Understanding Our Past — CRT: Part I

Okay, folks … it seems that there is much confusion surrounding the concept of Critical Race Theory or CRT.  The confusion is twofold:  genuine confusion by people who truly do not understand the theory, and fake outrage by racists and Republicans (largely one and the same) who are trying to make a point to their mostly white base.

Today’s post, the first in a two-maybe-three-part series, looks at what Critical Race Theory is … and what it isn’t, and the evidence to support it.  Then, I hope to deconstruct the outright lies that are being told by the politicians and the likes of Fox News that are creating a furor in this nation … mainly among racists and bigots, but also among those who simply don’t understand what it is and why the theory is accurate.  This is by no means intended to be an academic work, but merely a layman’s view of what CRT is and how it is affecting this nation today.

Let’s start with a simple explanation of Critical Race Theory.

The simplest explanation is that racism has been a part of this nation since its founding, and today, even in the 21st century is systemic, meaning it is built into our institutions such as law enforcement, schools, the courts, etc. in an attempt to maintain the dominance of white people in society.  Sometimes it is blatant, but since the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, more often it is subtle or implied, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

CRT does not, as some would have you believe, posit that all white people are racists, but rather that this nation’s history of racism lives on in many today, even though some may not realize it, and that it is imbedded in our laws, our society, our system.  Think about it … from the earliest days of white people coming to these shores, racism has been cruelly executed.  Think about what the white European settlers did to the indigenous people who had been here for thousands of years before the white people showed up and literally imprisoned them and kicked them off their land … killed them.  Read Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation by John Ehle.

And then, in 1619, the first slaves were imported from the African continent to do the hard work.  White men owned those dark-skinned men and women … owned them like they might own a painting or a cow.

More than 200 years later, at the stroke of midnight on January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation came into effect and declared enslaved people in the Confederacy free—on the condition that the Union won the war.  Still, slavery remained constant until the war was won by the Union troops and the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1865 …

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

President Lincoln did not live to see final ratification: Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865, and the necessary number of states did not ratify the 13th Amendment until December 6th of that year.

Then came the Black Codes1, Jim Crow laws2, and … the Ku Klux Klan3 (KKK).

  1. Black Codes were strict local and state laws that detailed when, where and how formerly enslaved people could work, and for how much compensation. The codes appeared throughout the South as a legal way to put Black citizens into indentured servitude, to take voting rights away, to control where they lived and how they traveled and to seize children for labour purposes.
  2. Jim Crow laws existed for about 100 years, from the post-Civil War era until 1968. They were meant to marginalize African Americans by denying them the right to vote, hold jobs, get an education or other opportunities. Those who attempted to defy Jim Crow laws often faced arrest, fines, jail sentences, violence and death.
  3. The Ku Klux Klan was born in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee, as a private club for Confederate veterans. The KKK grew into a secret society terrorizing Black communities and seeping through white Southern culture, with members at the highest levels of government and in the lowest echelons of criminal back alleys.

Under Jim Crow, segregated waiting rooms in bus and train stations were required, as well as water fountains, restrooms, building entrances, elevators, cemeteries, even amusement-park cashier windows. Laws forbade African Americans from living in white neighborhoods. Segregation was enforced for public pools, phone booths, hospitals, asylums, jails, and residential homes for the elderly and handicapped. Some states even required separate textbooks for Black and white students. New Orleans mandated the segregation of prostitutes according to race. In Atlanta, African Americans in court were given a different Bible from white people to swear on. Marriage and cohabitation between white and Black people was strictly forbidden in most Southern states. It was not uncommon to see signs posted at town and city limits warning African Americans that they were not welcome there.

And no, my friends, this wasn’t hundreds of years ago … Jim Crow laws were still in effect when I was young, and only legally ended in 1968.  Less than fifty years ago.  But … in many ways they are still being practiced, just not quite as openly or blatantly.

And what of the KKK?  A relic of past history?  Guess again.  Some 42 different Klan groups were active in 22 states as of June 2017, a slight increase from early 2016, according to a report from the Anti-Defamation League.

Now, sit down for a minute and take a few deep, calming breaths, for this is some disturbing information I’ve just laid on you.  None of it was likely news to you, but … seeing it all in print, realizing that yes, Virginia, racism is alive and well in the United States today, can take the wind out of your sails.  Racism in the U.S. is not a thing of the past, not something we’ve overcome.  Sure, we’ve made some progress, there are anti-discrimination laws on the books to protect minorities from being denied jobs, education, and housing … but that doesn’t mean that people don’t find a way around it.  Racism is, like it or not, part of our past and our present … the goal here is to ensure it is NOT part of our future.

