This piece appears to be deceptive. I’m sure this was unintentional, but why not check the law? I’m no lawyer, but it only took 10 minutes.

The whole pieced is based on the claim that:

“The most problematic will proscribe very reasonable classroom discussions under the premise that they MAY cause a student to experience “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.” This could eliminate nearly anything.”

Well, that would be terrible.

But why not tell us which law this is? I only know because this is a rehash of NY Times Op-Ed claim that

“Tennessee House Bill SB 0623, for example, bans any teaching that COULD lead an individual to “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or another form of psychological distress solely because of the individual’s race or sex.”

Again, that would be terrible.

But that is not at all what the law says.

Instead it says that schools shall not include as part of a curriculum the concept that:

“(6) An individual SHOULD feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or another form of psychological distress solely because of the individual's race or sex;”

What is proscribed is not discussions that “MAY cause a student to,” but rather teaching students that they “SHOULD feel” discomfort, guilt ...

There is a world of difference between teaching that “whites owned black slaves” and teaching that “a student should feel guilty for whites owning black slaves solely because she is white.” The first is not proscribed, the second is.

The Times Op-Ed also cited a Texas law and misinterpreted it just as egregiously.

What we have here is an echo chamber, and ironically it is helping those who push CRT even though none of the authors favor CRT. Op-Eds should not be off limits for basic fact checking, and their authors should not abuse their platforms by failing to check their “facts.”

I would also note that I work with a number of parents in FAIRforAll.org who are fighting against teaching the simplistic, misguided conclusions of this so-called “Theory.” All are afraid of reprisals, though some have the courage to speak out in public anyway.

John McWhorter believes many of these teachings are racist, and I agree. If anti-Black racism were being taught in schools, and Black parents were being intimidated into remaining silent, would we oppose a state law that prohibited teaching anit-Black racism?



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Thank you for your efforts. If we'd had more like you, we wouldn't be in this situation.

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One problem I have with any discussion of the use of Critical Race Theory in schools is that trustworthy sources of information on what is actually happening—in classrooms and in school board meetings—are difficult to find. My impression is that most reporters for the “mainstream” media think according to the categories used by one party in the debate, proponents of CRT. This makes their accounts suspect. In a recent Philadelphia Inquirer story, opponents of CRT were portrayed as loud, disruptive, shouting. Proponents were described as clapping enthusiastically in support of “diversity, equity, and inclusion.” This begs, among other things, the actual meaning of the catchphrase “diversity, equity and inclusion.” Often abbreviated DEI, it comes with an agenda different from each of its component words taken independently. While opponents of CRT may well have shouted their heads off at the meeting, I wonder what else happened, and what got left out. More insidiously, a WaPo reporter on the CRT-in-schools debate used the word “Whiteness” in a lede as if “whiteness” actually existed; surely “whiteness” is a CRT construct. During the height of the George Floyd protests, I often felt I was living in a suburb of Lake Wobegon in which all the cops were racist and all the protesters peaceful. In this year’s episode, all good schools teach CRT.

On an intellectual level, what drives me crazy about this debate is the false dichotomy whereby any objection to CRT is presented as a move to conceal or obscure the role of slavery and segregation in American history. Arguably, CRT has no place in the teaching of history, which should be an attempt to understand, rather than an invitation to pass judgment. Children need to learn that difference. I would suggest that if CRT must be taught in schools at all, then it should be taught critically, as a perspective that can be evaluated, rather than a truth that can at last be told.

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I feel I should open by saying that I enjoyed the essay and approve of both its attitude and its specific recommendations.

That said, I'll raise some quibbles because they relate to a lot of the discourse I see, not this essay alone:

First, "...and real harm has been caused by such practices, as in the Boston public school system where the use of unregulated outside consultants led to allegations of emotional abuse." You understand that "allegations" and "real harm has been caused" don't really go together. I mention it because of the general disdain for "due process" in our conversations and our thinking.

Next, "Reasonable people can disagree over how such essential topics [the unpleasant aspects of American history] are best explained to students...". Reasonable people can even disagree on how essential they are. In the context of the truly stunning ignorance of our graduates about every conceivable subject, I don't think that the one immovable object in our curriculum has to be the country's racial history.

Lastly: Like the rest of Persuasion's readers, I suppose, I see several news items and essays about CRT on a daily basis. I notice two constants: 1) No examples of current "structural" or "systemic" racism are provided. In about half the cases someone mentions redlining, which as far as I know was intentionally -- rather than structurally -- racist, and is no longer a policy. I'm not saying that there are no examples to give, only that I'd appreciate a discussion with a little meat on it, which leads to 2) CRT is described as an arcane academic theory. What that arcane academic theory *says* is never given more than half a sentence, and rarely that much. I read popular articles on Quantum Physics and mRNA where I come away knowing more about the subject matter. I hope I speak for many people when I say we're tired of the same thin gruel.

