Why is Critical Race Theory Under Attack?

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By Luca Cantagallo, age 11 and IndyKids staff

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a controversial bill this August that will alter the way that teachers can discuss current events and the racist history of the United States in their classrooms. So far, 27 states have introduced bills and 12 states have enacted bans on what they refer to as critical race theory (CRT) in K-12 public schools.

CRT is a way of reexamining U.S. history through a lens of racism. The academic framework was developed in the 1970s and ‘80s and predominantly taught in colleges and universities. It centers on the concept that racism in the United States is systemic and ingrained in institutions⁠—like government, education and media⁠—which, it is argued, work to perpetuate white supremacy. CRT is a complex theory, and according to AP News, there is “little to no evidence that [it] is being taught to K-12 public school students.”

Despite the fact that CRT is not technically being taught in schools, many parents and Republican legislators have argued that it is. In light of the racial awakening of the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, CRT has become a catchall phrase used by Republicans to describe racial concepts which, they argue, target white students and make them feel guilty. “Some parents who oppose the theory say it shames white students into thinking they are ‘racist’ or ‘bad,’” according to Madeline Mitchell of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Therefore some parents think that when learning about slavery, their children will feel that they are inherently racist. 

“The more we remove the ability to have these critical and crucial conversations, the more we are going to continue to whitewash the system that is already whitewashed.”

Shareefah Mason

Despite what legislators, critics and some parents think about CRT, many proponents of the framework argue that CRT does not teach individuals that they are racist, but allows all students to better understand cultures and their own environments. “CRT does not look at the behavior of individuals,” said Rodney Coates, professor of global and intercultural studies at Miami University in the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It does not analyze bias in specific people or events, but in processes.”

Ultimately, these politically charged bans on CRT will prevent educators from teaching antiracism and an accurate depiction of history in their classrooms, explains Shareefah Mason, a social studies teacher at Zumwalt Middle School in Dallas, to the Texas Tribune. “The more we remove the ability to have these critical and crucial conversations,” said Mason, “we are going to continue to whitewash the system that is already whitewashed.”

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