“The Journey to Justice: A Critical Race Theory Primer”—a joint initiative between Ms. magazine, the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) and the Karson Institute for Race, Peace & Social Justice—includes articles, essays and lesson plans that address teaching critical race theory from kindergarten to college settings.
On July 1, Tennessee enacted legislation that inherently bans schools from teaching anything related to the truth of Tennessee or American history in all state public and charter schools.
Is history all pretty? Hell, no! But it is the truth, and the truth isn’t always pretty. However, teaching the truth is the gateway to learning, understanding and not repeating the past’s errors. So again, I ask, what’s wrong with the truth? Absolutely nothing if one isn’t encased in fear with blinders to hold onto the past.
My experience in school is supposed to be globally and culturally enriching. It is supposed to give me the tools I need to fight for a more just, fair and equitable world—a society I can make better. But anti-critical race theory legislation and rhetoric are creating conflict that hinders the learning experiences that I am having now.
Right-wing outlets—and sometimes mainstream ones, too—tell us that individual professors are being silenced by a “woke orthodoxy” that is overtaking college campuses.
From where I sit at a state university in the Pacific Northwest, this is incredibly ironic. My experience has been precisely the opposite: The faculty loudly decrying their victimhood are the ones who succeed in silencing the rest of us.
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.
Black people make up just over 13 percent of the population—but 22 percent of the fatal police shootings, 47 percent of the wrongful conviction exonerations and 35 percent of the individuals executed by the death penalty.
What kind of schools and worlds are we attempting to create if reflecting, deconstructing and confronting racism and privilege aren’t regular practices?
We not only mistreat people of different colors—but we also use those same techniques to keep women in ‘their place.’ One of the things we use most thoughtlessly is words. Whoever said, “Words are the most powerful weapon devised by humankind” was right.
So let’s look at a few words used by racists and see if their use can be compared to the words used in sexist literature.
If the critical race theory panic teaches us anything, it’s that Americans need more, not less education about how race and gender shape our lives, institutions and opportunities in the U.S. That’s why feminist scholars have teamed up to produce a new curriculum on critical race theory for use in grade schools.
When it comes to progressive politics, the Golden State can’t be messed with, historically leading the way in many areas including the environment, labor and education.
But while the state is known for liberal, progressive politics, we should not be lulled into thinking that those politics are without blemish. In California in 2019, Black teenagers accounted for 60 percent of the deputy contacts on campuses—but made up only about 20 percent of the enrollment in those schools.
It was an important step forward when the North Kingstown School Committee in Rhode Island unanimously approved the creation of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity (DEI) Subcommittee. But by the time it held its third meeting, it was already under fire.
We must allow children to think critically, ask questions and draw conclusions for themselves—even in topics that do not reflect proud moments of history.