Critical Race Theory is the boogeyman of the moment, conjured up to frighten parents this Halloween. Those doing the conjuring would have you believe that little, pliable minds are being manipulated by sinister forces to instill hatred and/or shame for America and its accomplishments. Right.
In fact, CRT is not and has not been a part of the public school curriculum. Ever. Rather, it is one of many esoteric theories of American history that is batted about in academic journals. At its core, it argues that racism is not merely about individual acts of favoritism or prejudice, but rather is something embedded in legal systems, policies, and other structures in society. This debatable proposition is one that I subscribe to. What is beyond debate is that there is a racist streak in our history going back to the beginning, and the vestiges remain visible.
People seem to fear that students will learn that America’s history is not one glorious uninterrupted story of heroic achievement. Adam Russell Taylor, writing in Sojourners, notes that, “at the heart of these protests is opposition to teaching children about the United States’ shameful racial history — a history that repeats itself in systems and structures today. Many of these protests appeal to white parents’ fears that reckoning with our nation’s past sins and injustices will make their kids feel ashamed or that — in some twisted logic — this reckoning is itself ‘racist.’”
Oklahoma passed legislation banning schools from teaching certain lessons about race and gender if they cause “discomfort, guilt, anguish or psychological distress” to students. Not considered is any discomfort that might be felt by Black, Native American or other non-white students at the white-washing of history. Is teaching about the Tulsa Massacre/Pogrom or the theft of Native American land banned because it might cause “psychological distress?” Will teaching of American history now be confined to “happy facts?”
Many seem to wonder why we have to keep bringing up the unpleasant incidents of the past. Why can’t we just let bygones be bygones, forgive and forget, look to the future? Well. Do we believe that German students should confront what went on in their country in the first half of the last century? I certainly do. And so does the German government.
In 1985, the President of the German Federal Republic, in a landmark speech to the German parliament, said, “From our own history we learn what man is capable of. For that reason we must not imagine that we are now quite different and have become better. Germans should use the memory of our own history as a guideline for our behavior now and in tackling the unresolved problems that lie ahead.”
Imagine a president of this country saying that. And imagine our needing to take lessons from Germany about the necessity of learning from history. But here we are.
We must study and learn from the past if we are ever to progress in creating “a more perfect union.” The Bible teaches that only “truth will set you free” (John 8:32) and “perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) Let’s pursue the course of truth, not fear.
Charles Uphaus is a resident of Winchester.