Dec 08, 2021
5 mins read
I am a regular contributor on OUT CHICAGO (WCPT 820) with host and friend Scott Duff.
Recently we talked about what Critical Race Theory is and what it isn't.
Here's the transcript of our conversation edited for clarity.
OUT CHICAGO: There seems to be a very big push by the conservative movement--basically one conservative pact called the 1776 Project Pact who have organized their base to go to school board meetings and protest the teaching of Critical Race Theory. And go…what’s the deal?
Me: So what we have to start with is three basic things.
#1 This "movement" has been created out of whole cloth. It was created byChristopher Rufo who started getting access to antiracism curricula taught throughout the city of Seattle and across the country and he thought, "Aha! This is a great thing we can weaponize. This is something that we can use to distract people; the idea that Critical Race Theory is being taught in school."
#2 Critical race theory is not being taught in schools. So CRT is basically the theory taught in law schools that "racism is baked intro systems of society and affects the justice system and law." And that is something that is explored and examined if you want to become a lawyer; something you should consider. What people are really talking about when they say CRT is being taught in school is actually antiracism and unfiltered American History. They are conflating the two things.
OUT CHICAGO: Yes! Because history is told from the perspective of the victors. We don’t tell the whole story.
Me: Not only do we not center heroes who are anything other than white, male, cisgender straight dudes, we also edit out the parts that make white, male, cisgender, straight dudes look bad. So that’s how we get this filtered history that is taught in school. And the one thing people focus on when talking about black people is slavery; and mind you indigenous and other people of color aren’t talked about at all. So when we talk about a more wholistic approach to education I am not just talking about Black people. The more wholistic approach is not happening in schools.
#3 And this is something that rarely gets talked about. What people aren't considering is the fragility of teaching these topics and having these conversations. It is difficult, challenging and nuanced work. Experts are needed. When we hear horror stories it is because it is is not being taught correctly. Something has gone horribly wrong.
So yes, when you hear this concocted controversy, “Oh white children are feeling guilty or they’re being separated by race and locked away from each other.” If that is happening that is an incorrect use of antiracism education.
Now there are affinity groups. That's an opportunity for people who identify within the same race to speak in a way where they don’t feel defensive and they can be open and transparent. Often what happens if a collective of people across race are talking about race what ends up happening is Black, Indegenous and People of Color end up taking care of White people's feelings.
So an affinity group allows people to have agency within a group they identify with so they can have a more transparent and open conversation.
But all the talk about separating is misleading. Or when we hear about “Oh a bunch of teachers thought it was a good idea to take kids on a field trip where they act out the Underground Railroad and you have students who are running around like slaves and some kids are pretending to be slave owners—
OUT CHICAGO: What?
Me: Oh yeah. There’s stories like that all over the country. This is how it is done incorrectly. But if some of the energy we spent debating and arguing over this distraction that "CRT is being taught" was put into truly training people on how to be racially fluent, on how to lead conversations in antiracism, in having people consider their role in upholding white supremacy; if we were training people how to do that well and not just throwing it at teachers last minute and saying, "lead these conversations" then the work we are trying to accomplish would be done that much better. But I never hear that part of the conversation.
OUT CHICAGO: Do you think there should be concern for age appropriateness or what age to start the conversation?
Me: You can teach unfiltered American history and antiracism age appropriately if you know how to teach unfiltered American history and antiracism correctly. And if you don’t know how that 's when you hear, “They’re too young.” There is absolutely a way to do it age appropriately.
And there's even room for the discussion around Critical Race; certainly in high school. It's part of the work of being antiracist to understand how racism is baked into the systems that uphold white supremacy.
Yes, any child is too young to run around the woods and reenact The Underground Railroad. But It is never too early to start the conversation about antiracism and our true history.
I will be co-hosting OUT CHICAGO with Scott Duff on December 19th from 11-1p on WCPT 820 AM.