By Lea Mercado
Web Content Assistant Manager
During this year’s legislative session, Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB 3979, which restricts how Texas educators can discuss current events or controversial elements of American history, especially those regarding race and oppression. Despite lacking mention of “Critical Race Theory,” the bill symbolizes Abbott’s efforts to “abolish Critical Race Theory in Texas.”
HB 3979 echoes similar legislation being pushed across the nation calling the public’s attention to Critical Race Theory itself.
To further understand CRT in regards to education, Kimberlé Crenshaw, the lawyer who coined the term in 1979, discusses why CRT in classrooms should not be written off.
(Feel free to skip ahead to 2:00 to avoid political commentary.)
Traditionally, Texas has been known to focus on the positive elements of history, commonly referred to as “Happy History.” This type of history typically grazes over difficult topics such as racism, slavery, and inequality in an effort to maintain unity within classrooms and avoid discourse.
In reality, “Happy History” does more harm than good.
While an educator can avoid discussion of racism and oppression in their classroom, their students cannot avoid encountering discrimination outside of the school. Being able to have healthy discourse and conversations within the classroom is not something that will divide students, but rather, offer valuable language to unavoidable experiences that affect students of diverse backgrounds.
Inability to discuss real-world problems also acts as censorship to teachers. It creates a dilemma for many educators of color as they must grapple with the decision to adhere to state restrictions and dismiss their own experiences or create a space for open discussion and possibly face backlash.
CRT was never intended to be divisive, but rather it provided language to the legal analysis that racism has always had a role in American law and institutions. The battle over CRT in classrooms is not about division, protecting young students, or even about the theory itself. Instead, the very term CRT is being used as a buzzword to mobilize voters by creating an urgent need to “protect students” from race discussion.
In my opinion, restricting the discussion of race, sexism, privilege, and oppression is a step towards a daunting censored future. Avoiding healthy and guided discussions revolving around heavy topics is a mockery to education and an injustice to the student when the public entrusts schools to provide complete truths and tools for students to formulate their own opinions.
It’s time to discuss Critical Race Theory in classrooms.
It’s time to welcome and nurture student (and educator) experiences rather than silence them.
It’s time to do better.
Featured Image by Lea Mercado