The idea behind Critical Race Theory (CRT) is to learn the effect of race on the larger contours of our society, areas like law, education, housing, jobs. Originally it was studied by graduate level academics. More recently it’s been introduced at the college level. The consensus is that race has effected the country since before Jefferson wrote “all men are created equal”.
Even more recently it’s been discussed as a course at high school level.
Which has triggered anguished outcries from one particular race, Whites, and one particular group, Conservatives. Their complaint: it would involve teaching White kids to feel ashamed about the color of their skin.
(Wait. White kids? No irony there.)
This isn’t the first theory that has divided people along intellectual lines.
Long ago there was a great division over the shape of the Earth. All the smart people knew it was flat because, “Look at the horizon, stupid! It’s flat!” Those who thought otherwise were ridiculed by their version of late night comedians. Then along came the Greeks, Romans, and Columbus. He definitively proved all those smart people stupid. Which made them smart, after all.
In the spring 1692, some young girls in Salem, Mass. claimed to be possessed by the Devil and accused some local women of witchcraft. The idea divided the town like a new cult. Starting with Bridget Bishop, nineteen women were hanged . 150 more were accused of witchcraft but not convicted. By September, they learned better and hysteria abated, apologies were made, and women were no longer killed – at least for being witches.
Sometimes it’s funny how stupid we can be before we get smart.
In 1909, California started forcibly sterilizing people with physical disabilities, psychiatric disorders, and other conditions that made them inferior human beings. Over seven decades they sterilized 20,000 people. It was part of Eugenics, a set of beliefs that go back to Plato designed to improve the human race – Darwin’s “Survival of the Fittest” on steroids. It spread around the US, killing over 60,000 people, not to mention Hitler’s Germany, and only God knows how many other places around the world. Now that’s divisive.
It took a World War and nearly 100 years, but eventually we got smart.
Sometimes it’s not funny how stupid we can be before we get smart.
Take race, for example. Most people acknowledge that human beings are essentially similar biologically. Medical schools don’t teach one set of procedures for black bodies, another for brown bodies, still another for white bodies, and so on. Hearts are similar. Legs, arms, brains – all similar. Yet, in this country at least, minorities – blacks and browns – are always in the majority on poverty lists, crime lists, education lists, health lists, housing lists…
Curious isn’t it? How 25% of the country could make up that large a portion of the under-privileged, unsuccessful, under-performing? It would be interesting to learn why, wouldn’t it? And maybe, just maybe, do something about it.
Or we could just make some stupid excuse and continue the stupidity.
Like refusing a vaccine that can literally save lives, thousands of them. Stupid. Divisive. Deadly.
Since the beginning of time, we’ve all been stupid about one thing or another – not because we were born stupid, but because we didn’t know – until we learned better.
The difference between stupid and smart: learning.