Critical race theory is essential – The Collegian

House Bill 1012, a bill to “protect students and employees of higher education institutions from divisive concepts,” passed the House yesterday and is now awaiting Governor Kristi Noem’s signature.

Although he never specifically used the term “critical race theory” or CRT, Noem’s Twitter account called the bill a move to “ban CRT from K-12 grades and… ‘Higher Education”.

The bill outlines what South Dakota politicians see as divisive concepts, which include language claiming:

That any race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity or national origin is inherently superior or inferior

That individuals should be discriminated against or treated adversely because of their race, color, sex, ethnic origin or national origin

That an individual’s moral character is inherently determined by race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin

That every individual, by reason of race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity or national origin, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously

That every individual, by virtue of race, color, religion, sex, ethnic or national origin, is inherently responsible for acts committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, religion, gender, ethnic or national origin

An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress because of their race, color, religion, ethnic or national origin

Meritocracy or traits such as a strong work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race or gender to oppress members of another race or gender.

While these ideas in themselves may appear to be legitimately prohibited, this bill was not created to protect BIPOC people from adverse treatment; it was created so that white people would not have to accept the most shameful history of this country.

These “divisive concepts” allow people to learn the truths of history in an unfiltered setting that students in South Dakota don’t get in elementary school. College is where people can finally begin to experience the real world. We are at a mature enough age where we can think critically about the repercussions of history and know that when the horrors of our ancestors are brought up, we do not own their actions, but benefit from them.

This bill protects white people from their vulnerability to the privilege they have and how they enjoy an inherent advantage because of the systems in place.

By learning the whitewashed version of history, the enslavement of black people and the colonization of indigenous people, it takes you away from the systems that were built on oppression. They still exist today. Will students still be able to learn about the intricacies of the prison industrial complex, the wage differentials for minority women, and how the very land this university sits on is ancestral territory of the Lakota people? Will they learn how, depending on your race, these ideas will determine who gets a job and how you will be treated in society?

In four years or less we will all be entering the workforce; some of us can serve as legislators; some will be teachers ourselves. In order to make real changes to these systems, to tear them down because they oppress others, people need to know how this begins and how their race fits into this narrative.

Sharon D. Cole