For my fourth and final post this semester, I’ll focus on a more controversial topic than I’ve covered thus far. I recently saw this video on The Daily Show, and it serves as an illustration of my ongoing perplexity surrounding critical race theory: namely, why some people are so staunchly opposed to teaching it in schools. Given that schools are meant to teach students US history and social studies, schools seem (at least to me) an appropriate place to teach critical race theory, which is a discussion on the role of race in US institutions and vice versa. And yes, race has played a role in this country’s development, and this country’s institutions have and do recognize race.
So why all the controversy? Well, the video shows one answer – lack of knowledge. But how can people get so upset over something they don’t know about? And a memory came up while watching this video that made me realize that the name alone including “race” is enough to get people riled up.
I remembered a few years ago I said something to a (older) family member that referred to us being white, and she got offended. I was surprised and taken aback. We are white. That is a factual, neutral statement. But this older family member viewed even the acknowledgement of our race, despite its neutral context, to be a non-neutral, charged thing. I think she developed that perspective due to her upbringing in the “colorblind” days, when race was actively unacknowledged. Because of its taboo nature, I speculate that race became a charged, emotional topic no matter the context. And so you end up with people who oppose discussions of critical race theory simply based on their very nature – discussions involving race.
But race should not be taboo. We live with it, ever-present. It is on our skin – just as it is in our institutions, our history, our development as a nation and as people. So if teaching critical race theory in schools (albeit, teaching it well) opens up conversations and can thereby help people to acknowledge reality, then I think it is beneficial.