Teachers and PBC residents reflect on critical race theory
On June 10, Gov. Ron DeSantis banned the teaching of critical race theory in Florida’s public schools, a decision that has garnered support as well as dissent.
DeSantis stated at a State Board of Education meeting that critical race theory is not based on facts.
Britannica defines critical race theory as an analysis based on the idea that race is not natural but is socially constructed and used to oppress others. It also holds the idea that racism is ingrained in U.S. government institutions which maintain the inequality between white people and minorities, specifically African Americans.
“Critical race theory is just a way to answer questions about things that we already know. For instance, we know that people of color often face harsher sentences in the criminal justice system for similar crimes, right? We know, for instance, that there’s a higher mortality rate among African American women during childbirth,” said Candace Cunningham, Ph.D., a history professor at Florida Atlantic University. “So, critical race theory is intended to try to figure out why those things are happening, and ultimately, we want to know why because we want to know how to fix it, how to address these issues.”
Henderson Tillman, a recently retired high school history teacher, pondered on a hypothetical situation; If a student were to ask a certain question about race, does this new legislation mean the teacher needs to leave it unaddressed?
“Without a doubt, some teachers are going to feel that their free speech is being constrained,” Cunningham said.
Tillman explained that when teaching U.S. history, talking about slavery and racism is unavoidable. While some students may not give the subject of racism second thought, others may be confused by why the adults in their lives don’t want to talk about it.
“You can’t get around talking about the past. If you’re talking about American democracy, the Founding Fathers, you have to talk about slavery,” Tillman said. “Trying to not have a discussion about a situation that exists, doesn’t help. It doesn’t help. To me, it’s short-sighted, and it helps to maintain ignorance.”
In May, the Palm Beach County School Board released an equity statement utilizing the term “white advantage” while promising to serve all children and ensure that each had access to quality resources and education.
A forum was held a few weeks later and the board voted to remove that terminology from their statement.
At the forum, one citizen explained how despite his white skin tone, he still went to a bad school. He worked his way through life and got a job not because of his white skin but because of the hours of labor he had endured to get there.
Another explained that by not teaching her children about color, they didn’t see color and in turn were friends with many people of color and varying minority groups.
He used a light switch as an analogy, people are afraid of the dark so rather than adjust to it, they turn on the light switch. But, Tillman argued, sometimes it’s important to be strong enough to adjust to the darkness as you travel from one room to another, as you travel to where you need to be.
“Call it what you may, but it’s all the same. Black lives matter, critical race theory, now they’re trying to fool you with ‘equity embedded systems.’ They’re changing the word. It’s all the same lie and it all leads to Marxism, hatred, and murder,” said Cindy Falco-DiCorrado, who was arrested in January for trespassing and resisting an officer after entering a restaurant without a mask. “They’re teaching your children to turn against you just as Hitler did in the time of communism with the Jewish people.”
Resistance against critical race theory is often rooted in misunderstanding and fear, Tillman explained.
“Why are we so afraid to look in the mirror to see who we are as a country, and become better?” Tillman said. “Sometimes you have to feel uncomfortable in order for you to grow.”
Meagan Bell, a self-identified teacher, expressed at the School Board forum that in order for an issue like racism to be fixed it must be named and directly addressed.
Falco-DiCorrado described the acknowledgment of white advantage as the push to “hate your country, hate white people, hate everything that is good and true.”
Cunningham stated that this is a misconception about the theory and movement.
“One misconception is that [critical race theory] is based on hate or negativity and it’s not, it’s actually the exact opposite. It stems from wanting to fix issues, not create them,” Cunningham said. “It stems from wanting to create more unity, not less.”