It was the summer of 2020 when protests erupted across the country around the police killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. While Black folks demanded changes to policing ranging from completely abolishing the system altogether, to defunding and reforming, the U.S. government had a different plan.
Following those protests in 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill commemorating Juneteenth as a federal holiday — ironically another free day off for white people whose past descendants were responsible for slavery. We celebrated Juneteenth, again, but this time as a holiday we can’t teach because of the Critical Race Theory (CRT) movement.
It’s painfully cynical that we can’t even teach children what it means now that we have the federal holiday. The core idea of CRT is that race is a social construct and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice. The ideals of CRT are typically taught in a college-level course and is an elective that one would have to choose unless it was required for a student’s program. However, in the last 18 months, it has been used as a political tool by white politicians and civic groups to make a claim that teaching CRT is against the foundations of this country and destructive to its origins and children — white children, to be clear, who they don’t want to “feel bad” for America’s past. Everyone should feel bad for America’s beginnings, but I digress.
However, this movement has now created a nationwide book ban which is removing mainly Black, Brown and queer stories from classrooms. What’s most peculiar about this notion is that anything involving the “bad parts” of history shouldn’t be taught. Take Juneteenth for instance. Slavery was real and the ramifications are still being felt today by Black people. America as a country has more years where slavery existed than it hasn’t and now the movement of CRT disallows us to teach that truth.
However, the Fourth of July can be taught every which way. But what if we put these whiter American holidays to the test of CRT? So when we teach the Fourth of July while listing all of George Washington’s and Thomas Jefferson’s accolades and their fight for America’s founding, make sure the children know that slaveowner is also one of their job titles. Include information about slavery still existing during that time and how Black folks weren’t included in the “we” in “We The People” in the Bill of Rights.
Based on CRT, we shouldn’t be teaching about Memorial Day either. Most think this day was started to commemorate white soldiers during the Civil War. In fact, its earliest origins are documented in Charleston, South Carolina. A parade on May 1, 1865, of nearly 10,000 formerly enslaved Black folks and children was held to honor the death of 257 union soldiers who were buried in a mass grave in a confederate camp. They unearthed the bodies and gave them proper burials after the end of the war.
To take it a step further though, people in the media must also do the work to refute the notion that CRT is even being taught in K-12. It isn’t. What is being taught is culturally relevant teaching. Meaning the teaching is matching the classroom demographics and attempts to center everyone in the story with the truth during those times. We shouldn’t be calling it CRT. We should be saying “we want to teach the truth,” cause that’s not a theory. We want to be able to teach the facts of the story in its full totality because that is what our children deserve. They deserve the whole truth of the past and the ability to know how it plays a role today.
It’s shameful we live in a time where culturally relevant teaching is under attack because of the desire to protect whiteness from an ahistorical lens that only tells one side of the story. This fight we are currently in isn’t about critical race theory. It is simply about the ability to tell the truth.
For Presidents’ Day, we should be able to say those who are being honored were also slaveowners. For Columbus Day, we should be able to say that you can’t discover a land where people already exist and that the land was stolen from the original inhabitants.
The fight to save the truth is far from over. As the removal of books continues across the United States, we are at a moment in time where history as it is, is forcibly being removed from the hands of the children who need it most.