Editorial

CRT isn’t the bogeyman that right-wingers say it is

ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” article. It is an editorial by the editor.

The latest in a long line of bogeymen our right-wing friends have dragged out into the public arena (Mr. Potato Head, Dr. Seuss) is something perhaps mislabeled as “Critical Race Theory.”

I personally heard this from the leader of the local Torches & Pitchforks group at last week’s Wayland Board of Education meeting, whilst once again threatening to pull children out of the local school system if masks are required and the hybrid model of instruction is extended.

The leader dissed CRT as “just a theory,” just like opponents of teaching evolution have liked to do. Similar “grass-roots” uprisings have been reported at school board meetings in Lowell and Grand Ledge and frankly all over the place.

Yet I’m willing to bet very few if any of those up in arns about CRT really understand what it is. And, as Martin Board of Education President Art Shook pointed out, “It’s not in our curriculum.” CRT is simply the recognition that customary teaching of U.S. history hasn’t included the whole truth in retelling the story of America’s past — warts and all.

Some fear CRT encourages hatred of white people. The way I see it, CRT only insists we face the truth, no matter how ugly it may get. If we don’t, we wind up with cynical, mistrustful curmudgeons in our midst (like me), people who believe they’ve been lied to about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Stork and the Tooth Fairy and U.S. history.

As I have reported often in this space, I take history very seriously. I consider myself as a lifelong student and lover of the subject. It was my major in college and I have used it a lot since in my career as a community journalist.

Yet I was never taught in high school or college about President Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears. I was never taught back then about the Wounded Knee massacre. I was never taught about the Tulsa race riots. I was never told about President Woodrow Wilson’s obvious racism.

Something like CRT is the fight against sanitized and incomplete historical accounts. It doesn’t have requirements, except that history as it truly happened be taught to students.

Let the students of the future decide about such unpleasant developments. I believe most will add up the pros and cons and opt for the former in assessing what America did in the past. Armed with the truth, they will be better able to avoid being condemned to repeat those mistakes.

Georges Santayana was spot on when he said, “Those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”

 

9 Comments

  • The little snippet in your article proves that CRT is utter garbage. That isn’t what racism is, racism is hate. The entire world is influenced by negative vestiges of the past for all kinds of people, not just people of color. It’s called history, we learn it and learn from it, we don’t wallow in it. Learning History does not have a component mandating that a particular group acknowledge guilt and shame on behalf of their presumed ancestors. CRT is not simply the story of the Wounded Knee massacre and you know it.

    My ancestors were Catholic Scots who had their religion made illegal and were literally murdered, starved to death and driven from Scotland by Protestants. At the same time, Catholics in Spain were committing similar and even more barbaric atrocities against Jews and other non-Catholics. These actions still linger in the fabric of modern Europe and Canada where most of the departing Scots Catholics wound up. It also lingers in Latin America where the oldest Jewish settlements are in what used to be the far reaches of colonial Spain. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of different groups acted out in history and then hated one another for centuries after. Over time many moved away and moved on, and came to hate each other less.

    It works this way because time heals wounds. It sounds trite and silly, but it really does. It does unless people deliberately portray history in a manner designed to keep wounds and divisions from healing because division and tribalism better serves their purposes.

    Advocating for equality is not bigotry, “all lives matter” isn’t hate speech or White Supremacy. Calling the truth a lie doesn’t make it one. The fact that some Americans once owned slaves and that we fought a brutal civil war in part due to slavery is critically important history. Those unfortunate facts still influence our day-to-day lives. However, asking people to define themselves and specific groups within our society in a different and negative way today because of that history, or events descended from it are taking this country backward. Organized mob silencing, cancelling, labels, ridicule and even unprovoked violence and terror aimed at those in opposition to these divissive ideas are products of Fascism.

    That, Sir is the left in this country… Sustainers of hate and sowers of division. Critical Race Theory is just a tool to further divide our society.

