Let’s talk – not argue- about “critical race theory,” shall we?

BREAKING NEWS: The Loudoun County Virginia school board meeting on critical race theory in the classroom led to arrests. Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan warned the crowd not to interrupt but called a five-minute recess because of crowd disruption less than five minutes after beginning the public comment section of the meeting.

Now before we go on, I should mention that a few days later, Chairwoman Sheridan was asked on a national TV program if CRT was being taught in grades K2 through 12. Without hesitation she calmly answered…NO!

“Really?” responded the program host with a look of incredulity on his face. “Yes, that’s right,” said Sheridan. “And we have no plans to do so.” 

Wow, one would think that we’d be granted a reprieve from one pandemic – COVID-19 – before getting punched in the gut with another, this one the rapid spread of CRT (Critical Race Theory), the bogeyman du jour in meaningful attempts to actualize inclusion and a better educated nation. 

But hold your horses. If ever there was a take your breath away moment, it’s these words that escaped from the mouth of Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt who – brace yourself – described his state’s new ban on CRT as “a common-sense law preventing students from being taught that one race or sex is superior to another.”

Really? 

C’mon readers, do you really believe that little Jenny and her darling third-grade classmates will be taught that one race or sex is superior to another? If you do, contact me offline because I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

But that’s where we are these days when talking – strike that, when screaming and yelling – about CRT, a useful cudgel weaponized by politicians and talk show hosts to sway public opinion, sow division and shut down badly needed discussions about how we can reconcile our imperfect past and move towards a more inclusive nation.

So, what’s all the fuss all about? Why are legions of people storming schoolboard meetings and shouting down speakers in protest of the “evil” of CRT?  

Okay, stop, let’s calm down and level set.

CRT is an intellectual movement founded by legal scholars in the 70s and 80s. It is premised on the belief that race is a social reality, not a biological one, and that racism continues to be a pervasive part of our society despite substantial gains in civil rights. CRT is taught in some colleges and law schools.

But get this. A Nevada group wants teachers to wear body cameras to ensure that they don’t teach CRT. Wow, can you imagine teachers strapped with cameras decaled with school mascots and monitored by bullhorn carrying security for compliance?

Of course, discussions about CRT – our ugly history of slavery – can be uncomfortable. But discomfort is an opportunity for learning if we let go of our uneasiness and allow in facts and truths, even those that may rattle us.

“Growth” versus “safety” are the choices we must grapple with in learning or unlearning about the troubling facts of our past. Courage and genuine exploration fuels growth, whereas fear of the uncertain and intellectual laziness fuel retreats into echo chambers, into safety.

As an avid reader, I know that there’s no shortage of books on Black history that include facts that have been sugarcoated or left out altogether. Reading deepens an understanding of our history and provides a context for forming opinions and sorting through emotions on issues like CRT. (Tom Dent’s eye-opening book, “Southern Journey, A return to the Civil Rights Movement,” is one I recommend).

Now what about talented teachers – especially Black teachers who may be descendants of slaves  – who want to teach actual Black history, their history, including our legacy of slavery. Could preventing them from doing so create for them a moral dilemma, a crisis in conscious, potentially losing them to other careers?

But I digress.

So for what it’s worth, there’s evidence that the eye of a hurricane is the safest place to be if you’re ever caught in one. Similarly, the “eye” of the swirling crosswinds of CRT provides us with a place to escape the rancor, finger-pointing, shouting and screaming to a safe place where we can reexamine our shared history – its warts and all – and refresh that history with what’s important to know and what’s missing. 

Now to bring the CRT issue closer to home, I asked the question posed to Brenda Sheridan to a senior-level school administrator in Georgia and got the same answer I fully anticipated…NO!  

So in the end, there’s no need to crash the next school board meeting or ask security to keep a wary eye out for body camera violators. 

And by the way, my Brooklyn Bridge offer is still on the table for any CRT naysayers out there. Personal checks, credit cards or PayPal all work just fine for me.

© Terry Howard is an award-winning writer and storyteller, a contributing writer with the Chattanooga News Chronicle, The American Diversity Report, The Douglas County Sentinel, The BlackMarket.com, co-founder of the “26 Tiny Paint Brushes” writers’ guild, and recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King Leadership Award.

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