EDITORIAL: Fraudulent critical race theory controversy is a scam to sidetrack critical history education in schools

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In this 1921 image provided by the Library of Congress, smoke billows over Tulsa, Okla. For decades, when it was discussed at all, the killing of hundreds of people in a prosperous black business district in 1921 was referred to as the Tulsa race riot. Under new standards developed by teachers for approaching the topic, students are encouraged to consider the differences between labeling it a “massacre” instead of a “riot,” as it is still commemorated in state laws. (Alvin C. Krupnick Co./Library of Congress via AP)

Colorado need not look further than the 1921 Tulsa massacre in neighboring Oklahoma to see how incomplete our picture of American history is.

Marking the massacre last month underscored the need for continued scrutiny of American history, and, coincidentally, shed light on the unscrupulous exploitation of a decades old social structure philosophy: critical race theory.

That exploitation has now moved to Aurora and the region.

Last month, most Americans learned about — for the first time — one of the nation’s most abhorrent crimes: The 1921 slaughter and destruction of a vibrant “Black Wall Street” community in Tulsa’s Greenwood section. 

History teachers across the country were like most of us, shocked that white racists in Tulsa would and could commit such an atrocity a century ago. White mobs killed hundreds of innocent people only because they were black. Thousands were arrested by the National Guard. White marauders completely destroyed a large and prosperous, segregated community and its businesses.

More startling, however, is that the town, the state and the nation first hid the atrocity and then covered it up.

Only this year, at the century mark, were details widely revealed to not just the nation, but even to residents of Tulsa, many of whom knew nothing or little of the 1921 massacre, once referred to as a “race riot.”

It’s just one incident among endless others that historians continue to uncover or better explore, helping the nation understand what happened and how we got here.

Much of American history is marred by events once painted as heroic, but when better understood illustrate traits in other governments and nations we now spurn. Modern Americans now understand that Native Americans were driven onto “Indian reservations” for the benefit of ruling white immigrants, not conquered native Americans.

Revealing our nation’s history as realistically and fully as possible helps us understand how to fix problems that beset not just our nation, but all others.

Discoveries like the century-old Tulsa Massacre, however, make the new uber-controversy over critical race theory even more bizarre.

While critical race theory has been resurrected as a new fearsome buzzword for conservative extremists, it appears few understand what this decades old sidebar in academia is, and what it’s not.

More than anything, it’s not a public schools curriculum, and it isn’t “taught” in local or really any public schools. That’s because critical race theory is a 1970s academic concept about how societies might be shaped and formed.

Shockingly, about 100 parents showed up at a regular Cherry Creek School District board meeting last week to comment on the wisdom of “teaching” critical race theory to students.

They don’t. They don’t “teach” it in Cherry Creek, Aurora Public Schools, Denver, JeffCo — not anywhere.

A growing number of conservative extremists, many of them elected GOP officials, are working hard to make people believe critical race theory is akin to an anti-white education virus that skulking educators and activists are using to infect the minds of the masses. They work to conflate this academic framework with the real need to examine American historical evidence instead of perpetuating endless false and unquestioned narratives. 

Re-examining the hero-worship of dubious leaders of the U.S. confederacy is an example of how acceptable historical narratives become unacceptable when seen from the view of victims.

As the name makes clear, CRT is an academic theory. Much of it focuses on an idea that the very notion of racial differences is a cultural construct, not a biological one. It looks to those societal constructs, some that have been around for millennia, as the foundation of racism and discrimination, more so than the result of people thinking less of each other because of their race.

In the case of the Tulsa massacre, CRT might seek to shine a light on how Tulsa’s government and community enabled rioters to not just carry out the massive crime, but then hide it. White murderers, thugs and looters were never held accountable for their crimes. 

Those now mongering fear among white conservatives forget that teachers, especially history and civics teachers, are predominately nurturers of student curiosity and exploration. Good school systems empower these teachers to draw students out of themselves and away from rote learning, and they need time and tools to do that. Memorizing dates of abbreviated events is not what modern history education, nor any education, is about.

