February is Black History Month, a chance to honor and learn about the triumphs, sacrifices, and challenges of Black people in America. But some parents in Alabama are complaining about this important observation — which, btw, has only been around for a measly 52 years! — because they can’t seem to understand white privilege or the systemic oppression in America that hurts Black people every day.
An article published yesterday on AL.com said Alabama Superintendent Eric Mackey told members of the House Education Policy Committee that parents are confused about what critical race theory (CRT) is and are incorrectly reporting it to state officials. “There are people out there who don’t understand what CRT is. And so in their misunderstanding of it, they make a report but it’s not actually CRT.”
As a refresher, CRT is a “graduate-level academic framework that encompasses decades of scholarship,” according to this comprehensive feature in The New York Times published last November. In the article, Mari Matsuda, law professor at the University of Hawaii who was an early developer of CRT said, “The problem is not bad people. The problem is a system that reproduces bad outcomes. It is both humane and inclusive to say, ‘We have done things that have hurt all of us, and we need to find a way out.’”
Critics of CRT are framing any discussions of racism as “shaming, accusatory or divisive,” which seems to only be true if, well, you’re a racist. In the New York Times article, Matsuda added, “For me, critical race theory is a method that takes the lived experience of racism seriously, using history and social reality to explain how racism operates in American law and culture, toward the end of eliminating the harmful effects of racism and bringing about a just and healthy world for all.” Shouldn’t eliminating racism and creating a just and healthy world be everyone’s goal?
Regardless, this theory is only taught in graduate-level courses, meaning the politicians who are trying to ban it from K-12 schools don’t really understand what it is — since CRT isn’t being taught there anyway.
So, how does this relate to Black History Month? For starters: it shouldn’t. In the AL.com article, Superintendent Mackey said, “I had two calls in the last week that they’re having a Black History Month program and they consider having a Black history program CRT. Having a Black history program is not CRT.”
The Alabama state board of education approved a resolution in August to ban the teaching of divisive concepts in the wake of the nationwide outrage against CRT. That’s why Mackey is speaking up. He added, “I can tell you what’s in the state curriculum. I can tell you what’s in our textbooks and CRT is not in there.”
Black History Month is a great time to educate your kids (and yourself), which is why SheKnows published this guide to get you started last February.
Stopping our kids from learning about history that makes us uncomfortable is wrong — I can’t believe I even have to say this — and it’s so refreshing to see school districts standing up against these ridiculous policies. Black History Month deserves to be celebrated, in school and everywhere.
Check out this list of children’s books by Black authors and illustrators.
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