Critical Race Theory in Texas

A teacher giving lesson with tablet computer in classroom (Shutterstock)

The Texas signed the Critical Race Bill into law in summer 2021. Texas is one of many states that prescribes how educators can teach, introduce, and discuss the American History of racism and current events. The state of Texas also prohibits youth from receiving credit for participating in such activities. 

Critical race theory (CRT) has become the new monster under the bed, preventing people from acknowledging the truth regarding this country’s founding fathers and how the constitution was not founded on the concept of freedom and liberty for all men.

The first step to understanding why CRT is such a hot topic socially and politically is to understand both what it is and is not. Opponents state that CRT reproves all white people for being oppressors and thus classifies all Black people as hopelessly oppressed victims. These falsehoods have spurred school boards meetings in Texas to ban books, lessons, and all activities about racism in classrooms. Texas has gone so far as to remove hundreds of books off library shelves in school libraries, leaving the shelves bare and children deprived of classic books and readings that are aligned to state approved curriculum and assessments.

The fears and accounts of Critical Race Theory are problematic at best and mostly lack truth. There is significant confusion between CRT as a theoretical framework, and The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story. Most of these fears are exaggerations of a framework taught in universities, and not public schools. A broad brush applied to CRT is perplexing to academic scholars and educators, including some who developed and contributed to the framework. This includes the editor of The 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, who recently appeared on The View television show. 

Critical Race Theory states that U.S. social institutions (e.g., the criminal justice system, education system, labor market, housing market, and healthcare system) are laced with racism embedded in laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that lead to differential outcomes by race. CRT does not apply racism to all white people as individuals and/or entire groups of people. 

According to the Texas Tribune newspaper, Critical race theory is an academic term that studies how race and racism have impacted social and local structures in the United States. For more than a year, GOP leaders have disparaged its teaching in public schools, with limited examples throughout Texas school districts. In 2020, former President Donald Trump banned federal employees from adult education (E.g. Diversity & Inclusion, Racial Equity, etc.) that discusses “critical race theory” or “white privilege,” calling it propaganda. 

 This law took effect on September 1 and included a list of documents that Texas students must be taught A list of additional historical documents written by people of color and women added by House Democrats mandates students be taught “the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong.” However, many parents, educators and education advocacy groups opposed the bill. 

In the bill, it states teachers cannot be “compelled” to discuss current events and if they do, they must “give deference to both sides.” Honest conversations about race and racism in American society will be limited, leading to less educated students. The version signed by the governor also banned the teaching of The New York Times’ 1619 Project, an anthology of investigative journalism and academic research from leading historians across the country, that examines U.S. history from the date enslaved people first arrived on American soil in 1619, establishing a foundational date. 

As a PhD student and college professor who teaches classical and contemporary dance, including Pan-African Dance, I know firsthand the impact of the African Diaspora and Atlantic Slave trade on American society. I recently read the 1619 Project: A New Origin Story in a PhD class, “Slavery in America.” My peers and fellow academics, teachers, and historians are upset that Texas schools are not allowed to teach all of history to our kids in school. Again, the fallacy of the current controversy is that teachers in K-12 schools are not teaching CRT. The framework is found in universities and in specific schools of thought and/or colleges. Yet, Texas teachers have students asking why people are protesting history and why Black people are more likely to be killed by the police. 

Systemic racism can explain racial disparities in police killings, COVID-19, and the devaluing of homes in Black neighborhoods across Texas. Ignorance is not bliss. There is no room for colorblindness as long we still see color in our way of life, systems, and laws. If we truly believe in the Star-Spangled Banner, the 4th of July, and all the practices that we claim to make this country a melting pot and the best this world has to offer, we must do better. We must face the truth of our origin, our founding fathers, and the residue left behind that is still active and affecting people of color today. Our children deserve it. And the context behind Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech, demands it. 


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Jennifer Hobson Gormer

Jennifer Hobson Gormer is a student in the Humanities PhD program at the University of Texas, Dallas.

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