Mr. James Mageau’s June 28 letter to the editor titled “Any teacher teaching CRT should be fired” contains a number of errors about critical race theory and American history. CRT has nothing to do with promoting the use of gender-neutral pronouns nor does it seek “to dissuade the recognizable differences in gender.” Students, whether in a public school, university, or law school, are not being “forced to take CRT training and made to believe that they are oppressors because they are white.” The struggle for equality and civil rights for African Americans did not end when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law. Despite this law’s success in hastening the end of Jim Crow, the discrimination the Civil Rights Act sought to address was too deeply embedded in the fabric of American society to be eradicated as thoroughly as Mr. Mageau seems to think it was. It’s true that the 14th Amendment was to be the means to “guarantee certain protections to all people.” However, the Southern states found devious ways to subvert the 14th Amendment and thereby deny those protections to African Americans before the ink used to sign it was dry.
Mr. Mageau also cites Dr. Swain as evidence to support his false assertion that CRT is, among other things, “a Marxist organization.” Since he did not present a link to a source for Dr. Swain, one must surmise he is citing her comments from an interview found in The Epoch Times. This publication is “affiliated with the secretive and relatively obscure Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong” that became, with the support of Donald Trump, “a leading purveyor of right-wing misinformation,” according to the New York Times.
Misconceptions and dubious claims such as these have fueled a culture war against CRT. To ensure it was not being taught, the Nevada Family Alliance recommended that teachers be fitted with body cameras while instructing their classes. In school districts across the nation, including in South Kingstown and in Westerly, citizens have filed hundreds of harassing requests for records and materials to prove their presupposition that CRT is being taught to children. School board members who either support CRT or who are seen as not being sufficiently opposed to it have been the subject of recall petitions and demonstrations. In some states raucous crowds of people, some from out of district, have disrupted school board meetings to protest the supposed teaching of CRT. In some cases, people have become so aggressive that police have had to escort board members to their cars when they have left a meeting that included CRT on the agenda. According to an NBC News analysis, there are now at least 165 local and national groups that are trying to disrupt or block lessons on race.
This last detail is especially important, since it points to how CRT has been made into a catchall that includes anything having to do with race or racism. This was made clear by an article about Mr. Robert Chiaradio in the June 24 edition of The Westerly Sun. In this article, Mr. Chiaradio states that he was asking for “textbooks and reference materials; all slides and materials from inherent bias training sessions for teachers and staff; and any correspondence from the superintendent, assistant superintendent, and three teachers, mentioning phrases such as “race,” “bias,” systemic racism,” “white privilege,” “black and brown people,” “Black Lives Matter,” “the 1619 Project” or “George Floyd.’”
The goal of this nationwide tactic was also made clear recently on the MSNBC show “The Reid Out” hosted by Joy Reid. On June 23, one of her guests was critical race theory opponent Christopher Rufo. Toward the end of the discussion that evening, Reid quoted Rufo as having said, “We have successfully frozen their brand, critical race theory, into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all the various cultural insanities under that brand category. The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think critical race theory. We have decodified the term and we will recodify to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.”
Whether at a place of higher learning like West Point with a course on CRT, or a high school with a discussion on Black Lives Matter, or an elementary school with a project on black and brown people, what is there about studying race and its history in this country that brings up such a variety of strong negative reactions from some people?