April 14, 2024

Jose Luis Vilson: Critical Race Theory Is About You, And All Of Us

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Jose Luis Vilson is a teacher, scholar and writer in New York. Here he responds to the continued flaps over CRT.

Recently, Christina Cross, a Black woman sociologist at Harvard, found her work at the crosshairs of the same person who brought us the bastardization of critical race theory. (Yes, it was.) Many scholars, from her sociology department to the primary investigators of the original study, defended her against his claims of plagiarism, but people jumped regardless. As I observed scholar after acclaimed scholar defending her work, it gave me hope that perhaps we had learned lessons from the last three years of ideological malpractice.

Yet, it also made me reticent to uplift this newfound courage cloaked in social science norms. I’m asking us to think more societally.

In using inaccurate forms of plagiarism, he gets to crusade against anything he deems “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI). Of course, when mainstream media asks him questions under their terms, he turns to cellophane, but that’s another layer to this conversation. Time and again, the same set of ghouls lay out the playbook through their social media platforms and articles. To deconstruct institutions that they and so many others have benefited from, they use the very people whom those in powerful positions have rarely sought to defend. In other words, if you can reshape Harvard by attacking Black women and other scholars with marginalized identities using tools that have historically limited these populations from coming through the door, then the task is merely academic.

I’ve argued on several occasions that telling the public “We don’t teach critical race theory” isn’t effective in beating the attacks back. America must name the vital role of our institutions, defend the value of those institutions in nation-building, and make the experience of these institutions better from a racial and social justice lens. Otherwise, this country continues to leave the responsibility of keeping this country prosperous to the people least likely to benefit from its largesse.

It also occurs to me how we’ve seen this in K-12, too.

Now that the United States is about three years into this era of censorship laws, we’re as far away as we’ve ever been from having authentic conversations and actions that lead to a pluralistic and inclusive democracy. State houses and local school boards across the country have further concretized racism, sexism, and transphobia into a variety of ambiguous policies, it’s created an icy effect on classrooms across the board. But, as I listen to teachers across the country, it’s not only solidified boring and traditional views of curriculum and pedagogy. These laws have also made the recruitment and retention of Black teachers and other teachers of color that much harder.

For every white teacher who’s nervous about teaching Morrison, Coates, and Baldwin, there lies even more trepidation about hiring Black, Latinx, Asian, and Native American teachers whose lived experience could inform those texts. This extends into all subject areas, too, because the “problem” is the embodied history.

American society has, at best, paid lip service in defending its teachers of color. Even though the burgeoning body of research clearly shows a plethora of academic and socioemotional benefits in having more teachers of color, we also see how teachers of color are less likely to be promoted, more likely to work in less-resourced schools, and more likely to be fired. Even though the benefits extend to white students, teachers of color I speak to are unapologetic about who they wish to impart this knowledge to.

Read the full piece here.Critical Race Theory Is About You, and All of Us | The Jose Vilson

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