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A good example of structural bias (I prefer that term to racism) is that environmental lead levels tend to be much higher in poor inner city neighborhoods than elsewhere.

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Thank you!

Now, something should be done about those environmental lead levels -- I don't know what or how or by whom, but I assume we can all agree on the desirability. What does calling it an instance of structural bias add to that?

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I'm just responding to your question about current examples.

A big part of the Biden infrastructure bill is lead abatement.

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Understood, and again -- thanks. My follow-up question is simply an attempt to relate this to the CRT context. What exactly is the "structure"? Is the "bias" racial, or against poor people of all races? If this does present a structure of bias, what impact does that have on what we do to ameliorate the problem?

I'm not putting you on the hook to answer, but I'm hoping that *someone* will answer.

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Like I said, I prefer "bias" to "racism" because I think in today's world it's mostly a class divide.

However, here is the specific way race factors into it. Redlining may have been outlawed, but the previously redlined neighborhoods didn't suddenly disappear. They were still overwhelmingly Black. Keep that in mind for the next section.

Lead abatement happens two ways: tearing down an old house and replacing it with a new one, or being forced to do it by either market pressure or mandate. Mandates are extremely rare. Instead, most laws just require disclosure when you sell the property.

So that leaves market pressure.

The market for new houses in poor, mostly Black neighborhoods is not nearly as profitable as greenfield developments or rehabbing in an upscale neighborhood. So that means old houses in historically Black neighborhoods are disproportionately lead based.

Furthermore, much environmental lead comes from pollution emissions from factories, especially before the 1970s. During the segregated era, those types of factories were disproportionately located near poor and Black neighborhoods. Lead emissions stay in the environment for a long time, mainly as dust in yards, playgrounds etc.

Speaking as a landlord who has lower working class tenants, no one in a poor neighborhood will pay more rent based on environmental lead, so there's no financial upside for me to fix the problem. (My tenants are overwhelmingly white working poor. Fortunately I don't own any properties with lead issues.)

There is no racist intent here. No one said "let's make poor and Black people bear the cost of lead exposure." Rather, it was combination governmental decision making NIMBY rent seeking that made it easier to put factories and dumps in neighborhoods that are disproportionately Black.

So that's the structural part of structural bias.

As far as solutions, left-leaning policy types like Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein and Noah Smith have been advocating a YIMBY approach to encourage more multifamily development in neighborhoods where NIMBYs are currently dominant, as well as encouraging gentrification as a way to upgrade existing housing stock.

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I appreciate your taking all this time.

I too see this more as a matter of class than of race, at least currently.

I'm still at a loss as to what the "structures" are here. The neighborhoods? The history? NIMBY-ism? Note that I am explicitly absolving you of spending any more time trying to alleviate my perplexity.

To avoid seeming disingenuous, I'll state that I suspect the popular fixation on these things (CRT, structural-whatever) of being a fad. I'm open to argument on the matter, but so far I've heard nothing to make me think there's a *there* there. This of course says nothing whatever about the actual problems experienced by the poor and otherwise disadvantaged, only that thinking of them in terms of structures of bias doesn't seem to offer any advantage to either diagnosis or prescription.

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DJ, My wife just suggested hiring practices, where it's not hard to believe that people naturally prefer to hire others like them, which may unintentionally disadvantage those who were previously kept out of the system.

That, it seems to me, would be a fair example of structural bias. The only issue I had with it is that there's only a tiny fraction of the populace who make hiring decisions on any noticeable scale. It certainly doesn't explain asking fourth-graders to dismantle the systems of bias that they're part of.

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Come on, is anyone doing that? How are you separating 'structural racism' from other terms defining racial bias?

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I made that up... I think... but one reads about these things on a daily basis. I don't think it describes America, but here-and-there weird things are happening.

My understanding of structural bias (I'm using @DJ's preferred term) is that it's bias that's implicit in the way some system operates, such that even unbiased operators will achieve biased outcomes.

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yeah, but where it becomes weird is in examples like lead paint, when it affects poor whites as well, the class issue. Also: is the racial bias in the existence of lead paint or in not cleaning it up.

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Sorry, but I'm not sure what point you're trying to make, or what you're asking.

