Can Critical Race Theory Reframe American History Successfully?
For the first time in four decades, we have a new national holiday, the Juneteenth National Independence Day. It celebrates the liberation of Black American slaves from the last city enslaving them in Galveston, Texas.
All the Senate Republicans, and all but fourteen of the Republicans in the House, voted in favor of establishing the holiday. Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mt., released a statement before the vote that captures Republican concerns that are festering within their ranks: “This is an effort by the Left to … celebrate identity politics as part of its larger efforts to make Critical Race Theory the reigning ideology of our country.” As a result, Republicans have begun a national campaign opposed to teaching Critical Race Theory in public schools and in some state universities.
However, Michael Eric Eyson, author of Long Time Coming, told MSNBC that June 19 as a national holiday would not have happened without CRT moving people to grapple with race in our history and having to deal with it now.
Rosendale and Eyson’s comments reveal a divide in this nation from when the first African slaves were brought into the North American Colonies in 1619. It is a battle over who has the political power to interpret our nation’s history and shape our future. Critical Race Theory is the current battleground.
Stephen Sawchuk, in a May issue of Education Week, aptly captures both sides in this struggle when he asks, “Is “critical race theory” a way of understanding how American racism has shaped public policy, or a divisive discourse that pits people of color against white people?” However, he quickly notes, “the divides are not nearly as neat as they may seem.”
Standardized history textbooks often credit the Civil War as the final resolution in achieving political equality of former African slaves as U.S. citizens. But some critical historical elements are often ignored.
First, by our constitution, “All persons born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” Importing slaves was outlawed in1808. One could argue that all slaves born in the U.S. after 1808 could be considered citizens.