Can a white guy write about this subject?
When I mentioned to a dear friend that I was thinking about writing a book called RACISM REVISITED, her reaction threw me for a loop. She said, “Be careful with that because you have no credibility with the subject.” Oh, yeah, I am white. But wait, why can’t a person of one race discuss race and different viewpoints on the matter? Am I somehow disqualified because of my race? That, in substance, is racism. But I am not angry about it; I am simply curious as hell.
We would not be hearing so much about Critical Race Theory (CRT) had the New York Times not published the 1619 Project, an on-going educational initiative to enlighten all races of US citizenry about how this country was formed and how our laws, customs and policies affected people of different races in dissimilar ways.
Most authors eventually face a situation in which they over-describe or lather on some fiction to make their words more compelling. The 1619 Project asserts that American history doesn’t begin in 1776, but rather 1619 when the first Africans were brought to these shores and sold as property. This truly angers some conservatives who believe God himself sanctioned the creation of our new land in 1776.
The writer of the 1619 Project used some fanciful language to attract readers. Here’s a little gem from the title page, “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true.” A white person may hear “our ideals are wrong,” when author Nicole Hanna-Jones was probably trying to communicate that there was a difference between our ideals and actions. It’s like the father hitting his son because the young boy slapped his sister. What was the lesson learned? Did dad’s action reinforce violence as a learning and communication tool?
We are talking about education here, and some state governments are trying to control what we teach our children. Oh, boy. An article titled Disingenuous Defenses of Critical Race Theory, written by Christopher F. Rufo, appeared in the New York Post on July 9th. You can read it here. First, I’ll point out that the newspaper is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s company. Next, as one would expect given the title of the article, Mr. Rufo contends that most other writers are wrong. Okay, I get that. The Op-Ed is anti-CRT.
The goal of all these legislative actions is to stop teaching the core principles of critical race thinking, which Mr. Rufo claims has “race essentialism” and “collective guilt” baked into them, claiming that to be a strong kind of “state-sanctioned discrimination.” While he attempts to link “guilt” about racism to the left, he fails to explain how political membership has anything to do with teaching the history of African Americans.
I am sure Mr. Rufo fears that we are going to push “toxic racial theories onto children” at the expense of taxpayers. Really? Is this about money? Well, slavery was about money. I don’t know how you could possibly teach the economic history of the United States without mentioning the advantage we had with “free labor.” Hou could such knowledge possibly harm young minds?
In the fifties, there was a huge uproar about teaching sex education in our high schools. I remember it well. We were told not to do it, but never told precisely what it was that we were not supposed to do. In 1959, the US had a population of 177 million and now we have a family some 331 million strong. I guess that sex education either didn’t work or totally corrupted us. We never talked about slavery, of course, because we were all white kids.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that US students can say pretty much what they want when they are not on campus, but the high court did provide a path to punishment for disruptive behavior in the school. I became extremely interested when Florida, my home state, passed a law stipulating Critical Race Theory was not to be taught. So, I wrote a letter to the Education Commissioner, Richard Corcoran:
I read with great interest the recent discussion of guidelines on teaching what is described as “Critical Race Theory.” I also saw your quote in the newspaper, “… the rule would help better ‘police’ Florida teachers and would prevent teachers from ‘indoctrinating’ their students with a liberal agenda.” From that, I have a few questions.
First, what is the decree attempting to do? Is it simply a censorship bill? What is NOT to be taught about America history? What exactly is this “liberal agenda” you mentioned? As a taxpayer, I would like to know what exactly is the state outlawing? Please send me the language you are prohibiting, in detail please.
This whole effort on your part seems to be more placating than what you might really do if you were not being managed by a dogmatic Governor. Would you, for example, forbid teachers from discussing the Holocaust? You know that in Germany, this study is mandated. Would you forbid any teacher in the Florida Educational system discuss slavery, lynching and Jim Crow Laws in America? Time to be specific, Mr. Corcoran.
I hope you respond. I don’t want to go on social media and make a big deal about this, but certainly, this whole effort reminds me of what happens in totalitarian nations. The intimidation within the law reeks of political pressure, but it’s your job to lay out exactly what can be said and what cannot be discussed. You know, that once one takes away the truth, that person is no longer an educator, they become the “thought police.” Will we still let the kids read George Orwell’s 1984?
Well, I never got a response. It’s part of a huge problem in modern America — too much tweeting and yelling with no acceptance of responsibility or explanation about how things work. Laws get passed without people understanding why or what they mean. According to a recent story from NBC News, “Critical race theory battles are driving frustrated, exhausted educators out of their jobs. Battles over diversity and equity initiatives in public schools have resulted in administrators and teachers being fired or resigning over discussions.”
The tension is being created by furious parents berating teachers, especially those of color, for presenting critical race theory in classrooms. Schoolboards need to understand that CRT is an academic framework taught in graduate schools that posits racial discrimination is embedded within US laws and policies. But then, who am I to say? I am white. What would I know about the struggles of Black men and women in a post racist world? Irony there.
Before any reasonable discussion or debate can take place, all the parties must agree on the meanings of words. I know what racism is, even though I may never have felt it. Our founding fathers were not interested in the rights of women and people of color. They had little care for the natives who were either forced off their land or murdered. The early settlers cared only about being successful as a nation and all their critical British theories propelled them to look the other way. Consider this, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” That was a lie, and so is the myth of Puritans sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with the Native Americans to celebrate the freedom of America. That lie is taught in our schools, and let’s not forget that below a certain age Santa Claus is a real person. Hey, I can be critical of Santa Claus. I’m white and most of the time he’s white too, you know, just like Jesus. Oops, did I go too far?
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One thought on “RACISM REVISITED 2021”
I understand your desire to help keep this issue before the public in a way that encourages white people to THINK and to approach the topic of racism with an open mind. In your final paragraph, you say that before we can reasonably debate issues of racism we must agree on the meaning of words. Good luck, that. Grappling with language almost seems like a luxury when we can’t agree on what is required of us as human beings. We think some government officials balk at teaching critical race theory because they are afraid of a growing backlash of black grievance. But it isn’t that simple. In our society, built-in racism may impact black people more often, but lower-income white people are often encouraged to think they’re somehow better off because of the color of their skin. It could be worse — you could be black, or brown or yellow, etc. That sense of superiority encourages racism. Jnstead, in integrated neighborhoods, particularly where the poverty rate is higher and the housing stock is older, lower income people of all races often find themselves paying more of their lower incomes for home and auto insurance, more in rent, more in interest on loans — if they can get them — and more at the grocery store than in neighborhoods 10 miles away, right next to their black neighbors. THAT’S one of the practical impacts of critical race theory, and a good reason we all need to understand it better. A deep dive into CRT may be more of an academic exercise than most of us are up to, but to pretend it doesn’t exist — or it somehow damages our national fabric to discuss it is disingenuous, at the least.