In-depth: What is Critical Race Theory and how might it look in classrooms

CRT was started back in the 1970s by legal scholars and activists
Posted at 4:06 PM, Jun 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-10 17:43:00-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Critical Race Theory, it’s become quite a controversial topic. In seven states, including Florida, lawmakers have pushed for bans on the theory being taught in schools, but what is Critical Race Theory, and how would it even look in classrooms?

RELATED: Florida bans the teaching of critical race theory in the state

ABC Action News in-depth reporter Anthony Hill dug deeper into this topic and how it became popularized. To set the record straight, he spoke with several education experts on what Critical Race Theory is and what it isn’t.

So, what is Critical Race Theory? Many scholars define it as a framework to help explain how and why racial inequities still exist in our society.

“Often, people think about racism as individual acts of bias or bigotry, but really, CRT helps us understand the ways that racism is a system,” said Dr. Jioni Lewis, associate professor of counseling psychology at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Proponents of Critical Race Theory argue that the system has lasting effects and impacts the lives of people of color today.

“We don’t want to just tell certain aspects of history. We want to be able to tell all aspects of history so that our children are coming out of the school systems K-12 with a deeper understanding of what society is, what it was and how to move forward; how we can make it even better,” said Dr. Marquis B. Holley, professor of education and diversity at USF.

Critical Race Theory was started back in the 1970s by legal scholars and activists as a way of examining laws and power structures through the lens of race, “and acknowledge that there are different outcomes for different people and that, perhaps, justice is not blind,” said Dr. Brenda Walker, professor of education at USF.

Since then, it’s made its way into different academic disciplines as one of many lenses used to critically analyze society. But, critical race theory is not taught as a subject in K-12 classrooms. However, proponents would like to see it used as one of the ways to teach history and civics.

“We want our teachers, we want our school leaders to be able to look at phenomena through different lenses,” said Dr. Walker.

One of the concerns is that looking at history through the lens of Critical Race Theory would have a detrimental effect on white children, and portrays white people as inherently racist.

“Teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other is not worth one red cent,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“That’s not the purpose of critical race theory. It’s really the opposite, you know, to help us be more inclusive, to help us to be more empathic, to help us to analyze, to be able to look at phenomena with a critical eye,” said Dr. Walker.

Another concern is that it will divide students based on race.

“If anything, it actually brings them closer together," Walker said. "It actually allows them to communicate with one another.”

Proponents of Critical Race Theory argue that how we currently teach American history lacks depth and doesn’t exactly teach all of our histories. Opponents argue that it could further the racial divide between students in classrooms.