March 26, 2023

What Critical Race Theory Stirs Controversy in American Classrooms | world

Demonstration in the streets of Buffalo, New York – Photo: Matt Roark/Reuters

After a trial filled with strong emotions, Payton Grindon – a 19-year-old American – was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of 10 people in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York State, on May 14, 2022 .

In addition to broadcasting the attack online, Payton Gendron posted a 180-page document where he explained that his goal was to “scare as many non-white, non-Christian people as possible” into leaving the United States.

Among the many arguments he used to justify his crime, Gendron highlighted an alleged plan devised by “Jews to replace the white race”.

For the killer, a key part of this so-called plan is to “enforce CRT” (Critical Race Theory) in schools and universities in the United States.

The fact is that, in recent years, the critical theory of race has become one of the favorite topics of confrontation between conservative politicians and commentators in the North American country.

Buffalo police respond to a shooting at a Top Friendly supermarket in upstate New York, USA. Image: Associated Press

Prominent figures such as former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis blame this theory for “criminalizing the white American population and deepening racial divisions.”

But what is critical race theory really? More importantly, why has it become a polarizing issue in American schools and universities?

What is cash race theory?

A protester holds a banner calling for a ban on CRT – Image: GETTY IMAGES/via BBC

Critical race theory emerged in the second half of the twentieth century as a theoretical paradigm that sought to explain racial inequality in the United States.

In it, he explains that the discrimination a person is subjected to because of his race is not a problem that exists only within the individual, but has been transferred to the social structures in which we live, something that is reflected in institutions or laws. .

The form also applies to other types of discrimination, whether based on gender, gender identity, etc.

The academic development of critical race theory has been attributed to a group of professors—seen as radicals in the late 1980s—who espoused many lines of thought that viewed the 1960s civil rights movement as an “unfinished business.”

Some of the most outspoken advocates of this law believe that it is impossible to eliminate inequality with the existing structures, requiring an almost complete restructuring of institutions such as the police or educational institutions.

“Let’s be clear. The nation has always had an explanation for inequality,” said Gloria Ladson Billings, a pedagogist and professor at Stanford University. She is one of the authors responsible for adapting critical theory of race to education.

He added, “And from 1619 until the middle of the 20th century, the explanation was vital: ‘These people are not smart enough. These people are not valuable enough. These people are not ethical enough.”

“But somewhere in the middle of the 20th century, in the ’50s, there was a shift that was reversed and we’re already seeing that it’s not really genetic, it’s just that some groups didn’t get the same opportunities.”

Many of the civil rights developments that occurred in the 1960s—such as the end of segregation and equality before the law laws—were based on the idea that some minority groups, historically, did not have the same opportunities as others.


But for some commentators—particularly on the right—critical racist theory is at the core of culture clashes in the United States.

The theory has been used to explain the inequalities that exist between genders or between sexual identities, and has been a major influence on movements such as #MeToo, always understanding inequalities as systemic problems.

In this analysis, these structural problems of society need to be reformed “even if (this reform) interferes with basic rights of a liberal society such as freedom of expression,” as American columnist Michelle Goldberg explained, in The New York Times, in 2021.

This “tension” arose when the Convention against Torture stated that rights deemed fundamental (such as freedom of expression) were subject to the dismantling of racist structures, generating one of the biggest criticisms of the theory.

This criticism is at the heart of bills being processed in the legislatures of 16 different states that seek to ban teaching of the theory in schools.

The legislature of the northeastern state of Rhode Island, for example, is debating a bill that seeks to ban the teaching of “any concept that asserts that the United States is inherently racist or prejudiced.”

CRT received criticism including from the White House in 2020, during the presidency of Donald Trump.

In a memo, federal agencies were barred from investing resources in CRT training, deeming it a “divisive” and “un-American” theory.

The document states, “The polarizing, false, and alarmist propaganda of the CRT movement is contrary to what we stand for as Americans and should have no place in the federal government.”

What do its advocates say?

Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis gives a speech alongside his wife Casey in Tampa, Florida, US, on November 8, 2022 – Photo: REUTERS/Marco Bello

Many academics insist that Critical Race Theory is a model of thought, a way of explaining the racial and gender inequalities that exist at all levels of life in the United States.

For example, Professor Ladson-Billings has claimed that in adapting critical racial theory to education, she sought to explain the underlying causes of inequality in education between black and white students.

He stated that there was no point in teaching theory to students who did not have at least one degree.

“First, kids between kindergarten and age 12 don’t need this theory. They need a lot of practical experience. So no, it’s not taught in schools. I didn’t teach theory to my undergraduates at the University of Wisconsin,” he said.

Outside the academic world, however, there are those who say that to deny critical racism is to deny that “racism exists in all social structures.”

“The great contradiction of banning[CRT teaching]is that it underscores the core arguments of critical racial theory,” says Black Lives Matter in School member Jesse Hagopian during a 2021 speech in Chicago.

“Racism is part of the law, even when it appears to use racially neutral language, and that any progress toward racial justice will be met with a backlash from white supremacy. That’s what we see,” the activist said.

Why is it a Republican campaign point?

Florida is a good example for understanding how the CRT has become a political battleground, though the debate is repeated in Texas, Ohio, and other states that have Republican majorities in the legislature.

Its governor – and potential presidential candidate – Ron DeSantis became the Republican nominee to win the governorship (in his case, re-election) by the largest margin over his Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist, in Florida history.

Many even point to DeSantis as responsible for making Florida move from one of the so-called “pendulum states” (those that swing between Republican and Democratic candidates) to establish itself as a Republican stronghold.

Many commentators highlight the role played by DeSantis’ war against the CRT as a key part of his success, as well as other elements of his government that have been well received by voters, such as the economy or the management of the covid-19 pandemic.

The governor entered his second term saying he would confront situations in higher education that “enforce ideological conformity” and “promote political activism.”

“This is not what we feel is appropriate in the state of Florida. Instead, we need our education system to focus on promoting academic excellence, the pursuit of truth, and giving students the tools to think for themselves,” DeSantis said, in a paper. conspiracy.