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Daring to Teach the Racism Truth

In the deeply divided, polarized, anything but "United" States, there’s been a raging cultural war going on over K-12 education. It involves a doctrine whose opponents would be hard pressed to define and whose advocates are routinely drowned out at packed school board meetings by parents in fierce opposition.

The “it” is critical race theory (CRT). Though vehemently opposed to CRT, most of its opponents can’t explain what it really is.

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What they know of CRT they’ve been spoon fed in sound bites on conservative media shows and in news clips featuring former President Donald Trump and other conservatives. They’ve been told it’s all about “brain washing” White kids that the United States was formed to oppress people of color and women. They fear that CRT will teach White kids to feel guilty and ashamed of their skin color.

In reality, CRT looks at the ways in which there are systems and structures in place that account for racial disparities in America and evaluates how the construct of racism is ingrained in American institutions. It doesn’t teach guilt or shame, but the history of structural racism in America. That is the truth.

So, what opponents of CRT are really saying is: “How dare they teach the truth to White kids.”

States Enacted New Laws Banning CRT

The fury machine at CRT has been in overdrive in America for months and has led four states, including Texas, Arizona Tennessee and South Carolina to pass legislation banning its teaching in schools. Other states, including North Carolina, will likely do the same.

As a chorus of Black parents advocate for diversity, equity and anti-racism teaching in schools – including CRT, White parents have largely drowned out their voices in favor of re-casting history as fair to all people, regardless of race. It’s an approach that is not only a lie but is flatly insulting and absurd and White parents know it.

Guilt over what?

White parents fear that teaching about systemic racism in America’s institutions will force their children to grapple with guilt and shame over a history. They claim that much of U.S. history wasn’t inherently unfair to minorities. The argument defies logic. If it were true that there was no mistreatment of Blacks in America, what then would White students possibly feel guilty about?

Four states have made it illegal to teach CRT. Thus, American history is unlikely to be discussed as anything other than a White male-centric rise to power and prominence based solely on intelligence, exceptionalism, and ingenuity.

No mention need be made of the of the 246 years that slave labor played in building the nation, because that would be an uncomfortable truth. Nor will teaching this White male-centric American history include the ubiquity of structures and legislation meant to deny Black Americans full citizenship rights and the ability to accumulate wealth. Practices like redlining, Jim Crow, poll taxes. This new whitewashed American history will be free of that, too. But will it teach the truth?

The Death of Truth

When it comes to teaching White American children the truthful history of this nation, too many White parents have decided that they don’t want that. They’ve also decided their children can’t handle the truth. The sad reality is that the death of truthful American history is the biggest tragedy in the CRT debate and that is the real crime.

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