Why Is Critical Race Theory under attack?

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Local Voices

Elvis Slaughter

Much confusion surrounds the meaning of Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT is new to many people I have talked with recently and me. But we all concluded that although the acronym and phrase might be new to some, this subject was debated in history books and courts for longer than a century before the Jim Crow Laws, which can be an excellent example for CRT teaching.

Last year, Thornton Fractional School District 215, whose school board was 86 percent white at the time, boldly changed its hiring policies and system. The school board is now 29 percent white. These changes occurred after much discussion and public communication from community stakeholders, including myself. The changes were made to hiring and education policies embedded with disparities for minorities. Besides removing the “Rebel” name associated with the Confederate soldier mascot, the school system once considered 99.9 percent white is now about 90 percent minority, received pushback from fans of the Rebel symbol.

I recall reading literature by Frank Fetters, who attended Thornton Fractional High School in Calumet City in 1958. In his writing, Fetters said there were only five African-American students: Ruby and Sonny Stimich, the Walker brothers, and Ray Stuckey. When he attended TF South in Lansing the year it opened, there were none.

He also recalled being a curriculum coordinator for the Black Education Program at Eastern Washington University in the early 1970s. The curriculum included information that would be classified as CRT today, and yes, he said, “Much of those attempts to foster racial harmony and understanding have been scaled back since then.” He also believes the future of the USA must rely on racial and ethnic diversity and that as it is constituted, Lansing is an excellent example of a community moving forward to embrace all it can be.

CRT is one concept that has piqued the interest of many people in public discourse, especially in K–12. Part of this is the efforts made by several legislatures now debating bills meant to halt CRT in classrooms. That Fox News mentioned CRT about 1,300 times within four months is strong proof of its increased popularity. CRT is now a bogeyman for those unprepared to acknowledge not just the racist theory of the US but also how it affects our lives.

The concept of CRT started in the 1970s when legal scholars and activists attempted to identify how the victories achieved during the civil-rights era became stagnant and were rolled back. In the early 1980s, Derrick Bell walked away from his position at Harvard because he did not support the perceived discriminatory practices in the institution. Students of color at Harvard also protested when they observed the university’s lack of racial diversity in the curriculum, faculty, and students. The protesters’ failure to accomplish their goal through the protest compelled some such as Kimberlé Crenshaw and Mari Matsuda to develop an alternative course using Bell’s Race, Racism, and American Law as the core text.

What is Critical Race Theory? In simple terms, we can see CRT as a social science theory and tool that assists us in discovering more about our world. Those who support CRT believe that the theory does not attribute racism to all whites as groups of people or individuals. Instead, the theory states that various social institutions in the US (such as the criminal justice system, housing, education, healthcare, and the labor market) are laced with racism.

We can find racism in laws, procedures, and regulations that lead to differential results by race. Sociologists and scholars have long discovered that racism exists even in the absence of racists. Scholars and activists interested in CRT are not implying that we should blame white individuals for past events. Instead, they think white individuals must act on several ways racism affects our lives. Any policy established to stamp out this crucial national conversation impedes the realization of an equitable democracy.

Why ban Critical Race Theory? The position of some critics regarding CRT is that it fosters discrimination against whites while attempting to achieve equity. But most debates on CRT do not focus on academic texts; instead, they focus on the fear critics harbor that the theory will expose students (primarily white students) to certain ideas that, in their opinion, are damaging and self-demoralizing. Those who support the ban on CRT often cite the famous proclamation of Martin Luther King Jr. that we should not view an individual by their skin color but by the content of their character. But they do not also acknowledge the context of the quote and what it means.

Some Republican-led state legislatures and communities adopted an approach that will eventually roll back racial progress made in various aspects of our life, especially in voting rights and police reform locally and nationally. This trend is not the best for our children, and as sociologist Victor Ray explained, enacting laws that will outlaw CRT is strong proof that racism is an aspect of the law.

The truth about our history should be told no matter your race, gender, or sexuality. This CRT can help fix violence plaguing Chicago and other locations in the US, including the minority education and healthcare disparities discussed at the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Therefore, critics of CRT should refrain from saying, “CRT is trying to fix something not broken.” There is always room for improvement that will benefit everyone, and CRT is just another tool that should not be feared.

