What is Critical Race Theory?

As of recently, over 13 states in the US have banned the teaching and education of Critical Race Theory in schools. Teachers who welcome gatherings in support of these views have been fired immediately, and more and more law officials around the country have been bringing the issues to court. But what is critical race theory? And how does this affect people across the country and here in the Urbandale School District?

Critical Race Theory is a broad statement but has four main principles or beliefs. The first one is called Interest Convergence, this states that only when white and black interests converge do black people make strides in their civil rights. The second is intersectionality, a noun used to understand how a person’s political, class, gender, or in this case, race, combines to cause different versions of discrimination, racism, and/or privilege. In response to the needs of the majority, numerous racial groups in the United States have become radicalized in a number of ways, this is known as differential racialization. 

“To me, Critical Race Theory is a political theory based on race relations with an unsound bias against the historically oppressed race. White people have oppressed black people in this country for a long time. Well, I do not believe that is the case anymore,” stated Conner Anderson, a sophomore at Urbandale High School. Later he commented that he experiences racism often.

The last principle is that racism is commonplace rather than unusual and abnormal because differential treatment of persons based on racial classification is integrated within social systems and institutions, including public policy and legislation. There are many other principles and versions of definitions surrounding Critical Race Theory, but these are the main points for Critical Race theorists. 

Last August, a teacher was fired from Duval Schools in Florida for hanging a Black Lives Matter (BLM) flag up in her classroom. The former high school teacher was paid a nearly $300,000 settlement to prevent the case from escalating further in court. However, her teaching contract with the school was never renewed with the school district and it raises the question as to what the rules actually are when it comes to teachers’ restrictions on freedom of speech, or in this case, showing support for a movement like BLM. 

“If we’re going to teach history, it shouldn’t be taught just from a white person’s point of view,” says Sia Smith, a junior at Urbandale High School. “We teach a history class but we don’t teach a present class, and we don’t teach things that are actually happening today. Race is a part of everyday life for everyone and we have to talk about it.” 

According to an article posted by Iowa State University Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost, Governor Reynolds signed House File 802, an act requiring specific criteria for racism and sexism training and diversity and inclusion initiatives by state governmental agencies, including Iowa’s public postsecondary educational institutions, into law on June 8, 2021.

Teachers have the legal right to discuss politics and other contentious issues on social media, and some do. Teachers claim they don’t want to be constrained in their ability to express themselves, and some argue that education is fundamentally political. But Critical Race Theory is a completely different ballfield; fortunately for the high school teacher in Florida, her case was won in favor of freedom of speech. 

“I have experienced racism. I am black and I live in Iowa, so there is a lot of colorism in our community. There are teachers who ask to touch your hair, people who say the ‘N-word’ and people who ask to say the ‘N-word,’” Sia said. “There’s just a lot of not understanding or just being disrespectful on purpose.” 

The battle between the people and the courts for the understanding of Critical Race Theory is far from over. Critical Race Theory is a difficult concept for many to talk about and teach and a difficult concept for many others to understand. It has many meanings but at its core represents racism. Students of every color and ethnicity want their voice to be heard and a more present lesson in history to be taught. Whether that voice is heard from across the country or here in Urbandale, recognize, learn about, and understand Critical Race Theory.


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