Critical race theory rightfully prompts us to acknowledge true impact of America's history | Opinion – Commercial Appeal

It’s 2022 and public education in America is at a crossroads.
Students across America read Huckleberry Finn and learn about the Civil War in public schools from teachers who are not properly trained or prepared to teach topics that delve into racism, bias, inequity, and social disparities. Why? We are at a moment in time where some parents prefer that K-12 students not learn about pivotal and maybe uncomfortable moments in our country’s history.
Robin Steenman of Franklin, Tennessee, a white mother of three, believes that the lessons being taught to second graders in Williamson County Public Schools about civil rights leaders will lead students to believe that white people are oppressors and minorities are victims.
Steenman and other women from the area, who are in the Williamson County chapter of the political organization Moms of Liberty, recently filed a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Education, demanding that the material be removed from the curriculum.
The crux of their complaint is that this material violates the Tennessee law which bans the teaching of ideas linked to critical race theory.
The law, signed by Republican Governor Bill Lee, threatens to strip teaching licenses from educators and cut funding to schools that teach material suggesting “that anyone is “privileged” due to their race.
This begs the question: would it be better to pretend these issues never existed?
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As a parent and educator, I contend that the current conversation elides a critical perspective: Being a minority in the United States is uncomfortable. Minorities face inequalities in every aspect of life—access to healthcare, limited education and job opportunities, harsher criminal punishments, and difficulty securing housing.
“The annual rate of incarceration of black men is 3.8–10.5 times greater than that of white men, across all age groups,”According to an article from the Lancet entitled ‘Structural racism and health inequities in the USA: evidence and interventions.’ In 2014, “almost 3% of all black men in the USA were serving sentences of at least 1 year in prison.”
Even with the best of intentions, laws disproportionately impact people of color. Without systems in place that provide constructive frameworks for discussing racism, inequities, and social biases, educational institutions risk that the damage that has been done will continue.
Yet, contemporary discussions about critical race theory use the phrase, and often weaponize it, without truly grasping its intent. CRT is a legal, academic framework that says racial bias is ingrained in U.S. laws and institutions—negatively impacting people of color.
As an educator and parent, I have seen firsthand the ways in which structural inequality runs deep within our education system. A New York Daily News article claims, “In America, you’re much more likely to read, write and do math on grade level and ultimately, graduate from high school and attend college if you’re white than if you’re Black or Hispanic.”
Yet, the pejorative debates surrounding CRT fail to take these bleak statistics into account.
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The reality is that whether we acknowledge it or not, history is real and laws are real. As such, legislation that prohibits the teaching of critical race theory distracts from the underlying issue that our system is still broken.
The distraction demonstrates how the very issues our society lays its foundation upon, including education, skills, jobs, and our economy fails our children from birth to adulthood. Instead of launching CRT witch hunts in public schools, we should be using taxpayer money to invest in the elevation of marginalized communities so that we can begin to conquer the beast that is structural inequality.
The first step is acknowledging the problem and it starts within our education system—one where the erasure of history has placed us squarely at a turning point, begging the question: Do we acknowledge our country’s true past or do we continue to ignore it?
Clifford Stockton is a former educator and current parent residing in Memphis.


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