In 2021, if you don’t know what Critical Race Theory is, you should almost be ashamed.
Almost ashamed because if you are a product of the American public and private educational system then your knowledge is exactly where the framers of childhood education wants it to be – woefully inadequate and lacking in knowledge and awareness of the true and accurate history of this country.
You have been spoon-fed a false version of American history that has effectively shielded you from the meaning of America, the thoroughness of enslavement, the insidiousness of white supremacy, and the continuing evil efficacy of “pretend teaching.”
You have graduated satisfied in your understanding of how America came to be and you are so very wrong. You received an “A” in history, but that grade is as laughable as it is sad. And you walked the stage to receive a diploma that isn’t worth the paper it was printed on.
Congratulations, you’re qualified to know almost nothing about America!
You have learned so little about American History because white supremacists planned it that way and are fighting to keep it that way. From the Daughters of the American Revolution to the Klan, to various northern and southern white-led PTAs, school boards, and of course school districts, there has been a concerted effort for hundreds of years to limit what we all learn in school, from public, private, elementary, to university.
You know the stories because they are like those old Fractured Fairy Tales cartoons that twisted the meaning and origins of common fairy tales and then ended with a pun or a joke.
There is the fairy tale of George Washington, that he was a man of unassailable integrity and leadership. This is translated to children through the metaphor that he did not lie and confessed to chopping down a cherry tree, or some such nonsense. What is not said, however, is that his famous wooden teeth were teeth stolen from one or more of the Africans he enslaved. The same slaves he did not free upon his death but instead willed them to his heirs. George Washington was a human trafficker.
Then there is the fairy tale that the Founding Fathers were great men of destiny who fought royal tyranny to secure their God-given inalienable rights of freedom. Which would be accurate if the tale mentioned it was only for themselves. Thousands of years of Native history, traditions, community, and society be damned. And freedom, agency, rights, etc., for people stolen from Africa who were then enslaved in America? Nope. Nope. Nopitty Nope.
The so-called Founding Fathers were almost all owners of humans and they knew, they knew it was wrong, but they were so hyped up in their self-given superiority they simply did not care that they were now worse leaders and people than the ones they left in Europe.
You were told about “Manifest Destiny,” “states’ rights,” “The Industrial Revolution,” and of course the “Greatest Generation” (of white men) who singlehandedly saved the world during World Wars I and II.
But who did they “save the world” from? They saved the world from other white men, who together with the “Greatest Generation,” brutally killed over 100 million people in just those two wars.
No amount of “inner-city violence” will ever match those numbers.
Thankfully, your education also taught you about historical great white men and their societies, from Rome and Greece mostly, with a detour to Egypt, and a day or two talking about China and the Mayans.
And following the Civil Rights changes from the 1950s -1970s, your textbooks began to include Black history sentences and if you were in a “blue” state you may have gotten a paragraph.
But mostly you got two lines of Black history during a couple of days in February. You learned that slavery “wasn’t that bad,” most slave owners were actually pretty kind people, the Irish were slaves, too, and the always present “we freed you.”
If you were extra lucky, you got to dress up as a slave, or pretend to be on a slave ship, and if your teacher was a next level racist, you got to pick and clean cotton to show how the slaves did it.
There. Now you fully understood 250 years of chattel slavery, emancipation, rebellion, and Jim Crow, and it was all distilled to you in soft words and masked images because that is all your American sensitivities could handle.
Your education was so thorough, you graduated from a major university with an impressive degree, but you know less than Black kids who are taught American history as part of our survival classes at the feet of our parents, grandparents, church mothers, preachers, and teachers.
Black kids have Ph.Ds in American history because it is necessary for our day-to-day well-being and our community recognizes the need for us to understand who we are, where we came from and, equally important – who we live with.
You are NOT smarter than a Black fifth grader about Black history and, really, if you are an adult, you should be ashamed.
Because if you are an adult, there simply isn’t an excuse in 2021 for your blissful ignorance around actual American history. Americans have to work hard to preserve national ignorance by clinging so tightly to the privilege that it grants you.
Americans can’t have it both ways.
Americans sit comfortably in ignorance, celebrating statues to Confederate traitors, sacred Native mountains carved into giant heads of white men, holidays almost exclusively dedicated to white men, and money exclusively dedicated to white men.
All but one president and vice president are exclusively limited to white men, and almost every Supreme Court justice, almost all senators, governors, prosecutors, sheriffs, Fortune 500 CEOs, and college presidents are white men. But somehow, they are all afraid of learning how the system that has so handsomely rewarded them was designed to benefit them at every step of their lives.
It may come as a surprise to those of you unfamiliar with actual American history that white men were not and are not the only people worthy of studying, understanding, and developing entire courses of study around.
The depth of Black history is rich in honor, perseverance, humor, invention, industry, success, failures, and all of the range of human achievement and accomplishment. In fact, the more you learn, the more you’ll find out that many “great white men” stole more than just Black lives and wealth; many stole from the richness of their collective knowledge, ideas and genius.
