CBA Record January-February 2022


Critical Race Theory: The Right Answer to theWrong Question

By Patrick Dankwa John

C ritical RaceTheory (CRT) is one of the most controversial issues facing our public education system today. CRT proponents claim that America is fundamentally racist and that racism is built into our institutions. Several states have recently passed laws to prevent public schools from teaching things that CRT opponents consider to be part of the CRT ethos. One example of such legislation is Texas H.B. 3979 which, among other things, requires teaching controversial topics from diverse perspectives, and prohibits teaching that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex” or that “any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex…”. CRT proponents oppose such laws. But perhaps my CRT friends are fighting needlessly, in much the same way lawyers sometimes object impulsively when it would have been better to let opposing counsel shoot themselves in the foot. These

anti-CRT laws could be a blessing in dis- guise. They require controversial issues to be taught from diverse perspectives. Well, amen to that. We’ve had 200 years of one perspective being taught. The problem for CRT opponents, however, will be that once they teach diverse perspectives, some students may end up experiencing psycho- logical distress: not because teachers are trying to make anyone else feel guilty, but because most of us have a conscience that requires us to do what we believe to be just. Most of us can’t cling to gains we believe were obtained through unjust means. And this is where the rubber meets the road. History as Stories CRT is about how we teach history. His- tory isn’t just a collection of random facts. It’s a story. Official history is written by the winners—those with power. Official history serves the winners’ interests. Dominant groups use their power to write history in such a way that the dominant group is cast as noble and virtuous, while its opponents are cast as inferior. The fight over CRT isn’t just about what our kids

are taught in schools. It’s also about who gets to decide what our kids are taught in schools. Whose story will be considered legitimate, authentic, and true? This is where CRT proponents miss the mark. CRT answers the question of why racism still exists in America. CRT’s answer to that question is a theory about how racism and White supremacy have shaped American society. But what if that’s not the best question to ask? If our goal is to eliminate bigotry, then perhaps it’s better to begin by asking what we mean by a value that we all claim to share—the belief that we’re all equal? What do we mean when we declare that we’re all created equal? Equal can’t mean sameness, for each person is unique in some way. Equal can’t mean good looks, for if it did, I would shudder with fear for the ugly among us, myself included. It can’t mean intelligence, or height, or physical strength, for these qualities exist in varying degrees in us all. So, what does equal mean? Equal means equally morally deserving of power. Power is the ability to control resources (e.g., money, land, food/water, healthcare/

28 January/February 2022

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