My goal is two-fold:  to clear up some of the misconceptions floating around today, perpetuated by the uneducated or those who have ulterior motives, and to show why and how we, as a nation, can be so much better than we are today.  I will have Part II to this series in the next day or two and will try to tie it all up in Part III by the end of the week.  But folks, don’t let anybody tell you that this is not a racist nation … hell yes, it is.  Many of us are not racist, don’t understand those who are, but sadly the racists are often the ones calling the shots, making the laws, setting the rules, teaching our children – hence, systemic rasicm.

31 thoughts on “Understanding Our Past — CRT: Part I

  1. Hi Jill.
    Sorry I’m late (I’ll e-mail you to clarify).
    Racism is and always has been alive and with a regular fan base. (Ancient Greeks were good at it; if you weren’t Greek you weren’t a citizen) Across the world and across the ages that is. It takes various forms and sometimes hides in ‘respectable’ guises. Ask any minority anywhere, any time.
    The problem in the history of the USA would seem to have arisen in the division between the ‘industrial’ north and the ‘rural’ south. Despite what some romantics would have you believe there was an aggressive move in some sections of The South to expand slavery. In the North the paid workers feared this would price them out of the market (and there were abolitionists too, but despite what those romantics would have you believe not every union solider carried a copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in their backpack). Hence war. And the South got its butt kicked; royally and Sherman should them the true consequences of rebellion.
    Some might say astutely others might say weakly to keep the Nation together The North indulged The South and turned a blind eye during the Reconstruction. Naturally losing a war requires excuses and scapegoats. They couldn’t bare the thought of ex-slaves being equals and they were the nearest folk at hand. It was ok when they were slaves but now there was not slavery, they had to be kept in their place.
    Then came the 1950s & 1960s and worse in 2008 ‘one of those people’ became president.
    And you know the rest.
    And that sadly is part of the USA’s experience.
    Although ask the Latino, Jewish, Asian, Muslim, Gay and Feminists for their take on the business.
    It’s all about Intolerance and Excuses for being Inadequate and I spit on those concepts (polite version)

    Liked by 1 person

    • No worries about being late to the party … it lasts forever! I’ll be awaiting your email … I hope nothing is wrong!

      You are, I think, the most knowledgeable person about history around the globe, and your take on this is, as always, very astute. Still, I will never understand the “why” of it all. Seems that everyone has to have at least one prejudice … those who don’t discriminate on the basis of a person’s religion, dislike people with different coloured skin, and those who don’t discriminate against Blacks, Latinos, etc, are intolerant of gay people. But why? They cannot even get to know those people, for they don’t listen, they shut them completely out of their lives, unless it is to criticize or do harm. Now, you know I am not religious, but I know you are a devout Catholic, so let me ask you something … how do religious people who read their bible and profess to be Christian, reconcile their values with their hatred of ‘other’? Doesn’t that same bible teach that you should love everyone and do good, help others when they are in need? I just don’t get how people can reconcile the two in their minds. How do they justify hatred? Sigh. Yeah, I know, if we had answers to those questions, we could save the world and make lots of money while doing it!

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      • Thank you very much for those kind words Jill. Truth be known I don’t think I know that much. It’s just that whenever a new piece of history comes my way there are the same old flaws, hypocrisies and cruelties. (I’m just finishing up a book on the Korean war of the early 1950s; that was grim. Now onto the French Revolution, Liberty, Fraternity, Equality and a lot of dead people before we even get to the Wars).
        As for why people indulge in Racism or its cousins? Well Ignorance, Intolerance, Greed, Fear and so on. Why do they indulge so? Choose you reason.
        Some might take a religious perspective and save ‘Evil’.
        Some might take a Social Humanist view and suggest a mix of tensions created by flawed societies.
        Some might take a political view and tell you it is Capitalism or Socialism / Communism / Religion.
        Take them all, stir them up into one fetid soup, add Greed, Ignorance etc.
        We’ve looked at this before….We’re flawed.

