Recently, there’s been a lot of screaming and yelling about Critical Race Theory (CRT). But all the shouting has revealed that not many Americans know what it’s about. From the detractors to the supporters, all of the angry back-and-forths are detrimental because people are arguing over things that aren’t part of CRT. For example, equating the historically accurate 1619 Project to CRT when one has little to do with the other.
Much of the misinformation being spread is intentional. It originates in conservative media which is largely driven by the online rhetoric of their target demographic. Conservatives have been sharing countless opinions focused on an assumed narrative. Essentially, they are telling stories based on what they think they know about CRT instead of what it actually is. If conservatives have read anything in-depth about CRT, they would jump on the critique of liberal policies and liberalism in general. But they’re not, which means they haven’t done their homework.
Critical Race Theory challenges many foundational liberal concepts such as enlightenment rationalism, legal equality, and Constitutional neutrality. CRT questions the incrementalist, step-by-step approach of civil-rights discourse. It supports a race-conscious approach to social change while critiquing liberal ideas such as affirmative action, color blindness, role modeling, or the merit principle. A key approach of CRT centers on political organizing instead of relying on the methods offered by liberalism.
Stuffing all of that into a single paragraph makes it seem all too easy for conservatives to weaponize CRT politically. Instead, they ignore it altogether and create their own narratives to attack it for what they want their base to believe it is. The most common narrative I see white people’s collective heads exploding over is that it’s a demonization of them. That rationale is so far from reality I don’t know where to begin other than screaming, “CRT is a legal theory not a demonization of White people!” into the void. Which I have done. To no avail. Of course.
Historically, this is how white supremacy has succeeded in giving white America the invisibility they are privy to. By hiding the atrocities behind the foundations of this country, whiteness allows people the deniability of any participation. Such has been the case for hundreds of years. It allows for the use of “I didn’t own slaves” as a retort to any discussion about race. Whiteness provides exit ramps for Americans to hide their heads and deny racism’s existence.
Attacking The Facts
Critical Race Theory is a legal theory that examines laws as they intersect with race issues and challenges more liberal approaches to racial justice. CRT explores social, cultural, and legal arguments as they relate to race and racism. Critical Race Theory was born from Critical Legal Studies that took place in the 1970s and has progressed into the four-decades-old study of race, racist structures, and racial identity.
I implore white folks to learn about CRT. The more detailed of a discussion I’ve had with White folks about this resulted in them finding that they already agree with most of it. That’s why CRT has grown in popularity and importance. If you read the above-linked article, chances are, you’re gonna walk away saying, “that’s what it is? I already knew that!” I’m not kidding. Even my more conservative-thinking friends began wondering what all the hype is about.
In the Spring of 1999, Lewis R. Gordon from Brown University wrote: “a properly critical race theory must be willing to explore the possibility of systemic failure, a failure which may require radical transformations of the matrices through which a society’s resources are distributed and through which they are interpreted. From this point of view, liberating practices aim at opening possibilities for more humane forms of social relations. In effect, it argues for “material” and “semiotic” conditions of human possibility. As such, it’s a theory that bridges the identity and liberation divide.”
Republican state lawmakers are freaking out about CRT. While the state of Texas passed the 1836 project (which is more bluster than substance), Florida went all out and banned the teaching of Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project. While conservative thinkers are showing us precisely why we need an unwhitewashed version of history taught in schools, Florida puts a spotlight on how white supremacy has driven the narrative for far too long.
Shutting down the teaching of an accurate retelling of history is real power. It’s how cultures die allowing whiteness to trample all over non-white lives. The saddest part of all of this is that they know not what they speak of. They’ve propagandized their way into becoming that which they claim to abhor. Conservatives should never again be allowed to call anyone a communist.
Critical Race Theory can be self-reflective. It allows us to identify ourselves and our roles in society in terms of race relations. While it’s not a demonization of White People, racists may see themselves and that’s uncomfortable. As they continue refusing to look past the narrative they are given, they view it as an attack on them. But CRT isn’t just about self-reflection. It scares those in power because it shines a light on the racist structures that operate within this country we call the United States. It terrifies them because they want to maintain social control through their rigged monetary, legal, and political systems. Let’s face it. The assaults on the 1619 Project are assaults on history. Plain and simple.
When they say they are protecting history by banning CRT and the 1619 Project, we know what they really mean when they say that. They’re protecting the hiding of America’s real history. A history that was much more shocking than Americans were taught in school. This isn’t revisionist history, it’s history. Period.
Look, I get it, no one wants to face these realities because it’s painful and ugly and inhumane and so many other things. But we must in order to move forward. There’s no other way.
Critical Race Theory isn’t controversial in that we ALL know how biased the systems that run this country are. From legal to banking to employment, policies are rigged against some more than others. It’s purposeful and for the benefit of a few. While every single American is aware of these practices, it seems that confronting them is where we’re having an issue. In addition to CRT, the hidden history we are currently discussing is ugly. And that’s what conservatives are really mad about.
It’s clear that our battle is against the elected agents of white supremacy more than anything else.
*originally published on Medium