Over the past year, thousands of Americans have had revelations about racism and the effect it has had on those who endure it. Hopefully, you have, too. As a result of these recent findings, there has also been a push to teach critical race theory. Critical race theory (also known as CRT) uses an academic approach to uncover the (systemic) racism rooted in the United States’ history and laws. As an African American woman and a student, I believe the teaching of critical race theory is crucial to a liberal education, and to creating a generation of informed adults.
In We Disagree on a Lot of Things. Except the Danger of Anti-Critical Race Theory Laws by Kmele Foster, David French, Jason Stanley, and Thomas Chatterton Williams for the New York Times, it is argued that the banning of critical race theory in schools poses a major threat to liberal education. Their argument begins by citing Tennessee House Bill SB 0623, which prohibits teaching of any concept that would make a student uncomfortable because of that student’s race or sex. Tennessee, Oklahoma, Idaho, and Texas have also passed similar legislation, according to the article. The writers of this column come from all different places on the political spectrum, but are united on the idea that the prohibition of this language from the classroom would also prevent the teaching of other historical events, such as the Holocaust. To conclude, the authors of this article suggest the enforcement of existing civil rights laws if students express discomfort, but also highlight the idea that if America is a perfect place, it is because its citizens are open to criticism about their pasts and the failures of their government.
I stand in agreement with the writers of this article. I completed elementary school around this time last month, and I am unable to think of a year when history did not also intersect with race and oppression. In fifth grade, it was a sugar-coated summary of the Trail of Tears and an introduction to the U.S. government. In sixth, it was the history of the ancient Egyptians, ancient Rome, ancient Greece, ancient Mesopotamia, and Europe (pre enlightenment). In seventh, it was World War I, World War II, The Holocuast, and the attacks of September 11th, 2001 and its effects. This year, it was United States history from the time Christopher Columbus “discovered” America to the Cold War. Without learning about slavery (Egypt, 15th century South America, American slavery), race (the Holocaust, American slavery, effects of 9/11), and oppression, these lessons woul not have been possible. It is for this reason that I ask in what aspects of history, and life, is race not seen? If you agree to there being many areas of life impacted by racism and privilege, how do you teach about those areas without acknowledging race?
I mentioned earlier that I am an African American woman. It is because of my race and ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status that I have faced many hardships. For the entirety of my academic career, I have attended institutions where black people, and people of color in general, are the minority. I know that they have faced some of the hardships that I have for who they are. We have been in a state of permanent discomfort. Anti-critical race theory laws say that they do not want students to feel discomfort because of who they are and the history of their people. To make the world a better place for me, and people who look like me, is it impossible for my non-black counterparts to be uncomfortable for a class period?
Selah F. McCray, Episcopal High School (VA), DMSF
Image credit: unsplash.com