CLEVELAND – Much attention has been paid to the words “critical race theory” (CRT) by conservative Republican politicians. Texas Senator Ted Cruz said last month at the Faith & Freedom Coalition Road to Majority Conference that the CRT “is “just as racist as the Klansmen in white sheets. “
Others have argued that the purpose of CRT is to brainwash white school-aged children to hate their country and live with shame for what their ancestors may have done in the past. They agree that CRT should be banned in classrooms of public schools in their states. Last week, U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz from Florida was one of two members of Congress to criticize Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for authorizing the teaching of CRT at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
If you took the opinions of Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham on Fox News seriously, you would be convinced that the CRT poses a danger to the very foundations of the United States of America.
Perhaps now is a good time for a member of the clergy like me to quote Jesus in John 8:32 when he said, “The truth will set you free. The truth is, CRT is not taught in any primary or secondary school in this country. It is taught mainly in law schools and occasionally in graduate schools of universities which train social scientists. CRT is not a racist theory. On the contrary, he asserts that a true understanding of the history and development of this country cannot be fully understood without a serious examination of how institutional, systemic and sustained racism has been at work in all. aspects of American life since before the nation was even formed.
The truth is, some believe that 1776 and 1787 are the only dates in American history worth remembering. CRT suggests that 1619 is an equally definitive date, as it is the year that this country’s economy began to build largely on 246 years of legalized slavery. The truth is, slavery was followed by another 100 years of slave labor, sharecropping, Jim Crow laws, lynching justice, voter suppression, and rigid racial segregation. The political process has been used through the much-discussed obstruction to thwart the progress of civil rights. There was also the complicity of the criminal justice system, particularly at state and local levels, to maintain what the Kerner Commission concluded in 1968 there were two Americas, “one black, one white – separate and unequal”.
The CRT is not designed to make whites hate their country or be ashamed of the nation’s founders. It is designed to highlight the ways in which equality of opportunity for African Americans in housing, employment, education, and access to the political process through voting has been severely limited. More importantly, these limitations were not the result of personal prejudices of any white citizen. Rather, this systemic inequality is the result of the laws and policies by which the country and most of its institutions have been governed over an extended period of time.
Racism is not the behavior of one white person. Racism is the use of political power and social conformity by a group that creates systems that have historically given whites an unfair advantage involving Social Security and IG loan benefits; access to finance for farmers; equal protection before the law; equal access to quality education; equal access to mortgages in their preferred neighborhoods; and equal access to employment and advancement in the workplace. The problem for the CRT is not white individuals, but the presumptions of white supremacy and the inherited advantages of white privilege that have been at work in this country for over 400 years.
Reverend Marvin A. McMickle is Pastor Emeritus of the Antioch Baptist Church in Cleveland and retired President of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York.
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