Critical Race Theory

August 5

You have heard about it all over the media. It has really come to a head now that it is infiltrating our schools; many parents are upset, even those who typically support more “progressive” educational approaches.

What is Critical Race Theory? (CRT) That is actually a more difficult question than you might first think, and frankly creates some of the problems surrounding it. As the American Bar Association states, “Crenshaw—who coined the term ‘CRT’—notes that CRT is not a noun, but a verb. It cannot be confined to a static and narrow definition but is considered to be an evolving and malleable practice.” It’s pretty hard to have an intelligent discussion about such a controversial issue if you can’t even define it or use the term correctly (I have yet to hear anyone on either side of the argument use it as a verb).

That said, the most consistent explanation I’ve seen is that CRT focuses on the idea that racism is embedded in the nation’s institutions and that they seek to maintain the dominance of white people in society. It asserts that unequal outcomes are the result of subtle societal and institutional biases, and that historical patterns of racism are ingrained in law and other modern institutions, rather than racism of individuals per se. I think I am safe assuming that the theory would posit that if institutions, law, etc. in general have racist biases, they had to come from somewhere, and that “somewhere” are the racists in the past and present who set up and perpetuate these elements of society. So fundamentally, I would assert that it actually is individual racism at its core.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s ask ourselves a question. Are our nation’s institutions, laws, and other societal elements racist? I think we would all agree that racism still persists in many of these places – to what extent would depend on the particular institution or element of society. The nexus of racism and our country’s history cannot be denied, particularly towards those who are black.

So then, where is the problem and why all the controversy? There are two reasons, I believe.

First, those who currently are using CRT to advance their causes want the American public to view everything through the lens of racism. In other words, everything in our society is suspect and seemly neutral concepts almost always have deep racial significance. Frankly, this is ridiculous.

Let me give you an example. If you are Norwegian, then you can view everything through racism towards Norwegians, whether correct or not. You didn’t get that car loan – racism in banking institutions. Your daughter didn’t get into that elite college – educational racism. The police pull you over more often than other drivers – law enforcement racism. You see where this is going don’t you? Never mind that your credit score is low, your daughter typically gets mediocre grades, or that you have a tendency to speed. “They’re all out to get me. I’m always a victim because I’m Norwegian.” As they say, people see what they want to see, and if you want to see racism everywhere, you will.

The second reason CRT has sprung to the forefront is that it now involves our children. It’s one thing if something adversely affects us as adults, but it’s entirely different if it affects our kids, particularly when it comes to what they are being taught. My wife refers to this as the “mama bear effect”, although I would maintain that we dads can also turn into bears when appropriate.

That is why you are seeing such pushback. You have educators saying that there is no CRT being taught in their schools, based on their definition of CRT. Parents on the other hand are up in arms that the school is blatantly teaching CRT to their children, based on their definition. Take the following examples.

  • A school in Minnesota required a fourth-grade class to take an ‘equity survey’, were told not to tell their parents, and were told by the teacher they couldn’t skip any questions, even if they didn’t understand them.
  • A fifth-grade social studies lesson in Philadelphia asked students to celebrate the ‘black communist’ Angela Davis and act out ‘free Angela Davis’ rallies, demanding that the government release the Black Panther imprisoned on charges of murder, conspiracy, and kidnapping.
  • Fifth-grade students in Buffalo, NY were required to use curriculum focused on Black Lives Matter principles, including the ‘declaration on Black Villages’ which begins with ‘We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by…’
  • Students attending Grace Church High School in New York City were asked to stop referring to their parents as ‘mom and dad’, since their school handbooks addressed hateful language that promotes racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination…”

Sources: The Daily Caller and Washington Examiner

The list of examples is startlingly long, but I’m here to tell you the good news that parents are pushing back, and pushing back hard. This past legislative session, five states passed anti-CRT schooling bills and another 17 introduced such bills into their state legislatures. We were not one of these states, primarily because our legislature ran out of time with the issue coming to the forefront nearing the end of session.

Parents are ousting school board members who want to embed CRT into curriculum. In liberal Loudoun County, Va., there was strong opposition to the district’s plans to adopt new diversity initiatives. As a result, there was an attempt to recall board members. In a Connecticut school district, three incumbent school board members that supported CRT were voted out and replaced by parents opposed to the curriculum being taught to their children.

In a recent poll, 58 percent of Americans had an “unfavorable view” of critical race theory, compared to only 38 percent of Americans with a “favorable view”. Most telling however was that 71 percent of independents had a “very unfavorable view”. Keep in mind, this issue will very likely have ramifications for the next election cycle too.

What can you do to make sure CRT does not infiltrate our North Dakota Schools?

First, get involved at the school board level. The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction is not going to determine whether CRT is taught in your particular district, the school board will. Make sure you have the right people on your local school board who will not promote CRT theory or curriculum.

Second, contact your legislators and ask that they pass an anti-CRT bill in our state. Start letting them know now – the next legislative session will be upon us before you know it.

Let me assure you that our organization will continue to fight to keep CRT out of North Dakota schools. We want an accurate portrayal of our county’s history and current situation to be taught to our children, even if we have to go all “mama bear” to make it happen.

For truth,

Mark Jorritsma
President and Executive Director