top of page

The Attack on "Critical Race Theory" in America

The U.S. is divided.

It is a nation wildly divided on nearly all political fronts. Most intimate to me is the eruptive debate surrounding education. Last year, conservative activist Christopher Rufo took to using the term “critical race theory” to oppose anti-racist education efforts in the public school system. This can be marked as an inciting incident, as the conservative community has raised the alarm that critical race theory is being used to teach children that “they are racist, and that the U.S. is a racist country with irredeemable roots.”

The opposition to these sentiments are the forces pushing forward progressive curriculums that actively encourage classroom discussions centering around discrimination as well as general diversity and inclusion initiatives.

With such heated debates over the nature of the American education system, lawmakers are taking an active cue as discussions centering around this “critical race theory” and its place in the classroom are occurring in multiple states. It is necessary to objectively examine these pieces of legislation and determine what they could mean for the future of American education, and by proxy, America.

For the purpose of brevity and clarity, this article will focus almost exclusively on dissecting Texas’ House Bill 3979, signed in June by Governor Greg Abbott and to be put into action in September. The reasoning behind examining HB 3979 is that it is more pertinent to my experiences as a Texan youth who spent a large portion of their academic career in the Texas public school system. Bear in mind, however, that this restructuring of education is not an isolated incident. In some states, it has already been implemented.

A Misunderstanding of CRT

Critical race theory (CRT) is a modern academic concept whose main tenant proposes racism as a social, collective concept - one embedded into the legal and principle infrastructures of society rather than something simply based on individual bias. It is not a newfangled discipline, as the idea emerged in the 1980s and there decades worth of commentary and essays on the subject. In essence, the theory points to racism as a systemic issue.

However, the broad rhetoric used in the legal landscape, specifically in HB 3979, vastly applies to anything pertaining or in reference to “controversial” current events. It is worth noting that this bill aims to limit discussions beyond race, extending to sex. Other states, such as New Hampshire, are even more inclusive in their anti-CRT policies, as HB2 limits classroom rhetoric concerning race, sex, creed, familial status, and more. Ultimately, these actions contribute to the reduction of academic commentary on both social justice and current events.

A major critique of CRT, as reflected in HB 3979 and house bills of a similar nature, is that CRT teaches racial inferiority or superiority. Educators cannot push forward the narrative that one race is “inherently superior to another”. However, this is an unfounded concern as CRT doesn’t attempt to teach racial inferiority or superiority, it simply addresses what perpetuates racism. Clearly, the aim of these bills isn’t to directly discourage the teachings and tenants of the traditional concepts of CRT, but rather to discourage discussions on how discrimination occurs in the modern day.