‘Critical Theory of Race’ becomes a focal point in American public schools | News Race Issues

As part of a backlash against campaigns to emphasize the historical and continuing effect of racism on inequality in American life, Republican lawmakers in the United States are moving to restrict how race is discussed. in public schools.

Legislators in more than a dozen states have considered projects that will regulate how teachers teach about race issues in the classroom. Many have a purpose to ban it. ”critical theory of race”, A school of thought that argues that the major institutions in the United States are intrinsically racist and built by their nature to perpetuate white supremacy.

Across the country, local school board meetings have been filled with parents who have expressed concerns. Fox News, a right-wing television network, has aired warning segments on critical theory of race for weeks.

The debate is part of the calculation of the U.S. race

The moves come at a time when the United States continues to struggle over how to address racial inequalities, more than a year after protests and riots erupted across the country after the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black Man, at the hands of a white police officer.

The calculation divided Americans on how best to examine the forces in society that lead to race-based inequalities. It has forced Americans to take a critical look at their country which some prefer to avoid.

“There is a desire for a good past and a good ancestry. Americans have difficulty holding things together in a complex way. I don’t think we’re very good at being able to accept good and evil together as a part of our heritage, ”said Marie Griffith, a professor at the University of Washington and author of Making the World Over: Confronting Racism, Misogyny and Xenophobia in the History of the United States.

“We can learn about the very difficult and painful parts of our past and do better without developing self-hatred. Your children will not start hating you and hating all your ancestors just because they are learning this story.” It should be an honor to fight this story. “

Arkansas, Idaho, Tennessee, Florida and Oklahoma have already passed new laws that place restrictions on the teaching of public schools in relation to race. Other states have considered similar rules.

Republicans: Critical race theory is divisive

Florida Republican Gov. Ron Desantis, who signed a bill this week banning the teaching of critical theory of race in public schools, said the new law would protect children from being taught to be defined and limited. gives the race.

“I think it’s going to cause a lot of divisions,” Desantis said. “I think it will cause people to think of themselves more as a member of a particular race based on skin color, rather than based on the content of their character and based on their hard work. and to what they seek to accomplish in life. ”

The Tennessee law, which comes into force on July 1, prevents instructors from teaching that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is intrinsically privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously be unconscious. “

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, said it was important for schools to emphasize “American exceptionality” rather than focus on topics that are “intrinsically divisive.”

The new laws raise alarming questions about academic freedom and the power of state governments to limit the difficult – but important – conversation around race, said Adrienne Dixson, a professor at the University of Illinois who is specialized in the intersection of race and education.

“It’s unfortunate that politicians want to literally limit what we can know, what we can think and what we can talk about. It’s concerning,” Dixson told Al Jazeera. “It should be scary for everyone, no matter what you think of the race.”

The primary question that divides those on both sides depends on whether racism is thought to be a symptom of bad individual actors or an inherent flaw integrated into American systems of government, business, and education.

Jonathan Butcher, an educational policy scholar at the Conservative Heritage Foundation, argues that critical theory of race perpetuates discriminatory attitudes instead of reducing them.

“It’s very different to say that these are individual acts that we condemn and to say that the U.S. government or public institutions are intrinsically racist,” Butcher told Al Jazeera.

“It gives kids the opportunity to understand that this American promise of opportunity for everyone, regardless of their skin color and equality under the law is available to them.”

Dixson, however, said that the critical theory of race only explores a real part of American life that has existed for so long.

“This is not a story that critical theories of race or people of color do. This is the documented story. We know this actually. We are taking this story into account and making sure we don’t repeat it, ”Dixson said.

“Racism should not be an obvious act where someone uses racial epithets or there are explicit policies to limit people of color. But perhaps it could be integrated into our policy in ways we don’t know because we have internalized certain rhetoric or beliefs about it. who deserves it and who doesn’t ”.

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