The current opposition to Critical Race Theory (CRT) education in schools is the same “kind of reactionary pushback in education” that was experienced during anti-integration resistance in the 50s and 60s by “white Southern lawmakers and parents,” according to a recent Teen Vogue op-ed that claimed educators are “being silenced” as conservative policymakers seek to “prevent students from learning about racial inequality.”
In the essay titled “Critical Race Theory Fights Resemble Anti-Integration Fights,” Janel George, an Associate Professor of Law and the founding director of the Racial Equity in Education Law and Policy (REELP) Clinic at Georgetown University, promotes CRT education while suggesting the current fight against it “mirrors” the opposition to integration during the last century.
The op-ed begins with George, who teaches about “racial inequality” to graduate students, explaining how education on the subject can help with understanding its current manifestations throughout society.
“Education that includes the history of racial inequality in America can help us to understand how it shows up in society now,” she wrote.
However, according to George, some policymakers “are seeking to prevent the teaching of racial inequality in public schools.”
“As of November, 28 states have introduced bills or taken other steps to restrict how teachers can discuss racism or sexism, according to an analysis by Education Week,” she wrote.
“This response appears to be a backlash to the international outcry over systemic racism ignited by the murder of George Floyd and of President Joe Biden’s efforts to promote racial equity,” she added.
However, she claimed, opposition to such education is nothing new.
“The U.S. has experienced this kind of reactionary pushback before,” she wrote. “In fact, it closely mirrors the virulent response from white Southern lawmakers and parents who were opposed to school integration in the 1950s and 1960s.”
“Decades after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that separate could not be equal, educators trying to teach students about this history are being silenced,” she added.
Accusing “today’s lawmakers” of depicting CRT as teaching “white children to think of themselves as oppressors” while portraying America as an “inherently racist country,” George claimed it does neither.
“It… does not teach that individuals are inherently racist or that one race is superior,” she wrote.
In fact, she added, “[m]any critical race theorists actually recognize that race is not biologically real but that perceptions of someone’s race can impact how they are treated in society.”
Stating that CRT can teach “a lot about racial inequality,” George noted that critical race “theorists” recognize that systems can “create, reproduce, and even deepen racial inequality.”
“So, while individuals can have racist beliefs, it is when those beliefs are incorporated into laws, policies, and practices that racial inequality is created and maintained,” she wrote. “What CRT can teach us is how to recognize the ways that laws, policies, or practices can contribute to racial inequality.”
As an example, George highlighted “real estate practices” that “created racially segregated neighborhoods” and, as a result, “racially segregated schools.”
She also claimed a “direct line” existed between the “Massive Resistance” strategy against school integration in the 50s and 60s to “current anti-CRT efforts,” through conservative legislatures, vocal parent-led organizations and demonstrations, and “laws introduced to cut off funds to schools and districts.”
The example she provided of such a law today was a section in South Carolina’s recent budget which insists state funds can’t be used to teach “that certain races or sexes are superior to others, or that individuals have certain traits, experiences, or responsibilities because of their race or sex.”
Calling opposition to CRT a representation of the “backlash to the 2020 racial reckoning and the presidential election,” George accused policymakers of hiding their true intent behind intentionally misleading wording.
“These policymakers are also using civil rights language, claiming that they want to ‘prevent any teaching that one race is superior to another’ (which sounds good, right?), but what they really want is to prevent students from learning about racial inequality,” she wrote.
Though it can be “painful and uncomfortable,” George argued that discussing racial inequality was a necessity “if we ever hope to eliminate it.”
“Pretending that racial inequality does not exist, or trying to avoid talking about it, will not make it go away,” she concluded. “Through CRT, we can better understand how racial inequality is produced and we can work to eliminate it.”
The battle over CRT in schools has resulted in nationwide tension in recent months.
The theory, which is promoted by many on the left, claims that American institutions — the government, economy, and culture — are based on racial hierarchy and aim at maintaining the dominance of white people, and even that which appears race-neutral is, on closer inspection, rooted in racism.
As a result, it urges reform in virtually all of the country’s institutions.
The theory’s architects have argued that the U.S. was founded on theft of land and labor, with federal law maintaining the unequal treatment of citizens by their race.
CRT advocates have also expressed the belief that race is culturally invented, not biological.
Last month, a whistleblowing middle school teacher said she faces a “culture of intimidation” after being forbidden to teach — despite a shortage in teachers — due to her exposing her school district’s “radicalized” CRT curriculum, which is manifest “absolutely everywhere” throughout the school’s culture as well as its reading materials.
She warned it was causing “great harm and racial divide and hostility between children” and that the country will soon be unrecognizable if it is not stopped.
In addition, Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, a CRT co-founder, called for youth to “understand the ground upon which we stand is ground that’s soaked in blood of theft,” while warning of the outcome if the “other side gets its way,” declaring “the road to authoritarianism will be paved through white supremacy.”
Earlier last month, a Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) educator and administrator in the largest school district in Indiana addressed parents in a video in which he asserted when school officials say they are not teaching CRT, “we’re lying.”
In June, a former Democrat congressional candidate called on Americans to listen to black parents who oppose CRT “indoctrination” in schools, while calling on black Americans to reject the Democrat Party’s race narrative and, instead, realize “that their skin color is not a barrier to their progress,” adding that Democrats use race to galvanize black electorate support though many black Americans actually “have conservative ideals.”
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein