Like wildfire, the banning (and the consideration of banning) of what is called Critical Race Theory is spreading across the country in various different states to the detriment of tens of millions of children and to America overall. As indicated in an essay I wrote yesterday entitled, Critical Race Theory, Sleight of Hand, & Some and Mirrors, I see this as nothing more than subterfuge, deception, a ruse. In my eyes, it’s not CRT that they want to ban because as I read and listen to countless individuals, they don’t even know what CRT is. No….what they want to ban is the truth of America’s ugly history over the past 402 years relative to Black-white relations in this country. For example, you will recall that in the summer of 2020, then President Trump was scheduled to speak in Tulsa, OK on Juneteenth (June 19) which sparked outrage from the African American community in particular. It brought the Black Wall St. race massacre and the meaning of Juneteenth to the center of media attention nationally. Millions never heard of either prior to this moment. What we see with these "Critical Race Theory" state bans is the consequence. These legislators in these red states are essentially saying, "Oh hell no...there's no way in hell we are going to allow the truth of America toward Black people historically to make its way into our classrooms. We will suppress that truth by any means necessary!" This is where we are now in America’s schools.
Since I became a teacher back in 1988 in Brooklyn, NY, I have stood firm that cultural-relevance, cultural-responsiveness and equity must be inherent components of America’s classrooms; particularly when Black and Brown students are present. I consider these to be nonnegotiable components of the teaching and learning dynamic. But I stand equally as firm on the teaching of African American History and this, I do not confine to the presence of Black students. America is comprised of each race and countless cultural groups but there is only one race of people who came to these shores involuntarily – Black people. Black people are uniquely American. We all have roots in Africa but most of us do not have fam back home in Africa (that we are aware of) that we can call and say we will be coming home to visit on a summer vacation trip. America is home. It’s all we have. What family we know is here and throughout the Western Hemisphere. Our story is therefore a uniquely American story. There is no such thing as American History without the fullness of the African American story. To write us out of history is to pretend that we don’t exist and to pretend that we did not come here as slaves (captives). The banning of CRT is nothing but a modern day attempt to further suppress the story and experience of Black people in America. It’s a way to control the thinking of the masses of children in America’s classrooms.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson, considered to be the father of Black history in America due to his creation of Negro History Week back in 1926 which evolved into Black History Month in the 60’s wrote sixteen books but the one that is most pertinent to the times is a classic and perennial best-seller, the Miseducation of the Negro, written in 1933. There’s a paragraph in the introduction that is often cited and recited, and recited by me countless times over the past 35 years. It reads as follows:
“When you control a man's thinking, you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his 'proper place' and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.”
He said it best when he said, “When you control a man’s thinking, you do not have to worry about his actions.” This is my interpretation of the goal of banning CRT. It’s about banning the Black experience so that control of the minds of America’s children may be maintained in classrooms relative to the truth of the past.
So what about Black History Month? Of course the reading, studying, learning, researching and celebration of Black history can never be confined to one month and in this case, February. But February is still most significant because it provides us with the opportunity to highlight…zero in if you will, on Black history during that particular season. I look at it as a month long “celebration” of Black people. But when you juxtapose it with the banning of CRT, it raises legitimate questions. Is the banning of Black History Month next in America’s schools? Will it be watered down? Will it be reduced to “nothingness?” Will teachers be intimidated from teaching it? I said it a “zillion” times and I will say it again, YOU CANNOT TEACH NOR DISCUSS THE BLACK EXPERIENCE IN AMERICA DEVOID OF A DISCUSSION ON RACE. It is an impossibility. It cannot be done. And this is why I call the banning of CRT ”sleight of hand” & “smoke and mirrors.”
As I close, I want to draw your attention to 50 questions that I added to the conclusion of my newest book, The Equity & Social Justice Education 50. The book is written for educators and my premise for the questions is that teachers must be conversant in these eras of Black history, regardless of the racial composition of their students. These questions represent American history and not having familiarity with each is just unacceptable for a multiplicity of reasons. But in the context of this blog post, in a state where CRT is banned, these questions would be considered violations of the ban because they require discussions of race…which may make some of the children feel uncomfortable…which is the deception that is being used to ban CRT.
Please take a look at each of these questions and ask yourself whether or not you are conversant in these eras of American history.
1. What do I know about the circumstances upon which the first Africans arrived to America?
2. What year and location did the first Africans arrive?
3. What do I know about the Middle Passage?
4. What do I know about Black participation in the Revolutionary War?
5. What do I know about the intricacies of the “peculiar institution” known as enslavement?
6. What do I know about the abolitionist movement including the rise of the Black press?
7. What do I know about the Dred Scott decision?
8. What do I know about the Emancipation Proclamation, including Black participation in the Civil War?
9. What do I know about Juneteenth?
10. What do I know about the Black Codes?
11. What do I know about the 13th Amendment?
12. What do I know about the 14th Amendment?
13. What do I know about the 15th Amendment?
14. What do I know about the reason for HBCUs?
15. What do I know about the reason for Freedmen’s Schools?
16. What do I know about the reason for the Freedmen’s Bureau?
17. What do I know about the intricacies of Reconstruction?
18. What do I know about the Compromise of 1877?
19. What do I know about Plessy v. Ferguson?
20. What do I know about the founding of the NAACP?
21. What do I know about the Garvey Movement?
22. What do I know about the Harlem Renaissance?
23. What do I know about the Negro Leagues?
24. What do I know about the plethora of inventions and discoveries of Black inventors and scientists?
25. What do I know about the history of lynchings of Black men and Black women?
26. What do I know about the history of race riots and white mob violence toward Black men and women?
27. What do I know about Black Wall Street?
28. What do I know about the Rosewood Massacre?
29. What do I know about the Tuskegee Experiment?
30. What do I know about the Great Migration?
31. What do I know about Black participation in World Wars I and II and the Tuskegee Airmen?
32. What do I know about Brown v. the Board of Education?
33. What do I know about Emmett Till?
34. What do I know about the Montgomery Bus Boycott?
35. What do I know about the Little Rock Nine?
36. What do I know about the Greensboro Four?
37. What do I know about the 4 Little Girls?
38. What do I know about the March on Washington?
39. What do I know about Bloody Sunday?
40. What do I know about the treatment of Black soldiers after the Vietnam War?
41. What do I know about the Civil Rights Movement?
42. What do I know about the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
43. What do I know about the Voting Rights Act of 1965?
44. What do I know about the Black Power Movement?
45. What do I know about COINTELPRO?
46. What do I know about the Black Studies Movement?
47. What do I know about the struggle for Black racial justice beyond the ’60s and ’70s?
48. What do I know about the historical and contemporary tensions between the Black community and the police, which include the mass incarceration of Black men?
49. What do I know about contemporary issues of racial and social justice in the Black community?
50. What do I know about the infinite number of examples of “Black excellence” that has existed since the arrival of the first Africans to America as indentured servants and subsequently throughout the period of enslavement through the present?
For further reading, order my newest book, The Equity & Social Justice Education 50: Critical Questions for Improving Opportunities and Outcomes for Black Students (ASCD) wherever education books are sold.