In recent years, Critical Race Theory has become increasingly prominent in public debate and is possibly one of the most contentious issues in American life, given that people on both sides view it as an essential turning point for the ongoing culture wars. CRT has roots in an academic movement of civil rights scholars that critically examine laws and legislation and how they intersect with race issues. Currently, much of the controversy surrounding CRT goes beyond its validity as a concept, but whether schools in the United States should teach it to young students. Opponents of CRT claim that its central tenets are factually wrong and only divide the country, while proponents believe it is an essential part of a historically aware education. As always, we will outline some of the most common arguments from each side.
Core tenets of CRT
From the American Bar Association, Purdue University, and Brittanica
- The belief that race is a culturally invented category used to oppress people of color.
- The law and legal institutions in the United States are inherently racist insofar as they function to create and maintain social, political, and economic inequalities between white and nonwhite people.
- Rejection of popular understandings about racism, such as arguments that confine racism to a few “bad apples.” CRT recognizes that racism is codified in law, embedded in structures, and woven into public policy. CRT rejects claims of meritocracy or “colorblindness.” CRT recognizes that it is the systemic nature of racism that bears primary responsibility for reproducing racial inequality.
- Recognition of the relevance of people’s everyday lives to scholarship. This includes embracing the lived experiences of people of color, including those preserved through storytelling, and rejecting deficit-informed research that excludes the epistemologies of people of color.
Republicans generally are against Critical Race Theory. They view it as an untrue ideology that only divides the country along racial lines and accentuates our differences rather than our commonalities, something extremely dangerous to the shared social fabric. Thus Republicans are against teaching CRT in schools and favor laws that ban materials like the 1619 project from being used as part of the curriculum in public schools. Furthermore, Republicans note that critical race theory only promotes explicit racism by promoting racial guilt — that is to say that someone from a specific skin color should be guilty of something that they themselves didn't do, but rather that their race did in the past — it teaches students to judge each other based off the color of their skin rather than the content of their character. Another common trait of CRT in school curriculums is to ask white students to "renounce their whiteness," a specific targeting of a certain race, insinuating something inherently wrong with being white. Furthermore, many CRT scholars claim that everyone, but more specifically white Americans, has implicit biases responsible for possibly racist behavior, a theory that has no basis in social science and only makes us hate one another.
CRT is not only bad for those it wrongly accuses of racism or the guilt it gives white students, but it also has adverse effects on racial minorities. CRT indoctrinates minorities into believing that they will always be victims, and also ascribes a high moral status to being a victim — something terrible for self-development, which goes against the values of individualism on which this country has prospered; it also teaches minority students to see their peers through the lens of race and oppression politics, rather than as fellow Americans, or even friends.
Most democrats support Critical Race Theory, especially its implementation in schools and special training, validating it as a necessary wake-up call to the racial inequalities within society. By realizing said inequalities, proponents argue that one gains self-awareness of institutional, historical, and cultural racism, something which yields individuals who cause positive change. For instance, the 1619 Project, originally a journal article with the fundamental premise that America's founding was not in 1776 when the founding fathers signed the declaration of In, but in 1619 when the first African slaves arrived, is a notion which Democratic scholars believe to be a revolutionary historical retelling, capable of manifesting awareness. Proponents also argue that CRT is a necessary addition to school curriculum since it can be used to dismantle systems of oppression; they note that students must see color to accept systemic racism and that the idea of a "color-blind society" is an ahistorical and unrealistic prospect which will never come to pass. The 1619 project, at the core, aims to teach students that America was founded on slavery and racism. The lead journalist, Nikole Hannah Jones, desires to project a history more accurate than its predecessor. She believes not incorporating the 1619 project into schools' curricula would be denying students a look at history and its ramifications in the present day. As of February, 12th 2021, the 1619 project has been implemented into the curriculum of 4,500 schools with the goal of educating students on America's dark, skewed past.
- What do you already know about CRT and what are your thoughts on it? (Go around and let everyone speak)
- Are the core tenets of CRT true?
- Should we aim for a color-blind society?
- Is America currently suffering from systemic racism? If so, in what aspects?
- If so, is this beyond repair?
- Should CRT be implemented in schools?
Curry, Tommy. “Critical Race Theory.” In Encyclopedia Britannica, December 31, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/topic/critical-race-theory.
Foster, Kmele, David French, Jason Stanley, and Thomas Chatterton Williams. “Opinion | We Disagree on a Lot of Things. Except the Danger of Anti-Critical Race Theory Laws.” The New York Times, July 5, 2021, sec. Opinion. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/05/opinion/we-disagree-on-a-lot-of-things-except-the-danger-of-anti-critical-race-theory-laws.html.
Mastrine, Julie. “AllStancesTM: Critical Race Theory.” AllSides, March 16, 2021. https://www.allsides.com/blog/perspectives-critical-race-theory.
Purdue Writing Lab. “Critical Race Theory // Purdue Writing Lab.” Purdue Writing Lab, 2018. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/subject_specific_writing/writing_in_literature/literary_theory_and_schools_of_criticism/critical_race_theory.html.
Wikipedia Contributors. “Critical Race Theory.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, March 14, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_race_theory.
Zigerell, L.J. “Black and White Discrimination in the United States: Evidence from an Archive of Survey Experiment Studies.” Research & Politics 5, no. 1 (January 2018): 205316801775386. https://doi.org/10.1177/2053168017753862.