It can be frustrating to have someone misrepresent your position and then argue against it. To say I was frustrated to read the recent commentary piece purporting to be a “true or false quiz” about Critical Race Theory is an understatement.
The co-author of the piece was the leader of the local chapter of Moms for Liberty. She does not send her children to public school, and she recently called our public-school teachers “brainwashing ---holes.” She is, to be frank, not qualified to represent my position on anything.
So, allow me to represent my own position, as a Franklin resident and parent devoted to building a more inclusive and equitable future for all.
I believe Critical Race Theory is a valuable tool for understanding society, not an intellectual boogeyman whose goal is “the problematizing and criticizing of American systems with the aim of dismantling them and imposing socialism/Marxism.”
Sounds scary, right? That’s the author’s intent, of course. But it is a complete fabrication.
What is Critical Race Theory? It’s an academic framework whose function is quite simple: To look at a given outcome and ask, “Is this outcome inequitable along racial lines? If so, why?”
Let’s unpack that.
First, it’s important to understand that this question is always applied to large groups, and never individuals. If it is applied without sufficient sample size, it is being misused. Should this white person and that Black person make the same income? I have no idea. There are too many variables at play on an individual basis. But should the white employees and Black employees of a large company have comparable median incomes? Yes, I believe they should. And if they don’t, we have sufficient data to investigate the causes of the difference.
Those who accuse us of Marxism would have you believe that we advocate for equal outcomes at an individual level. I don’t know a single person who believes all individuals should have equal outcomes. That may have been the solution proposed by Karl Marx nearly 200 years ago, but it was a deeply flawed idea that has utterly failed time and time again. That is not in any way what we are talking about — don’t let anyone scare you into thinking the communists are coming for your kids.
These accusations of Marxism usually point to the word “inequitable” (or any variation of the word equity) as a signal of our evil intent. But what does the word actually mean?
Google “inequitable definition” for yourself. It means unfair or unjust.
Any objection to someone asking questions to determine whether something is unjust should be troubling to us all.
So, let’s ask. Are outcomes inequitable along racial lines in any of these areas?
Household wealth — The median household wealth of white families in America is more than seven times that of Black families.
Incarceration — Black Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of white Americans.
SAT scores — Black students’ average score is 177 points lower than white students.
Home ownership — 73.3% among white Americans, vs. 42.1% among Black Americans.
These are national examples, but the question can of course be asked of outcomes in a local community, at a company or for virtually any group of sufficient size for statistical validity. Organizations of all kinds are increasingly looking for racial gaps in outcomes like hiring, promotions, attrition, compensation, etc.
This brings us to the crucial second part of the question above: Why?
As with any root-cause analysis, you almost certainly need to persist through several layers of, “And why is that?” if you are to truly understand what is driving a given outcome. And there is almost never a single cause, but rather a series of interconnected causes. In each case, though, you will likely eventually be faced with a choice:
Do I believe that Black people, on average, are experiencing worse outcomes than white people in this arena because they face one or more systemic barriers that white people don’t face? Or, do I believe they are experiencing worse outcomes because they are in some way inherently inferior?
I, for one, am completely unwilling to concede the possibility of the latter. Are you?
We ought to enthusiastically acknowledge and celebrate all the progress we have made in the 400-year history of our great nation to remove or reduce some of the barriers faced by Black Americans. Great Americans worked tirelessly and sacrificed greatly to see chattel slavery, school segregation and anti-misogyny laws come to an end. But we must also acknowledge that it was Americans who opposed each of these changes. More importantly, we must acknowledge that there is a great deal more change needed. And each of us must decide whether to work for or against that change.
Will you acknowledge that there are persistent inequities in outcomes across racial lines?
Will you acknowledge that these inequities exist because of persistent barriers in our society, and not because of some inherent inferiority?
Will you acknowledge that progress is not inevitable, but the result of people willing to work for it?
Will you lend your voice to the cause of justice for all?
Or will you use your voice to shout down those who ask these questions?
Each of us gets to make these choices every day.
There are many parents and allies here in Williamson County working together to build a more inclusive and equitable future for our kids. They can be found in local organizations like One WillCo, Williamson Strong, Williamson Social Justice Alliance, and others. Come join us. We are all in this together.