CRT? No. It’s American History.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) has quickly surfaced as a wedge issue designed to evoke emotion in parents of public school students. Republicans have created a new weapon for further dividing our society with the goal of winning elections. It would almost appear as though CRT has taken the place of a wedge issue that they seem to have quietly set aside for the moment–that of LGBTQ rights. 

Those who take the time to read well-researched news articles and peer-reviewed academic journals know that CRT is a red herring. It simply doesn’t exist in our P-12 public schools. In fact, it’s only been taught in a few law schools as part of coursework focusing on racial equity and discrimination laws. 

CRT is a theory–a theoretical construct. 

Those who have had much experience in higher education know that theoretical constructs form the basis of research. Theories give birth to hypotheses. Hypotheses become the backbone of research studies. These studies then yield data, from which conclusions are drawn and recommendations for further research are made. It’s not some type of evil conspiracy — this is the nature of academia. 

However, Republicans recognized an opportunity to manipulate the truth through a national disinformation campaign. The result? Many parents have fallen for it:  Hook, line, and sinker. They’re showing up at school board meetings, already worked up into a frenzy of fear and rage. And they’re showing up at the ballot box. Consider the recent gubernatorial race in Virginia, where Republican Glenn Youngkin ran on stamping out CRT once and for all–and the schtick worked beautifully. 

In this latest attack on public schools, some are even taking things so far that they don’t want key aspects of history taught at all. Or, if they are taught, teachers are required to devote equal time and learning resources to present an opposing view. That includes covering the Holocaust, Native American displacement and genocide, slavery, and so much more. Think this is an exaggeration? Think again. The Texas Republican state legislature recently passed such a requirement. 

Take for example, the Underground Railroad. We all remember reading about this important network of abolitionists who worked tirelessly – often at great personal risk – to help free slaves in the years leading up to the Civil War. This is an extremely important part of our nation’s history, and yet those who have jumped on the anti-CRT bandwagon would not want students to learn about what the Underground Railroad was, why it was important, and how it impacted our nation.

We must teach students about American History – all of it. 

An excellent book on the topic would be in jeopardy of being placed on the banned books list if Republicans continue to manipulate parents with the CRT boogeyman. It Happened on the Underground Railroad: Remarkable Events that Shaped History would be an outstanding resource for school libraries in grades 6-12. The author shares documented stories about the perilous escapes of numerous slaves, whose efforts weren’t always successful. She also told the story of several abolitionists who ran bakeries, blacksmith shops, and other businesses during the day but helped slaves escape to freedom by the dark of night. 

If anti-CRT activists have their way, students wouldn’t learn about things such as: 

  • Entrepreneurial gangs discovered there was big money to be made by kidnapping especially in the mid-Atlantic states, made money by kidnapping free Blacks and selling them into slavery.
  • It’s estimated that between 40,000 and 100,000 slaves escaped bondage to make their way to freedom. However, the vast majority either never had the chance, or they were recaptured, severely punished, and sent back to a plantation or prison. At the end of the Civil War in 1865, more than 4 million slaves were set free.
  • By law, children followed their mother’s status. If she was free, her children were born free. If, however, she was a slave, they were born into slavery.
  • Twelve American presidents owned slaves. Eight of them did so while serving as president. 

And so much more. If this wedge issue is allowed to go unchecked, students would also likely not learn about the atrocities suffered by indigenous people, nor would they know how poorly those of Japanese descent were treated during World War II, or how immigrants came to the United States as skilled miners, scientists, inventors, and the like but were treated as second-class citizens. This isn’t Critical Race Theory. It’s American history. 

There are serious consequences that will result if we allow Republicans to continue using CRT as a way to manipulate minds, increase their coffers, and win at the ballot box. 

It’s time for Democrats to lead. 

As Democrats, we need to quit playing defense. We must take the lead by partnering with teachers’ unions and other education advocacy groups to promote academic excellence. We need to communicate the value and virtue of our public schools. If we don’t put a stop to this and start showing some leadership, we make it easy for the opposing party to win seats and increase their stranglehold on the political agenda. Let’s get our act together, and soon. 


The Franklin County Democratic Central Committee meets the last Monday of each month. Due to COVID, meetings are currently being held via Zoom. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Photo Credit:  Tricia Martineau Wagner, Globe Pequot Press.