Critical Race Theory Isn’t Scary, It’s Ineffective – UNF Spinnaker

In recent years, critical race theory has been the main topic of discussion when discussing race. More recently, he has become a political punching bag for Republican-dominated politicians who have declared their contempt for the theory. However, despite the attention given to the banning of critical race theory, few people have focused on what critical race theory is and what it entails.

Developed around the 1970s and 1980s, critical race theory proposes the idea that racism is not just an individual problem but an institutionalized problem. The concept of systemic bias is not new, nor is the fight against it. So why is this theory so controversial?

“It’s become this kind of bogeyman,” Bart Welling, a professor at the University of North Florida (UNF), said of the public reaction.

Critical race theory is feared not so much for its ideals as for the places where it might be taught. Parents and conservative politicians say the theory is taught to elementary, middle and high school students, which they say is inappropriate. However, there is little evidence that critical race theory is part of the curriculum at these levels of education.

Asked about the claim that critical race theory is taught in lower level education, Welling said: “Not at all, to my knowledge. I have never heard of anyone teaching critical race theory as such at this level.

FILE – In this June 10, 2021, file photo, Ben Frazier, the founder of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville chants “Allow teachers to teach the truth” at the end of his public comments opposing the plans of the State of Florida to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in Jacksonville, Florida Department of Education public schools. Developed in the 1970s and 1980s, critical race theory is a way of thinking about American history through the prism of racism. It focuses on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain white dominance. (Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union via AP, file)

But many American parents, both for and against, argue that it is, in fact, taught in lower-level education. Why is it?

After research, the problem does not seem to lie solely with parents or even very misguided and opportunistic politicians, but rather with a lack of clarity as to what critical race theory entails.

The clearest thing about critical race theory is its principles. These include ideas that racism is a common part of American society, not an anomaly; convergence of interests; race as a social construct; anti-essentialism; and counter-narrative. Its principles are complex. Moreover, they are only a vague outline of what theory can and cannot offer. That is to say, critical race theory is not scary, it is undefined.

One of the principles mentioned was anti-essentialism. Anti-essentialism teaches against the idea that those who are part of one group or demographic think the same way. For example, people of one race often have a multitude of opinions based on several factors. This theory contrasts with many traditional thought processes, including liberal ones.

Essentialism is often exemplified during election times – black voters vote this way, Latino voters vote this way – and often turns out to be wrong. Ironically, though opposed by many conservatives, this thought process could benefit them while alleviating their fears of being vilified.

Critical race theory, for all its faults, does not seem concerned with making all white people racist. Rather, it neglects the individual white person in favor of the idea that the system itself is the problem, not the person. However, it seems that its conservative opponents focus primarily on the theory’s emphasis on the privilege received by white people from racist power systems.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, center, signs executive orders in the Governors’ Conference Room as Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears, left, Suzanne Youngkin, second from left, Attorney General Jason Miyares, second from right, and Commonwealth Secretary , Kay Cole James, right, looks on at the Capitol, Jan. 15, 2022, in Richmond, Virginia. The Virginia Department of Education is conducting a review aimed at stamping out critical race theory in schools. The review is the first thing Governor Youngkin ordered after his inauguration and is expected to be completed later this month. Education officials have been reluctant to discuss what they have found so far. While the governor’s critics say critical race theory is not a problem, others say there is ample evidence that the concepts have been embraced by the administrators. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Welling thinks the fight against critical race theory is a “repercussion to a lot of things…summer 2020, the George Floyd, Breonna Taylor protests.” This may be the case. Google Trends shows that interest in critical race theory increased significantly from the end of 2020 to today.

Multiple forces are pushing parents and politicians to speak out against critical race theory. However, there does not seem to be much effort to replace critical race theory with doctrine that addresses the issue of racism in a clear and defined way that can be taught in K-12 schools.

Welling let me know that critical race theory is “really taught in law schools, especially in graduate schools.” Thus, there is certainly a void when it comes to having appropriate and serious racial discussions in lower level education.

It is important to view critical race theory as a starting point, not a finish line. Some of the greatest inventions started out as faulty prototypes.


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Sharon D. Cole