As a society, we (Americans) have talked about a “racial reckoning,” and reparations for the descendants of Africans who built this country. Neither a racial reckoning nor reparations have happened.
A racial reckoning has not happened because most white folk think the very idea is punitive, that they should not be punished for the sins of their fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers and great grandfathers and great grandmothers, not to mention their sins of today…. But as Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, has stated in talk after talk, the racial reckoning is not about punishing white folk. Most importantly, the racial reckoning has not happened because we have not developed a language to talk about race, to have a conversation across the racial divide (chasm). It’s not impossible to create a racial Esperanto, a language that Black and White speak and understand, a language that doesn’t imply that Black is evil and White is pure, a language that doesn’t judge or condemn, a language that is not steeped in anger from historical wrongs that haunt us to this day, a language devoid of “little white lies” and white supremacist notions, a language that isn’t burdened by living history.
We live in the shadows of this history, most of it unreconciled, unreconciled because there’s been no racial reckoning, unreconciled because there’s been no reparations – the two go hand in hand.
Reparations haven’t been paid because there’s a disconnect in white thinking that the wealth of America was not built, in large part, on the unpaid labor of Africans and their descendants. In fact, this is the very foundation of America’s wealth.
W.E.B. DuBois wrote about the “gift of sweat and brawn” that Africans brought to this land. America is not a great nation simply because of white folk. America is a great nation because of her Black and Brown people. America’s greatness has nothing to do with Manifest Destiny and the White Man’s Burden. When you think about it, in America, the burden has been borne by Black folk.
The racial reckoning must begin with lifting this burden. This burden has become almost unbearable over the years because we have been telling the wrong stories, over and over again, stories that make white folk look good, stories where you don’t find bad white folk, as if they don’t exist. This storytelling has become so distorted, that even villainous white people have been remembered as heroes, and memorials and statues have been erected in their names. Additionally, we have to admit that much of American history that is taught to the masses, and exported overseas, is actually American mythology, built on “little white lies.”
Little white lies may have sustained America all these years, but it is the root cause of our discontent, on both sides of the racial aisle. We must develop that racial Esperanto. I know we can’t talk our way out of this, but the starting point is with a conversation, with a question. My question to white folk: Why are some of you so afraid of Critical Race Theory?
White’s fear of Critical Race Theory
I suggest that white people have no fear of critical race theory (CRT). What we are experiencing is the expression of grievances related to issues of American race relations that those in the dominate culture and some people of color find offensive to their version of racial reality, engagement, and institutional outcomes.
CRT is not a factual argument. It is a legal theory taught in graduate school, and one of many theories that seeks to explain and identify social facts related to structural racism in America for all. Kimberly Crenshaw is its founder, basing her theory on the teachings of the late Derrick Bell. CRT starts its critical analysis by looking at outcomes to determine who is negatively impacted by the laws and in the legal institutions of America. It does not focus on an individual group of (white) people. It posits that race is an American social construct, dividing people. As a consequence, institutional racism is inherent, resulting in inequalities in the application of America’s laws and in the outcomes within its criminal legal system. It further posits that the practice of inequality, even if implicit, by race (racism) and ethnicity, functions to maintain an unequal racial hierarchy. CRT has been adopted across the social science disciplines, with the goal of eliminating a culture of hierarchical racial inequality within the institutional structures of America.
Engaging in detraction, the strategically uninformed anti-CRTers (Tucker Carlson, Kenny Xu, Ron DeSantis, Ted Cruz), spread mal-information in the media and in political arenas with no understanding of what CRT posits. The populace follows this lead ((123) Man HATES Critical Race Theory, Knows NOTHING About It – YouTube). The spread of mal-information has turned CRT into a net to catch any and all racial grievances. These grievances include narratives related to the American history narrative (1619 v. 1776), Black history narrative, who and what is to be acknowledged, and the shaping of educational curriculums from K-12. To the point, these grievances are informing policies and laws across the states of America.
We are witnessing the continuation of a strategy taken from the MAGA playbook to maintain the status quo: 10 years of Black progress-100 years of oppression and suppression to maintain the social and political order (January 6th). The father of anti-CRTer is Christopher Rufo. He loudly suggested that CRT training in federal agencies should be abolished (How a Conservative Activist Invented the Conflict Over Critical Race Theory | The New Yorker). Trump adopted Rufo’s suggestion into law. Rufo continues his anti-CRT campaign of CRT mal-information. His self-professed mission is to destroy the CRT brand with “cultural insanities” and untruths ((123) Joy Reid Schools Critical Race Theory Critic On Legal Scholarship – YouTube).
Thus, there is no fear. Only those in the media and in political arenas advancing self-interested agendas as race hustlers, whipping the racially uninformed into a frenzy by feeding their ignorance with CRT mal-information.
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