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Online forum defends teaching critical race theory in classrooms

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 10:21 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A bill banning the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) in public schools put Tennessee in the national spotlight.

Tuesday night, there was an in-depth conversation by some scholars on the topic in an online forum.

“Critical race theory is not so much about trying to point who a racist is, he’s a racist, she’s a racist, this/that or another,” said Wallis Baxter, professor of African American Literature at Gettysburg College. “No. Critical race theory is a theoretical frame of reference for us to dig into the reality of race in America.”

CRT has been around for decades, but in the political and racial reckoning of America, the concept has picked up new attention.

Tuesday, the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change hosted an online forum about CRT, a concept that looks at racism as a social construct embedded in legal systems and policies.

Intercultarist Dr. Kami Anderson said, “Using a common proverb or analogy, CRT is giving the lion an opportunity to share its side of the story, and we have chosen to rewrite the narrative back in favor of the hunter because we’re too uncomfortable to evaluate our role in the lion’s pain.”

Last month, Governor Bill Lee signed into law a bill banning teaching the concepts in K-12 schools.

Some argue that messaging in CRT is discriminatory and question whether or not children are able to grasp the complicated concepts.

“We have a lot of good in our history. We have a lot of bad, and so we can talk about it and we can try to move forward. But let’s not make any one race or sex feel guilty about what happened in the past when we discuss these issues,” said State Rep. Mark White back in May.

Daniel Kiehl with the University of Memphis School of Law says CRT shouldn’t be about guilt, but rather presenting this country’s true and complicated history.

“It can both be true that Thomas Jefferson wrote some great theoretical things about liberty and equality, and justice and even fought for those things and that Thomas Jefferson was a slave holder,” said Kiel.

The Tennessee bill would mean schools that teach about systemic racism would have their funding withheld.

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