November 5 – Our Communities: Education

Critical Race Theory

The person widely credited with coining the term “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) is Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, a law professor at the UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School. In her words, “it is a way of seeing, attending to, accounting for, tracing and analyzing the ways that race is produced, the ways that racial inequality is facilitated, and the ways that our history has created these inequalities that now can be almost effortlessly reproduced unless we attend to the existence of these inequalities.”   

Wikipedia describes critical race theory as “a cross-disciplinary examination, by social and civil rights scholars and activists, of how laws, social and political movements, and media shape, and are shaped by, social conceptions of race and ethnicity.” 

From the perspective of The Heritage Foundation, “Critical race theory makes race the prism through which its proponents analyze all aspects of American life, categorizing individuals into groups of oppressors and victims. It is a philosophy that is infecting everything from politics and education to the workplace and the military.” 

Critical race theory is the offspring of critical theory, which Britannica describes as a “Marxist-inspired movement in social and political philosophy, originally associated with the work of the Frankfurt School, drawing particularly on the thought of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud.” They say that critical theorists “maintain that a primary goal of philosophy is to understand and to help overcome the social structures through which people are dominated and oppressed.” 

Critical race theory developed out of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1970s and 80s, when a group of lawyers, activists, and legal scholars decided a new framework was needed to address racism and oppression in America. They took concepts from critical theory, radical feminism, the Black Power and Chicano movements, and supporting legal studies and created CRT. 

Initially, CRT was relegated to higher education. However, today, American schoolchildren in public schools are being taught some of its tenets. That fact became a flashpoint in the 2021 campaign of Glenn Youngkin for governor of Virginia when he vowed to ban its teaching in Virginia schools. Legislation that prohibits the teaching of CRT in primary and secondary (K-12) schools had already become law in Idaho, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas, and Tennessee, and had been proposed in more than 20 others. 

A survey conducted by Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research found the majority of Americans are concerned about how U.S. history is taught. Support for teaching CRT and racism varies by political party and racial/ethnic groups. In their survey, roughly half of respondents (52%) expressed greater support for “teaching about how racism continues to impact American society today” compared to teaching CRT, which only 27 percent of those surveyed support. 

In mid-2021, the U.S. Department of Education seemed to back away from language in a federal grant application that showed support for materials that may have promoted critical race theory. Instead, the department said it would prioritize projects “that incorporate teaching and learning practices that reflect the diversity, identities, histories, contributions, and experiences of all students, create inclusive, supportive, and identity-safe learning environments.” 

As many states pass laws restricting how teachers and professors can discuss race and racism, they may be vulnerable to court challenges that claim the measures violate classroom free speech rights and students’ equal protection guarantees. Other legal challenges could include charges of racial bias on the part of legislatures or that prohibitions will disparately impact students of color and violate their rights under the law.  

A think tank in Austin, Texas, has released a list of words and phrases to alert parents that critical race theory could be present in their child’s classroom. Their list includes “systemic racism,” “white privilege,” “white supremacy,” “colonialism,” “social justice,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Inequity,” “unconscious bias,” and “microaggression” among others. These words are not unique to CRT but are widely used in various contexts when discussing race and equity. 

The Book of Revelation, chapters 11, 21, and 22,  acknowledges that there are people and tribes and languages and nations who will be part of Christ’s eternal kingdom. There will be a multicultural Heaven, and the only One who is Supreme is the Lord Himself. Sin will be gone and racial prejudices and alliances will be eliminated as well. Our focus will not be on each other but on God. “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:3-5). 

How then should we pray? 

  • For wisdom for members of the House and Senate as they deliberate legislation that impacts equality, equity, and racial issues.
  • For state legislators to be discerning as they debate and vote on bills regarding public education.
  • For U.S. officials in the Education Department as they navigate the societal divisions regarding children’s schooling.
  • For educators, teachers, and school boards to work with parents regarding the curricula the students will be taught.
  • For Americans to have their hearts drawn toward the Lord and away from sin and pride.
  • For Christians to reflect the kingdom of God with love and acceptance toward one another as their behavior and witness.

See previous Pray 7 daily featured readings.

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