Racism Isn't Real

I recently had a student (graduate student) say that they disagreed with critical race theory (CRT) because they believe the U.S. is in a place where it is grappling with the affects of a racist past and that racism (and other -isms) was not intentional. Basically that racist things are an oopsie.


It was real hard not to roll my eyes and say: What exactly wasn’t intentional? Housing discrimination? Red lining? Mississippi appendectomies? Boarding schools? Concentration camps? 13th amendment? Policy resulting from Bacon’s rebellion? Voting & literacy laws? The electoral college? Constitution authors who were openly racist and sexist and only gave them selves access to voting and lawmaking-processes that are largely still in tact today? The 19th amendment—where black women activists asked white women to include their rights on the ticket and the white women said no because they knew the vote wouldn’t pass? Banking systems of education (the student tried to use this one against me and say teaching CRT is banking. I told him CRT is the remix and until people stop fighting against it so hard, there has to be a push for it to be seen and heard)? Bell curves? Lynchings? The klan? Affirmative action (and the fact that initiatives intended to address racism are co-opted by whiteness)? Job discrimination? Tuskegee experiments? Correlations between school discipline and prison sentencing? Food deserts? Lack of community resources in poor and People of Color’s neighborhoods (and the fact that these two factors very often overlap)? White overrepresentation in just about everything from beauty to congress? George, Ahmaud, Breonna, Sandra, Devon, Brian, and too many more? Were they all just an oops?

Honestly, with my professor hat on, I think it’s important to be more patient than I might be in another context. So in my exchanges with this student, I was open to hearing their ideas. But the problem was, the ideas were social liberalism, meritocracy, and colorblindness--more of what is and has been. So I drew a boundary for myself and said we can discuss ideas and we can discuss assignments, but I will not debate the existence of systemic racism. That's too many steps backwards and too far beyond my ability to act with generosity and patience.

Sometimes, a lot of the time when it comes to injustice, we can't be wishy washy, and generous, and open, and patient, and liberal, and progressive. We need to respectfully set boundaries for what is not acceptable. This is what I call "No!" on my Wheel of Racial Justice Development.

And if you aren't really grounded in all of this, it can be easy to be swayed by what an opponent to CRT is saying and before you know it, you are believing there is some middle ground to responding to inhumanity and injustice. There isn't.

Has progress been made? Probably. Is that the point? Definitely not. One child left behind, one man brutally murdered while out for a jog, one child marched to a boarding school, one woman denied the right to vote is not ok. When these things have been planned, when they negatively impact thousands, the problem is systemic. Progress has been made on the surface but the systems, the ideologies that make these possible are still going strong in the U.S. and beyond. It's why in Ghana large businesses and corporations are run by the Chinese and Europeans but rarely by Black Ghanaians. And superficial, bootstrap, amnesiac responses just won’t do.

The problem in moving forward in this country (the U.S.) is NOT in all sides needing to be heard. All perspectives and opinions do not matter. Sometimes we need to humble ourselves, shut up, and listen. When it comes to systemic oppression, the voices of the master narratives are dangerous and those voices need to hush. And those of us with counternarratives and approaches should not be talked out of raising our voices. The variety of our perspectives provides plenty of alternative and discussion. No matter how many times they say you are too radical, you make them uncomfortable, you scare them, call you ignorant and extreme, as we say in the Black church:


I still strongly believe that a critical race perspective in education (and life) is a more inclusive and comprehensive framing than traditional education. CRT is the remix and I’m not here to debate it over traditional approaches to teaching and learning. That’s my boundary and I accept the consequences that come with it.


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