What is critical race theory (CRT) and is it an appropriate lens to be used in public school education?
I am an antiracist activist and believe that the public school system needs to decolonize the curricula. Decolonizing the curricula allows for the voices of the traditionally marginalized and minoritized communities to be heard, learned from, and punctuate how a white centered lens has been used in education as the norm of instruction. Based upon my limited knowledge, critical race theory (CRT) seems to consider not only the white-centric lens, but the lenses of African Americans, LatinX, Natives, Asian, and other minoritized and marginalized communities. Recent protestors outside city hall in the City of Virginia Beach, where I live, argued that CRT is a ploy to give preferential treatment to students of color in the school system at the expense of white students.
I seriously question this assumption and believe it is a lack of understanding and misinterpretation of CRT. Because of this, and because I plan on running for the Virginia Beach City School Board as an at-large representative, I need to better understand CRT. The challenge will be reading and writing from an objective point-of-view because I am actively engaged in breaking down the barriers of systemic racism. However, I am an academic scholar, credentialed in education and education research, so I will do my best to apply my academic lens and included the data along with the discussions.
I will be looking at the overarching question of what is critical race theory (CRT) and is it an appropriate lens to be used in public school education? Along with that, I will investigate why are people protesting or supporting CRT, and what political efforts are being done to oppose or support CRT?
… researchers at the University of Chicago conducted a large study in which they responded to over 1,300 help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago newspapers. They sent out close to 5,000 resumes to a range of employers in both the public and private sectors. The qualifications on the resumes were consistent, but the researchers randomly assigned stereotypically white-sounding names, such as Emily Walsh or Greg Baker, to half of the resumes, and stereotypically African American–sounding names, such as Lakisha Washington or Jamal Jones, to the other half. They found that regardless of the employer, occupation, industry, or size of the company, the call-back rate for the resumes with white-sounding names was 50 percent higher than for the resumes with black-sounding names.
(DiAngelo, 2016, 56-57)
Our university is looking for a new president and I can’t help but think if applicants’ names will impact their hiring. I’ve been on search committees before and I know how they work. I know that every effort is made to evaluate candidates on merit alone, but I had never considered how their name may play into their hiring. I can say I certainly don’t think it did in the committees in which I have participated.
But then this happened …
I volunteer for a state health agency and participate in their COVID-19 testing events. I serve on the administration team that makes certain forms are completed correctly, verifies names, and birth dates, and gets the testing packets ready for the medical personnel. This past week I volunteered at a juvenile detention center. My racist event was assuming one of the females that was to be tested was black based upon her name. I based this assumption on the fact that as a teacher, I had only encountered that name for black females. As you can guess by my writing this, I was wrong. Not only was I wrong, I was wrong in a big way.
The white female was being escorted by a black female. The black female was clearly part of the staff as noted by her ID. But still, when verifying the information, I looked at the black female instead of the white female, merely because the name I saw. I had already made a prejudgment that the person would be black. That event has stuck with me all week and I wonder how many other implied racists assumptions I make daily merely because of my socialization.
As record high unemployment rates due to COVID-19 pervades the United States, how will black, brown, and other communities fare over white America? USA Today reported black unemployment in May 2020 rose to 16.8% while white unemployment fell to 12.4% (Jones, 2020). In May 2019, these numbers were 6.2% for blacks and 3.3% for whites. But hey, after COVID-19, everything should return to normal, right? Qualified blacks and qualified whites will be able to return to their jobs or easily find the right job if they only look, right? Probably not for black and brown people … unless their name is John or Mary Doe.
DiAngelo, R. (2016). What does it mean to be white? Developing white racial literacy (Rev ed.). Peter Lang Publishing