As conservative state legislatures around the country criticize critical race theory, it’s truly bizarre that we’re having public debates that would circumscribe how public school teachers discuss the basic history of race in their classrooms. Critical race theory is not controversial, it’s an academic movement in legal education that critically examines the law as it intersects with issues of race.
I attended college at an HBCU and graduate school at an Ivy League institution. To opponents of critical race theory, these two institutions are fertile ground for liberal philosophy and political activities. They would assume that students at these institutions were indoctrinated. Yet, it wasn’t until I attended law school at a Catholic university, that critical race theory was taught in my classroom.
Law School is generally the most conservative academic institution. It is the only academic discipline that women couldn’t study until the late 1870s and didn’t reach parity in legal education until 2016.
The reason why these historically conservative institutions teach critical race theory is because you can’t explain – Korematsu v. U.S., Brown v. Brown, Plessy v. Ferguson, or Loving vs. Virginia, by simply discussing the merits of the case or pure legal theory. None of these cases makes sense without acknowledging the role of race in pre-determining the outcome.
In 1944, Fred Korematsu, was forced to move from his home in California to a Japanese internment camp in Utah. Korematsu was an American citizen, born in Oakland, but he was considered an enemy of the state, solely-based on his race.
Meanwhile, legislatures in Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, North Carolina and Idaho (and more to come) have either adopted or advanced bills criticizing critical race theory in public school classrooms. It has become a rallying cry, eclipsing the fading “Make America Great Again” culture war go-to. This time “the play” is : teaching history is unpatriotic and divisive, forcing students to consider the influence of racism in situations where they might not see it otherwise, which is Un-American.
They are foolish. These proposed bills do not address critical race theory. Instead, many ban the teaching of concepts that educators say they don’t teach anyway. For example, Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt signed a law banning lessons that include the concept that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex,” that a person’s “moral character is inherently determined by his or her race or sex,” or that someone should “feel discomfort, guilt or distress on account of their race or sex.”
I need a t-shirt for each of those. So what’s the big fuss then? Well, it’s obviously not about education. It’s all about the continued culture war that resulted in the storming of the nation’s Capitol after their defeat at the poll — the defeat that resulted in the loss of their presidency and the U.S. Senate. They want to rally their troops again. So bring it! This culture war has united Democrats.
Christopher Norwood, J.D.
Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee