Updated: Jun 27
The recent drive to ban critical race theory: a way to examine systemic racism through the studying how racism survives civil rights and social justice movements in the United States, from schools and universities, has increased in the last few weeks with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis tying to take black history studies out of all schools in his state. Since this ban, there have been activists, lawyers, and defenders of critical race theory or CRT, speaking out in an effort the challenge the ban, and to educate the masses on why teaching black American history is important. Some of these people have even brought on a lawsuit against DeSantis. While the challenges to recent bans as well as bans that took place before the pandemic, bans on books that delve into the history and experiences of communities of color, and even the recent ban of culturally specific terms like "Latinx", in the state of Arkansas, are important, the recent focus on the necessity of teaching black American history and not the histories of fellow communities of color, allows the same racial prejudice and xenophobia to continue to be practiced on non black communities of color. This for one, goes against what critical race theory sought to achieve, and secondly helps continue the race based beliefs that have permeated in America which have motivated racial prejudice and racially motivated violence on these non black and non white communities.
The recent conversations, opinions, and articles, surrounding defense of implementing critical race theory, highlights the biggest problem facing movements of liberation for communities of color: reactionary justice.
In the discussions about whether critical race theory should be taught prior to recent ones, between 2018 and early 2020, possibly before, the issue the right and the conservative base had was that black, Asian, Latinx and queer theory were being taught, not that black history was being taught. The fact that DeSantis, republican voters,Trump supporters, and the growing group of conservative leaning people no matter the color, who are focused on taking out black history all of a sudden, shows that that their understanding for one, of critical race theory is more limited than before, and for two, they clearly treat the existence of ethnic and immigrant groups as if it doesn't matter. The right for the most part actually have no idea what they are challenging anymore. They have fallen into their own trap set up in the name of their own cause-- the trap of reacting, and reacting to the so- called cultural wars that they created. In actuality, their efforts to take out critical race theory are leaving them open to allow other communities' histories to be taught because they are so focused on the "culture wars".
On the other side, some black and non black defenders of the teaching of critical race theory in schools have also hyper focused in on defending the existence of black history. When they do this that they fail to mention the importance of teaching fellow people of color's histories and the attacks against teaching these histories. Like some republicans, some liberals too have fallen into the trap of reacting, and like some republicans, some liberals go about accomplishing their goals as if either, fellow communities of color don't exist, or they must wait their turn to have equality because in an order to not appear racist or for black people, anti black, have almost willingly believed in argument that because blacks have suffered the most they deserve equality first. Some on the left too, have fallen into the imaginary battles of the imaginary war.
Why does this continue to happen? At least for the times that we are in, I believe both the right and the left are caught up in wanting to be current. The desire to be doing what everyone else seems to be doing is more important than doing what one can to achieve justice for all communities of color. In my own experience and from paying attention to social trends, it appears to me to that, as far as some liberal and progressive leaning folks are concerned with equality for people of color. But leaving the work of gaining equality to social media posts about theories about racial inequality, hyper focusing on the history of black suffering (this goes without saying but I have to say it), celebrity influence, social justice organizations and elected officials is not helping. This behavior combined with a continued history of a lack of engagement with the actual issues brought up people of color, weakens the challenge to systemic racism. This lack of engagement, and what seems to be when looking at these peoples actions, a way to stay comfortable, and the fact that the issue of racism is now being understood as the things that black people suffer, for people on the left and the right, I argue, all comes from the desire to be current.
When it comes to republicans, that group has strengthened their base and strengthened their appeal out of a desire to be relevant in a time where emerging ideas, inspired by the popularizing of identity politics and accountability movements, have created changes in society that have taken away some of their political power. Republicans know they were starting to become irrelevant and could potentially lose political and social influence which is why certain things have happened and certain laws have passed. There was continued voter suppression, the election of Donald Trump, the Roe V. Wade decision just to name a few examples of the right's desperation to stay in power. They do these things to stay current. One other example is creating a culture war. They have done this by manipulating calls to challenge racism ( or challenge sexism, homophobia, and transphobia) as "woke"a word that black people have used to communicate to each other about the importance of being aware of injustices in the US and how those injustices effect oneself. The term became more popular as the views of the black lives matter movement and #Metoo movement and identity politics started to enter into mainstream society. The term moved from black culture to the masses via social media and became the thing that people felt they had to be or some felt they were being made to have to be. The right manipulate the term in order prey on the anxieties of people who are either trying to understand the inequalities of our country and their own racial biases or patriarchal beliefs, or those who already vote republican and are afraid of the society changing.
