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Michael Matteo: The Truth About CRT (Part I)

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Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

In my classroom, I have Illustrations of slaves on slave ships, chained, like animals.  I have inspirational quotes from Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglass and Rosa Parks.  I have taught many a lesson about the atrocities committed by slave owners and by true white supremacists who terrorized blacks during reconstruction.

I’ve taught about the Freedom Riders, and the civil rights workers who were murdered by the KKK in Mississippi as well as about the travesty of Plessy v. Ferguson, which imposed the policy of “separate but equal” and resulted in half a century of segregation where blacks were forced to sit in the back of the bus and not allowed to use the same bathrooms as whites.

You cannot deny the impact or history of inequity in America as part of history classes and these things MUST be taught. However, to listen to so many so-called educators, you would think that all of this (and more) isn’t taught as part of American history curriculums in schools across the nation. These same “educators” seem to delight in vilifying America and maligning all those (of all races) who did fight to right the wrongs of bigotry and discrimination.

Today, there is a battle raging about how history should be taught in American classrooms and it goes far beyond teaching what happened and, instead, teaching students to blame each other based upon race, which has led to a variety of negative emotions that exacerbates tensions among students. Many of those in positions of education are incapable of separating their misguided guilt (if you never owned slaves or mistreated someone based upon race, how can you take ownership for what other people of your race did in the past?) from actually teaching historical realities. They use it as a wedge to perpetuate what has become a prevalent part of America today: the victim culture.

Critical Race Theory was developed in Harvard Law School as an extension of Critical Legal Studies. CLS made the point that law is not objective or apolitical. CRT extends this to society in general and has as its basic tenets the following:

1) Racism is a central component of American life and systemic racism is an inherent part of the American experience. In other words, it is built into the fabric of American culture.

2) There is no such thing as color blindness.

3) A person’s race is the most important aspect of how that person is defined.

4) Any white person who denies their privilege or who denies being a racist is a racist.

5) CRT is a commitment to social justice.

6) Race is not biologically determined but is actually socially constructed and race is the product of social thought.

It would be foolish to make the claim that racism has not impacted millions of people throughout the history of America, however, to push the idea that systemic racism is an inherent aspect of what it means to be American in the present day is more of a crutch for failure than it is an accurate accounting of why people succeed and fail.

The proportion of highly successful black businessmen, athletes, inventors, and others from all walks of life in America is unparalleled in the present as compared to any time in the past.  To deny this is to create a false narrative that further invigorates the victim culture. I’ve heard many “activists” use this type of fallacy ridden argument and cite a few cases where black Americans were treated unjustly by the police, yet these same “activists” never talk about the thousands of cases where the police act in a professional and unbiased manner to protect all people of all races.

When I hear someone from BLM advocate violence and “burning down cities” if they don’t get their way, I summon images of the Freedom Riders who had far more justification to use violence but didn’t, as they were being brutalized by true law enforcement villains in the 1950s and 1960s, yet they achieved their goals without destroying businesses in the communities where they peacefully protested.

When I hear someone make the point that race is the most important aspect of who a person is, I hear the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to judge someone by “the content of their character.” When I hear people telling one side of a story because it will benefit them financially (like leading CRT proponent, Ibram Kendi, who received $20,000 to speak at an event for Virginia educators, and they also purchased $24,000 worth of his books), I think back about how so many marchers didn’t receive a dime to push for civil rights legislation.

The idea that race is the most important characteristic of how a person is defined is absurd.  Aren’t we more than the color of our skins? How is it possible to generalize about people of any one group and call them “privileged” without knowing anything about their backgrounds or experiences? Is every person of the same race the same or are we individuals who should be judged by our individual achievements, successes and failures?  People are far more complex than a single biological characteristic, and to judge someone on one selective aspect is myopic and ignorant.

CRT uses a lot of buzz words that sound admirable. Many people claim it is not taught in public schools, but this is a semantic argument because whether you call it CRT or something else, if you teach its tenets, then you are teaching CRT.

I’ve seen legislators who wanted to ban CRT, however, the way that educators can and will get around it is to not use the words “critical race theory,” but to use the terminology that is central to its theory. For example, numerous schools have initiated Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity committees and boards.  On the surface what could be wrong with diversity, equity, or inclusivity? However, when we dig a little deeper, we find that diversity has been redefined as eliminating merit as a criterion for punishing students for being members of the wrong race.  Ivy league schools have admitted discriminating against white and Asian students who may score higher on SATs or have higher GPAs, but this has the “noble” goal of creating more “diverse looking” campuses. Equity is not about equal opportunities but is about equality of outcome, and inclusivity is about excluding those perceived to have privilege based upon the color of their skin.

CRT has become a major issue and many parents of all races object to it and their voices are being heard locally, statewide, and nationally. The supposedly enlightened believe it’s up to the professional educators to choose what students should learn, and parents should passively sit by and allow it.

However, when a curriculum becomes subjective and is teaching students unproven, fallacy-based notions, parents have every right to question it, protest it, and demand its removal from their children’s classrooms.

Michael Matteo
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