September 7, 2021

Char Adams: Here’s what Black students have to say about ‘critical race theory’ bans

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Char Adams recently filed a report with NBC news in which she talked to actual students about the spreading gag laws.

The students in the 11th-grade humanities class at The Living School in New Orleans don’t know much about critical race theory. But they say they spend a lot of time talking about race issues in the classroom and understand full well the importance of learning about the nation’s history.

“Race shouldn’t just be taught at home with families. It should be taught in school because we come to school to learn and learning about yourself is a part of the school experience,” said one student, 16-year-old Kerry Santa Cruz. “It’s important for kids, especially Black kids, to learn about race so they can understand who they are. So they don’t end up hating themselves for being Black. Education is good.”

Louisiana leaders and education officials have repeatedly condemned a bill proposed by state Rep. Ray Garofalo, a Republican, to bar K-12 schools from teaching “certain concepts related to race.” The Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education opposed the bill, holding that it “would prevent the truth telling and honesty about our past required for writing a brighter future and history for all families here.”

But the state may not have heard the last of the legislation. Garofalo stalled the bill  this year due to the widespread criticism, but could  push the measure again at a later date. The Black students at the Living School, a public charter school, who spoke to NBC News said they wouldn’t want to see such a bill pass.

“To cut out half, almost all, of America’s history will put Black kids at a disadvantage,”  Re’Kal Hooker, 17, said. “If we don’t know our history, how can we come up with our own point of view? How can we grow?”

“We are still discriminated against and I feel like young kids will think it’s just something that happens, like it’s natural, or something they can’t get away from.”

The battle over teaching children about racism in the nation’s public schools has taken center stage in recent months, with at least five states passing bills to ban educators from teaching about racial equity. The Republican-led efforts to prohibit such teaching came after a summer of passionate protests against racism and police brutality following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. In many cases, critics have erroneously called any effort to teach students about racism in the United States critical race theory, or CRT, a decades-old academic framework intended to recognize the systemic racism inherent in American life. The controversy has even invaded school boards, prompting heated exchanges at meetings across the country. Media coverage  has included the views of concerned parents, school leaders and teachers. But Black students across the country, who will be particularly affected by these bans, have a lot to say about these policy changes, too.

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