Alexander: Utah’s School Board Made The Wrong Decision on Critical Race Theory

%28Graphic+by+Cyan+Larson+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29

Cyan Larson

(Graphic by Cyan Larson | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By CJ Alexander, Opinion Writer

 

On June 4, Utah’s Board of Education approved new rules on the topic of critical race theory, or CRT, that outlined what educators can and cannot teach their students about race. Personally, I hoped that the need for CRT would become abundantly clear through the debate, and that the school board would decide to fully implement it into curricula.

However, even at the urging of critical race theorists, teachers and students alike, the board sided with opponents of CRT to effectively ban certain concepts of CRT in K-12 schools. Deciding to suppress such an important tool for discussion in our classrooms is a grave mistake. Considering how many states have implemented similar bans of CRT in their classrooms, this decision is incredibly troubling and problematic for all people who hope to confront racism in their education, society and history.

First and foremost, opponents of CRT primarily argue that the topic is racist towards white people. Conservatives believe CRT to be a threat to American democracy through the reframing of U.S. history as they know it, where “white guilt” remains prevalent. Just like the 1619 Project and other topics that speak of our nation’s history with race, conservatives are against it. They believe educators will use CRT to create the dynamic of “oppressor” and “oppressed” in the classroom, but that isn’t true.

Instead, CRT illustrates racism as the primary influence of the U.S.’s past and how racism continues to affect people today through institutions and in law. It’s not “divisive,” as many Republicans like to claim, to confront our past and examine our ancestors’ mistakes. It’s acknowledging the truth to create a more inclusive and diverse society.

However, that must not be the goal of Utah’s legislature or Utah’s School Board. Instead, they seek to eradicate critical race theory and any mention of our nation’s wrongdoing. Their decision to condemn CRT not only affects students in the classroom who need to be taught about America’s dark past, but also affects people of color today. If the school board had consulted a diverse group of panelists, for instance, these results might have been different. But they did not, and people of color — who are at the root of CRT — are being ignored.

Just last Tuesday, President Joe Biden gave a passionate speech imploring Americans to be honest with their nation’s involvement in the Tulsa Massacre. President Biden talked about the nation’s attempts to cover up this historical event, but conservatives quickly blasted the president over the speech, in which he denounced white supremacy and our white-washed history.

All Biden explained was that our nation has historically accepted white supremacy and enforced it on the lives of innocent people. Ignoring the Tulsa Massacre and similar historical events only plays into the framework of anti-critical race theorists: that our nation’s history is noble, without error and without tragedy. Denying America’s involvement in systemic racism, or any historical event that affects people today, erases true history.

It’s infuriating to see CRT’s importance dismissed and the history of Black people and people of color suppressed. The ban of CRT concepts moves Utah towards a dark place, where we accept and normalize racism and the suppression of the truth. Attempts to deny racism in our society’s history threatens America’s progress against racism. We have come far in racial equality, but still have so much left to do.

We need CRT now more than ever. The true history of our nation, which involves contributions by and the suffering of people of color, is misinterpreted and ignored to protect the white supremacy our history glorifies. As conservatives throw Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes in the faces of Black Lives Matter activists and those who protest against racism, they fail to recognize what Dr. King truly stood for: the fight against systemic racism. Continuing to teach CRT is the only way we will learn to move past the mountainous obstacle that is racism in our nation.

Banning certain concepts of critical race theory will pave the way for the riddance of critical race theory entirely. I hope Utah does not follow in the footsteps of Idaho or Tennessee, where CRT is completely banned from the curriculum.

Educators do not teach about the inferiority or superiority of any race. They do not teach students to take the blame for the actions of their ancestors. They do not teach students to divide themselves. Instead, educators teach acceptance of the truth of our nation’s racist history, as well as inclusion and diversity. Opponents of CRT threaten equality. And they cannot win if we ever hope to overcome racism in our country.

 

[email protected]

@CamdenAlexande1