In the aftermath of the Virginia gubernatorial election, which was largely decided by a parents’ revolt against critical race theory indoctrination in the public schools, the left claimed the issue was a hoax. MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace summed it up for many in the media when she asserted that such teaching “isn’t real.”
That was a classic case of gaslighting. Yet if there was any doubt about just how real CRT is, New York’s school system is providing another example that demonstrates just how wrongheaded and toxic these ideas are.
This coming week, 7th and 8th graders at the Lower Manhattan Community School will spend two days immersed in exercises designed to “undo the legacy of racism and oppression in this country that impacts our school community,” as a message to parents reads.
Teaching about America’s troubled past of slavery and segregation is absolutely necessary. But that isn’t what’s happening at this junior high school. Instead, the children are going to be separated and divided into groups along racial lines prior to lessons about how “racial identities influence our experiences.”
African-Americans and Hispanics will be put in one group, while whites, Asians and multi-racial students will each have their own. A fifth group will be provided for those who choose to opt out of what amounts to a racial-selection process.
The ostensible purpose is to increase sensitivity to race. But kids understand that people from various backgrounds have different experiences. After all, the school has a population that is 44 percent Asian, 29 percent white, 15 percent Hispanic and 8 percent black.
Public education in a country committed to racial equality would not, however, seek to reinforce the notion that race is what defines us as individuals. And it would never pressure a diverse group of students to essentially re-enact the shameful racial segregation that was once commonplace in American schools.
To the woke ideologues behind such tactics, race is the only thing that matters. They seek to divide everyone into two groups: the oppressed and the oppressors. The latter are those with “white privilege” who must atone for this sin even if they are themselves poor or lacking influence, while the former group must be compensated via “equity,” even if they are among society’s wealthiest and most privileged people.
This is a formula for endless racial conflict, something the race-baiting hucksters selling it have no problem with.
Many liberals have gone along with this because of their desire to virtue-signal their wokeness and sensitivity to minority concerns. But when you send a message to children that they are defined primarily by their skin color or racial background, you’re fostering the sort of intolerance and divisiveness that Americans have labored long and hard to transcend.
The United States in 2021 isn’t perfect, but it has made enormous progress toward equality. Those seeking to indoctrinate kids with this race obsession either ignore or discount those advances to trash America as an irredeemably racist nation.
The program at Lower Manhattan Community School didn’t come out of nowhere. Since the death of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, some teacher training has incorporated many of CRT’s tenets. An “anti-racist community meeting” sponsored by the city’s Department of Education in June 2020 had teachers go through the same exercise of being divided by race. Though this farce perpetuated racial stereotypes, it’s clear that many educators have embraced the practice.
For a school with a record of achievement in promoting academic excellence and a diverse population to drag students down the CRT rabbit hole is a tragedy. And that’s exactly why we need the city’s educators and politicians — starting with Mayor-elect Eric Adams — to find the courage to speak out and ensure that it isn’t repeated elsewhere.
It’s time for New Yorkers to come together, regardless of race or partisan affiliation, to reject race-based practices that drive us further apart rather than bring us together to celebrate an American future that rests on equal opportunity and racial harmony.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS.org