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Critical race theory debate being had in more states

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Posted at 10:06 AM, May 28, 2021

We're diving into the wave of backlash against critical race theory. Action is happening in more than half of the states in the U.S. Some have passed or proposed laws to limit its discussion in K-12 schools.

Attorneys general in other states have asked the Biden administration to reconsider proposals related to teaching critical race theory.

“Politicians don't belong in our classrooms. We believe that social studies educators must have the freedom to make the decisions about the kinds of conversations that they want to have in the classroom with their students,” said Alex Cuenca, a board member for the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS).

Cuenca called controversy around critical race theory a manufactured crisis. He believes it's a way for certain politicians to appeal to their base.

The NCSS also points out that critical race theory is an academic framework and doesn't have any particular educational principles that flow from it.

“At its core, critical race theory really kind of helps us recognize that race and racism are socially constructed, not biological truths, and that we've built systems of laws and policies with the intent to uphold racial inequalities,” said Cuenca.

Born out of the civil rights movement, critical race theory started as a way to examine laws and policies through the lens of race.

One example was how the government once drew lines around areas with a high Black population, deeming them a financial risk, and preventing banks from giving them loans.

There are other consequences like employment discrimination and disciplinary disparities in schools.

"It's really important for many of us who are training mental health care professionals, or folks in the health care professions more broadly, to have that critical understanding of racism, so that they don't perpetuate racism in the care and treatment they provide," said Dr. Jioni Lewis, who works in counseling psychology at the University of Maryland College Park.

The opposition to critical race theory often comes from an argument that it creates a divide, meaning it puts people into groups of the oppressed and oppressor.

"We can't always have conversations around race that are pleasant. So, I think that's the piece that people don't want to experience," said Dr. Erlanger Turner, an assistant professor of psychology at Pepperdine University. "It's important for them to learn that racism exists, because we see there's studies and reports about children as young as 5 years old who are experiencing racism in the schools."

Regardless of the legislation, the NCSS advises teachers to use their professional judgment to continue exploring issues of race and the impact of racism.