Elvis Slaughter

Sources

  1. Crenshaw, Kimberlé, Neil Gotanda, Gary Peller, and Kendall Thomas, eds. Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement. New York: The New Press. 1996.
  2. Gottesman, Isaac. “Critical Race Theory and Legal Studies.” In The Critical Turn in Education: From Marxist Critique to Poststructuralist Feminism to Critical Theories of Race. New York: Taylor & Francis. 2016.
  3. Ray, Rashawn and Alexandra Gibbons. “Why Are States Banning Critical Race Theory?” Brookings. July 2021. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2021/07/02/why-are-states-banning-critical-race-theory/.
  4. Redstone, Ilana. “A Straightforward Primer on Critical Race Theory (and Why It Matters).” Forbes. July 18, 2021. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ilanaredstone/2021/07/18/a-straightforward-primer-on-critical-race-theory-and-why-it-matters/.
  5. Sawchuk, Stephen. “What Is Critical Race Theory, and Why Is It Under Attack?” EducationWeek. May 18, 2021. https://www.edweek.org/leadership/what-is-critical-race-theory-and-why-is-it-under-attack/2021/05

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16 COMMENTS

  1. A hammer is tool. CRT is a weapon. Human beings are not theoretical. Nor is their history theoretical. Truth is “self-evident”. Truth works flawlessly in every situation. Truth is not subject to interpretation, personal experience, a man’s ambitions or another man’s fears. The problem with CRT is that it is not truth. The truth (regarding history) needs to be told. From the class systems of India to the peasant and ruling classes of China… This is a HUMAN issue. No one is immune to the internal brokenness that is inferiority. Superiority (currently known as racism) is the extroversion of inferiority. We can not claim that we are not blaming whites for past events (and with the same forked tongue) demand that they be instrumental (responsible even) for “acting on ways that racism effects our lives”. People who believe they are inferior support the delusional superiority of others. I am the only one responsible for changing the effects of racism on my life because I am the only one responsible for my life. Changing the color of school board members and labeling that change “progress” further supports the false doctrine of white superiority. It sends a message that the problem is in the color of the human …instead of in the heart of the human. What have you accomplished if your new “minority” board members still see whites as too powerful (a.k.a. superior). Is the school board better off if the board is more than 51% black???? Why is it that there is an unwritten law that the term “minority” is used to describe every racial demographic other than white?????? None of this is progress. It is simply more of the same. Collective dominance is slavery. Switching which demographic is collectively dominant does nothing to address a man’s heart and malevolence. True history will repeat itself and the new faction will use collective malevolence to depose the old regime and assume their chains. Blaming republicans, the US or the weather is simply abdication of responsibility. We have everything we need for life inside of us. The only thing we need to be critical of is ourselves. CHANGE ALWAYS STARTS WITH THE MAN IN THE MIRROR……

  2. Thank you for clearly explaining what CRT is about. Change is difficult for most but imperative for all.

  3. I’ll use just a few words to say that I think what Mr. Pierce is offering is not supported by evidence. I think Mr. Pierce means well, but his words are confusing. While he offers some interesting thoughts, his argument seems to go all over the map, and, while he makes several generalizations, he doesn’t bolster these with supporting information. Perhaps he would be willing to explain to us how EXACTLY Critical Race Theory is a weapon.

    In my experience, any attempt to dismiss Critical Race Theory without offering proof is merely an effort to dismiss any argument, pro or con, regarding race relations.

    I also want to stress that, in the earliest days of the Republic, starting with the death of Crispus Attucks at the Boston Tea Party, Black participation in America’s defense of liberty and equality has continued throughout all wars. including the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the War Between the States, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and continuing even to this day. We seem to have a situation now where non-white participants fight for freedom and equality yet fail to fully participate in the benefits thereof. If you think that statement is not true, I direct you to the Internet and John Oliver’s HBO program called LAST WEEK TONIGHT, Show #18. It’s easy to find, and the conclusive arguments supporting my contention are presented by Oliver there.

    When I was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, my fellow Marines included black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans and citizens from other countries who hoped that their participation might help to put them on a path to full citizenship in America. This crew wasn’t much different in its ethnic makeup from earlier confrontations. In the Spanish American War, the troops Teddy Roosevelt led up San Juan Hill were comprised of African-American “Buffalo soldiers”, Native American Indians, and former Confederate soldiers. This signals to me that the same quest for full citizenship for those who defended our nation is still ongoing and has not been totally resolved. When detractors try to ridicule the “Black Lives Matter” by saying “ALL Lives Matter”, they are purposely misrepresenting what BLM members are saying. The opposite of “Black Lives Matter is NOT “ALL Lives Matter”! The opposite of “Black Lives Matter is “Black Lives DON’T Matter!” Throughout American history, for every attempt at equal citizenship, there seems to be, even in this day and age, racist forces trying disenfranchise those who are not Caucasian. AND THAT WILL MAKE US ALL WEAKER.

