By Jim Powers
Texas Governor Gregg Abbott recently signed into law a bill prohibiting the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in K-12 public schools. CRT has never been taught in Texas public schools.
Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has taken up the cause of banning CRT from public colleges and universities in Texas, with the threat of revoking the tenure of any professor teaching it.
According to Academics, CRT is simply looking at the way society has been affected by racism since America’s founding. It posits that racism is and has been pervasive throughout our history and examines how forces in our culture tend to perpetuate it.
The biggest feature of these efforts by Abbott and Patrick appear to be to argue that racism is not and has never been cultural, but individual, a position that in my opinion, can’t be defended.
While I was born in Woodville, I grew up in another S.E. Texas city, and lived there until I was 16. It was a small city when we moved there in the early 1950s but started growing quickly in the 1960s. And, like most of the Southern cities in those days, it was heavily segregated.
There was a black community there, but it was invisible to me. Black people literally lived on the other side of the (railroad) tracks. I rarely encountered a black person, and certainly none lived in the solidly middle-class community we lived in, or moved in the circles we moved in.
My parents were racist, as were most people I knew. They were not militantly racist, as in white sheets and burning crosses. They were “culturally racist,” a pernicious casual racism that generations of folks in the south grew up with. Black people were made fun of, were called disrespectful names, were talked about as less than fully human by most of the white people I knew, and were relegated to separate schools, separate restrooms, separate drinking fountains.
When we moved to Warren in 1966, the schools in the city we left were still segregated. But the Warren school had been integrated for a couple of years.
Warren was a very small town in 1966. A couple of stores and a restaurant were about it for businesses.
The school system was small. And poor. We weren’t allowed to use the lab for chemistry classes because it was badly stocked. All the grades were on one campus. There were 33 people in my graduating class in 1969.
With integration, the recently constructed Black school was closed (and ultimately turned into a bus barn), and all the students from there were moved to the 30-year-old at that time campus, a move that seemed to me, even as a teenager, to be backwards.
And, while racism was common outside the school, integration went well with the students. For the most part, everyone got along.
I share my personal experience with racism because most of the folks reading this are probably young enough that they might believe Gregg Abbott and Dan Patrick’s assertion that racism isn’t systemic or pervasive in our society. What these men are trying to do is memory hole centuries of systemic racism, erasing the inconvenient and sordid history of the treatment of other races in our country, by intimidating into silence those tasked with teaching that truth to our youth.
That our state legislature would pass a law clearly aimed at erasing the shared experience in our country of an entire race of people and deny that their experience is not still pervasive is unconscionable. And if you don’t believe it is still pervasive, there's this.
CNN reported Feb. 17 that “A video showing police officers breaking up a fight between a Black teenager and a White teenager at a New Jersey mall has prompted outrage over the police response.”
“New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday that the “appearance of what is racially disparate treatment is deeply, deeply disturbing.”’
“The Black teenager begins to get up and is pinned to the ground by one officer and rolled on to his stomach, with his hands behind his back. The other officer pushes the White teenager onto a nearby couch and then assists in handcuffing the Black teenager. Eventually, officers stand the handcuffed Black teenager up.”