Letter: Learning about racism isn’t CRT or divisive

In a recent letter to the editor, a candidate for School Committee explained her motivations for running for office (“Candidate Concerned About Schools’ Direction,” Oct. 28, page 4). Generally, she expressed her “care about our children and their future.” Furthermore, she was “concerned about the direction our schools are taking and the choices of curriculum that are being taught.” She then made specific reference to “CRT training.” Clearly, she implied that critical race theory was part of the curriculum in the Westfield school system.

To support her claim, she referred to attending a professional development training titled “Educational Anti-Racism Equity Training.” From her perspective, this training was nothing more than CRT in disguise. She then went on to say that CRT training was un-American, pitting one person against another. She did not specify if she had attended this training in Westfield. She only stated that she had taught in public and private schools for 30 years, and that she attended this training before she retired.

First, I would refute the claim that CRT is being taught in the Westfield school system. Teaching the evils of slavery, the origins of segregation and Jim Crow after Reconstruction, the violence perpetrated against black citizens by the Ku Klux Klan, the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and racism, in general, is not CRT.

Critical race theory was based upon the ideas of Harvard Law School Professor Derrick Bell. It has been taught primarily in law schools and is not in the curriculum of elementary and secondary schools. Bell, who had been a lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, began to question whether the achievements of the Civil Rights movement had changed conditions for blacks. For example, the landmark Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education had ended, by law, segregation in public schools. Yet segregation, in fact, continued, due to “white flight” from public schools to private schools, and patterns of neighborhood settlement. He concluded that racism was never-ending, because American institutions reinforced the established white power structure. Specifically, the legal system reinforced inequality. For example, blacks were more apt to be convicted of crimes and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Statistically, blacks make up 40 percent of the prison population, while comprising 13 percent of the U.S. population. Furthermore, blacks are more apt to be victims of police brutality, as evidenced by the murder of George Floyd.

Second, CRT does not pit one American against another. It is the Trump Republican Party and right-wing media that have perpetrated this hoax. Devoid of ideas and policy prescriptions, they have resorted to the politics of divisiveness and fear. They have created a “bogeyman” in CRT to scare Americans into believing their children are being indoctrinated into anti-white doctrine. As a result, we have all witnessed the confrontations at local school committee meetings and the violent threats made against school committee members. It is no accident that many states, dominated by Republican governors and legislatures, have rushed to restrict teaching about race, in any form, in public schools.

Michael Camerota

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