What’s up with Critical Race Theory?

/ October 24, 2021

In November’s 8th Open Discussion, RARE is honored to host Dr. Quintard Taylor, Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington, who will be speaking and taking questions on Critical Race Theory (please register here). The timing for Professor Quintard’s visit could not be more appropriate as Critical Race Theory (CRT) has become a catchphrase that has stoked the flames in the culture wars that have dominated American politics in this young century.

Eighteen months ago, CRT was known only in academic circles where it was studied in colleges and law schools. Today it has become a political weapon in the war of words on the cable channels and talk radio that has led to eight states passing laws that oppose its findings and in some cases from even mentioning racism in pre or post abolition America in public schools. As Rayshawn Brooks and Alexandra Gibbons point out in their article Why are states banning critical race theory, Fox News has mentioned critical race theory over 1,300 times in less than four months. The authors have called it “the new boogie man for people unwilling to acknowledge our country’s racist history and how it impacts the present”.

Brooks and Gibbons go beyond the vitriol in explaining what is and what isn’t CRT. They offer a number of links that are portals to articles that address and explain CRT and the debate around it. The authors point out the CRT focuses on racism that is embedded in institutions such as housing, lending, voting, incarceration rates, and access to education. CRT looks at these institutions and the outcomes that have derived from them.

The theory does not attach blame, nor even mention any particular race as the perpetrators of racism. It focuses on institutions and outcomes. Yet, as the authors show, “conservative” talk radio and cable television, have made it personal which has greatly riled the Republican base, made the Critical Race Theory a “toxic” phrase, and has led to passage of laws in eight states and proposed laws in several others that would affect how history is taught in the classrooms. (The article provides an appendix listing all proposed and enacted legislation.) Such laws, tweeted sociologist Victor Ray, have led to an inadvertent and ironic confirmation that racism is indeed embedded in our laws.

The authors take Republican leaders to task for their blanket use of Martin Luther King’s statement that individuals should be judged by “the content of their character” to condone these new laws. Governors from Florida to Idaho have quoted King but have omitted the wrongs and the cruelty Black Americans endured that King had stated before making his plea.

History is not colorblind, our authors contend, and by denying truths we do not do our children nor our country any service.

Nor do we help heal what history has wrought.

Please join us on November 8 when Dr. Taylor joins our open discussion to share his thoughts and take questions on Critical Race Theory.