Critical race theory.
Well, it’s not really new, but it is getting a lot of attention these days.
As a disclaimer, I am not writing this to advocate for or against this theory or to influence your opinions and beliefs. Instead, I want to share what I have learned so that together we might better understand why we are hearing about this now and how it intersects with schools we serve.
To be completely honest, I had never heard of this term until it started getting traction over the past few months. But here is what I have learned –
Critical race theory, lets call it CRT since we like acronyms, is an academic concept that began in the 1970’s. The theory is based on the belief that racism is not just about the biases of individuals, but a social construct. That is, if you agree with the theory, you would agree with the notion that policies, laws and systems that make up our society have within them components that favor some people over others.
One example was a 1930’s practice of drawing lines around segments of communities deemed to be poor financial risks largely because of the racial composition present. The effect, as argued, was to limit some people from being able to obtain a mortgage or buy a home. The practice, later called “redlining,” continued for decades. Proponents of CRT have cited numerous hardships that have lasted generations, that have prevented all people from access to banking, insurance, healthcare, food and more. Ever heard of food deserts?
As I continued to learn more about CRT, policy or systems examples were numerous. One example referred to zoning laws that prohibit the building of affordable housing in majority-white neighborhoods. CRT proponents argue that the result is discrimination, but not so overtly that it could be challenged by desegregation efforts.
In education, advocates for CRT have studied policies and practices they believe to have contributed to ongoing inequalities, including underfunding schools based on their location, lack of resources resulting in achievement gaps, disproportionate disciplining of non-white students, establishing barriers limiting the ability for non-white students to access or participate in programs such as gifted and talented, the list goes on.
Despite the current argument playing out in board rooms and in the media, I am not aware of a school explicitly teaching CRT. (Remember, I hadn’t heard the term before and this is my 27th year in education.)
The purpose of this article is not to teach you everything you need to know about CRT. It is also not intended to influence your opinion or suggest you dismiss it. However, I do believe it is important to start by learning so that we can formulate our own beliefs about what is correct, factual and worthy of discussion. The alternative is that CRT, like many other issues that have come and gone, might take a place among other conspiracy theories and further divide us.
I would encourage you to ask questions, follow the experts as they discuss CRT and then share your thoughts with one another.