Kiarra Rocker ‘23, Feature Editor
2020 has been a year of people challenging racial inequality in the comfort of their own homes or on the streets with Black Lives Matter protests taking high last year. For an overwhelming amount of people, last year was their first glance at racial justice, or the absence of racial justice. But why has it been up to such debate about teaching the intersectionality between race, racism, and social structures in the United States? Is it really that radical?
It’s important to know what exactly Critical Race Theory (CRT) is, and especially what it is not. It is not an anti-white agenda teaching individual White students that they are to blame for structural racism; quite honestly, it’s the opposite. Simply put, CRT analyzes race, racism, and how those factors are at play when it comes to social institutions which contribute to racial inequality. Racism is examined through a systemic lens, not through your White classmate.
Discussions surrounding CRT became widespread after a bill prohibiting race related teachings was signed into law in Texas. Rep. Mary González, who studied CRT as a part of her Ph.D, said, “We are making very real decisions about access to educational resources without even having a full understanding of what we’re talking about.” Decisions that face the climate of school systems everywhere and students’ future education is at risk with the passing of the bill.
When educational resources are limited, crucial parts of history can not fully be examined. History can not be taught if the full version of history, including not only the past but how it affects the present, is not analyzed.
Prohibiting schools from teaching about racial inequalities so deeply engraved in our society is ironically demonstrating some of CRT’s main points; as sociologist Victor Ray puts it, “making laws outlawing critical race theory confirms the point that racism is embedded in the law.” Racist laws and legislation are alive and well in the housing market, criminal justice, education, economic and health care systems.
Despite segregation ending and the implication of the Fair Housing Act, the housing systems’ redlining still, after 53 years, negatively affects Black neighborhoods and communities. Slavery didn’t end after the 13th admendment was passed. Mass incarceration still disproportionately targets Black and Brown people. The drug usage between White and Black people are at the same rate but according to the NAACP the imprisonment rate among Black people is about 6 times more.
School systems that admit based on a legacy admission process fail to recognize the disenfranchisement of Black and Indigenous students of color who had previously not been able to enter the institution due to racial segregation.
Denying inequalities exist on a structural level is perpetuating racism. Ignoring the flaws in the current systems is perpetuating racism. Requiring educators to ignore racial concepts in the classroom is perpetuating racism.
Continuing to live blindly in a false sense of reality is becoming dangerous to minority groups affected by blissful ignorance. Being aware of one’s White privilege is a starting point. Recognizing that the effects of racism do not just simply erase when laws are put in place is crucial in understanding one’s own biases. It can be uncomfortable at times knowing that you may have biases, whether they are subconscious or not, but it is a must when it comes to education.
Can being provided a space to acknowledge, learn, and teach that racism operates at a systemic level and is extremely alive while being engraved in society really be that radical?