Last week was a busy week for me, so I didn’t know the Wisconsin Assembly passed legislation banning critical race theory (CRT) Sept. 28 until Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative mentioned it during his recent lecture at Clowes Hall.
As Stevenson answered questions about CRT posed by Leah Gunning Francis, vice president of Academic Affairs and dean of the faculty at Christian Theological Seminary, I listened intently. I wanted to know what Stevenson, a man who embodies Christian principles, had to say.
Well, Stevenson basically said the frenzy about CRT is not based in reality. I call it ridiculous.
After listening to the lecture, I went on a hunt to find articles about Wisconsin and the legislation. The bills still must have Senate approval as well as approval from the governor, who is a Democrat and former schools superintendent, before becoming law. Gov. Tony Evers is expected to veto the legislation.
The legislation bans teaching the concepts: one race or sex is superior to another; a person is inherently racist by virtue of his or her race or sex; a person’s moral character is necessarily determined by race or sex; and systems based on meritocracy are racist or sexist or designed to oppress people of another race.
Other banned concepts include social emotional learning, diversity, equity and inclusion, culturally responsive teaching, anti-racism, conscious and unconscious bias, culturally responsive practices, microaggressions, multiculturalism, patriarchy, restorative justice, social justice, systemic racism, white privilege, white supremacy and woke (that one made me chuckle, sigh, shake my head and roll my eyes).
This proves 2020 scared the heck out of a lot of people — a lot of white men in power. These are the moves of desperate, afraid people. There’s no other way to explain the idea of wanting to remove any concepts or words that allude to fairness and equity.
At one point, it was perfectly OK to teach the superiority of the male gender over the female gender for generations, but now it’s not OK. It’s clear the men who are pushing this agenda are afraid women will be catapulted to the superior gender. Patriarchy was fine until people decided it was time to teach that it’s not fine. Somehow teaching about systemic racism is more harmful than supporting a system of racism.
These desperate moves are designed to keep the current system of racism and sexism in place. Many of those in power know they’re mediocre at best and without a racial and gender hierarchy that places white men at the top, they wouldn’t be there. It’s hard to admit that you’re only in a position of power because of years of oppression, and because we’ve lied to people for so long in this country, many are delusional about how things work. As much as we’d like to believe we live in a meritocracy, and if you work hard, you’ll rise to the top, that’s not the whole truth. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” is closer to the truth for many. We’ve all known someone or seen someone who used connections to get a position for which he or she is unqualified. So we can stop with the content of our character, colorblind society mumbo jumbo.
America’s system is based on keeping white men in power, and as soon as a full-fledged effort to change that system occurs, people come out to stop that movement. I’ll also add it’s not only white people who are happy with the status quo. There are plenty of Black people “who’ve made it” and now think since the system worked for them, the system isn’t failing, Black people are. That couldn’t be further from the truth. There shouldn’t be exceptions to the rules or the first Black this or first Black that in 2021. Black excellence isn’t new. It’s something that’s been ingrained in us for generations, yet we’re still on the lower rung of society.
I also have a hard time believing everyone’s heart changed when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. The people who sprayed marchers with hoses, screamed at and spit on The Little Rock Nine or who wouldn’t let their children sit in the classroom with Ruby Bridges didn’t magically change their views on Black people. The lawmakers who are so vehemently against CRT are their progeny. If hearts and minds changed that easily because of laws, the Civil Rights Bill of 1866 would’ve been enough.
Even though CRT isn’t for schoolchildren or even most college students, the fact that so many are shaken up by it and concepts that call for equity is a clear indication of the “good trouble,” as former Congressman John Lewis would say, being made.