    I have yet to read a diatribe against critical race theory that actually takes the time to identify every single point they disagree with and offer true information to support their argument. Rather, what I see over and over again, is the effort to turn “Critical Race Theory” into a buzzword and promote the idea that whenever something can be identified as such, the logical and correct approach to it is to dismiss all of it without further examination or explanation.

    I want to thank Elvis Slaughter for his insightful thoughts and his effort to continue this important discussion.

    Sincerely and Respectfully,
    Frank Fetters

  4. All citizens of the US are free to express their opinions as they see fit. The perspectives of the many can benefit the tribe. Even negative perspectives. It is the “ill” perspective of superiority that drives one man to marginalize another man or that other man’s thoughts. I clearly understand that commenting in a public forum inevitably will invite agreement, disagreement, criticism, and edification through fruitful exchange. Mr. Fetters you are unable to speak(or imply) about my intentions (specifically: if I “mean well” or not) because no man knows another man’s heart. No man is greater than another man. Race relations is a human construct. There are only human relations. It is the construction of said differences that facilitates such condescending behavior. The pre-described condescending behavior 1st reveals how you see me,(but more importantly) reveals how you see yourself. I never asked you to speak for me or provide an exegesis of my comment. Your recent behavior towards me…..still has value because it serves as evidence to the substance of my original comment. The evidentiary process that you are attempting to impose upon me is subjective. “Proof” in and of itself is a generalization. One man can accept something as proof while another man can discount it. I did not dismiss CRT. I spoke to it’s substance. I also spoke about the truth being “self-evident”. The truth is for those who have an ear. It does not require support or bolstering. It does not follow any of our rules. It is above us. It is better than us….that is why we can build our lives on it. What ever is not truth can only be used to tear us down. That is true nature of a weapon. The resounding theme throughout all the tenets of CRT is that white people are specifically identified as being the BENEFICIARY of the social economic injustices that directly affect minorities. This is a lie. No one benefits from oppression hatred, bigotry, discrimination or the cutting down of men. This is exactly why I specifically addressed “assuming the chains of the previous regime”. Those who deem themselves superior will always create a thirst for what they have (perceived wealth, power, opportunity, etc.) To quote Kanye West. (Song:2004 All Falls Down) “they get us to hate ourselves and love they wealth”. A beneficiary is considered to be advantaged. Anyone who has an advantage is perceived to possess said advantage because of an esteemed difference that the observer does not possess. The same thought process is mirrored by a child who thinks that his / her parents’ divorce is “their fault”. Advantage always reflects back “fault”. CRT teaches us that we have been and are disadvantage. CRT places the scarlet letter of fault it’s targeted demographic (the minority). MOST IMPORTANTLY….CRT does not hold the individual responsible. Every system, institution, government and business is composed of ………individuals.

  5. Mr. Pierce, no one attacked you and Mr. Fetters simply stated that when anyone proposes a position to others it is helpful for the recipients of that position to have supporting information to determine if they feel it is meaningful.

    In your first post you mention that humans are not theoretical and neither is their history. In your second post you mention that no one is a beneficiary of racism, oppression and hatred. How is that possible? When redlining was implemented as a system and banking institutions denied loans and property to black citizens, but then provided funds and land to white citizens. How did that not benefit the recipient of the finances and property? When citizens of one skin color were forced to work without pay and couldn’t own property, while citizens of another skin color received free labor, which allowed them to accumulate wealth and land, how can you say one group didn’t benefit? This is real history of real humans in a real country, not theory, correct? In reality, someone was a beneficiary, right?

    You also say that truth is self evident. How exactly does that work? Can someone walk into a court room, or defend their doctorate thesis, or state they have found a cure for a disease and only offer that “proof is subjective” and truth is “self-evident”? You are correct, everyone is free to state their opinion in the manner they see fit. However, if someone wants to inform others with an opinion/statement/belief/truth maybe they should give them supporting facts (which unfortunately have become subjective) to weigh the truth in the words (like showing work on math homework) so each can judge for themselves (rightly or wrongly)?

