Teaching critical race theory must be protected

Illustration by Amelia Madarang

Critical Race Theory (CRT) has been a frequent news topic in recent years. In 2020, former President Donald Trump issued an executive order that would ban CRT in classrooms, in addition to racial sensitivity training for teachers. The order has since been overturned by President Joe Biden, but many states across the country have introduced, or will introduce, legislation that prevents teaching CRT in schools. I strongly disagree with this legislation and believe that it is of the utmost importance for CRT to be taught and to be more widespread and well known. 

Before I begin to talk about the benefits of teaching CRT in schools, let me first clarify what it is and why it is so important. CRT was first introduced as an academic orientation in the 1970s by lawyer Derrick Bell. It asserts that United States institutions and laws have racism embedded in them, whether intentional or not. This country was founded on the backs of enslaved people and CRT is an acknowledgment of our country’s racist history and its lasting effects. 

Yet, people continue to perceive critiquing any U.S. institution as an attack on the country’s image and a tarnishing of their proud nation. This, in combination with Fox News talking heads demonizing CRT, makes it so that many would rather ignore it.

Opponents of CRT will often mischaracterize it as an attack on white people. In reality, CRT does not find fault with white people for racism, but defines systems such as job markets, universities and the legal system as inherently flawed due to racism. 

People also claim that they want to keep CRT out of schools because they desire a “colorblind” approach to learning that claims to not focus on race. The idea of “not seeing race” automatically erases the experiences of marginalized groups, and reinforces and strengthens institutions that have been built to benefit white people. It completely denies that there are other groups of people who have struggled because of these roadblocks that keep them from benefiting from institutions such as universities and jobs the same way a white person would. 

To be honest, I did not have a clear idea of what CRT was until very recently. I asked many of my friends, and they said the same thing. I am white, and I grew up in a predominantly white community. I recognize the privilege that gives me in benefitting from U.S. institutions that were designed in a way that makes things more difficult for people of color. Younger generations should not be sheltered. People of color are forced to learn about the harsh realities of the racist country they live in at a very young age, so why should white people not? By making people more knowledgeable about racism from a younger age, they can be more effective at confronting and fighting against racism in the future.

Oregon does not currently have any anti-CRT legislation, but it is not a curriculum that is widely taught. Basic concepts could be taught at lower levels of education, and then built upon through the years until college, where it can be taught in a more detailed sense. Teaching future generations to acknowledge the historical and contemporary experiences of racialized communities in this country will allow all of us to become more sympathetic towards each others’ struggles, and increases our tolerance and acceptance.

If we could find a way to teach CRT in a more broad sense in middle school or high school, college students would be more informed and ready to become open-minded and compassionate citizens of the world. For now, I encourage LC students to take a class related to CRT, or to do their own research to become more knowledgeable about the topic. CRT is essential to make a better future for our country, and should absolutely not be banned.

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