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~Submitted by Rich Guay, Albuquerque resident

This letter is provided as opinion/commentary from the author. You can submit your own letter to editor@abq.news

Critical Race Theory is far from a curriculum designed to race shame a generation of students. It is the latest salvo between the political left and the political right. Our academic history is rife with debates on what cultural and secular issues should be addressed in classrooms. In the early 20th century it was evolutionary theory vs religious fundamentalism. Could evolution be discussed in public schools? The debate between socialism and communism vs American capitalism followed. Could the ideologies of foreign governments be studied in public schools? Today – in The Critical Race Theory (CRT) debate – factions of our political spectrum have drawn a line as to what systematic racial policies are deemed appropriate in the classroom. To be clear I would have to believe a majority of American adults would agree that textbooks provided to us in our youth were abridged, to say the least. Little ire arises when we look back on how Simon and Schuster presented Lexington and Concord but when a thoughtful and thorough discussion regarding racial policies – cemented in federal, state, and local law – is proposed the simpler minds of American society cry out that proponents of a deep-dive into government-sanctioned disenfranchisement want to shame our kids for being white and label our predecessors as racist. This is a patently ignorant position to land on. It is, however, par for the course. Both extremes in our political system adroitly use issues such as CRT to rally their supporters and raise copious amounts of money. The Trump-tented faction of the Republican Party will be swayed little by my opinion but they are not my audience. I’m trying to convince reasonable folks to do their own research, learn more about CRT, and form pragmatic opinions on its goals rather than get their info from incendiary politicians, pundits, and various media platforms.

CRT – as many, many many Americans believe – was not born from the Black Lives Matter movement of the past few years. It began in earnest in academic circles in the early 1980s and probably earlier in the 70s. It does not purport that everyone is racist or that whites need to self-shame as part of their education experience. It does however require that we look at the generational ramifications of American government policies from our country’s infancy up through a good portion of the 20th century. It asks that we consider how laws on the books from small towns like Stamps, Arkansas to boroughs the size of Manhattan took hold and still create devastating aftershocks on an unwitting population. I do not believe these early policies were the work of evil men but of men who had only the workings and understanding of the world at their disposal. These were laws put into place when property rights – not human rights – dictated public policy. Property owners in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries were able to accumulate and protect generational wealth through policies that prohibited African Americans to participate. Policymakers of the past literally rigged the system to promote one population over another. It is inarguable. It is shameful. It is also forgivable, and rectifiable. CRT attempts to explain – not vilify – the gargantuan head start European Americans had over their African counterparts, and illuminate the glacial pace -inherent in policy shifts – in which these policies have been challenged and eradicated since the Great Society policies were debated in the 1960s. 

Whether through apathy or ignorance, policies – directly to blame for systematic disenfranchisement – remained (and in some instances remain) on the books for decades and decades despite efforts to right the wrongs of the past. For example, crippled by the Great Depression, financial institutions in this country, aided and abetted by legal statutes and regulatory policy, were allowed to discriminate against entire neighborhoods of minorities based on zoning areas designated “high-risk territories” when considering loans and refinances in order to “protect the firm’s fiscal integrity.” And thanks to Jim Crow policies -separate but absolutely unequal – what good was the GI Bill to thousands of African Americans returning from WWII if they couldn’t enter a white man’s bank? I know personally up until at least the late ’60s laws on the books in Virginia allowed property owners the right to have their deeds non-transferable to African Americans. These examples are three of many but are representative of what hasn’t made its way into many school districts across the country. They simply don’t make their way into elementary, middle, or high school textbooks and CRT aims to change that. CRT is designed to open our children’s educational experience to some of the less admirable provisions in our country’s statutory history. Until we as a society exercise a proper study as to why February SHOULD be Black History Month or why police brutality is merely a fraction of the scope and spirit of the Black Lives Matter movement we are doomed to let silence and ignorance loom large over the American educational apparatus. The world at our disposal today is demonstrably more egalitarian than the world of our grandfathers, not to mention our founding fathers. And I believe the world today is ripe for CRT.