Opinion | Laws Banning Critical Race Theory

To the Editor:

Re “The Misguided Bans on Critical Race Theory,” by Kmele Foster, David French, Jason Stanley and Thomas Chatterton Williams (Opinion guest essay, July 6):

Of course there shouldn’t be bans on teaching critical race theory for all of the reasons set forth by the authors. The bans are especially problematical because of their vagueness, which can lead to the stifling of even noncontroversial and undisputed history.

That being said, a good part of the problem is the fact that a very controversial belief — that current and future generations bear a level of guilt and responsibility for the past horror of slavery — has been elevated by the proponents of critical race theory to a distinct subject that must be taught to this generation of children.

A much better approach is to train, encourage and equip our teachers with appropriate and accurate information, and ensure that they teach our American history in a candid and truthful manner. It is undisputed that several of our founding fathers were flawed products of their time, particularly the slave owners, and our children need to know this. But they need not be labeled with the stigma of complicity for something that began 400 years ago and in which they played no part.

They need to be taught how the country has evolved and where it still needs to go, largely through the stories of those who have led that evolution and the laws that have supported it. Teach our children our history truthfully, warts and all, and they’ll be equipped to form their own beliefs and “theories,” as they should!

Jay Adolf
New York

To the Editor:

I was grateful to see this guest essay that reflected a wide range of political opinions but also unanimity in opposing anti-critical-race-theory laws. In New Hampshire, the governor just signed a similar law.

I am struck by how often these laws focus on not making children feel guilty or distressed. Isn’t it just as likely, or more so, that students will feel angry, interested in learning more and committed to making change? And isn’t that much more dangerous and threatening to the overwhelmingly white legislators and citizens who propose these laws? Perhaps it’s not so much the guilt they worry about, but what that guilt can inspire.

Celia Rabinowitz
Keene, N.H.

To the Editor:

I would think that laws like Tennessee House Bill SB 0623, which bans any teaching that could cause an individual to “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or another form of psychological distress solely because of the individual’s race or sex” and restricts teaching that leads to “division between, or resentment of, a race, sex, religion, creed, nonviolent political affiliation, social class or class of people,” should be used by people of color and various gender identities to sue against educational institutions and local and state laws and policies that do exactly this to them.

Clearly these states invite prejudice and prevent the teaching of history and ideas, hurting people who are not white, Christian or heterosexual.

David A. Souers
Friendship, Maine

To the Editor:

Critical race theory is dangerous in that it marginalizes students in the classroom. If C.R.T. is implemented in schools, then students will be indoctrinated and treated as “less than” based on the color of their skin. Yes, schools should teach history, inclusive of all the sins of America’s past. But the blame game, which is one of the tenets of critical race theory, will only increase the division in our country.

(Rabbi) Reuven H. Taff
Sacramento

To the Editor:

The rush by various state legislatures to pass vague laws that prohibit teaching anything that could make students feel “discomfort, guilt or anguish” takes a page (lots of pages, really) from George Orwell’s “1984.” And some of what Orwell wrote there, about changing facts or simply erasing them, couldn’t be more true about these laws: “‘Who controls the past’, ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’”

These dystopian laws, tailor-made for abuse, go a long way toward establishing a Thought Police.

Richard Yospin
Newton, Mass.

To the Editor:

As right-wingers in various states attempt to forbid by law the teaching of critical race theory, I can’t help recalling an earlier controversy over the teaching of the theory of evolution.

In the 1920s, a number of states passed laws barring the teaching of Darwin’s theory. Some states held onto these laws until the 1968 Supreme Court ruling in Epperson v. Arkansas declared them unconstitutional attempts at an establishment of religion. (Today’s court might rule the other way.) Major textbook publishers, fearful of losing a sizable chunk of their market, chose to reduce coverage of evolution to bare mentions or drop it altogether for decades.

Banning any theory on purely ideological grounds is harmful to a free society.

Eric B. Lipps
Staten Island

To the Editor:

The authors comment on the tragedy of states passing legislation restricting what may be taught in public schools. While I was a high school student in the 1960s, my U.S. history teacher assigned the class two books to read on “why the Pilgrims came to America.” One was an economic interpretation and the other a religious interpretation. We needed to critically analyze the two texts and come to our own conclusions about what most likely had happened.

Until then, history had meant memorization of dates and events to me. Suddenly, I had the life-changing realization that the same events may be interpreted differently depending on the perspectives of the authors. From then on I have read newspapers and books and listened to media reports with a critical eye and ear and not just as “fact.” I wish that kind of teaching on the generations that follow me.

Judy Levison
Houston

To the Editor:

As I read about the protests and laws against the teaching of critical race theory, it is becoming more evident that this is just the first of many experiments being conducted by right-wing media and politicians to gauge how easily they can duplicitously manufacture “outrage” against an imaginary problem and then turn this “outrage” into profits and votes.

Fortunately, there is a silver lining to this “outrage.” An obscure theory that few had heard of is now known throughout the nation, which may prompt curiosity that inspires more people to learn about it.

In addition, the fact that so many people and politicians appear to be terrified to have honest discussions about race proves that the “America is colorblind” and “there is no systemic racism” slogans the right wing has been peddling as alternatives to critical race theory are nothing but myths.

David R. Hoffman
South Bend, Ind.
The writer is a retired civil rights attorney and was a college instructor for 25 years.

To the Editor:

Re “Farmer’s Family Owned Slaves. How to Atone?” (front page, July 5):

I applaud Stacie Marshall, who is clearly taking on her share of risk by confronting this history so publicly in the South. May she inspire others to do the same.

That it’s taken well over a hundred years since Emancipation for white Americans to begin seriously trying to repair the harm wrought by slavery is shameful, yes, but also preposterous. What are we afraid of — a truly equitable society? A level playing field?

As a descendant of enslavers (also in Georgia), I have a particular responsibility to make amends and am working to do that. But all people with white skin who live in this country benefit from a caste system that advantages whites.

Reparations can take many forms. Speaking the truth, as Ms. Marshall is doing, is one of them.

Leslie Stainton
Ann Arbor, Mich.

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