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What’s Really Behind Critical Race Theory?

Bill Weisrock - St. Cletus Peace and Justice Ministry

I'm sure that you have heard the term “Critical Race Theory” or CRT.  It’s been much in the news and has prompted emotional discussions and tensions on all sides. 

What is CRT, how is it being used, and particularly, what’s behind it? Critical Race Theory was a little-known, highly structured methodology used in law schools and colleges to examine how racism has developed through the agency of our legal system, and the resulting impact on our national institutions and culture. 

However innocent-sounding, some have now incorrectly redefined it as a Marxist theory, an attempt to re-write American history and to make white students feel ashamed for the way blacks and people of color have been treated in this country.

Despite evidence to the contrary, opponents insist that all that slavery and mistreatment was in the past and Americans are now all equal, so it’s time to move on.

Egged on by local and state disruptors, many parents took up the cry and began besieging local school boards, as they have done in St. Louis, to stamp out this “cancer in our classrooms”. 

They carried signs, picketed school board meetings, threatened school board members and principals, and even indulged in violence. 

Elected representatives decided that, if the parents were so concerned about this, they ought to do something about it, forgetting that they were the ones who started the furor.

So now, in many states, laws have been, or are being, passed to specifically forbid schools to teach critical race theory in our classrooms.

Even worse, many of the laws have morphed to outlaw diversity, equality, and inclusion studies.  These laws are structured to prevent the teaching of any material that might make students uncomfortable or ashamed about their heritage or history. 

The laws also conveniently prevent the teaching of our full American history leading back to the first enslaved persons being shipped to America in 1619; how the concepts of the “white race” and the “black race” came about (though we are all one human race); and the history of Jim Crow that followed the Emancipation Proclamation and Reconstruction. 

They cast the concepts of diversity, equality, and inclusiveness as divisive ideas that drive a wedge in our culture and society. 

What is really going on here?  We all remember the storm of protest and demonstrations all over the US unleashed by the killing of George Floyd in 2020 by a Minneapolis police officer while three other officers watched. 

This was not only outrage over the killing, but a cry for racial justice and equality – finally!   A cry for equal rights (including voting rights) for Blacks and People of Color, equal treatment by the institutions of government and society, and an end to racism.  And, for a while, it looked like something might actually happen!  

However, those who benefit from the status quo find themselves resisting or denying that inequalities, racism and exclusion still exist because it makes them uncomfortable. How could the existing power structure be maintained for the dwindling white majority? 

Restricting voters’ rights, which was already in motion, denying the very existence of white privilege, structural and titutional racism, and willful ignorance of major pieces of American history.

All which prevents people from learning about and understanding how these inequalities continue to promote the status-quo, the wealth disparity, the tribalistic ‘us vs. them’ mentality of so many citizens, and refusal to treat everyone with respect and dignity. 

So, let’s go back to the beginning.  Some have taken an abstruse educational theory only used in law schools and universities, subverted its meaning into something totally unrecognizable and untruthful, made it a buzzword and a wedge issue, and used it to stifle intelligent discourse. 

Critical Race Theory…it’s not about individual rights, or individual freedoms, or concerned parents, or protecting our children’s tender sensitivities…it’s all about maintaining endemic racism and the white power structure in America. 

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