To understand the attacks on Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the form of legislation to make teaching CRT in schools illegal, as well as attacks on systemic racism, white supremacy, historical truths taught in schools about these things, don’t get caught up on the legislators. We know who and what they are. Rather, put your attention on their constituents; white folks who appear friendly but remain ignorant. They are satisfied with maintaining the status quo of their place in society. They can tolerate people thriving in society but not at their expense – by expense I mean a redistribution of rights and privileges that make society more equitable while at the same time, reconciling for past injustices.
They acknowledge the evils of enslavement and even of Jim Crow segregation yet believe that incremental progress is sufficient. To justify their stance, they provide three arguments.
The first argument is the, It Wasn’t Me argument. They’ll say, “My family didn’t own slaves. I grew up poor and I wasn’t privileged.” They’ll also say, “My family emigrated here from Europe so we didn’t have anything to do with that; we were oppressed and discriminated against also.” Because enslavement in the United States formally ended in 1865, that’s too long ago to hold against white people and the federal government. Therefore they’ve absolved themselves of the responsibility of atoning for the sins of their racial ancestors.
However, European immigrants were invited to become white and they accepted. Therefore, if they choose to accept the privilege, they must collectively work towards atonement.
The second argument is, the Colorblind argument. Also known as the “I don’t see color” claim. This is an often utilized argument to feign ally ship as well as to rally solidarity with the society as it is. They cite Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, specifically the piece where Dr. King says he wishes his children not to be judged by the color of their skin but rather by the content of their character.
These individuals are as blind to the rest of Dr. King’s speech as they are to color; willfully ignorant of the reality that in a colorblind philosophy always has whiteness as the default and racism in the rearview.
The third argument is, the Whataboutism argument. This argument follows up the first two succinctly. The first argument covers enslavement, the second covers civil rights and this argument covers our current dispensation. When I was a child, it was “what about Oprah, Michael Jordan, and Michael Jackson; they’re all Black and successful… racism didn’t stop them. Today, it’ “what about Beyonce, Jay-Z, LeBron James and Barack Obama… racism didn’t stop them.”
Barack Obama is always considered the biggest spade to be played.
These individuals know that the people they mention are exceptions and not the rule. But the success of those few hold up the Protestant lie of ethics; that hard work will win you God’s blessing of material gain. However that’s the reward of another god.
The lie is especially harmful to Black children.
These arguments provide a boilerplate baseline rationale for any white person who wishes to maintain a posture of protectionism, disguised as a trope, which we, as a society, have overcome the evil that clearly still resides. They seek to protect a state of being; it is not enough to have the privilege, but a belief in one’s entitlement to the privilege is normalized as nature rather than a product of socialization.
Black bodies are deemed acceptable because of what they produce for society, labor. Much like during enslavement, Black bodies are useful to protect, serve, produced and entertain. Black life within those bodies are tolerated to the extent that it is reflective and embracing of the social order; a life that conforms to the white supremacist social order rather than challenging it, specifically when in public.
Uncovering the veil is for the privacy of your own home.
However, when the social order is challenged and condemned for the evil that it is, those who make these arguments believe you are challenging and condemning them as evil. Nevertheless, the ethnocentric view of the world they often display is a result of their shaping by the social order. Education, as an institution, is leveraged by a white supremacist social order to normalize acts of systemic racism, capitalism, patriarchy, religious xenophobia among other things as what makes the United States exceptional, and that they, white people, are immune from the poison consumed from rotten fruit of that tree.
But they are not.
For these individuals, any restraint on that oppressive mindset, in addition to restrictions on oppressive action, is deemed oppressive. However, challenging the social order in schools with the teaching of a more balanced and accurate telling of history, or by telling the experienced of historically oppressed and marginalized peoples is an attempt to make all of us fully human.
Unfortunately, those who cling to these arguments cannot see past the definition of humanity they were given.
This is why it is imperative that classroom content goes beyond learning for learning sake; that it goes beyond simply depositing into children information as oppose to sparking inquiry that’ll lead to investigations and the challenging of injustice. Teaching and learning like that will certainly change society, but I believe for the better.
No longer will we remain unbothered at the sight of injustices experienced by the other. No longer will we be swayed by catchy slogans that are without substance and power that honors the humanity of all people. No longer will we be able to shut our doors and concentrate on me and mine.
No longer will we cling to myths about ourselves due to the social order’s need for us to believe that we’re worthless.
A classroom that produces students that are fully human, students who strive to create the conditions for others to see themselves as fully human, opens a portal to a society that those on the side of freedom have only imagined; a world those who side with the oppressors are cultivated to fear. What you fear you respond by attacking (fight) or runaway from (flight), or even freeze (do nothing and put your head in the sand). These legislative antics are simply the fight against antiracist efforts.
This is the mindset of white people in opposition who may not even know why.
Carter G. Woodson once said,
“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one.”
To go further, that man will also demand that teaching the very thing that’ll allow him to see himself, and others, as fully human be made illegal.
You hate to see it.