For those sections of the republican party who are fearful of losing power, since the pandemic started, opposing what they call "woke ideology", allows the right to look strong to older conservatives who's views on race and patriarchy have not changed, and allows them look appealing to anyone who feels exhausted by having trouble understanding emerging ideas about race, class, sexuality, gender, and identity. But because of conservative's undealt with rage about many different things and a hyper focus on what's going on in internet culture, the right wing of the republican party look at diversity which literally does not mean just one group and "woke ideology" to mean the teaching of an expansive view of black history. They are not alone.
In our times now, when it comes to race, being anti-racist is to be current, which is really to say that it's to be of the times. For some non blacks on the left since the pandemic, to be of the times is to be publically show solidarity with black people's calls for an end to police brutality and by way of this, to end systemic racism. But the actual times require people of color to be unity as well as challenge their own racial baises. The importance of intersection and self introspection was what many talked about in the few years between Obama's second term and the beginning of the pandemic. While some of these conversations undoubdetly happen individually and were said to being had in the Asian American and Asian homes communities in the summer of 2020, at large discussing how and why racism exists in our lived in experience on a societal level is no more. Now, the current thing for many non black people is to show pubically that they are not racist--to black people--only. Whatever issue seemingly hindering black equality (which now has been turned into the word "progress") that black people are outraged about, some, left leaning, or liberal, or progressives, rage about it too. DeSantis bans the teaching of an expansive history of black people's experiences as a way to remove CRT from schools or block the implmentation of it, and now the non black defenders of critical race theory following the trend, want to argue only for black history to be taught.
When it comes to some black people, it's clear many in the black community are focused on the issue of police brutality and the history of it, and not necessarily the larger plight of black Americans. If one is to look at social media trends, youtube content, what's being discussed in black culture and amongst black people (something that many non blacks continue not to do) one can see some in the black community considering or taking up ideas of tribalism. The tribalism has lead some black people into a kind of tunnel vision where they only focus on their own suffering and lack, because the protests two summers ago lead them into and and keep them in this focus on lack. For those black people, to band together based on hurt is the way nowadays.
The same emerging ideas around race and other aforementioned issues plaguing those who are not white and heterosexual, are the same ones that most on the left had been fighting to keep in mainstream society pre-pandemic. These issues were also taken seriously by the many in the black community before the pandemic. But in an effort to be apart of trends, a lot a lot of people on the left, and many blacks who don't consider themselves liberal or conservative, have allowed themselves at the moment, to forget one of the more important goal they had been trying to achieve during the last two years of Trump's presidency: equality for all people of color. This is how the argument for implementing critical race theory --the understanding how racism effects communities of color and not just black people--becomes, in the last year, about only fighting to keep black history in school curriculums. This is how, at least speaking of social trends since the pandemic arrived, the communities of color who are not black's experiences with racism are not widely understood as clear examples of the existence of and damage done by racism.
For there to be a true understanding of America's history and institutionalized racism, those who believe in what an implementation of critical race theory in educational institutions can do for change in our country or even those who may not but believe in equality, must bring argue for the education of histories and experiences of non black communities of color in America. Not only was the original mission of critical race theory and the mission of its creators, but there is no way to understand the system of racism in America and this system's effects on people in this country by only learning about the history of black Americans.
If critical race theory is allowed to be apart of schools and universities's curriculum, there would be so much more students can learn. Learning about the methodical and purposeful ways in which those in power have mistreated or tried to erase communities of color or non white immigrants, gives a deeper and clearer understanding of the true principles of the United States. Looking at different ways outside of the black experience that the white patriarchal system has tried to disenfranchise or eliminate anyone who is not white with English heritage. This education could help us understand colonialism and its motivations. Learning about these experiences can help people understand how and why race and class are inseparable. We can start to understand the actual values America was built on and the values that permeate our society that help continue white supremacy and racial inequality. We can understand the many different experiences of immigrants. An intricate study of these histories can allow people color who have been divided and feel divided, to see the similarities in their plights and lived experiences in the U.S. which can help to create support and unity between people of color. Studying these histories can give Americans an expansive view of what exactly needs to be done to achieve equality.
The reasons to study communities of color's histories that are not hyper focused on black suffering or black triumph are many. With the understanding of what has and continues to happen to fellow communities of color, we can understand the problem of white supremacy and understand better on how to dismantle this system.