After the wrongful deaths of hundreds of people of color culminating in the police-perpetrated murder of George Floyd, the United States is fiercely debating the role of race in all aspects of government from local judiciaries, the military, and city police forces. At the center of this argument is Critical Race Theory (CRT), a framework of legal analysis that posits that racism against people of different ethnicities is deeply embedded into the history, society, and justice system of America and has developed over centuries of changes in the identity and interaction of different groups.
CRT originated in the late 1970s from the ideas of activists Derrick Bell Jr. and Kimberle Crenshaw and has since then taken off to captivate the attention of policymakers and lawyers across the nation. CRT states that racially motivated opinions present within those in power are affecting the wellbeing and legal safety of Americans and must be changed to maintain a just and progressive society, including race-blind laws that still may have adverse effects on people of color and that people who claim to be or don’t feel like racists can still make decisions that deepen racial divides.
CRT proposes that one way to fix embedded racism is to implement anti-racism education into public school curriculums. This would cover the injustices done to people of color, including redlining, slavery, segregation, as well as other inequities like income disparities, and teach students to not have a discriminatory mindset.
These plans, however, aren’t without their opponents; CRT’s opposers claim that the philosophy is based on false victimization, overly focuses on identity politics versus building one united nation, is an offshoot of Communist Marxism, and encourages riots and going against the rule of law, not to mention that it tries to put the needs of colored people ahead of other races, making it bigoted in itself. They state that America is and has been among the freest democracies in the world, constantly improving itself, and is one of the few countries that has enjoyed absolute freedom of religion and speech since the eighteenth century.
The debate over CRT is important due to its implications, if embraced universally, go very far into society, as proven by its recent effect on the 2020 Presidential Election. Former Republican President Donald Trump has repeatedly passed orders denouncing identity-driven efforts, especially those related to CRT, and the topic of race was repeatedly brought up in a multitude of debates.
Nevertheless, since President Biden won the election while supporting the reexamination of race’s role in law, it may signify widespread support for at least small steps towards CRT implementation in schools and workplace diversity training. If CRT happened to be truly implemented in its proper form (endorsed by either local lawmakers or presidents), while it’d take a lot of convincing of the general public and politicians to do so, we would possibly see a generation of students knowing the true effects and exact causes and effects of racism in American society and law, how to deal with these problems, and how to control discriminatory acts within themselves as well as others.
Many current young people who would later have prejudiced thoughts would have that form of thinking taken out of their minds or suppressed, and some of the legal and racial problems of the current generation may be reduced in the next coming decades. Overall, both supporters and opponents of CRT agree that implementing the idea into legal and secondary school studies has far-reaching consequences in both race relations and opinions of American history, especially for youth, and it is up to the voters of America to decide the future of CRT and school curriculums.
Through Teen Lenses: What are your opinions on the Critical Race Theory?
I don’t focus on politics too much, but even though I’ve never experienced true, deep racism in my life, I do believe that others, especially African-Americans, do face the repercussions of historic discrimination till today. I also think that students should learn about the effects and timeline of racism in America.
-Alexander Marcalaya, Sophomore (Age 15), Chantilly High School, Chantilly, Virginia
I agree with many of my peers that the contributions of African-Americans to our current society should be discussed more. I applaud Fairfax County Public Schools for offering electives in African-American history and social justice.
-Allison Mauck, Sophomore (Age 15), Chantilly High School, Chantilly, Virginia
“Well, while I do think racism was a horrible part of the American experience for people of color in the past, we’ve gone a long way, banning all major forms of discrimination between the 1960s-70s and recognizing historical wrongs as a place to reconcile. I don’t believe that we need an education platform as deep as CRT that claims that the basis of America’s founding and all its laws are simply inherently racist as that may lead to some students becoming unpatriotic. No other world powers are as free as America, so why should we commit the most self-flagellation?”
-Monish Kumar, Sophomore (Age 15), Chantilly High School, Chantilly, Virginia