Is America a Racist Country?
Critical race theorists hold that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans. Critical race theorists believe that political liberalism was incapable of adequately addressing fundaments problems of injustice in American society (notwithstanding legislations and court rulings advancing civil rights in the 1950s and 60s) because its emphasis on the equitable treatment under the law of all races (color blindness) rendered it capable in only the most overt and obvious racist practices, not those that were relatively indirect, subtle, or systemic.
If critical race theory is correct, then racist practices are not always obvious and may underlie the treatment of African Americans and other marginalized groups in America. Practices such as discrimination in housing, unequal opportunity, and the like are obvious racially discriminatory policies. What is not so obvious is our criminal justice system that purportedly treats African Americans differently that white Americans. The result may be that Blacks are disproportionately incarcerated over white Americans.
Years ago, Black offenders received stiffer penalties than whites for the same crime of drug possession and use. Even today many Americans do not believe it is the result of a biased criminal justice system. Then of course, are the wanton shootings of unarmed blacks during street stops and for other alleged legal offenses. It is hard to deny today that two sets of laws exist: one for whites and one for blacks yet many people do not buy in to it, alleging instead that blacks simply commit more crimes. But this misses the point. It is not who commits the most crimes but how sentences are meted out for those crimes. Could it be there is a racist tendency to distrust blacks more so that stiffer penalties are imposed on them?
An important question considering the increased attention being paid to critical race theory is whether it should be taught in our schools. K-12 education has typically focused on the history of the U.S. and world history. For many years, we have broadened the curriculum to new areas such as black history, women’s history, gender studies and other specialized areas that, it is argued, needs a bright light shone on it because of institutionalized racisms and our insensitivity to it.
I must wonder why critical race theory cannot simply be taught as a module in American history instead of developing new courses and new programs to address these issues. Every time we treat a “specialized” area of the curriculum as different than other aspects of our history it means drawing attention to it but away from the underlying fundamentals of American history. It is a zero-sum game: one side wins; those who favor critical race theory studies, while the other losses because part of that history is no longer taught. As an educator, I worry that American history will be presented to K-12 students in a way that biases their view of racism in America and conclude we are a racist country rather than we have followed racist policies in some situations.
Recently, several states and school districts have banned the teaching of critical race theory, passing laws to withhold funding from public schools that teach about white privilege. Critical race theory teaches that racism is ingrained in U.S. institutions and that people that are white benefit from it.
Critics describe critical race theory as racially divisive, teaching children to judge differences in skin color above the content of character. They say adding curriculum rooted in critical race theory also teaches children to search for racism in all aspects of life over teaching civics and history education.
What we should be doing is instilling in students the skills to critically analyze theories like critical race theory and then come to their own conclusions. When they are told what is right and wrong, indoctrination follows and that is never a good thing.
Imagine if jurors were told that a particular defendant and their act goes against American laws. Isn’t this something they should be decided after weighing all the evidence? The same can be said about critical race theory.
Posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, The Ethics Sage, on May 12, 2021. You can sign up for his newsletter and learn more about his activities at: https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/. Follow him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/StevenMintzEthics and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ethicssage.