Rann Miller

By Rann Miller | Guest Blogger AC JosepH Media

Roughly 12 states are working to or have actually banned critical race theory from being taught in schools.

The reality is that critical race theory isn’t being taught in schools. Critical Race Theory is a concept generally taught in higher education spaces, whether it be undergraduate, graduate or law school. The reality is that conservative politicians can tolerate “learning” Black history, so long as it is without the analysis that comes with critical inquiry.

When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says that he doesn’t want “narratives that are not grounded in facts” or a “false history,” where they “look back and denigrate the Founding Fathers, denigrate the American Revolution,” what he really means is that he wants what we currently have: a whitewashed history that withholds truth and a critical analysis of the United States as actors to boot.

Critical Race Theory asserts that historical patterns of racism are ingrained in law and other modern institutions, and that the legacies of slavery, segregation and Jim Crow still create an uneven playing field for Black people and other people of color.

It’s a legal theory that uses the storytelling and the perspective of Black people to examine and investigate power utilized in a white supremacist social order through public policy and the laws to subjugate Black people.

Teaching this strikes fear in the heart of conservatives, who are mostly white people, because an examination of whiteness and its proximity to power for the use of oppressing Black people politically, economically and otherwise would likely facilitate a reckoning, substantially change the power dynamic in a country that is increasingly brown.

Yet teaching Black history isn’t exactly teaching Critical Race Theory … Then again, Black history provides evidence for Critical Race Theory to rest on.

We can teach young people about Dr. King and his work during the civil rights movement. Ron DeSantis and others would rather we stick to the facts: people, places and events. However, learning the facts leads to ask “why” and “how come” … why did MLK have to engage in the work that he did? How come MLK, and others, felt the need to protest, boycott and make speeches in the name of Black lives?

MLK never mentioned the phrase Critical Race Theory, but his speeches, letters and writings sure do sound like some of what Critical Race Theory speaks of.

That’s the key about teaching Black history. We can teach people, places and events, but all of those things have a “why” and “how come” attached. 

We can teach young people who the first Black person was to become president and vice president in the United States, but we must answer the question, “Why did it take over 230 years to elect them?” We can celebrate the anniversary or arrival of a Black television network, whether it be news or entertainment, but we must answer the question, “Why are such networks needed it to begin with?”

Black history happened in an anti-Black society, born from fighting against it. In order to fully understand the accomplishments and contributions of Black people, in the United States particularly, we must understand the political, social and economic conditions and circumstances that inspired those people and events.

Understanding that shifts our attention from simply learning Black history to reconciling with Black people and to reconcile means to atone for your wrongdoing.

Unfortunately, the United States has shown, up to this point, that they are unwilling to atone, and that goes for political conservatives and liberals alike.

In 2045, people of color will be in the majority in the United States. Currently in public schools, students of color are in the majority; unfortunately, the same is not true for faculty and administration, but I digress. White people are anxious about what it all means for themselves and the about the fate of their families. Many of them are concerned about Critical Race Theory.

But their fears are misplaced, and that’s by design.

White people are victims for sure. But Critical Race Theory isn’t the culprit. Neither are Black Lives Matter or Black people. It’s our white supremacist social order. As W.E.B. DuBois stated in his master work Black Reconstruction:

” … the race philosophy came as a new and terrible thing to make labor unity or labor class-consciousness impossible. So long as the Southern White laborers could be induced to prefer poverty over equality with the Negro, just so long was a labor movement in the south made impossible … There was but one way to break up this threatened coalition, and that was to unite poor and rich Whites by the shibboleth of race, and despite divergent economic interest.”

Sadly, conservative politicians have fully utilized the construct of “whiteness” to make Critical Race Theory the bogeyman for all things against whiteness, when in reality the bogeyman is white supremacy and the tools of white supremacy are systemic racism and capitalism.

Imagine if you are a white person and you have been taught lies of the United States as the great emancipator and liberator. Imagine realizing that the United States isn’t as great as it says it is, and what that would mean for the trajectory of the country moving forward … Republican politicians understand the demographic shifts on the horizon. They understand that with demographic shifts come demands for a more authentic account of history.

They see the coming shift in power if they don’t work to stop it.

Their fear is of the empire no longer being in control of white people. So long as you can keep people ignorant of truth, you can maintain power. W.E.B. DuBois calls out this tactic of denial and the lies that are the propaganda of history; a primary strategy within the white supremacist playbook.

The question becomes, “How long is American going to keep getting played?”

Bio: Rann Miller directs the 21st Century Community Learning Center, a federally funded after-school program located in southern New Jersey. He spent years teaching in charter schools in Camden, New Jersey. He is the creator, writer, and editor of the Official Urban Education Mixtape Blog. Follow him on Twitter: @UrbanEdDJ.  

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