To stop schoolchildren from “hating our country,” the Florida Board of Education banned instructors from teaching critical race theory. The decision comes after the Black Lives Matter movement got media attention and led to community demonstrations.
Due to a widespread outpour of support for the movement, debates about the prevalence of racism in the U.S. became prevalent. In conservative states like Florida, those opposed to discussing the U.S.’s racist history politicized this moment and looked to stop it by any means. As Gov. Ron DeSantis explained, “The woke class wants to teach kids to hate each other, rather than teaching them how to read, but we will not let them bring nonsense ideology into Florida’s schools.” As a result, critical race theory was removed from the curricula of Floridian schools. Except, CRT was never part of Florida’s curriculum in the first place, and teachers will have to continue teaching students about history. The battle these politicians are fighting is imaginary and reveals one thing: They don’t know what CRT is. Instead, they use a moment of reflection and growth to hide the past that many people are still directly affected by, today.
So, what is Critical Race Theory?
CRT is a legal academic focus that seeks to spotlight the intersections between the social construction of race, power and how it manifests within the law. The framework challenges the supposed neutrality of law and how social structures complicate the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. Critical race theory recognizes that historic events, such as slavery and segregation, have created long-standing social hierarchies that leave BIPOC in disadvantaged positions. These issues are not limited to race and intersect with gender, class and sexuality. Kimberle Crenshaw, a CRT founder, noted that CRT is an ever-expansive practice that cannot be pigeonholed.
The tenets of CRT include the ideas that race is not biological but socially constructed; racism is a manifestation of institutions, not an incident; and lived experiences are important because it informs the theory. Instead of looking at racism as individual feelings, CRT stresses the way racism is codified through law. The theory seeks to not only critique the law but provide a way to change it both within and outside of it. It promotes tools such as narrative storytelling and invites other schools of thought, such as gender and queer studies, into its analysis. As the American Bar Association explains, CRT “ [acknowledges] that racism is a normal feature of society and is embedded within systems and institutions, like the legal system, that replicate racial inequality.”
So, what is the issue?
CRT theory, for politicians who might not know about it, is incorrectly equated to diversity and inclusion initiatives that were popularized within the past few years. As conversations about overdue racial equality take stage, CRT is equated to things such as ethnic studies and equity training. While these initiatives attempt to provide a more realistic portrayal of BIPOC treatment in the U.S., the initiatives are not linked to CRT. Simply put, CRT is used in law schools, not elementary schools. Yet, politicians attempt to ban CRT to silence conversations on anti-racism, social justice and America’s not-so-pretty history. While politicians can’t ban something that was never taught to begin with, it reveals a desire to shield younger generations from important conversations. Through this attempt, true portrayals of American history and inclusivity are attacked instead of fostered. Opportunities to learn through necessary conversations about race are hindered and hurt the U.S. nationwide.
While the Florida Board of Education definitely alarmed many students, teachers and residents, they are not staying silent. Many have expressed their feelings at school board meetings, interviews and through social media. It’s clear that many Floridians will continue to resist these tactics and push for inclusion and proper diversity within the field of education. Because CRT is a topic not exclusive to Florida, other states have crafted bills to shut down CRT in schools. Luckily, Florida’s situation serves n as a warning to other citizens: Be wary of proposals of anti-CRT legislation. The implications of banning CRT are much greater than what these laws accomplish, and hopefully, these efforts are stopped in time.