February 26, 2022

Ennis Leon Jacobs: The true American critical race theory

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Ennis Leon Jacobs Jr. is an attorney based ion Tallahassee. The current panic over critical race theory has prompted some memories and reflections from him, published in the Tallahassee Democrat.

The political debate over critical race theory (“CRT”) has conjured up memories of a long-ago episode.

In 1971, my Mainland High School concert band in Daytona Beach was invited to participate in an exchange concert and collaboration with a high school in Lakeland.  It was an incredible time in so many ways.

It was the dawn of school desegregation, and the coming of age for the civil rights movement.  More directly, our band was riding a high road – we had marched in the 1970 Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York, and in the Festival of States Music Festival in St. Petersburg. I was chosen as a member of the 1,000-plus marching band in the grand opening at Walt Disney World.

It seemed we were on the precipice of the transformation of society.

This must have been the vision and logic of the two band directors on our trip to Lakeland, because in 1971 they agreed that the band students in Lakeland would host in their homes the students in our racially integrated band.

I and another African-American student were paired with a white student as our host.  He was a very cordial young man, who warmly and enthusiastically greeted us when we arrived.  In his excitement, he stopped at his father’s auto repair shop and gas station to introduce us.

However, when we arrived at his house, we were told that we could not stay.  Calls had been made to the school and our band director had to find my bandmate and I other living quarters for the weekend.

For a long time, I carried a personal sting and grudge from that experience. But, after many years, it occurred to me that this was a more fundamental and tragic moment for our young host. At a critical stage of his life, he was prepared to open his mind and heart to new wisdom and learn and grow from peers with whom he was not familiar, and most importantly, he was prepared to engage and value true partners in his life – a brave new world.

But on that day, and very likely, even before that day, he was rudely reminded of the true critical race theory of America.  A theory which holds that there are cultures and ideas that differ from his culture, that he was the progeny and lineage of an imperial all-knowing culture, and the intrusion of the wisdom and ideas from other cultures would fundamentally damage and even destroy the imperial culture.

Read the full op-ed here.

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