Evanston NAACP Hosts Panel on Critical Race Theory

Ava Greenwell, professor of journalism at Northwestern University, moderates the NAACP virtual panel on November 20. (Screenshot)

During its virtual Freedom Fund and Community Awards Banquet Held practically on November 20, the Evanston / North Shore Chapter of the NAACP led a discussion among several scholars of history and philosophy on the critical theory of race, the academic discipline that has become a political controversy at the nationwide this year.

In Virginia earlier this month, Republican Glenn Youngkin won the governorship while attacking critical race theory as a subject that would teach children to be anti-white. Her campaign ran an attack ad featuring a mother who sought to let parents in public schools remove their children from reading books such as “Beloved” by Toni Morrison because her son, a high school student, had has nightmares after reading the book, she said.

Moderated by Ava Greenwell, professor of journalism at Northwestern University, Evanston’s NAACP panel included Marquis Taylor, doctoral student in African American history at Northwestern; José Medina, Walter Dill Scott professor of philosophy at Northwestern; Spencer Nabors, doctoral candidate in philosophy at Northwestern; Gilo Kwesi Logan, professor of legal studies at Northeastern Illinois University; and Lauren Davis, a native of Evanston, a recent graduate of Spelman College and an elementary school teacher in Chicago.

Greenwell opened the conversation by asking a burning question in the wake of Youngkin’s victory in Virginia: how exactly did the nation reach this point, where Critical Race Theory is seen as this incredibly controversial and hot issue. in schools ?

“One of the main things is that critical race theory has been distorted as an extremist anti-white stance aimed at shaming whites,” Medina said. “But of course Critical Race Theory is just a theory of race that raises critical issues. It’s not anti-white, it’s anti-white supremacy, it’s anti-white privilege and it’s about bringing up these things. So to be against critical race theory is really to be against conversations about racism, white supremacy, white privilege. “

Medina and others went on to explain how the practices of Critical Race Theory, although a relatively new term and a formal academic discipline, have been around for centuries.

According to Davis, any intentional action or teaching lesson that intersects with race and recognizes the historical context of racism embodies what critical race theory really is.

Davis, who said she first heard about Critical Race Theory in conversations with one of her teachers when she was a senior at Evanston Township High School, said Critical Race Theory is a high level subject normally taught to graduate students. No one is handing out complex readings on racial oppression to kindergarten children, she said.

Nabors said this national fear of critical race theory is actually about the fear of teaching children the truth about topics such as slavery in America and mass brutality against Indigenous peoples, for example.

In some cases, this fear has led white parents to struggle with the possibility of their children feeling guilty or ashamed because of the legacy of racism in this country. Earlier this year, a teacher from Evanston / Skokie School District 65 filed a complaint against the district. Stacy Deemar, drama teacher in the district, alleges in the lawsuit that D65 “Black lives matter at schoolThe school curriculum “pits teachers and children against each other based on the color of their skin,” and this anti-racist teacher training created a hostile environment for her.

Several of the NAACP panel participants said the guilt of America’s history of slavery is something white parents should teach their own children, just as black parents should teach their children about the horrors committed. against blacks in this country.

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

The panel ended with a discussion of how critical race theory ultimately teaches people to view issues like race in the context of broader governance systems, and how several different issues like race, gender and sexuality may overlap in these systems.

“This is one of the main misconceptions in critical race theory, that it is an attack on whites as opposed to an attack on white supremacy,” Logan said. “And because blacks and other people of color and whites have these conversations, too often whites talk about racism from an individual perspective, while many of us view it from a systemic perspective. . It’s like we’re having two different conversations trying to talk about the same thing.

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