When it comes to the subject of Critical Race Theory and whether it should be taught in schools, one thing is abundantly clear: Only white people overwhelmingly oppose it.
Poll after poll after poll shows that a majority among Americans consider the college-level academic study to be inherently divisive, but once you break those numbers down into demographics, they all show that the strong majority of those who have adopted CRT as their new resident Devil are overwhelmingly Republican and conservative and just as overwhelmingly caucasian. (Most of those polls also show that the majority of Americans don’t have even a remedial idea of what CRT is.)
The Republican war on CRT has hinged on exploiting the rage and paranoia of white parents who, much like those politicians, had never heard of CRT before the latter end of the Trump administration when the term became popularized (or infamized) despite the fact that the study was founded in the late ’80s.
But what of the Black parents?
Sure, white conservative pundits and politicians will routinely scrape the bottom of the Sunken Place to find their proverbial “Black friends”—like Condoleeza Rice, Ben Carson and newly elected Virginia Lt. Governor Winsome Sears—who will shout down CRT while joining their white overseers in not even being able to accurately define it. But to take their opinions as an indication that Black people are also aboard the anti-CRT train would be to dismiss the opinions, testimonies and lived experiences of millions of Black people across the country and across generations. You can spend all day scouring the Google-sphere looking at surveys and you still won’t find one reputable poll that doesn’t show the vast majority of Black people believe systemic racism in America is a very real thing.
In Virginia—where newly elected Gov. Glenn Youngkin rode the “I heart whitewashing and hate CRT” bandwagon to gubernatorial victory last month by parading around white mothers and their white issues with the Black history their white children are learning—Black parents are now speaking out about how their concerns with school curriculum went ignored while that of white parents were focused on in the name of not being divisive.
Featured in an op-ed piece published recently by HuffPost, Black parents in Loudoun County, Virginia, talked about how, for years, they showed up to school board meetings—just as the angry white CRT opposers do—to discuss Black students being forced to endure humiliating and disturbing lessons that trivialized slavery by turning it into a game. They said their concerns went ignored, almost as if the conservative purported fear of “divisiveness” is actually the only concern that surfaces when white people are uncomfortable.
“In February 2019, students at Madison’s Trust Elementary School in Ashburn were told to navigate an obstacle course in gym class to simulate enslaved people escaping through the Underground Railroad,” HuffPost reported, adding that, in one instance, a Black student was made to portray a runaway slave.
“The parents who are outraged right now and spreading this misinformation about teaching critical race theory—why were they not concerned about [slavery] being taught as if it was a game?” asked Katrece Nolen, a Black mother of two children who go to school in the district. “It wasn’t an issue for those parents when kids were going to tours of local plantations, hearing the enslaved referred to as ‘helpers’…If they don’t like equity and what’s discussed and taught now, what’s their answer to what was being taught to our kids?”
Nolen makes a good point: If the opposition to CRT is truly about ensuring that children aren’t made to feel uncomfortable or discriminated against due to their race, then where is all of the conservative outrage when Black children are subjected to class assignments that involve games like “Let’s make a slave” and “slavery yoga” (yes, you read that right) or when white teachers are stepping on the backs of Black students to simulate the treatment of the enslaved? When Black students and parents feel repulsed by a class lesson, or by the denial of non-whitewashed Black historical curriculum, is that not also an indication of divisiveness?
Whytni Kernodle, co-founder and president of Black Parents of Arlington, told HuffPost that during the Virginia election, the “suburban moms” Youngkin claimed opposed CRT were often conflated with “white, affluent women.”
“I’m a Virginia suburban mom,” she said noting that Black parents were scarcely heard from when crafting the anti-CRT narrative that led to Youngkin’s victory.
“The stolen land from the Indigenous, the genocide of the Indigenous, and then the enslaved labor by the Africans is how this country came to be a superpower,” Kernodle said. “For some people, the look in the mirror at what their ancestors were able to do and able to take, and the fact that they got where they are based on their whiteness and not any manifest destiny of superiority, is just too hard.”
And there it is, plain and simple. The “divisiveness” is there whether anti-CRT advocates get their way or not. White people just need the divide to be invisible to them.
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