What is Critical Race Theory?
According to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, critical race theory is an academic framework used to analyze the systemic impact of racism on society. Critical race theory focuses on the social, political, and economic intersections with race and the institutions that continue to oppress marginalized people.
Originally built for legal analysis, at its core, the CRT has roots that date back to the late 1900s, led by prominent black jurists.
Why is it so controversial?
The CRT was founded on generations of black scholarship and activism, but Republican politicians have denounced the theory and continue to mislabel it as a way to divide students or bring racism into the classroom.
At the Neshoba County Fair last year, Reeves gave a speech, which included this:
“Some of these Ivy League liberals are the dumbest smart people in the world,” Reeves said. “In what world is it acceptable to teach children that they are born racist? In what world is it acceptable to tell children that they will be judged by the color of their skin and not the content of their character… In Mississippi, our children should learn STEM education, not Dem education.
Other critics of the CRT cite similar divisive claims, but people familiar with critical race theory repeatedly stress the systemic analysis on which it operates. That is to say, the CRT focuses on the whole system, not on the individual, but rather on the place of the individual in this system.
But the message gets lost in translation if it boils down to supposedly teaching white children that they are born racist with a personal and active hand in oppressing their peers of color.
READ MORE: Anti-CRT bill passed by Senate committee likely unconstitutional, opponents say
Is it taught in Mississippi schools?
Currently, Mississippi has only one course explicitly on CRT called Critical Race Theory: Law 743, taught at the University of Mississippi. Educational journalist Molly Minta wrote about the class in an article titled “Inside Mississippi’s Only Class on Critical Race Theory” to tell the story of a young Republican woman who wrote to her lawmakers criticizing their decision to advance anti-CRT legislation after taking the class.
The Mississippi Department of Education has confirmed that CRT is not taught in any public K-12 schools in the state.
If SB 2113 is enacted, Mississippi will join at least 14 other states in banning or otherwise limiting critical race theory in public schools.
READ MORE: Inside Mississippi’s Only Course in Critical Race Theory
What’s going on with critical race theory in the legislature?
Republican lawmakers introduced 11 bills dealing with critical race theory this session, according to EducationWeek. Only one remains alive. The Senate voted Senate Bill 2113, which only refers to the CRT in its title (vs. the bill itself). The legislation as currently drafted is vague, but would prohibit “the distinction or classification of students on the basis of their race”.
When the bill was put to a vote in the Senate, “all black senators from Mississippi walked out in protest. The fate of this bill now rests with the House, which has until March 1 to assign it and pass it out of committee.
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