It’s now October, elections are right around the corner, and you know what that means — yard signs, stump speeches, political ads, and of course, a boogeyman. There always has to be a boogeyman, someone or something that isn’t very well defined, isn’t specific at all, but just the sound of it scares the hell out of people. In education there’s one specific boogeyman, and that is Critical Race Theory, or CRT.
What is it? Not many can really tell you. Who does it effect? In reality, college students, though the public comments at local school board meetings might lead you to think hordes of CRT teachers were coming out of the air vents at your local elementary school. How does it affect your daily life? Short answer: it doesn’t. Long answer: it affects you if, and only if, you want to know about an important and enduring legacy of our nation’s history that continues to impact millions of Americans today.
Is it the entire history? Absolutely not. Can the whole history of our nation be told without CRT? Sure, if we want to be disingenuous.
When you think of your family history, which stories do remember hearing, and which do you choose to tell? Do you leave out or include the part about your great-great-grandfather who came to America through Ellis Island? What about his struggles to be recognized as American as he desperately fought for a new life and opportunities for his young family?
Do you leave out history about your ancestors who were brought to the country against their will on slave ships?
What about family that lost everything they had fought so hard to build during the Tulsa Race Massacre?
What about those who lost their lives in the Armenian genocide?
Do you leave out that your family survived the atrocities of WWII? Did they flee Germany to escape the Nazis?
Do you leave out or include stories of family that were interned right here in California because they were of Japanese ancestry?
What about your family’s health history? Do you leave out the part about the cancer that has been passed from generation to generation?
Over the past several years we have become wrapped up in the argument over Critical Race Theory, with one’s opinion being used as a litmus test for checking the “R” or the “D” in party affiliation. In reality, we’re not asking about conservative or progressive; what we’re really asking is, do we want to bury our heads in the sand because it makes us feel bad? Or do we want to be intellectually honest, and examine painful truths?
If you are someone who has an (often) knee-jerk and (often) misinformed reaction anytime CRT is brought up, I come back to this:
What stories would you leave out? What stories about your ancestors, “your” country, would you not want told? Genocide? Famine? Religious bigotry? The summer of ’68, when both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, is pretty disturbing — should we skip it in high school? A man tried to kill Ronald Reagan because he wanted to impress Academy Award winner Jodie Foster. Should we skip over that?
The boogeyman is back. Designed in a lab to polarize the country. Optimized to distract from issues that could actually be solved, and actually provide relief to overcrowded, under resourced, public schools. The boogeyman is back to scare you, to convince you he’s right under your children’s beds, ready to strike when they are most vulnerable.
Let’s leave that story out of our history and instead, start learning from our past.
Noha Elbaz of Clovis is a college administrator. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.