced, but also something which is built into our policies and our laws. It is an academic movement, created by legal scholars Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, & Richard Delgado (among others), focused on revealing and challenging power structures — especially as they intersect with race and U.S. law. Michael Harriot (one of my favorite writers in the world) does a very good job of explaining it in this Twitter thread:
When you get into researching what it actually is, you quickly discover that CRT — an offshoot of a larger area of academic study called Critical Theory — is highly complex, and would never be “taught to our kids” in elementary, middle, or high school. Which leads us to the second, or false & intentionally misrepresented “CRT.” It’s the one which noted liar, theocrat, & traitor Mike Pompeo described here:
This is the “CRT” the GOP wants us to fear. They are afraid of a historical narrative which doesn’t paint white people in the best of light… AKA, ‘the Truth.” This other brand of “CRT” could be defined as any telling of history or explanation of current events which evokes a tinge of guilt in white people — especially white people who feel threatened by a term like “white privilege.”
Let me see if I can briefly break it down… Over the past couple decades, technology has increased the access to information faster than at any point in human history. The internet makes the printing press look like someone putting a traffic cone to their mouth and yelling. Though there are many benefits to this drastic change, people have had very different reactions to this process. Some people have mistaken “access to information” for ACTUAL EXPERTISE. Some people have used this new technology to widely disseminate lies & fear-mongering, which leads to hatred & violence… As well as a general uncertainty, which allows people to believe whatever fits best with their current narrative.
But Truth exists. Science is still a something. History and facts are real things. So, for example, technology has brought us streaming TV. And when Netflix airs the documentary “13th,” a lot of people are exposed to facts and information which they were not aware of before — many of which come into direct conflict with the narrative they were taught growing up… Like the idea that slavery actually ended with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation… Or that most white people thought highly of Martin Luther King, Jr. while he was alive. So when people want to teach about Juneteenth, or want to discuss how the 13th Amendment allowed for slavery to continue if people broke the law (and then laws were created to imprison/enslave Black Americans), or want to educate kids about most of white America saw MLK as a villain & an instigator, THAT HISTORY and THOSE FACTS make many white folks today feel a little bit guilty. And that makes them feel angry.
I might not have ever known about “redlining” without the internet. And when technology brings us HBO and exposes large numbers of people to the amazing series “The Watchmen” — where people see a heart-wrenching depiction of the Tulsa Race Massacre — people find themselves wondering, “Why wasn’t I ever taught about this in school? You mean to tell me that there was a thriving area of Black wealth known as Black Wall Street, and that whites destroyed and burned 35 blocks of the neighborhood, killing dozens of people, and that is was largely overlooked?!?” And then we research it, and we also learn about what happened in Rosewood. The ones who are angry about “CRT” are the same folks who are angry that it is now known as the Tulsa Race Massacre rather than the “Tulsa Race Riot,” because “massacre” more accurately reflects what went on that day. People who are angry about “CRT” would probably call that “revisionist history.”
But here’s where the REAL anger comes from: If we HONESTLY discuss the history of the United States’ actions in the world (rather than a make-believe narrative which doesn’t gloss over our nation’s many wrongs), the TRUTH butts up against the ideal of American Exceptionalism. In much the same way, if we HONESTLY discuss the reality of the history of Systemic Racism in this country, it is in direct contrast to the Myth of Meritocracy, which tells white America that they have more because they are work harder and they are BETTER…. AKA white supremacy. And that is a string we can’t have our kids pulling on…
“CRT” has become this catch-all for things white people don’t like discussing… And they (we) especially don’t like those things being taught to our kids, because they might “feel bad” about being white (Ironically, the vast majority of the people who are afraid their kids might feel bad about who they are, are the same evangelicals who teach their kids that they are all so totally depraved that they deserve to go to hell forever). So they don’t want to discuss the reality of lynchings all over America, and they CERTAINLY don’t want those same kids making connections to modern-day lynchings like those of George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery, or asking questions like why the only objections to the Emmett Till Antilynching Act came from republicans. These are people who think that Anti-Racism & Diversity Trainings are “un-American.” 100% of the people who are angry about “CRT” in our schools are the same people who use the term “woke” pejoratively. Imagine thinking that being awake to the reality of the world is a bad thing…
And now we have state legislatures all over the country passing laws to keep “CRT” from being taught in schools. Again, they are not preventing actual CRT from being taught in schools, as no schools are teaching this other than post graduate collegiate studies. They are passing laws more to prevent things like Nikole Hannah Jones’ “1619 Project” (for which she won a Pulitzer Prize) from being discussed in a school setting. The 1619 Project works to reframe American history by de-centering whiteness — instead centering Black America and enslaved people… And Lord knows we can’t have whiteness de-centered for even a moment, now can we? Ironically, passing laws to keep people from de-centering whiteness is a PERFECT example of the basis behind the need for actual Critical Race Theory.
So I hope this helps. Sometimes the Truth can feel overwhelmed by lies & apathy, and please believe me when I say I know what it’s like to feel hopeless and exhausted by that… But one thing technology affords us is the opportunity to attempt to set the record straight. So if you see someone who is confused, afraid, & angry about “CRT,” please feel free to copy and paste this post for them. When people are angry that teachers might be teaching our kids that America is a racist country, remind them that America does just fine teaching our kids that on its own. Every little bit of sanity helps. I’ll leave you with an eloquent, powerful, sane Facebook post about the 1619 Project, and why it is absolutely necessary:
My taking the time to research & write this is an act of hope… May that hope overflow onto you. If you value the things I write, I also hope you will consider BECOMING A PATRON on Patreon. Every little bit helps. If that’s not your thing, you can also LEAVE A TIP ON PAYPAL or Venmo your generosity to “chris-boeskool.” For more fun, follow along on FACEBOOK and on TWITTER. Love you all.