Teaching a form of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in school is vital in not only creating educated voters but also in promoting critical thinking in our youth and allowing for more adults to look at established structures within the United States through an analytical lens. There is a large amount of confusion on what exactly CRT entails. To people on the right, this may be seen as a way to bring back segregation, with CRT being merely a form of toxic propaganda. It may also be seen as divisive, with systemic racism being the prime target. This assumption completely ignores the vibrant academic scholarship that follows this discussion on inclusion into standardized curriculums. CRT is simply a body of work that describes how laws and other systems intersect with race.
A common misconception of CRT is that it “poisons the well” in discussions revolving around race while also offering people of color victim complexes, which can be harmful to individuals. New laws have been passed in conservative states such as Arkansas and Idaho claiming CRT exacerbates divisions between groups. This is far from the truth. The biggest problem in conversations about CRT is the lack of acknowledgment around the indiscretions in America’s past along with its long-lasting effects for people of color. Some may say that systemic racism does not exist and racism is virtually nonexistent in today’s society. To these people, I must ask how do we, as a society, explain some of these clear indicators of institutional racism?
African American males within the United States receive 19.1% longer sentences than similarly situated white counterparts. With this in mind, they are also 4.5 times more likely to receive the death penalty compared to similarly situated white counterparts. However, the disparities do not stop there, as implicit bias is also a major indicator of successful outcomes in life. Studies show that African American boys are often seen as older and less innocent than other white children. One can only imagine how this perception is amplified as these children mature. With identical resumes, people with white-sounding names are 50% more likely to receive a callback or interview. Without the inclusion of some sort of CRT, it will be virtually impossible to properly address these disparities.
It is important to note that all of the statistics above are only descriptive claims and imply nothing to the way the world should operate. The distinction between descriptive and prescriptive claims is important in discussions revolving around CRT since a common rebuttal to its use in curricula is that it teaches people of color that white Americans are inherently evil. CRT does not operate or make claims on how the world should be, but merely describes provable realities that many Americans face daily.
The idea of CRT promoting divisiveness in the population comes from the idea that America has grown past its racial imperfections and that inequality is a product of personal choices. This along with single examples of corporations attempting to create ethnic training for employees with lackluster results seems to add fuel to the fire. By saying that racism on a broad scale does not exist can be extremely harmful in the long run, as it ignores proven disparities between different racial or ethnic groups. Having the ability to discuss race in the context of laws and systems that have been used in the past to generate massive disparities between marginalized groups is the only way we can truly address the problem of race in the United States.
Adding CRT into education serves as one of the precursors in the creation of an equal and just society. Through the identification of racial issues and the systems that perpetuate inequality, we can collectively work towards creating a better future for everyone.