  • MacDougal,
    I write this with the greatest respect for your point of view.
    I need to make a couple of statements with regard to some of the points you make.
    Let’s start with the bottom of your piece. The left is not alone in sowing division in our country.
    Both the left and the right are guilty of sowing division and each uses it’s own buzz words and concepts to do so. If I’m not mistaken, recent talk about CRT (critical race theory) was raised by certain members of the right, specifically to distract the nation from the bigger issues we are facing. (I am unable to find the article I read most recently to dredge up the name of a particular, ultra-right agitator who was quoted as saying his intent was to confuse and distract the populace from other issues of import.)
    Moving upward in your piece, you are correct that “all lives matter” is not hate speech. But it can be heard by some as the diminishing of the importance at this time in our history of Black Lives Matter, because that is the group that is suffering a great deal from policies and practices happening right now. All lives do matter, and that’s a fact. But right now we need to concentrate on the things that are making it so difficult to be Black in America, and learn from history how to correct it.
    “Time heals wounds.” Where I grew up in New Jersey in the 50s through 70s the most despised and discriminated against were the Jews. The hate was palpable. In my hometown of Wayne, NJ, one of our mayors ran on an anti-Semitic platform and won, and it was awful for my Jewish friends and their families. Fifty years later, now that Wayne is far more widely integrated than it was when it was white and Jewish (influx of multi-nationalities living in the greater NYC area), it may be that the anti-Semitism has abated, but I’ll wager it is not gone.
    Catholics took more than their share of licks by the WASPs of the east coast. I was born in a NJ town called Glen Ridge. There were many Catholic families there, and I knew many Catholic children, mostly Italian, first generation Americans, but also Irish Catholics (not to be confused with Scots). Though my parents never talked disparagingly about Catholics, it was apparent among non-Catholic people we knew that “they” were considered “less than” and “different.” I formed my own, very young opinions of Catholics from only one source, our next-door neighbor kids, who reminded me, often enough for me to develop a dislike, that I was going to hell because I was not Catholic. I’m glad those feelings didn’t stick with me, but I haven’t forgotten how I was treated by three kid who hounded us about our Protestantism. So maybe time hasn’t healed that wound yet, and I’m 70.
    Finally, CRT isn’t “garbage.” It is a field of study geared toward understanding history, not wallowing in it. If we don’t study history we cannot learn from it. If we sweep it under the rug in the name of time healing old wounds, we cannot learn from it.
    I would put it to you that CRT is being used by politicians to divide us, not by everyday people like you and me and the editor. CRT was begun by academics who wished to understand how our past, and how those feelings of (unwarranted?) guilt, continue to contribute to our governments’ writing legislation and policy that works against certain segments of society. CRT is something taught in graduate level courses, not in elementary school curricula. That’s where the political spin comes in, purposely being mis-assigned to confuse those who don’t delve into the study themselves, or even try to understand what that study is all about. CRT isn’t designed to be taught below (in my opinion) high school AP classes. It requires more than parroting history.
    I believe you can understand CRT to be an effort to probe our current institutions and legislation in the light of history to see how we have been bamboozled by politicians to focus on something that doesn’t pertain to our daily lives.
    Let the academicians sort through all that theory, psychology, and philosophy, and distill it for us non-academics in the bright light of history. They can report their findings to us.
    In the meantime, we need to teach our kids actual history. They can handle the truth of the Trail of Tears, of Jim Crow America, of slavery, of women’s suffrage. Give them the facts. They can figure out the immorality of it themselves in light of the moral teachings they (should) receive at home or in their churches.
    CRT seeks to understand racism, it is not, in and of itself, racist or reverse racist. CRT seeks to understand what else we need to do to end the racist tendencies we fall into out of old habits, specifically, what we need to do to become an anti-racist nation.
    Finally, at the risk of picking nits, racism isn’t just hate. Racism is an insidious virus that infects all of us at one level or another, to one degree or another. I dare say most of us are afraid to see it in ourselves, but it’s there. We need to be willing to face that flaw so we can root it out. I have to work at it every single day.
    I do respect your point of view, and offer my own as something you might want to chew on in your spare time, as I have done yours.

    Peace.

    • Lynn, I’ve said it before and will say it again. Nothing positive will be accomplished by rehashing our country’s wrong doings. What progress can be achieved by highlighting negative aspects of any form of growth? If progress in our society is to be nurtured and to continue, would it not be more beneficial to highlight our progress to overcome our short comings as a nation and society? The only achievement I can foresee, as a consequence of CRT, as it is put forth, is to create shame in some and anger in others. Yes, our society was one of advantage and disadvantage for some. But look around you. Doctors, Lawyers, Teachers, Political Persons, Sports Icons, Pundits, Professors are occupations and careers open to all minorities and occupied by many. Do I need to mention our first Black President? I still believe and always will, that positive characterization is a greater motivation to continued progress than rehashing mistakes and faults.

