Commentary: Critical race – to the bottom

Commentary: Critical race – to the bottom
December 08
13:09 2021

By Tom H. Hastings

The party favor on the Republican side has been the dog whistle. 

Lie down with dog whistles and you’ll get up with the fleas of racism and anti-intellectualism. 

My people came to the U.S. in a wave of late 19th century immigration that was fueled by the trauma of endless wars in Europe, none of which benefitted commoners like my Scottish ancestors, my Swedish ancestors, or my German ancestors. It was a critical race away from the stupidity of wars that sent millions to their deaths and made “infrastructure bills” an ongoing necessity as Europeans industrialized war. 

I teach, research, and publish about peace, and I review academic submissions to some journals that fall into my area, and for many years I’ve been evaluating research funding proposals in peace-related projects. 

What if one of my students could be one of those amazing leaders who keep us out of “only” one war? What if one of the research projects we fund provides findings that assist a country in avoiding “only” one civil war?

Critical race theory (CRT) is not taught at primary or secondary schools, but is rather a fancy term for a field of study at the graduate level that deeply examines aspects of race and racism, and how to learn from our past in order to find paths around future injustices and destructive conflict. 

What if one of the students in a masters program studying CRT could help us develop workarounds so that a great deal of racial animosity could be transformed into collaboration?

Instead, we see certain cynical politicians and talk show personalities saying that CRT should be banned from public schools because it teaches hate. 

Jesus, Mohammed, Abraham, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, America’s Founders, and most revered historical figures taught us to loathe injustice and to stand for principles. Should their teachings be banned as fomenting hate? Is hating murderous greed and brutal injustice wrong?

At the heart of CRT is simply an examination of historical instances of how systems and structures have disadvantaged some identity groups and advantaged others. Other characteristics or outcomes ascribed to CRT are frequently politically driven extrapolations not backed by reality. 

For example, learning how experiments proved discrimination in housing is a legitimate part of CRT, especially when those experiments stood up in court and at times were instrumental in helping us improve as a country, serving to bring people together in increasing equality. Paired testing methods are robust and have helped lead to advances in fairness for people with disabilities, people of color, or people from any disadvantaged background. 

While CRT is not part of K-12 education to any appreciable degree, it boils down to accurate history and provable science, not inflammatory rhetoric. Ironically, that feverish hate speech is actually what the foaming opponents of CRT use.

We can do better than this. Let teaching our children be based on our efforts to help educate future leaders who are both sensitive and pragmatic. Let our teachers do their jobs. As someone with a doctorate in education, I can affirm that teaching colleges and university programs are turning out excellent teachers with high ideals and devotion to students. Partisan politicians and pedagogical media personalities should be turned out and turned off for the good of our kids and our society.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is coördinator of conflict resolution BA/BS degree programs and certificates at Portland State University, PeaceVoice senior editor, and on occasion an expert witness for the defense of civil resisters in court. 

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