Critical Race Theory is not meant to divide

The George Floyd murder and other high-profile murders of blacks last summer sparked a wave of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts to provide more education about racism and its harmful effects. Many of these efforts have been linked to the academic concept called Critical Race Theory, which postulates that racism is not simply acts of individual prejudice or prejudice, but rather is embedded in institutions, policies and legal systems. .

Not surprisingly, critical race theory has become the target of ongoing cultural wars in the United States. Recently, Texas became the fifth state to pass a critical racial theory bill, House Bill 3979, which states that “a teacher cannot be compelled to discuss a particular event or issue. controversial issue of public policy or social affairs which is currently widely debated ”. If teachers choose to teach this type of material, they should “to the best of their ability, endeavor to explore the topic from diverse and conflicting perspectives without showing deference to any particular perspective”. More than a dozen other states are also considering bills critical of racial theory.

Negative reactions to critical race theory have come to a head, with reports describing emotional parents in lively forums denouncing what they believe to be the evils of critical race theory. There is now a vigorous conservative movement fueled by activists and politicians who claim that critical race theory is divisive, hostile and anti-American, obsessed with race and “hateful lies” and teaches children to think so. hate each other.

Critical Race Theory is not hostile, confrontational, or anti-American. This characterization is a politicized distortion of theory that prevents and penalizes any discussion of the idea that systemic racism is, unfortunately, still very much present in American society.

Critics of Critical Race Theory use it as an umbrella term to describe any examination of current systemic racism. It doesn’t matter if the schools actually teach Critical Race Theory. In some cases, the charges of teaching critical race theory are simply teachers teaching racism. Although I never explicitly taught Critical Race Theory, I do teach how the systemic racism of American society and the perpetuation of anti-Black messages were factors that led to the creation of the Association of Black Psychologists. I give students examples of how black messages of impairment, pathology and inferiority are incorporated into school practices (eg, disproportionate criminalization of behavior of black boys and girls).

It seems that the ultimate goal of anti-critical racial theory efforts is to prevent any discussion of racism that portrays America as less than perfect. Perhaps people should be reminded that the first 15 words of the Preamble – “We, the people of the United States, to form a more perfect union” – suggest that the Founding Fathers understood that America was work. In progress. Critical Race Theory reminds us that when it comes to race America remains far from perfect and still in the works.

There is nothing insidious or anti-American about acknowledging this fact. One can love America and simultaneously criticize the way structural racism has perpetuated racial inequalities such as in health care, a fact acknowledged in a recent article in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

Law professor Kimberle Crenshaw, who coined the term “critical race theory,” has suggested that much of what is called critical race theory in the media are ideas with which no supporter. would not agree.

For example, a Critical Racial Theory Bill introduced in West Virginia prohibits teachers from teaching “concepts of division” such as teaching that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or another sex ”and“ an individual should be discriminated against or receive unfavorable treatment solely or in part on the basis of race or sex.

However, there is nothing in Critical Race Theory that advocates these beliefs.

As a professor of psychology and black studies for over two decades, the recognition of historical and current systemic racism has long been an important focus of my teaching. For those who believe that teaching critical race theory or teaching systemic racism is “hostile, divisive, race-obsessed, and anti-American,” I would disagree.

I have taught extensively on issues related to race and systemic racism, and have been recognized for my teaching excellence by being inducted into both the University of Texas at Austin and the System Academy of Distinguished Teachers from the University of Texas. I have taught students of various racial and ethnic backgrounds, including many white students. I’ve taught students with diverse political views, and I’ve taught students who don’t always agree with me. Either way, I challenge my students, but I also allow myself to be challenged.

I have never taught that a race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex, and I have never taught that an individual should be discriminated against on the basis of race or sex. I have never placed racial guilt on college students by separating them into oppressors and oppressed, as claimed in a recent email I received pleading with me to defeat Critical Race Theory in my state.

This is not to say that there are not supporters of critical race theory whose approaches to teaching critical race theory can be cumbersome. In such cases, critics should separate the critical race T theory from the messenger. Critics should also recognize intellectual diversity. For example, while some critical race theorists believe racial discrimination is a lifelong condition, others have more hope.

The point is, Critical Race Theory fosters difficult – but much-needed – discussions about race and systemic racism in this country. As the national debate on critical race theory continues, I hope people take the time to educate themselves on what is done versus what is fiction.

Kevin Cokley is Oscar and Anne Mauzy Regents Professor of Educational Research and Development and Director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis at the University of Texas at Austin.

A version of this editorial appeared in USA today.

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