To the Editor:
Let's begin by taking a deep breath, perhaps meditating for a couple of minutes, and allowing our limbic system to reset. For all its purported complexity, critical race theory (CRT) is actually a very simple way of expressing what each of us with a conscience and a wit of intelligence already know - institutional racism does exist and must be eradicated.
The intersectionality of the legal, economic, political, educational, and medical systems is rife with injustice for brown, black, and poor people. The huge gap in generational wealth, educational achievement, incarceration rates, and health care and life expectancy disparities make this a fait accompli.
The critical question is: How do we address this problem? The solution that proponents of CRT have embraced are programs that focus on an agenda of “anti-racism,” and therein lies the rub.
According to the proponents of CRT, it's not good enough to say you're not a racist or tolerate racism among us, we must become anti-racist. For whites, this means acknowledging their societal privilege and inherent bias against people of color.
According to CRT proponents, once whites come to terms with this reality, the next step is to deconstruct all the aforementioned social systems.
Of late, historical deconstructionists have attempted to place slavery and the decimation of the Indigenous people of the Americas as central to understanding our nation’s past. The 1619 Project is the most cited example.
It is entirely appropriate to include a critical analysis of these events (NJ Core Curriculum Standards addresses these issues), but to do so without context by engaging in what is known in academic circles as “presentism” does a disservice to studying the discipline.
David McCullough, a renowned historian who delivered the keynote address at the dedication of the Museum of the American Revolution, when speaking of the patriot leaders who founded his country, said, “We must remember that they were of their place and time, not ours.”
Without context, our students are left with nothing more than a one-sided view of their nation’s past that invariably causes them to judge this nation’s European progenitors in terms of oppressors worthy of condemnation and disdain.
Take for example the issue surrounding Columbus and the Spanish Conquistadors. Last Columbus Day, a friend of mine's 6-year-old son came home from his first-grade class and asked his mother “why were white people so mean to the Indians?”
On the surface, this is a valid question; however, as a beginning point for this young man’s formal education about our nation’s history, it has already imprinted a negative view of his white European ancestors.
Instead of identifying Columbus by his skin color, the teacher should have provided some context by identifying a few of the cultural characteristics of 15th century Europe, West Africa, and the Americas. A value judgment could still have been rendered, but at least with a clearer picture of how the world was ordered at the time.
The 15th-century Eurocentric view divided the world into two types of human inhabitants (not people): True believers of the Christian church and heretics, those saved through the crucifixion of Christ, and the infidel, the enlightened versus the savage.
It was through this prism that the Spanish viewed the world; however, while the Spaniards were cutting off the hands of the largely peaceful Arawak who did not remit their daily quota of gold, Montezuma’s Aztec priests were plunging obsidian knives into the chests of conquered and enslaved Toltec and Tula as a sacrifice to their sun.