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I believe it was conservative pundits who objected to the term 'structural racism' in contrast to racism being caused purely by individual bias. I don't understand that objection. Of course bias has been and still is built into laws and systems in the US or patterns of discrimination/bias/differences in outcome are. But some CRT people believe that true equality can only be achieved if those groups affected by racist discrimination are given affirmative legs up in education, pay. etc until the lag between whites and others are closed. I hope someone else has a better description 'cause it does seem like no one agrees on what CRT is.

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Thanks. It's clear to you that "bias has been and still is built into laws and systems in the US or patterns of discrimination/bias/differences in outcome are". It's not clear to me. This is why I ask for examples.

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Actually, none of this is clear to me.

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This discussion provides no evidence that CRT is taught in our schools. What parents seem to be objecting to is simply teaching about race and race relations and the history of race in the United States. This is sad because it indicates just how this history has never been taught; the older generation never learned about these issues and is now objecting to teaching these "unpleasant aspects of American history". I guess these parents would object to teaching about the constitution which does not give a slave full personhood.

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You're right. Evidence is needed. But it is plentiful. For example:

On June 30, 2021, the nation’s largest teacher’s union, the National Education Association, supported campaigns to implement “critical race theory, and ethnic...studies curriculum in pre- K-12 education,” with 88% of 8,000 union representatives voting in favor. (A few days later they got embarrassed and took this off of their website, but copies are still available.)

I know many parents who are opposing the teachings of CRT, and all of them are FOR teaching an honest history of the US including slavery, the slave trade, racism, etc.

I would suggest that you need some evidence for your claim that "What parents seem to be objecting to ..."

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I do not believe that the position of NEA of a few days standing is evidence that school teachers are teaching this complex theory in their classes. I have read many news stories of parents objecting to dealing with Black people in an honest way. Many white parents in the south want "colorblindness".

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You are right. They don't teach the complex theory. They only teach the simplistic conclusions of the theory, like "all whites are oppressors," and "we need racial discrimination."

CRT uses "colorblindness" in a simplistic, literal way in order to cause trouble. The parents I have talked to do not mean that they literally "do not see color." They use it as a metaphor. That's how it has been used for decades. They mean that they don't treat people differently due to their color.

Now that's an exaggeration in most cases, but it is good that they profess that as the proper standard. It helps to reinforce a positive social norm. And once they say it, they try to live up to it.

The reason CRT hates "colorblind" is because they want to pass laws that are not colorblind and that discriminate. As Ibarm X Kendi says:

"The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination."

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It is hard to treat even the metaphor as a valid approach in our society. We have a very long way to go for this approach to be appropriate. There are everyday incidences of a Black person being treated differently than a white person (Note the airline calling security when a Black women was traveling with a white child and no white person objected). If you do not "see" the problem then you can't be part of the solution. But in terms of political action we need programs that deal directly with issues that disproportionately impact Black people. Poverty is a critical issue. Another is investment in poor neighborhoods and poor schools (both urban and rural). Good jobs with an adequate income for all of those who have not completed college is another important goal. These programs are urgently needed to deal with past discrimination but they would not discriminate on the basis of race.

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I completely agree with your conclusion! The programs that are urgently needed to reduce racial disparities do not need to discriminate by race. They will automatically help a strongly disproportionate number of Blacks without being unfair to others who are oppressed for other reasons.

And this is why I hate CRT. It gets in the way of those programs.

Kendi completely disagrees with you, and the basic text on CRT by Delgado does too. Ms. White Fragility totally focuses on shaming liberal white people and a few working-class whites.

They are not the ones causing trouble. And doing that alienates half the country., which blocks doing what you and I know is the right thing to do.

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The NEA and other teachers groups have embraced CRT. They don't believe in principles of reason or the right of the individual to make up their own mind. They believe in group identity and power dynamics. They're anti-American to the core. They've betrayed the trust placed in them and deserve to be opposed by state legislatures. I used to teach. It was up to us, as inheritors of the Enlightenment, to carry that tradition forward and vigorously oppose the armies of the night. We've failed, allowing ourselves to be overrun by leftist fanatics. Public trust in educators may not recover.

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So the solution is for parents working full-time and raising one or more children to acquaint themselves with the politics, civics, and go to multiple evening meetings when they could be home helping the children with homework or taking a well-deserved break. This cohort goes up against paid employees without the same burdens backed up by the NEA and other national organizations which coordinate responses, provide Talking points and even visiting experts for these evening meetings? I would argue that’s not close to a fair fight. Society needs to protect its children. As far as I’m concerned, All hands on deck. All levels of politicians including duky elected representatives of state government need to help out these parents and all of us.

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