Opinion: Protecting the true version of U.S. history

Critical race theory is rapidly disappearing from some teachers’ curriculum and the quiet ban has already swept through 27 states. It is so important to protect the teaching of critical race theory in school because without it we would be one step closer to the erasure of minorities within history. 

According to the article titled “Why are states banning critical race theory?” by Rashawn Ray and Alexandra Gibbons, “opponents fear that CRT (critical race theory) admonishes all white people for being oppressors while classifying all Black people as hopelessly oppressed victims. These fears have spurred school boards and state legislatures from Tennessee to Idaho to ban teachings about racism in classrooms.” This is, as it turns out, a gross exaggeration of what critical race theory actually is. 

Critical race theory, by a general definition, is an academic movement of US civil-rights scholars and activists who seek to critically examine the intersection of race and US law and to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to racial justice. Or explained more simply, it looks at how historically, and all the way to the present, the government and law have treated and continue to treat racial minorities. This definition can also expand to include how U.S. social institutions, for example, the criminal justice system, labor and housing market, and healthcare system, continue to be laced with racism embedded laws that lead to different outcomes defined by what race a person is. 

This limiting or banning of critical race theory can mean many different things in a  classroom setting. Banning or limiting the teaching of critical race theory in schools could limit the honest teaching of history in schools. Sensitive topics such as the trail of tears, the U.S.  fabricated murder that began most of the U.S./Mexico conflict, the U.S. promoting their own interests overseas even at the sacrifice of civilian lives, and so many other examples could be affected. The retelling of history will continue to stray further and further from the truth. If a  teacher or professor wants to use critical race theory, they should have that right. But because the definitions and aims of critical race theory are not understood by politicians and policymakers,  they are harming students’ education. 

Changing how critical race theory is taught will also affect how minorities are treated. If we do not teach students the true history of our nation, how will we ever learn from our mistakes and how will we change for the better? Erasing our past also erases the culture and history of those who have been oppressed and further pushes them down into poverty and isolation. 

One good example of how this oppression from a racist society is affecting minorities can be found using the racial dot map created by the University of Virginia. The dot map is a tool created by the university where it displays 308,745,538 dots, color-coordinated for each race  (White is blue dots, Black is green dots, etc.). Using this tool and the ‘add map’ labels option in the top left corner, we can see high densities of minorities clumped together in cities. Some of the densest areas of minorities are found in and around major city centers where the living conditions often vary from poor to completely unlivable. These clusters are not created because people want to live in poor and destitute areas, but they are there because they have no other choice due to redlining and other tactics that are utilized to prevent minorities from “invading” predominantly white areas and business spaces.  

If we erase critical race theory in classrooms, then who is going to change the fundamentally racist society that we live in? If we prevent our future lawmakers, doctors,  teachers, and journalists from learning the full and true history of our nation, are we not doomed to repeat its flaws and become trapped in a perpetual downward spiral? 

More information about the racial dot map can be found here.