Unpacking CRT Today
How did an obscure field of graduate study that’s been around for over 50 years come to be one of the most fiercely-debated topics in U.S. public policy—and one so largely informed by mis- and disinformation?
For example, one common misconception around CRT is that it’s being built into agendas for students as young as kindergarten, when in fact there is little to no evidence that critical race theory itself is being taught to K-12 public school students.
As put by Dr. Franklin: “Most people don’t seem to understand CRT, which is an analytical lens for looking at race and society that is taught in graduate school. Attacks against CRT seem to be a general opposition to all things diversity, anti-racism, and racial justice.”
Moderator Dr. Claudine Taaffe, Senior Lecturer in African American Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University, noted that she had studied CRT decades ago in graduate school, and posed an important question: “How did we get here? How are we in a controversial moment now, knowing that CRT has been around for quite some time?”
Dr. Franklin believes that it’s partially a response to the movement of diversity and inclusion initiatives in the U.S. fying of the country, as well as to the launch of the 1619 Project, a journalistic initiative contextualizing modern day issues of anti-Black racism with the history of slavery in the United States. It also comes as a result of a Trump-era executive order banning diversity trainings for all federal agencies, which, as Dr. Franklin describes, eventually trickled down to the state and local levels.
Dr. Warren, who is an associate professor of Equity & Inclusion in Education Policy at Vanderbilt, added that CRT is seen as a threat to existing power structures:
“Leaving the true history of the country… undiscussed is saying, ‘we want to keep forward the American ideal and never have to contend with who is exploited and subjugated to keep that ideal going.”
There is also a concerted effort to spread disinformation around CRT. Read about one foundation who has been funding ‘CRT hysteria’ in the media and legislature.
If you’re interested in learning more, Kimberlé Crenshaw has written extensively about the modern-day battle over CRT, and about the importance of teaching—rather than censoring—history.