Critical Race Theory: A Few Comments


By Vivian Blevins

Contributing Columnist

On Monday of this week, I received a survey in the mail, and I was asked to respond to the following:

“Should Critical Race Theory — a doctrine teaching that all Whites are racist and America was inherently evil from its founding to today — should be the foundation of civics and history classes in our public schools?

___Yes ___No ___No Opinion”

Earlier in the day I talked with a community leader about a readers theater piece that I am organizing to be presented during Black History Month at Edison State Community College where I teach.

During my conversation with that community leader, a retired educator, Critical Race Theory came up, and I expressed my perspective on the teaching of American history and government. Briefly put, my position is that if we are to provide our students with a quality education, we must include the good, the bad, and the ugly. This person recommended that I read Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, and she spoke a bit about it.

I read extensively, so I went straight to Amazon and ordered the book after reading a few critiques in which I learned that the author, a Pulitzer Prize winner, argues that we need to examine many problems we face as a nation through the concept or lens of caste systems.

Back to the script planned for presentation at the college on Feb. 23, 2022. Maybe you’d like my sense of it so that you can ascertain whether it’s a suitable project. The title is “Lynching Alabama” and it was researched and written by retired Edison State English professor Jane Kretschmann who is a native of Alabama. The script features a preface dated 1965 in which the author asks if it is safe in Alabama and concludes that it is not and that she is “taking all my life to try to overcome “ racism and bigotry. This is followed by a white man presenting a catalogue of the hundreds murdered in Alabama before 1950, all lynched.

From that point in the script, monologues are presented by persons in respond to historical lynchings in the time period 1884-1942. Respondents are Black and White, young and old, relatives of those lynched and community members.

The concluding monologue, read by a White man, is entitled “Our Shame” and is a listing of the myriad ways in which we have failed to address the horrors of lynchings with a final assertion that “We must never be as wrong as this again.”

Is it a powerful script? Yes. Is it painful to read? Yes. Can it be a powerful tool as we continue to explore the ways in which we fail our African Americans: employment, housing, education, the legal system, voter suppression?

Now back to the survey. I was concerned because it was simplistic, unfair, designed to elicit a particular response and reinforce prejudice, misinformation.

My next step then was to seek academically-sound definitions, descriptions of Critical Race Theory that the designer of the survey should have consulted if he wanted his survey to be valid and reliable- which was, of course, not his intention.

As I read the varying definitions/tenets that have arisen over time and the ways in which the theories have been used as well as the controversies and the ways in which CRT expands to other groups such as the disabled, Asian Americans, and Latinos, I realized that we all have much to learn before allowing ourselves to be manipulated by persons who will use CRT to further divide us.

In conclusion, I also think back to a Miami University professor from whom I took two courses in social and intellectual American history. He used not just a text but a plethora of support materials, primary and secondary sources, to give us honest insights into American history.

And if you still believe that the Whites, the European settlers, who first came from Europe “discovered” America, we probably can’t have a conversation.

Vivian B. Blevins, Ph.D., a graduate of The Ohio State University, served as a community college president for 15 years in Kentucky, Texas, California, and Missouri before returning to Ohio to teach telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College and to work with veterans. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints nor the independent activities of the author.

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