“Critical Race Theory is a lens,” Ridgeway says. Ridgeway claims that it’s not taught in schools. It is a theory that explains the interplay of race and law and is taught mostly in graduate school and not elementary schools. Conservatives use the phrase to refer to any instruction on the history or present role of race in America.
This instruction is clear: it puts White people at risk of being held responsible for the crimes of their ancestors. Its subtext is that it could draw attention to the many ways in which racism continues to be a benefit to White people today.
“Can (CRT), influence the way some teachers teach?” Ridgeway agrees. Ridgeway says, “But that’s good.” Because racism and race are the very foundation of our country. It is so important to talk about it.
Republican politicians have been extolling “critical race theory” in the wake of protests against George Floyd’s murder as a threat for America’s young minds. More than a dozen states have introduced bills to ban CRT. Oklahoma teachers were prohibited from teaching that “an individual by virtue of their or her race or sexual orientation is inherently racist or sexist or oppressive.” A Texas law that prohibits the teaching of slavery and racism was put into effect on September 1.
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Ridgeway teaches at an inner-city school where a majority of students are people of color. She says the strongest reaction she gets from kids who take her class is that they feel like they’ve been lied to by a feel-good version of American history.
“I love primary sources, which is what I use a lot in my classroom. Because if a parent comes and says, ‘Why are you teaching my kid that Christopher Columbus was a murderer?’ I’ll just be like, I technically didn’t teach them anything. They read his diary.”