We are more than the trauma inflicted upon us by your forefathers.
We are more than you even know, not because we are hidden or knowledge of us is hidden, but because of the willful blindness that permeates the ruling classes who prefer to “See no Blackness, Hear no Blackness, and Speak no Blackness.”
The lives of Americans, and thus the life of the country, stands to improve and leap forward should the truth of American history be taught and understood by everyone.
The old saying goes: “Those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”
But for Americans, it should be changed to:
“Those who refuse to learn the past, will remain stuck in an imaginary now.”
Americans’ lack of learning our true history is why we continue to fight the same fights, generation after generation. From police brutality, fairness in hiring, funding for schools, in borrowing money for small businesses, in farming, home buying, and general credit.
We remain stuck as a nation because white people refuse to learn why things are the way they are, and without that knowledge, the root causes cannot be understood and addressed.
Republicans, i.e., white people, are passing anti-CRT laws across the nation, even though they do not even know what CRT is, and none can articulate why it is so bad for white people to learn more than whitewashed fairy tales.
They are acting and legislating out of fear.
Deeply rooted fear that the GQP weaponizes to prevent white Americans from learning the truth of what this country is and how it got to where we are today. Fear that they will be exposed and may one day have to confront themselves in a way that shatters their picture-perfect, false way of life.
Are white children and adults so fragile that they can’t learn the so-called founding fathers were rapists, that Black women were used to breed children, had their milk stolen by white mothers, and that those who owned humans did detestable violence, sexual violence, mutilations, ate them, and murdered babies, children, women and men with impunity?
Will it destroy white society to learn their weddings at plantations are a celebration on the grounds of death and destruction of babies, children, women and men? Many of whom are buried underneath where they take their wedding vows?
Will Hollywood collapse by including more Black people in movies, television, commercials, and speaking parts in cartoon series and movies?
I don’t think so.
I think white Americans are stronger than white American leaders give them credit for. They keep truth from white citizens by keeping them focused on modern fairy tales about the horror of Black folk taking over, Black folk being lazy, Black folk being less patriotic. They keep white people angry at Black people, laying the blame for all of America’s faults at the feet of Black people.
The lies white Americans are told are legion. Supremacy is the catch-all, but it is day-to-day, in school, at home, at work, and online.
Your white voice isn’t more important, the laws aren’t yours to weaponize, and your job, your car, your health, your voting rights, your rights overall are not more important than those of anyone else’s in this country.
You have been duped and fooled by people who count on you not using critical thinking skills to question falsehoods and seek truth.
Critical Race Theory is simply the pursuit of truth.
But also, Critical Race Theory has been taught in American schools since day one. It has just been exclusively focused on white society and whiteness overall as the standard for all humanity from antiquity until now.
It is absurd even writing that previous sentence, but it is more absurd that we are still fighting to teach actual American history versus American fairy tales.
America needs CRT more than ever. Without it, we have what we just experienced over the past four years. A lying, meathead president who was and is a complete idiot, and who was championed by 70,000,000 people who were so vile and deplorable they could not even win with class or grace. So of course, they and he could not lose with class and grace. They decided to tear down the country they purport to “love” for the sake of maintaining the lie of white supremacy.
They fell for his grift because they are uncritical in believing the lies of Manifest Destiny and white supremacy. They could not – and can not – see past the privilege they are surrounded and protected with by all levels of society.
They took over the Capitol and only one of them was killed by authorities who are always willing to kill Black people.
Black people know history and so every time we have marched in Washington, we have done so with public planning, city approval, and loud calls for peace. We know if that were us storming the Capitol, we would have died by the thousands and the steps of the Capitol would run red with the blood of our people.
Because we know American history.
America is stuck because we do not teach CRT to white people. Knowing and understanding CRT would go a long way towards forcing the majority to confront white supremacy.
You can’t have white supremacy in a nation that knows and accepts its true history. But white supremacy will thrive where ignorance is nurtured and glorified.
CRT won’t steal, kill, or erase your history but it will round out your history so that you and everyone else can better understand how we came to be.
Once we all know, we can fix, adjust, improve, and gallop into a better future that is a future of knowledge, understanding, and, yes, inclusiveness.
CRT is the only way forward and the longer it is delayed and vilified, the longer white society will remain in ignorance to the detriment of society and America’s future.
I purposely left out the official definition of Critical Race Theory because if you still do not know what it is, it is incumbent on you to research it for yourself and not wait for someone to teach it to you.
You can do it.
© 2021 by Myron J. Clifton. All Rights Reserved.
Myron J. Clifton is slightly older than fifty, lives in Sacramento, California, and is an avid Bay Area sports fan. He likes comic books, telling stories about his late mom to his beloved daughter Leah, and talking to his friends.
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