By Ben Weyman
The Office of Student Diversity Inclusion (formerly the ISLGP) held a seminar about Critical Race Theory this past Wednesday evening. This seminar, done in partnership with the Center for Community Engagement, was held in the William Walker Room in the Iosue Student Union. Approximately 50 students, professors, and community members attended the seminar.
“Telling the Truth: Demystifying Diversity in Educational Curriculum” was a presentation focused on Critical Race Theory and how it impacts American education. The presentation expressed a need for American schools to take a more honest and accurate approach to education in order to validate the diversity of the many cultures and identities that make up the nation.
“We wouldn’t be doing our due diligence if we didn’t talk about the history [of Critical Race Theory],” said Dionna Wright, the director of Community Conversation at the CCE.
But what is Critical Race Theory? In short, the theory states that race is a social construct and that legislation and policies are built in an inherently racist way. Part of the seminar was spent explaining to the audience the basis of the theory and the five pillars that support it.
“Black voices were not really involved in legal scholarship … this was the catalyst to creating Critical Race Theory,” said one presenter. Historically, BIPOC (stands for Black, Indigenous, and people of color; pronounced “bye-pock,”) groups were left out of scholarly and legal conversation. Therefore, the lack of minority voices in various formative processes means that these institutions are built by and for white people.
Critical Race Theory has been in the news lately as several K-12 school districts nationally have discussed banning the teaching of it in classrooms. Banning it will only cause more harm, the presenters argued.
“The curriculum maintains whiteness by exposing us to white narratives,” one presenter said. “You can’t tell Black and brown children that they can be lawyers and doctors if all they’re seeing are white lawyers and doctors.”
Another major point the presentation made was about segregation of schools. Many BIPOC families live in low-income areas, which is then reflected in their education.
“The segregation of schools didn’t end with Brown v. Board of Education … if you live in a predominantly Black area with low income, what does that mean for your school?” one presenter asked.
“BIPOC students have schools that are not as equipped,” she goes on to say. “White counterparts are experiencing education that is more fulfilling, they live in more affluent communities.”
Between main presentations, the audience was split into three groups and rotated between three mini-lessons:
- One was about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his Letter from Birmingham Jail,
- The next was about underappreciated/unrecognized Black inventors
- The third was about how little the American education system teaches students about Native American history.
After regrouping, several presenters and audience members shared their own experiences with racism, CRT and education, and discrimination. Several people said that they had never learned about Critical Race Theory in school.
Wright made it clear that the point of the presentation was not to make white people feel bad but to educate them so we can move forward and create more educational equity.
“It’s important to not create guilt,” Wright said toward the end of the session.
The YCP SDI is fielding questions and suggestions in preparation for a follow-up to this seminar. You can email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ben Weyman is a senior majoring in Mass Communications.