In schools across the country, woke teachers and left-wing parent activists are promoting critical race theory, a disturbing philosophical framework founded in radical, racially charged concepts about culture, society, and government.
According to critical race theorists, virtually all of society’s problems should be viewed within the context of alleged systemic racism, which all people have a solemn duty to root out at any cost — including by promoting other forms of racism.
Ibram X. Kendi, a leading advocate of critical race theory, summarized this troubling idea in his popular book How to Be an Antiracist.
“The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination,” Kendi wrote. “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.
Critical race theory has become an immensely popular idea among many in academia, and some of its core tenets have made their way into countless classrooms, in virtually every state in the country.
For example, a New York City public school principal asked parents earlier in 2021 to identify and evaluate their particular kind of “whiteness.” Among the eight options provided were “white supremacist,” “white privilege,” and “white traitor.”
A Michigan public school mandated that students complete an assignment titled “White Privilege and Whiteness,” which asked them “to reflect on how white privilege operates in their personal lives,” according to a local NBC affiliate.
As more stories about critical race theory have emerged in recent months, they have sparked intense backlash from parents and some lawmakers concerned that critical race theory is itself a form of racism — one that provides a distorted view of America and its history.
Although there are many reasons schools should avoid critical race theory, as well as various other “critical” theories that promote similar ideas, perhaps the most important is that many forms of critical race theory teaching are likely in violation of federal or state law.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, a national law, mandates, “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Because public schools receive federal financial assistance, they are banned from subjecting students to “discrimination under any program or activity,” including in the classroom.
Although not all forms of critical race theory can properly be understood as “discrimination,” many can. Requiring white students to complete assignments in a manner that differs from black students, for example, is a kind of discrimination that is commonly associated with critical race theory curricula.
Teaching students that they are guilty of implicit racism because of the color of their skin is another form of discrimination often included in critical race theory teaching materials.
The argument that critical race theory is often linked to illegal, racist actions was bolstered in a recent ruling by Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen.
In a decision issued on May 27, Knudsen concluded, “In many instances, the use of ‘Critical Race Theory’ and ‘antiracism’ programming discriminates on the basis of race, color, or national origin in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Article II, Section 4 of the Montana Constitution, and the Montana Human Rights Act.”
Among his many excellent arguments, Knudsen noted that under the Civil Rights Act, “a school unlawfully discriminates on the basis of race if it has effectively caused, encouraged, accepted, tolerated or failed to correct a racially hostile environment.” Courts have defined a “racially hostile environment” as one in which people are made to “feel unwanted and uncomfortable” in their surroundings.
It’s hard to imagine that the students subjected to critical race theory in public schools and labeled part of the “oppressor” class don’t feel “unwanted and uncomfortable.” And I’m sure many students who aren’t classified as “privileged” feel the same way.
Schools have a duty to teach students about the dangers of racism, the history of slavery and segregation in America, and how racist ideas have been used around the world as justifications to silence, imprison, or even kill innocent people.
But critical race theory goes far beyond these concepts. By design, it aims to divide people on the basis of race, shame people on the basis of race, and often treat students differently on the basis of race. In many instances, critical race theory results in a form of racist institutional harassment. Under no circumstances should students be subjected to these hateful concepts, regardless of the good intentions of some critical race theory supporters.