Central Kitsap school board member Drayton Jackson wiped tears from his eyes toward the conclusion of Wednesday’s public meeting after an emotional speech on the subjects of racism and critical race theory.
Jackson, who is Black, defended the district’s handling of “CRT,” a controversial subject that has emerged up as a hot-button issue across the country during the past year.
“I’m happy our district made choices in what we have to do because we aren’t teaching critical race theory, we’re teaching critical race facts,” Jackson said. “I live this every day. This is my reality. My reality is that no matter where I go, I can’t get rid of this skin. No matter who I marry, I can’t get rid of this skin. No matter how good I try to be, I can’t get rid of my skin.”
Earlier in the meeting, Jackson and directors listened to several public commenters weigh in on CRT, which is broadly defined as an academic movement that examines the law as it intersects with issues of race and racial justice throughout history. Opponents of CRT believe it sows the seeds of division between races, something they don’t want to see happen at the grade-school level.
Central Kitsap’s board has maintained that CRT is not being taught in its schools, but multiple community members broached the subject Wednesday during public commentary. Despite the meeting being held virtually for COVID-19 safety reasons, board president Bruce Richards said a number of protesters showed up to the district’s Barker Creek location, where in-person meetings are typically held. Several flags were displayed, including one Confederate flag.
Unaware of the protesters, Jackson gave an impassioned take on racism and CRT toward the end of the meeting.
“I agree with a lot of what we heard today about critical race theory in regards to that we shouldn’t teach it,” said Jackson. “When I say we shouldn’t teach it, I’m talking about, ‘Let’s remove the theory and let’s deal with facts.’”
Jackson spoke about some of the nation’s greatest historical atrocities: 90% of indigenous peoples being killed in this country from 1492-1600; thousands of Japanese Americans being put in internment camps during World War II; over 2,000 Black men, women and children being lynched because of the color of their skin.
“That’s not theory,” Jackson said. “That’s facts.”
Jackson spoke about growing up and being taught in elementary school that he’d likely end up in jail or dead because of his race.
“We were told as Black people in this country, that we were monkeys, we had tails, we’re ignorant, our brains were smaller than everybody else. That’s not theory, that’s facts,” Jackson said. “The key that I constantly hear is something that we don’t want to deal with and that’s: ‘This is America.’
Whatever progress the U.S. has made in regard to confronting and eliminating racism, Jackson said there’s still much ground to be made up, and race issues shouldn’t be off-limits in schools. He said he and his family still deal with the trauma of racism.
“We have come a long way. We haven’t come a long way enough to where my son (doesn’t have) to be scared about me driving and whether or not I’m going to make it back home,” Jackson said. “I still get in elevators now and have women of other races hold their purse. I still have slurs thrown at me. So when we talk about theory, I don’t care about theory. I care about the facts. The fact is that we are hurting our children when we don’t understand what this country has done to other people.”
Jackson said there’s a difference between the school district opposing CRT and enabling teachers to educate students openly about race issues that shaped this country in the past and still exist today.
“So understand when you are arguing about and you are saying, ‘this doesn’t matter, this doesn’t matter,’ understand you are talking about my history,” Jackson said. “You are talking about wiping out something that I went through and what my people go through, that my sons go through in the classroom. So understand that theory means nothing because I care about the facts.”