By Senator Lena C. Taylor
The Tennessean newspaper, recently reported, “The Tennessee General Assembly has banned the teaching of critical race theory, passing a law at the very end of the legislative session to withhold funding from public schools that teach about white privilege. Republicans in the House made the legislation a last-minute priority, introducing provisions that ban schools from instructing students that one race bears responsibility for the past actions against another, that the United States is fundamentally racist or that a person is inherently privileged or oppressive due to their race.”
Not alone in the quest to whitewash American history on the subject of slavery, Republican-controlled legislatures around the nation have introduced similar legislation. While the bill in Tennessee has passed in one chamber, the Governor of Idaho has already signed comparable nonsense into law. Now, you might be asking, what exactly is Critical Race Theory (CRT) and where did it come from?
In an article by Janel George, called “A Lesson on Critical Race Theory,” she discussed the African American Policy Forum, led by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw. George reported that “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 critiques how the social construction of race and institutionalized racism perpetuate a racial caste system that relegates people of color to the bottom tiers. CRT also recognizes that race intersects with other identities, including sexuality, gender identity, and others. CRT recognizes that racism is not a bygone relic of the past. Instead, it acknowledges that the legacy of slavery, segregation, and the imposition of second-class citizenship on Black Americans and other people of color continue to permeate the social fabric of this nation.”
While definitions are still be hashed out to discuss critical race theory, legislators are rushing to shut it down. Frequently, the law is said to lag behind technology or major social advancements. In this arena, the legislative policy drivers are anxiously taking a symbolic water hose to the notion that there is a demand to be deliberate about examining the role of race in the varying systems of this country.
With laser focus, scholars continue to push the idea of the social and not biological construct of race. Examinations of whether racism is embedded in systems, even though anecdotally, Black people can provide millions of examples about the manifestation of bias and discrimination faced in their daily lives.
Most ironic is the privilege that is enjoyed by those hell bent on protecting a narrative and the desire to gloss over moral and social monstrosities directed towards Black and brown bodies. My grandmother used to say, “Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil.” While the saying can be traced back to the year 1555, it’s meaning still rings true today. America needs to own up to its past on the horrible legacy of slavery. America needs to be honest about how race has driven every decision from education to homeownership, and everything in between. America needs to clean up her own backyard before preaching about the crimes of others around the world. America needs to get her own house in order.
But first we must start with something simple….an acknowledgement that white privilege is real and is being used to stop a truthful and complete examination of the role of race in this country.