My Two CentS: Critical Race Theory

by John Schuiteman

Dan McGraw spoke about Critical Race Theory in our last newsletter and I think it’s a topic worthy of further discussion. CRT is both simple and complicated and I doubt if many people will ever fully understand the debate. Here’s my take.

CRT is an approach to the problem of racism where racism is defined as what Whites as a group have done to Blacks as a group (and other persons of color), rather than what some racist White individual(s) have said or done to discriminate against some Black individual(s).

CRT advocates focus on all the things Whites have done to Blacks (past or present) in order to keep Blacks poorly-educated, poverty-stricken, living in fractured neighborhoods and isolated from good transportation, good jobs and access to community resources. They refer to these policy or legal decisions as systemic or structural racism. There is plenty of evidence that White people have done these things (see the book “Slavery by Another Name” by Douglas A. Blackmon).

An underlying theme of extreme CRT advocates is that all races are basically the same but White people have kept Black people down and hence White people are to blame for any power differentials between these two groups. White people are culpable, and the most recent and dramatic evidence is the killing of unarmed Black people by White police officers. Such culpability underscores the belief by some CRT advocates that reparation payments should be made to our Black citizens.

Things have improved for Blacks since the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s, of course, yet extreme CRT advocates don’t talk much about the millions of Black citizens who have risen into the professions and the middle-class. They generally opt to see Blacks as victims, ignore the significantly higher rate of violent crime in lower-income Black neighborhoods, and don’t think the violent attacks against law enforcement during last year’s BLM protests are worth investigating. Republicans love to bring up these omissions.

Republicans don’t want CRT taught in our primary or secondary schools because it contains the implicit assumption that White people are to blame and that if you are White person, you should feel some responsibility for the ailments of Black people. They see an innocent White boy or girl made to feel guilty or ashamed just because they have White skin. Republicans are making some sense here but I also subscribe to Michael Paul Williams’ (Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist) statement that “to suppress or chill classroom discussion about systemic racism so as to protect the feelings of White students or their parents is the epitome of white privilege.”

So the big question we are left with is: When exactly and how is it that White children will or should be informed about the many actions White people have taken to keep Blacks in second class citizenship?