No one in metro-area public schools stands in front of a class of teenagers and tells them white people should be ashamed that their ancestors abused native Americans and generations of people of color for hundreds of years all across the continent.

But hiding the facts and details of eons of atrocities carried out at the hands of white people skews history and reality, and it robs students of an opportunity for new insights that past generations of Americans were denied.

Knowledge and learning from context and reality are nothing to fear. Judging past racism and bigotry isn’t nearly as important as understanding it.

Most of the state’s schools and classrooms are led by apt and dedicated teachers who guide students through the facts of American history to reach their own philosophical conclusions. That’s what public education is all about.  It’s why so many people who go through the exact same school system end up with such different philosophies on endless matters.

There is plenty of controversy in public schools right now. Vast numbers of students have been set dangerously behind by the pandemic. Educators are increasingly expected to provide vast swaths of critical social infrastructure for students.

What’s not controversial, however, is whether critical race theory is being used to indoctrinate students into widening the racial schism among all of us. It’s a dangerous ruse and needs to be soundly outed now so historians won’t have to do it later.

 

 

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2 months ago

A truthful, accurate and intelligent response to ignorant, racist behavior perpetrated by Fox News followers who monkey see, monkey do with critical, cogent thinking nowhere to be found.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
2 months ago

FOX certainly does agitate and keep the people in fear.

Dennis Duffy
Dennis Duffy
2 months ago

Let’s get this straight from my point of view. I speak solely for myself. I am white as white can, 100 percent Irish catholic. I never saw a POC until I was maybe 8 or 9 years old, had no idea they existed, those I met from that time on were almost universally pleasant and I really had no feelings about them as a race, where I grew up we all disliked white trash, hillbillies were disdained, never knew why except they were always poor and living in cars begging. My mom called them hobos, my dad tried to say nothing as he was not a prejudicial person, his partner at work was black and a lawyer. Never had a bad word to say about him, every now and then he would ask his partner to have his aunt an older black lady help my mom do spring cleaning or preapre for some event. At this point I finally got it, systemic racism…. After this older tiny black lady was done working she would always wait for my father to get off work and drive her to bus stop, once I went with them both he dropped her off but then waited until she got on bus. I asked why and he said.. “She’s Black the police will arrest or hassle her, it’s almost 7pm and blacks aren’t allowed here after dark. We need to make sure she gets home safely.”
I was shocked and 60 years later I remember that conversation because suddenly the world had changed for me….

From that day on I viewed and felt like I was being judged by black people because I had WHITE skin and was supposed to be an asshole. I want then, I am not now and while I believe that culturally and socially races differ I have zero animosity towards anyone based on skin color, I do feel that POC view me differently based upon my Whiteness. I feel weirdly in some very odd way being classified as anti black simply fit my skin color.
My wife whom I love dearly for more than 30 years is darker in skin tone than many many blacks, my children are bi racial, they each speak multiple languages and have three passports and live in multiple countries. I am white, I am confused by all this sudden white hatred I see on the media. So please don’t make light of the concerns many decent people feel.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
2 months ago
Reply to  Dennis Duffy

People often blame members of another group for the perceived misdeeds of a few in the group. It works both ways.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
2 months ago

Just something else to agitate the people and keep them divided. While they argue, nothing gets resolved, and we ALL lose.

I would be happy if our schools and textbooks taught history as it really happened, without partisan censorship or tinge. We were never told about the Ludlow Massacre, the Tulsa Massacre or our government’s attempt to eradicate Native Americans. Very few know that the U.S. and Canada once went to war against each other. Sometimes you have to tell the truth–the whole truth–even though it doesn’t fit the narrative of some.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
2 months ago

And like all of the other hyperboles of the naysayers and haters, the sky will certainly fall with this. I can’t even count the number of times we’ve heard how something is going to ruin us if adopted or passed. Some people just live with the boogeyman under their beds and are in fear all the time. It’s a sad situation. I would hate to live having to find fault constantly.