On Sept. 28, the Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill seeking to ban the teaching of critical race theory from public schools. This is the same brain trust who almost lost $1.5 billion in federal aid to Wisconsin schools because they didn’t read the wording entirely, and who wanted to cancel the additional $300 a month people received when they got laid off or terminated due to COVID.
According to Britannica, Critical race theory has two main components. The first is that race is non-biological or physical, but rather a socially constructed subgroup designed to oppress people of color. The second main component is that the United States has systematically created public policies designed to further the white race only.
Critical race theory was not intended to be used to teach kids about inequality and racism. It is based on something called “critical legal theory,” which is a theory in which American legal scholars debate how laws created prejudicial applications against minority races to favor the white race. Like any theory, legal scholars were challenged to prove or disprove its concepts. Critical “race” theory evolved by a slew of writings led by Derrick Bell, who challenged that the influence of power for the white race doesn’t end in the legal setting and is imposed in many aspects of public policy. Critical race theory became popular in recent years as entrepreneurial authors and speakers monetized it as a means to reach an audience interested in finding a solution to the ongoing racial tensions not only in the United States but all over the world. The “woke” culture especially bought into it.
Discussing social inequities, race, and differences among us can be difficult for even the closest of friends and families to sometimes do, although it shouldn’t be. We all need to be discussing the issues that divide this nation if we really seek to understand, accept, respect, and even appreciate our differences. Critical race theory, even though around for over five decades, is a hot button issue today due to some of its extreme approaches as a solution to racism, as well as attempts from adults to force it into the minds of impressionable students in grade and high schools.
From my own research, which includes an abundance of reading, presentations, and attending lectures on CRT, I can understand why there is strong opposition to it. One of the lectures I attended featured Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, a prominent CRT supporter and influential author of his book, “How to be an Antiracist.” Kendi once said, “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”
Taken at face value, this makes Kendi appear to be anti-white, to seek retribution through a new-age discrimination policy against the white race. But, like many other people of influence, his words have been taken out of context and twisted to be used against him by those who oppose him. To research Dr. Kendi is to know that he feels racism exists more from fear of losing influence rather than through hate, and Kendi has been a promoter of all races. Kendi is trying to change the popular notion that all racism is based on hate, when that is inaccurate. A lot of racist policies and actions, even unintentional, are based on self-interest.
I don’t agree with everything Kendi says, but I do comprehend and agree with his assumptions of what racism is today. But that is also where I have concerns about the teaching of CRT in public schools. Not everyone can hear someone like Dr. Kendi speak and be able to objectively analyze, research, and determine what is fact and what is passion. To a young impressionable student in grade or high school, CRT could easily manifest itself to create division, victimization, segregation, hate, and animosity among races and cultures. Like any topic, the objective to be learned can be skewed by either bad curriculum or bad teachers. We must also remember that CRT is a theory, and a good educator challenges a student to prove or disprove a theory based on factual evidence.
CRT is meant for students of higher education. If presented objectively, it is intended to expose the evolution of inequitable public policies and challenges the student to find solutions within their field. Again, we must remember that its origins are law school material. I also have seen enough CRT curriculums, and heard enough CRT enthusiasts, to offer my own opinion that CRT can easily become a means to sway students politically. CRT can be abused by educators as a new way to teach history with a political slant, oftentimes ignoring the vast examples of racist laws and actions by Democrats over time only to cherry-pick public policies and case studies that paint conservative leadership as oppressive. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that many CRT influencers are heavy promoters of ultra-liberal policy initiatives and politics.
That said, it isn’t the job of the Wisconsin State Legislature to censure topics in schools. But this is a legislature that continues to abuse its power by stripping away local control and demonstrating they lack the collective ability to think before they act. The best course of action they should’ve taken was to take no action at all. The tactic the Republicans are using now in banning CRT gives credence to what Kendi and other CRT enthusiasts warn against. What the Assembly Republicans did wreaks of racism not by hate, but by fear and self-interest. Their own ignorance and fear of what critical race theory has led them to personify themselves as the very thing CRT attempts to prove, and they were too foolish to realize it. Like I said, CRT requires a high-level of thinking which the Assembly demonstrated they are incapable of, and thus became the new posterchild for critical race theory supporters everywhere.
Brian Landers, a former Wisconsin Dells mayor, writes a weekly column for Capital Newspapers. Reach him at email@example.com.