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  • Carolyn L. Baker

Critical Race Theory and the 4th of July

As an academic concept, Critical Race Theory (CRT) has been around for forty years. In recent years however, it has become a political flashpoint in school districts and state legislatures across the country. Today, twenty states are banning, or proposing to ban, CRT. So, what is CRT? First of all, here is what CRT is not: It is not a subject, such as Math or Science. Rather, the main aspect of CRT is the word critical, as in critical thinking skills.. CRT is a way, a framework, of viewing complex and changing combinations of power and disadvantage.. What CRT is not is a catchall phrase for any and every thing examining systemic racism.

By way of example, the US history I was taught went something like this: Columbus discovered North America; the Spanish conquistadors came to civilize things; the pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower and had a friendly Thanksgiving feast with the Indians in the colonies; and then after “the shot heard round the world”, our freedom-loving forefathers established one nation, under God, on the principles of representation, due process, and universal rights in 1776. Then the Civil War was some of the country’s ongoing perfecting, with a commendation for freeing the slaves. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution ensured equality for recently emancipated slaves. What was absent in this narrative was the lived experience of non-White peoples. Missing was objective, age appropriate, exploration of political, civil, and human rights. This 4th of July, let's tell the more diverse, equitable, and inclusive narrative.

Gaining a deeper awareness of an expanded, more complicated narrative has not made me hate America, or feel we are an irredeemably racist and sexist country. Or that people of color are victims of oppression, held down by White people. Quite the contrary. I am highly motivated by the opportunity to make America better and better and better., especially for future generations. Understanding what CRT actually means in K-12 teacher training and school curricula is an important endeavor for each of us to undertake.

Thanks for reading, Stay safe and be well.

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