I saw a tweet a while back that explained the craze behind preventing Critical Race Theory (CRT) being taught in schools. The tweet was a meme: a picture of Ms. Hazel Bryan Massery, one of the Little Rock Nine, walking to school amidst a riotous crowd, with a caption saying: “They just don’t want to explain to their kids what granny’s doing in the background of that pic from social studies class.”
Certainly, this meme is meant to be funny, but funny to expose a truth: that white people are arguing against white supremacy and systemic racism from being taught because they’re ashamed of their history. There is probably some truth to that.
But really, teaching students about white supremacy and systemic racism to students helps them make the connection between our past to the present, namely connecting the history of white supremacy and systemic racism to the development of our social and governance structures and how that explains the present circumstances of our communities and the nation-state.
The same is true concerning international affairs as well.
It’s a major reason why state legislatures, governors and even congresspersons have created, and even passed legislation to outlaw the teaching of CRT, the 1619 Project and systemic racism from public schools.
This is a nationwide effort; however, Texas is a state vying to take the lead.
Texas is the state whose governor passed legislation warning teachers from suggesting that, “slavery and racism are anything other than deviation from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to, the authentic founding principles of the United States.” Texas is the state whose state senators voted to strike Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech from the history curriculum.
As a result, districts throughout the state, like the Carroll School District, are working to help teachers navigate this new legislation. One district administrator from the Carroll School District suggested that if teachers discussed the Holocaust, they must use likewise teach an opposing view. The superintendent offered to clarify, saying, “as we continue to work through implementation of HB [House Bill] 3979, we also understand this bill does not require an opposing viewpoint on historical facts.”
But the administrator, who initially suggested this, was asked by a teacher how one would oppose the Holocaust, the administrator replied, “Believe me, that’s come up.”
It’s plausible to think that it’s “come up” because of the parents of district students; a group of parents have fought the district for over a year to prevent diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs within the district… and this isn’t indigenous to the Carroll School District.
Parents from the Katy ISD in Katy, Texas recently postponed an event with critically acclaimed children’s book author Jerry Craft after 400 parents demand that the event be canceled because they believe that his book, The New Kid—a story about the experiences of a 7th grade private school kid as one of the only students of color there—promotes CRT.
I’ve read the Craft’s book, a story about a 7th grade Black kind entering an all-white school environment and learning how to navigate it. It’s a great read for middle schoolers and there’s no mention of CRT.
As mentioned earlier, teaching students by interrogating the role of white supremacy and systemic racism in society will allow students to make connections between the past and present. Interrogating the role of white supremacy and systemic racism in society is Critical Race Theory. The majority of white parents say they don’t want CRT taught in schools, yet a majority of white parents support or oppose teaching about the ongoing effects of slavery and racism in the United States… that’s Critical Race Theory as well. I am not sure white parents really know what they want. Sadly, many of them march to the beat of politically conservative drummers.
Let’s return to Texas legislation. The legislation says:
“Teachers who choose to discuss current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs shall, to the best of their ability, strive to explore such issues from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective”
Anything is fair game for critique in this post-truth / post-fact society. Schools are certainly to blame prior to conservative rhetoric, myth-making and policy manipulating, but I digress. Again, anything is fair game for debate, even the Holocaust.
This was already the case where enslavement is concerned.
Bill O’Reilly said that enslaved persons were well fed and afforded decent lodging. Former congresswoman Michele Bachmann said that enslavement kept Black families together. Current U.S. Senator Tom Cotton said that enslavement was a necessary evil for the United States to be built. Even textbooks recorded enslaved persons as “happy.”
These weren’t parents making these claims at school boards with picket signs. These were members of the social and governing structures attempting to whiten the stain of enslavement. The Holocaust is no different, why? Because the United States has a stain to cover as well.
According to Yale Law School professor James Whitman, detailed in his book Hitler’s American Model, the authors of Nazi law were especially intrigued by the de facto legal degradation of Black people. Whitman continues:
“In the early 20th century, the United States was not just a country with racism. It was the leading racist jurisdiction—so much so that even Nazi Germany looked to America for inspiration…Segregation was the American version of the Nazi boycott. American racist employed Jim Crow Law ‘on all sides’ in order to raise American consciousness, just as Nazi thugs stood outside Jewish shops branding placards…and what the American example showed was that true race-based criminal law ought to be unapologetically racist criminal law.”
Nazi lawyers looked to American jurisprudence on how to institutionalize racism in the Third Reich. Some even traveled to the United States to study in law schools. So intrigued were Nazis concerning voter suppression, they made a map outlining where Black people were restricted with respect to voting as well as were miscegenation laws were on the books.
I am sure most parents protesting school boards don’t know this. However, it is in fact plausible to believe that members of the governing structure are very aware. Laws like the Texas law ensure that books like Dr. Whitman’s don’t see the light of day in schools.
White parents foolishly follow the pied piper.
In the same way one can deny the impact of enslavement while not denying that it happened, one can argue against the impact the Holocaust / Nazism while not denying its existence—although some have tried. Nevertheless, the Texas law allows for such trickeration to happen in the classroom.
Not that schools haven’t fed children lies or manipulated truth to students in the past. But now, in Texas and a few other states, those school districts have the official blessing of its government to do so. I am not sure the intention of that Carroll School District administrator. However, I get the intent of the Texas state government. They don’t want people making the connection between history and the present. If more states trend this way, our future is in question.