Letter to the editor: Education on racism targets systems, not individuals

On June 10 this paper featured a strident letter critical of the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in schools. I’m writing to share a different perspective.

As I understand it, CRT is not a curriculum. It is simply a lens through which teachers can help students examine the role of racism and race in American society, both now and historically. The basic principle (it is not specifically referred to as “Critical Race Theory” except by ill-informed critics, but rather as an equity program) asserts, correctly, that racism is purely a social construct — one that presents one race as inherently superior to another — and that racism is embedded in our nation’s policies and legal systems. It is not about individuals, but systems. CRT doesn’t demand that I, as a white man, feel shame, or apologize for being white, or acknowledge my personal racism. It looks at the systems, laws and policies that have developed in the U.S., during and since slavery, that treat people of color differently, dehumanizing them and limiting their access to basic, civic rights like equal justice, housing, education and security. The writer claimed that non-whites seek excuses for failures, when, in truth, they face, and have faced, monumental systemic obstacles to success, that whites like me don’t have to face, daily.

I do agree with the writer that “hatred is taught … so are acceptance, love and respect.” That truth alone supports the need, in my view, for a clear-eyed look, both at our nation’s many fine triumphs, and also its failures. Heaven forbid we teach our kids the truth — the truth about slavery and systemic racism, the whole truth about our remarkable-yet-flawed democracy, so we can all work together, without shame or apologies, to transform the embedded systems of racism, and so maybe, just maybe, we can, one day, truly be a nation of liberty and justice for all. All.

The June 10 letter writer wrote, “Administrators need to return to their original task of ensuring that our students are instructed with facts…” I could not agree more.

Ted Scheu


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