  6. Mr. Purnell,

    The core underlying tenet of racism is to psychologically position a man to look to another man for his own prosperity. The man who abdicates personal responsibility enters pre-made systems by accepting his chain. The TRUTH is: each man is responsible for his own life. Personal responsibility includes critical thinking and managing our own motivations, emotions and feelings. Each man (or woman) is unique and has a path. I respect myself and my own uniqueness, while embracing the humbling fact that every human that I share this planet with is having a similar experience. Any attempts to lord over those experiences can only be interpreted by me as disrespect; 1st to me, then to my neighbor. Such actions would reveal that I have determined that I am wiser than my creator and I must rescue both myself and my “deficient” neighbor from their ordained plight. Unfortunately, K-12 students who are force feed CRT in public schools across this country are currently unable to opt out of said experience. I have no interest in manipulating anyone. Manipulation is a snare. Truth does it’s own work. Truth has a destination that I was never responsible for. My course is to make my statements; not to designate recipients of said statements. It is the uniqueness that I previously mentioned that is realized when we interact with each other. I appreciate the civil nature of your questions. I am your neighbor in this “real” world. I am not proposing an ideal. I am not running current and past events through a filter composed of alternate reality. I am not redefining the word “benefit”. I am merely focusing on it’s true definition. MLK studied religion, theology, sociology, ethics, psychology, and philosophy. Although he was observed as face of the civil rights movement; he was not the only leader of the movement. There were others with similar zeal and enthusiasm who did not prefer his methods (example: nonviolence). MLK had the appropriate perspective of the “man” that we call the “racist”. He could see below their actions into the sub-basements where their motivations were stored. He was able to focus on WHY they behaved the way they did. All his strategies were derived from this focus. The promoters of racism used the exact same strategy (of the Y) to oppress minorities. The bus strike did not change racists hearts. The bus strike made it abundantly clear that black dollars significantly impacted the bottom line of the transportation industry. It also displayed the resolve and entrepreneurial capability of blacks as they quickly upstarted their own temporary public transportation system. MLK knew that the motivation was “money”. All human decision making is emotionally based. One man can feel content because he made a logical decision and is most comfortable when he knows that he made a logical decision. Another man makes a decision based off of raw emotion and enjoys the feeling he gets once the decision is made. Both men were motivated by emotion. Each man wakes daily to pursue a constantly morphing utopia that is unattainable. This self-prescribed ideal state of perfectness is the illusive dangling carrot. Most people consider the word benefit to mean financial gain, profit or some form of enhancement. A benefit is an experience. Humans are not just physical. We are emotional /mental creatures. A benefit is not a benefit if it lacks enjoyment. The unattainable utopia that I previously mentioned resembles a form of wholeness. If there is no balance the is no sense of wholeness. Like the rich man who commits suicide. Or the drug dealer who lives in fear of being caught or murdered by rivals. The wealthy celebrity who gets to the pinnacle of fame but is isolated and has no one to share his life experiences with. The African slaves would sing songs and commune with each other in the small window of time they had after sundown. During these times they experienced a peace, freedom, contentment and wholeness…..WHILE THEY WERE ENSLAVED. This is what every man seeks….whether they are aware of it or not. With or without a conscience there is no benefit to evil. This is the truth. Those who envy others have no idea what is really at the top of that ladder. The racist who hangs the black woman hates himself both before and after he murdered the woman. Evil is a ruthless taskmaster and provides NO rest to those who are driven by it. Each one is driven into the grave. The true definition of benefit is fulfillment. Those who harm are not fulfilled…they are empty. Redlining only worked on those who seek to participate in the white controlled systems. If whites can create systems…so can blacks or anyone else. And blacks DID AND DO create their own systems. I personally have benefited from many shut doors. It’s preservation at his best. The white man is not responsible for my prosperity. People should read books about slave owners and the lives of them and their families. Its not a pretty picture. Loosing your soul is not a benefit. Real men in the real world often ignore the real spiritual / soul dynamic that is really part of the human. It is what is ignored that runs the entire life of the man. An individual man can held accountable for his actions and how he neglected or addressed his own internal motivations. A system or institution CAN NOT be held accountable. CRT focuses on the systems and institutions. Such a focus guarantees that the problem will never change. No change equals the (so called) disadvantaged remaining imprisoned in victim-hood. This is the intention of CRT.

  7. I am gratified that the Lansing Journal provides a forum for discussion on important social matters.
    Some of your questions, concerns and, opinions could be answered and possibly modified by doing a google search for BOB MALKAS.
    i have written a number of articles that you might find interesting and informative.
    The best explanation of CRT is in Mark Levin book American Marxism.
    Just remember it is a theory and not necessarily fact.
    I have completed a book charting the Human Relation History in Lansing since 2017.
    It just needs to be printed. When finished my plan is to print 25 copies and circulate them to Lansing people and groups that have expressed opinions on human relation issues.-no charge.
    Remember I only deal with facts.
    I leave opinions to the national media.

  8. Mr. Malkas-

    Your comments are valuable. I think the book you wrote is also valuable.

    Mr. Purnell-

    I appreciated your comments as well. Very much.

    Mr. Pierce-

    I am wondering if your goal is to obfuscate your arguments rather than support them. If the topic were less serious, I would probably laugh and marvel at your ability to say so little with such a large group of words. Until you actually take the time to support your arguments with facts, I will not be responding to your further comments.

