By Robin Lehman
Critical Race Theory (CRT) has to be one of the most misunderstood concepts of our time. In that people are protesting CRT being taught in public schools shows how misunderstood it is. No one is going to teach CRT in our schools. It is a conceptual way of understanding how there could be these enormous victories for Black people in the 1960s and yet racism still held sway all over the U.S. Then, hopefully, we could start to dismantle the generational racism that continually distorts and separates Americans from one another.
What would be taught in schools would be actual history, how the U.S. promoted racism through our institutions: how racism is written into our founding documents and then enforced through law enactment and enforcement throughout our history. As examples, the constitution excludes Africans from voting and considers them 5/8s of a human being. This is systemic racism. There were white people who protested slavery so it’s not as if one can say this was just a symptom of the times. The South and the North of the country made laws and formed posses to force citizens to return slaves. As time went on voting restrictions were put into place in the South with the Supreme Court agreeing that “separate but equal” was the law of the land. “Redlining” in housing, making sure Black people couldn’t move into white neighborhoods, was still happening when I was born. That there are still police departments in 2021 where the people who hire new recruits to our police departments are using the “N” word when communicating with other commanders should confirm that we are still fighting this insidiousness that’s dividing our country.
The reason I’m writing about racism again after I just wrote about it in June is that I’m seeing the lies rearing their head here in Vermont. State Rep. Brian Smith, R-Derby, said, “I’m really quite proud to be white.” According to VT Digger he went on, “I have been listening to people complain that being white is not a good thing to be anymore.” CRT is saying exactly the opposite. CRT says, ”Rep. Smith, you can’t help being white. You don’t own slaves. You are not a racist(?).” We want to work with you to combat the racism that’s still stuck because certain American communities have been excluded from the general prosperity that white Americans have always gotten (sort of). But the forum then really explained itself. Someone got up and said the Africans were the first slave traders, which is nonsense, of course. Slaves have been used for millennia. Another said, “99% of colored people stayed in the South because they weren’t that badly treated.” These are Vermonters getting together to make sure that CRT isn’t taught in our schools, that, somehow, there is no structural or cultural racism in Vermont.
Lehman lives in Warren.