“If one managed to change the curriculum in all the schools so that Negroes learned more about themselves and their real contributions to this culture, you would be liberating not only Negroes, you’ll be liberating white people who know nothing about their own history.” –James Baldwin
Paulo Freire said in his classic work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, that the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed is to liberate themselves and their oppressors. No doubt, Black people are an oppressed people, historically, within the United States, economically, politically, educationally, and otherwise.
The typical Black American family is worth 10% of the average white family. Black people are more likely to be denied a mortgage or an auto loan, even when they have the same credit and employment history. The average wait time for voters in black neighborhoods was 29 percent longer than it was for voters in white neighborhoods and Black voters were 79 percent more likely to wait for more than 30 minutes before they cast a ballot.
Of course, there’s more, but I digress.
The 2020 presidential election was an exercise of Black people saving the United States from itself (again!) with electing Joe Biden. Another exercise of Black folks making America smarter happened by way of the 1619 project, curated by award winning and esteemed journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. The 1619 Project sought to present to some and introduce to others exactly what impact the peculiar institution of American slavery had on our nation’s development and how the vestiges of enslavement remain throughout modern day American society.
What followed was critical acclaim… Haters followed too.
If you have no critics you’ll likely have no success. -Malcolm X
One thing about the protectors of white supremacy and whiteness is that they easily tell on themselves, like the Trump Administration with its 1776 Commission and Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the 1836 Project.
… Someone should tell them that 1776 and 1836 were just as racist as 1619.
There was U.S. Senator Tom Cotton who proposed a ban of the 1619 Project being taught in schools. Following him is a host of Republican politicians across the country trying to ban Critical Race Theory and systemic racism.
Why? Paulo Freire provides us with some insight:
Conditioned by the experience of oppressing others, any situation other than their former seems to them like oppression… Any restriction on [their] way of life, in the name of rights of the community, appears to the former oppressors as a profound violation of their individual rights.
Teaching the truth of this country’s history; the United States was founded on white supremacy, America committed genocide against the human beings who were “discovered” on their own homeland, Americans dehumanized and enslaved Black people for profit and maintained oppression and subjugation through a series of laws and policies offends some white folks who prefer to teach children about American exceptionalism.
Teaching truth about how power was distributed and maintained infringes on the existence of whiteness as a construct. Being inclusive in boardrooms and textbooks appears to white folks as an infringement on their rights as Americans. It’s because, like us, they’ve been schooled on a lie, yet their privilege provides them with no reason to believe, or even think, otherwise.
White supremacy is all about self-preservation and that means needing a boogieman to scare white people into defending their own whiteness so that the “master’s tools” remain concealed. As Dr. Jarvis Givens said, the absence of a deep study of the past conceals the functions of white supremacy.
Critical Race Theory, or simply the term itself, has become white supremacy’s newest boogieman.
If you don’t understand white supremacy/racism, everything that you do understand will only confuse you.. -Neely Fuller, Jr.
However, I highly doubt that these folks in Congress, town halls or school board meetings have any clue what Critical Race Theory (CRT) even is. The reality is that they’ve taken an intellectual framework and bastardized it to be a blanket term to mean every white person is racist and that the United States is a racist country.
CRT is attributed to any and everything white people believe are a threat to their whiteness. For example, the Heritage Foundation has lumped all the things conservative leaning white ideologues don’t like to stem from CRT, including Black lives matter protests, LGBTQIA clubs in schools (such as gay-straight alliance groups that students may form), multicultural curricula, diversity trainings, and alternatives to the disproportionate disciplining of Black children.
To be clear, the United States is a systemically racist country. But CRT is not what the haters say that it is and they’re too ignorant and indebted to their whiteness to be curious enough to learn more.
CRT uses historical truth and evidence to expose the United States as a systemically racist white supremacist social order and caste. CRT asserts that race and racism is a social construct, and that it is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies. CRT says that racism is normal in American society, using storytelling to critique liberalism and legislation, namely civil rights legislation whereby whites were made the primary beneficiaries of.
If you don’t think that’s true, let’s unpack it.
Race is a social construct and it is embedded in our social policies such a criminal justice and housing. How normal is racism in society? So normal that my wife and I have to hunt to find television shows that reflect our skin color so our children can see themselves; so normal that I have to explain to my son that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, heralded by many, would consider him a slave; so normal that my wife and I rejoice when we find Black dolls for our daughters; so normal that my kids may be desensitized to unarmed Black people being murdered by police.
My children are 9, 6 and 5. If you think they only see race because my wife and I make it an issues, think again.
On the surface, liberals aren’t right-wing conservatives, but the critiques of white liberals by both Malcolm X and Dr. King, underscores the disillusionment of some Black folks already have with President Joe Biden, regardless of him being better than Donald Trump:
Most whites in America, including many of goodwill, proceed from the premise that equality is a loose expression for improvement. White America is not even psychologically organized to close the gap — essentially, it seeks only to make it less painful and less obvious but in most respects retain it.
As for whites benefitting from civil rights legislation, consider affirmative action.
CRT has a point in all of this. But this theory isn’t being taught in schools, trust me. How do I know you ask? Because the majority of teachers in the United States are white, nearly 80%. White teachers have a hard enough time teaching enslavement properly, or utilizing culturally relevant texts, instructional resources or engaging in what Dr. Jarvis Givens calls righteous sight teaching, that is students being made aware of the injustice surrounding them and be informed that these things were systematically and historically derived. If you can’t implement the lower case crt (culturally relevant teaching), then there’s no way you’ll be able to teach the upper case CRT (Critical Race Theory).
… Again, Teachers aren’t teaching CRT.
Because the Constitution doesn’t speak of education, the functions of educating are left to individual states to mandate. Therefore, we have some states teaching Black history and others outlawing it and calling it a ban on CRT. And, as Neely Fuller remarked,
Racism has done more to promote non-justice than any other socio-material system known to have been produced or supported by the people of the known universe.
Public schools, however, have an obligation to teach Black history as American history. Thankfully, some states are doing that, including my state of New Jersey. Teaching Black history accurately, teaching it as American and world history, which it is, will reveal the foundational nature of systemic racism and its impact throughout our nation’s existence.
Some may call that CRT, but I call it the truth.