    Finally, to Mr. Slaughter-

    Thank you for bringing up this issue again so we could talk about it.

    Respectfully,
    Frank Fetters

  9. Mr. Fetters,
    The demand for conformity always exposes the limits and fears of the one demanding conformity. People will only go as far as their chains will let them. Those who have been unchained will never be bound again. There is one race..it is the human race. Humans have marginalized and insulted other humans since man existed. Those who are on the receiving end of such inappropriate human relations are not victims. The one who marginalizes is the victim of his own action. It is the one who tells the truth that infects his neighbor with freedom.

  10. I want to address Elvis Slaughter here. Unfortunately, my friend, this is what happens when people refuse to consider an issue. They will quibble about surface aspects of it, they will turn it into a buzzword to discourage any further discusion of it, and they will detract from it so as not to sharpen the dialogue and foster any kind of clarity concerning what’s at stake. But they will not allow the conversation to focus on the core of the problem. Opponents of critical race theories do not want this discussion to take place because they don’t want their children sensitized to issues concerning race, gender or ethnicity. We know from what just a few people have had the courage to speak about publicly that white parents are concerned that their children will be upset and confused by activities in schools that might make them targets of arbitrary discrimination exercises where children are chosen to be part of an artificial minority for the purpose of making them understand the discrimination and oppression that this exercise might cause, and my personal opinion is that they are right to be concerned. Yet empathy is not usually shown for the very real discrimination and oppression created by ethnic, gender and racial exclusion in the classroom and in the community. And whenever this happens, America is the weaker for it. To be at our strongest, we must do our best to maximize the potential of ALL the children!

    I guess the standard approach by racists is to make fun of this effort to maximize the potential of all students, regardless of what category they fall into. To me, this is a slippery slope, one that is severe enough to cause the collapse of our democracy. And YES! I do think it is EXACTLY that serious!

    Sincerely and Respectfully,
    Frank Fetters

  11. Yes! I totally agree Frank. This article was not intended to promote CRT, but to give a better understanding of CRT from researched sources. The dialogue itself from everyone made this conversation very unique and valuable. I am also grateful that the Lansing Journal allowed us to have this conversation. It is obvious that many Lansing citizens, including myself appreciate honest and sincere dialogue.

  12. All diversity training is racist. A parent can make the appropriate effort to teach their child to respect themself and others. An adult in a major corporation knows their own heart. Awareness (regarding heart issues) does not cause change. Behavior modification has minimal value. No one is racist by accident. Re-training a police officer wont change the police officer’s behavior if that police officers’ heart is rotten. Racism is hate projected outward. No human can fix this issue. Hate will always be a spiritual issue. For those who do not have this issue; forced exposure to such negativity is misery increasing it’s company. Perhaps the schools should force our kids to inject heroin in their bodies so they know what it feels like. Maybe that will prevent them from doing the drug?? Diversity training is equally absurd. “White” parents are not the only opponents to CRT. Parents that represent all ethinicties make great efforts and sacrifices to raise their children to be empathetic citizens who contribute positively to the country’s communities. The parent who intends for their child to not grow up racist discovers that the child’s school is forcing the child to practice racist behavior. This is the classic example of hurt people hurting people. The government agencies that are responsible for overseeing / monitoring the counterfeiting of money have their agents study only genuine currency. They do not study counterfeit currency. Being an expert of real money places them in the best position to identify a forgery. Our children should be learning about appropriate relations. Our children should be trained to recognize and manage their own emotions. The previous generation and the ones before did not have such training in schools and remain unhealed (even in this very moment) because of it. Their age places them in positions of control and they formulate damaging policies programs such as diversity training. The goal of CRT and all diversity training is to pass the bitterness on. “LESS WE FORGET”. There is no diversity when it involves the heart because there is only one heart. An black man can receive a heart transplant from a white donor. I deal with things from the root. I am having this conversation intentionally. I want the roots of CRT and all similar doctrines to be exposed. It is disheartening to see that there is an entire generation of unhealed people (and specifically)black people who will die full of venom; and they did not bite themselves. It’s a perfect plan. They have the power to influence a better wolrd but the venom makes them impotent. This country (intentionally)increasingly minimizes the efforts to acknowledge the importance of mental / emotional health and it’s effects on a generation. Diversity training is the wrong way. So many people feel that dealing with their trauma would put them in a position where they would be even more vulnerable and unsupported. The true vulnerability is in remaining unhealed. People should take a moment to consider who really benefits from such ignorance in our country’s people.

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