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Evanston NAACP hosts panel on critical racial theory

Ava Greenwell, Professor of Journalism at Northwestern University, will host the NAACP virtual panel on November 20th. (Screenshot)

During its virtual Freedom Fund and Community Awards Banquet, practically held on November 20, the NAACP’s Evanston / North Shore Chapter held a discussion among several historians and philosophers about critical racial theory, the academic discipline becoming one that year has become nationwide political controversy.

In Virginia, Republican Glenn Youngkin won the governorship earlier this month while attacking critical racial theory as an issue that would teach children to be anti-white. His campaign ran an attack notice with a mother trying to allow public school parents to prevent their children from reading books like Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” because her high school graduate son had nightmares after reading the book, she said .

The Evanston NAACP panel, moderated by Northwestern University Professor of Journalism Ava Greenwell, presented Marquis Taylor, a graduate student in African American history at Northwestern; José Medina, Walter Dill Scott Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern; Spencer Nabors, PhD student in philosophy at Northwestern; Gilo Kwesi Logan, Professor of Justice Studies at Northeastern Illinois University; and Lauren Davis of Evanston, a recent Spelman College graduate and elementary school teacher in Chicago.

Greenwell opened the conversation with a burning question after Youngkin’s victory in Virginia: How exactly did the nation get to this point where critical racial theory is seen as this incredibly divisive and fiery topic in schools?

“One of the most important things is that the critical racial theory has been skewed as an extremist position, directed against white people and shaming white people,” said Medina. “But of course the critical theory of race is simply a theory of race that raises critical questions. It’s not about anti-whites, it’s about anti-white supremacy, it’s anti-white privilege, and it’s about bringing these things up. To be against a critical race theory really means to be against conversations about racism, about white supremacy, about white privileges. “

Medina and others went on to explain how Critical Racial Theory practices, although a relatively new term and a formal academic discipline, have existed for centuries.

According to Davis, any deliberate act or class that intersects with race and recognizes the historical context of racism embodies what Critical Racial Theory is really about.

Davis, who said she first heard of Critical Race Theory while speaking with one of her teachers as a senior at Evanston Township High School, said that Critical Race Theory is a high-level subject usually taught to graduate students will. Nobody gives out complex readings on racial oppression to kindergarten kids, she said.

Nabors said this nationwide fear of Critical Racial Theory is really about a fear of teaching children the truth about issues such as slavery in America and mass brutality against indigenous peoples.

In some cases, this fear has led white parents to oppose the possibility of their children feeling guilty or ashamed about the legacy of racism in this country. Earlier this year, a teacher in Evanston / Skokie School District 65 filed a lawsuit against the district. Stacy Deemar, a district drama teacher, alleges in the lawsuit that the District 65 Black Lives Matter at School curriculum “pitches teachers and children against each other based on skin color” and that anti-racist teacher training created a hostile environment for them.

Several NAACP panelists said guilt for America’s history of slavery is something white parents need to teach their own children about, just as black parents need to teach their children the horrors perpetrated against blacks in that country.

“The guilt of learning the truth about slavery is nothing compared to slavery itself,” said Nabors. “It is nothing compared to the real oppression that students experience with color.”

The panel discussion ended with a discussion of how critical race theory ultimately teaches people to look at issues such as race in the context of broader systems of government, and how several different issues such as race, gender, and sexuality can overlap in those systems.

“This is one of the biggest misconceptions of Critical Racial Theory that it is an attack on white people and not an attack on white supremacy,” Logan said. “And since blacks and other colored and whites have these conversations, too often whites talk about racism from an individual point of view while many of us look at it from a systemic point of view. It’s like having two different conversations to talk about the same thing. ”

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