  • If we need to teach the good and bad of America in CRT, should we also teach the good and bad of the Native Americans as well? Teach the Wounded Knee Massacre, but also teach the torture and mutilation of American soldiers at the hands of some bands of Native Americans. Teach the rites of passage of Native Americans, many that included murder and cannibalism? Should we teach the how Colonel Custer’s 7th Cavalry, a Michigan unit, were butchered after the battle of the Little Big Horn by Native Americans, some while wounded but were still alive? How about we tell the stories of soldiers being tied to fixed objects and while alive having their intestines pulled out a foot at a time much to the delight of the folks in the tribe? Should we teach how American soldiers would keep a pistol cartridge in a breast pocket to kill themselves so they would not be captured wounded or alive, fearing the mutilation and torture that would result?

    Should we teach the massacre, rape and enslavement of immigrant farmers by bands of Natives Americans? Should we teach the enslavement of other Native Americans by different tribes and bands? Should we teach that Sacajawea, the only real Native American woman on an American coin, was captured by a Hidatsa war party, gang raped and then sold into slavery at 12 years of age, then sold to a French Trapper?

    As we teach the Trail of Tears, should we teach that the Native Americans took thousands of African American slaves they owned with them on the Trail of Tears?

    Should we teach that many American soldiers who fought Native Americans were from the same Native American nation as the ones they were fighting, Sioux against Sioux? Indeed, Sioux meant ‘enemy,’ as the Sioux made war on all other Native Nations and even among themselves?

    CRT forgets that part of history, only teaching the history that condemns our nation.

    • The answer to your very pointed question is yes.
      Teach it all, warts and all.
      How else do we learn?

    • AB,

      Once again well done. You turn the table 180 degrees, and as much as they (AZ Girl) doesn’t really want to agree with you she has to. It really doesn’t fit into their narrative.

      Carry on!

      Cheers!!

      • Mr. Wilkens,
        You seem to imply that my agreeing with AB on this issue (teaching the evils of Native American tribes) is a “win or lose” of some kind. Why is agreement seen as a warped victory of one person over another? It appears to me to be an example that two people who usually disagree on issues actually have COMMON ATTITUDES toward an issue.
        AB and I agree that knowledge is a good thing, regardless of what or whose truth is being learned. The key being truth. And, at that, the whole truth.
        The idea that we all are always on opposing sides is the misconception that prevents us from finding and embracing common ground and avoiding what seems to be acceptance of inevitable division.
        Mr. Traxler and I don’t disagree on what needs to be taught and learned. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right?
        But if you find it beneficial to assign victory or loss in a situation of agreement, I have sympathy for you. To continue to think that way insures that you will always be on the defensive. You will view every legitimate alternative viewpoint as a personal attack. That’s a terrible way to view your fellow human beings, a great stress on your emotions, and an unfair characterization of those who might carry a different idea, attitude, or opinion than your own.
        Mr. Traxler made a good point in his response. It doesn’t differ from my own. I hope it helps anyone else who reads it to see things from all aspects of teaching history.

  • “Yet I was never taught in high school or college about President Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears. I was never taught back then about the Wounded Knee massacre. I was never taught about the Tulsa race riots. I was never told about President Woodrow Wilson’s obvious racism.”

    One of these things is not like the others.

    1. Trail of Tears. Really? You weren’t taught about the Trail of Tears in High School? I honestly find that shocking. If you can find the name of your old High School textbook, I recommend ordering a used copy on Ebay. If you find that there is no mention of the Trail of Tears in there I will be extremely shocked.

    2. Wounded Knee? This is one of the few episodes in the shameless treatment of the Native American population that everyone really does know. Again, I recommend checking in your old textbooks.

    3. Woodrow Wilson. I believe you on this one. Woodrow Wilson is the Patron Saint of American Progressives, and progressivism in America was a fundamentally racist movement. It’s greatest achievement was mandatory sterilization of immigrants and others to “protect the pure Nordic gene pool” — yes that led to both Planned Parenthood and the Holocaust, see Edwin Black’s War on the Weak. If Wilson was not actually a member of the KKK then he was its biggest supporter. He re-segregated the Federal Government after Republicans had fully integrated it, and gave States carte blanche to introduce laws that we now name “Jim Crow”. He screened the KKK movie Birth of a Nation in the White House and said it was the truest history ever written. The man was a demented racist but he was the apotheosis of modern US progressivism, and so he gets a complete pass on all of that and more, a bit like someone else who might be president right now.

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