By Ken Burrows Amid the competing personal and political headlines of the early Trump presidency, one story that’s been comparatively quiet has been Trump’s executive order on “religious freedom.” A
Critical Race Theory.
Citizens Project is opposed to the banning of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in schools and training programs.
Opponents of CRT—including politicians such as former President Trump, Congressman Lamborn, and others—wrongfully claim that CRT is divisive because it argues that White Americans are inherently racist and that people of color are victims of White Americans in all aspects of life.
In fact, CRT argues that racism is systemic, that people of different races are not treated equally in our laws and policies, and that—as a society—we have the ability to change laws and policies to create true equity and equality for all. CRT does not argue that people are inherently racist, but that institutions are racist if they are structured in a way that perpetuates racial discrimination.
Why Citizens Project is against banning CRT:
- Bans against the teaching of CRT violate freedom of speech in the classroom. The Supreme Court has previously found (Board of Education vs. Pico, 1982) that local school boards cannot prescribe books used in schools if this imposes on First Amendment rights, because the intent of the prescription is to limit access and discussion of varied political perspectives and other matters of opinion.
- Critical Race Theory is not a subject taught in K-12 schools, so any ban creates confusion and uncertainty in the minds of educators. Since opponents of CRT often have a skewed understanding of CRT, K-12 educators will often not know whether a concept they are teaching—including concepts mandated by a state’s civic curriculum or the impact of slavery and Jim Crow laws in the United States—is considered by others as banned.
- A ban on CRT would create similar uncertainty regarding training programs that have been developed to prevent discrimination and improve the inclusion of diverse groups in schools and workplaces. Even if such programs may have been directly or indirectly influenced by CRT, programs to foster inclusion and prevent discrimination should not be caught up in such ban.
What is CRT anyway?
Critical Race Theory refers to a body of publications about the nature of race and racism in the United States written by scholars in various fields including legal studies and sociology, with publications beginning in the 1970s. This literature offers a framework for thinking about the problem of racism, and it is grounded in research and facts about the history of policies affecting the freedoms of people of color as well as statistical disparities that exist between White Americans and people of color in many aspects of life including access to education, healthcare, criminal justice, and wealth.
Different scholars who contribute to critical race theory offer many different perspectives about racism, but there are two core ideas about race and racism found consistently in CRT.
First, Race is a “social construction,” meaning the idea of different human races is not based on a biological reality about human difference but comes from social ideas about the inferiority and superiority of different groups now identified as “races.” Genetic and biological research has confirmed for at least the past 40 years that there are no clear and consistent biological differences between different human groups that justify our classification into different races. CRT traces the development of the strong belief in biological difference between “white” (European descended) and non-white groups (people of color) to the period of European colonialism in which a belief in the inferiority of Indigenous and Black peoples was needed to justify colonial claims over non-European lands and enslavement of non-European peoples.
Second, racism is “systemic,” meaning that laws, policies, and institutions that have developed over centuries continue, in the United States, to systematically harm people of color and benefit White Americans. This does not mean that a person of color cannot achieve success in American society, nor that White Americans cannot experience hardship, but that White Americans are statistically more likely to experience the full rights and freedoms that should be granted to all citizens and that people of color will tend to experience ongoing discrimination that negatively impact their life chances. Some people misinterpret CRT as arguing that all people of color are victims to White Americans in all aspects of life, and that all White Americans are inherently racist. Since CRT argues, however, that race is a social construction and that racism is systemic, it actually argues that all Americans are inherently equal although we are not treated equally in our laws and policies, and that we all have the ability to change our laws and policies to create true equity and equality for all.