The Anti-CRT Movement: El Paso and Our Communities Deserve Better

A memorial for the victims of the 2019 El Paso Walmart shooting. (Ruperto Miller / Wikimedia Commons)

Journey to Justice: A Critical Race Theory Primer” is a joint initiative between Ms. magazine, the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) and the Karson Institute for Race, Peace & Social Justice. The primer includes articles, essays, lesson plans, an annotated bibliography and a COMloquium conversation that addresses and examines the perils of teaching critical race theory from kindergarten to college settings. Enjoy the sample below. To explore the full primer, head here.

At the microphone on the Texas House of Representatives floor, I asked Representative Steve Toth, the author of the so-called anti-critical race theory bill (HB 3979). “Have you ever read a book on critical race theory?” “No,” he answered. “But I have read white papers on the subject.”

I was astonished at his answer, and I am not sure the bill’s author understood the vast implications of the piece of legislation on students, educators and the public school system as a whole.  

However, I felt most saddened and worried for my community of El Paso, Texas. We debated the bill for hours that day. Over and over again, the author would express that his intention for the policy was to decrease hate among folks from different identities. As a representative from El Paso, Texas, that is my goal as well.

This goal became more urgent, especially after the Walmart shooting on August 3, 2019, when a white-identified man drove over 500 miles to my borderland community to target Latino people. Because we saw the most severe consequence of us not addressing racial injustice and rhetoric of hate: 23 people died, 23 people were injured, and a community of some of the most loving and humble people was left traumatized.  

What does the passage of the anti-CRT bill mean for my community? It is both painful and dangerous. At the heart of the pain is that in the first legislative session since the shooting, the Texas Legislature failed to pass any piece of legislation that was promised to the victims and their families. Instead, the legislature passed and prioritized a piece of legislation that would, in fact, (possibly) do the opposite of what is needed. 

Since the anti-CRT bill isn’t about the academic theory taught in graduate and law schools, it is a dog whistle to encompass all things regarding race, diversity and social justice.

In the first legislative session since the Walmart shooting of August 2019, the Texas Legislature failed to pass any piece of legislation that was promised to the victims and their families. 

The El Paso shooting wasn’t an accident. A young person fell down a rabbit hole of racial hate and violence on the internet and, without having the tools to navigate these dynamics, his actions were catastrophic.

We need young people to have the tools to understand race and racism.  We need young people to understand the ties between history and current events. We need young people to be the leaders to create a fair, compassionate and socially just society. This reality will only happen if our curriculum reflects these values.  

My community has experienced trauma after trauma—from immigrant tent cities to a mass shooting targeting brown people to an intense experience with COVID-19.  The anti-CRT bill creates harmful public policy and reinforces dangerous rhetoric that does a disservice to our students’ intellect, teachers’ autonomy and my community’s experience.  We all deserve better. 

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Mary González is the associate director of the Partnership for the Future of Learning. She holds a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction and cultural studies in education from UT-Austin and serves in the Texas House of Representative as state representative for House District 75, which includes large swaths of El Paso County.