There are none so blind as he who will not see. This paraphrased Bible verse is highlighted by the views of Scott Hennen, Ken Sims, et al., those local harbingers of the latest bugaboo so anathema to conservative white men: critical race theory.
Crouching in dark corners, defenses raised against what they perceive as the latest onslaught against American greatness, via the insidious path of leftists indoctrinating the pupils of public education, they know not of what they speak.
So let us set the record straight.
CRT is an academic stance started by civil-rights scholars and activists that is more than 40 years old, that, at its core, examines [historical and present] U.S. social, cultural, and legal issues as they intersect with race, and shows that racism is in essence a social construct that has been built by and maintained by—that’s correct—white people. One of its main arguments is that social problems in America relative to race are created/influenced more by the various structures inherent in our society, as well as the overall dominant cultural assumptions of our society based on those structures, than by individual factors—such as easily identified, overt racist acts—though individual factors still play a role.
Of prime importance relative to the three above-listed issues, is that, while the past and continued existence of white supremacy has been/is maintained via existing power through the law—whether legal, social or cultural—CRT will help transform the relationship between law and racial power to achieve overall racial equality and equity.
One of the most effective means of achieving that is to have people engage in a critically honest look at the dark side of U.S. history in terms of its race relations, and how that dark side is often carried forward into the present. In other words, the U.S. needs to carry out a multi-faceted, long-scale truth and reconciliation process much like what was instituted in South Africa. What better place to work on such an examination, than in our educational systems?
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Unless a person has been living under a rock in total darkness for their entire lives, the decades since the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s/60s have seen an increased public awareness, including through our educational systems, of the ramifications of the more overt actions of racism: the overall near-genocide of Native Americans via individual and governmental actions; the massacres of Native Americans such as what happened at Sand Creek, Colo., and Wounded Knee, S.D.; the enslavement and subsequent Jim Crow era of African Americans; the deliberate governmental actions relative to housing segregation; the lasting effects of the criminal justice policies of the 1990s; the deliberate lynchings of Black Americans; the massacres of Black Americans in Tulsa, Okla., and Rosewood, Fla.; etc.
Many of us are also aware of the more subtle nuances of racism, as when: whites move out of an urban area as people of color move in; a store clerk follows a person of color around while they shop, but do not follow a similar action when the shopper is white; a person moves across the street at night to avoid meeting a person of color; zoning laws that maintain single-family housing while simultaneously preventing multi-family housing units subsidized by government; the underfunding of majority Black/Latino schools; the disproportionate disciplining of students of color at the primary and secondary levels; etc.
So what is wrong with engaging in a deep conversation, via public education, about our country’s troubled racial past/present? At its core, critical race theory advocates for examining the racial outcomes of our society’s actions, whether on a local, state, or federal level. It advocates for the rectifying of past/present discriminatory actions of all types that are race-based. It advocates becoming the best we can be, by examining the worst we have been/are. In order to achieve being the best we can be, we—as individuals, as a society—need to self-reflect about our failures and shortcomings relative to race, so we can use them as motivation on how to best improve the racial situation in America, both on the individual and societal level.
This country is not, nor has it ever been, a perfect society; but I would argue that overall our history is one of a continuous striving to improve both ourselves and our country. That cannot happen unless we engage in an honest and truthful examination of both our past and our present, as well as the outcome(s) we wish for our future.
To Scott Hennen, Ken Sims, et al. What are you afraid of? The truth?
Stash Hempeck lives in Hendrum, Minn.
This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.