        As for your question on Religion…as I see it, they don’t reconcile it at all, they have a whole bunch of the above and go seeking out passages out of context and claim there is their evidence.
        It’s a similar process to distortion of a political ideology, or a selective viewing.
        No one out there has clean hands, we have to accept we are flawed, supress out hate, envy, greed and ignorance and above all intolerance. If we don’t our beliefs are false.
        I’ve witnessed it on the Right on The Left, in Theism and Atheism, in alleged movements for ‘Freedom’ and in Races (of all sorts; don’t believe it is an exclusively White Failing).
        It’s a mess. Maybe someone somewhere has an answer; my knee-jerk solution isn’t going to work; at least I know that.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, I think you know … and more importantly understand … a lot more than you give yourself credit for. (Still no email, by the way) I find that certain periods interest me … for example, I’ve studied the French Revolution avidly … but that more ancient history doesn’t interest me for some reason. Perhaps because I cannot relate to it at all. WWII is of great interest, for I had family caught up in the Holocaust and my father served in France in WWII. But the more I study history, the less I understand bigotry. We argue, we start wars, the wars end with nobody better off than before and most people far worse off … wouldn’t you think we’d have better things to worry about than hating a person because of the colour of their bloody skin???? Sigh. Yes, we are all flawed, but … some far more so than others, I think. I think my next life as a 🐺 will be much simpler!

          Liked by 1 person

          • E-mail will be on its way Jill…just getting ‘around to it y’know how it goes.
            Seems to me each war comes with a host of lessons. We did try after WWII; there was the UN, Holocaust Denial is a crime in some nations, but war itself carried on. Its continuation is one of the reasons I subscribe to the Realism theory of International Relations:
            Bigotry is something else. A blight far worse because it lives on our streets. I have witnessed folk who declare themselves socialists striving for equality etc, etc and yet are capable of bigotry in their own way similar to the mindset you see stalking every day.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Got the email … will respond soon. Yeah, how well I know how it goes … I owe at least 9 emails that are about a week or more past due!

              Interesting wikipedia article … by those definitions, I suppose I am a classic realist, for I see human nature as being the biggest stumbling block to so many things, including the survival of the species! And, those human fatal flaws seem to include bigotry in all the forms we know about, and likely some we don’t yet notice. But the main thing I don’t understand is how some of us can not care about such things as skin colour, gender identity, religion, etc., but rather welcome the diversity of other views and cultures, while others are deathly afraid of any that don’t look, talk, and act just like themselves. It’s almost as if there are two separate species called ‘humans’.

              Liked by 1 person

              • But the main thing I don’t understand is how some of us can not care about such things as skin colour, gender identity, religion, etc., but rather welcome the diversity of other views and cultures, while others are deathly afraid of any that don’t look, talk, and act just like themselves. It’s almost as if there are two separate species called ‘humans’.

                I think it has to do with how we are raised in our early formative years.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Much does, but some manage to grow and learn to think for themselves, rise above their upbringing and become better humanitarians. But, you’re right, much of who we are is formed in our earliest years by the people who raise us.

                  Liked by 1 person

              • My own personal experience suggests Jill, that if it’s not skin, gender, race, religion or culture, then those flaws within us will find something else.
                We all have to be vigilant. The demons can feed off outrage, even opinion and given the chance turn it into something worse.
                Our own battles within are the most difficult.

                Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the first step is clearing up the confusion, as certain political showmen and Fox ‘News’ have woven a web of blatant lies around the theory, some saying that it is trying to make everyone hate white people, which simply is NOT true! xx

      Liked by 1 person

        • Ahhhh … but see, the Republicans have increasingly been desperate to whitewash or sweep under the carpet the attacks on the Capitol on January 6th! I didn’t make that connection until you mentioned a “False Flag action” … THAT is what they are trying so hard to distract from … I’d bet on it! More and more evidence is coming to light that certain members of Congress had a role in planning that attempted insurrection, and they are trying to say it was nothing, even though over 140 police officers were injured, one was killed, and 4 other people died. I mean … when there is a noose outside the Capitol and thousands of people have forced their way into the building chanting “Hang Mike Pence”, and they’ve destroyed thousands of dollars of property, pooped on the floors, and taken lives … of course they want to take our attention in another direction! xx

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Jill, we should not forget that those who do not want our ugly past to be revealed, have been doing so for years. The tension with critical race theory teaching is not new and is as old as the racism itself. These folks have long known it was bad and did not want to have to explain. Just a couple of points:

    – the FBI did not want Billie Holiday’s recording of “Strange Fruit” played as it told a vivid and ugly true story;
    – Emmett Till’s mother had to fight to have pictures of her mutilated son in Life magazine, so America could see what white supremacists did to her boy;
    – some white preachers found selections from the bible, taken out of context, to preach a separation of the races as well as the denigration of African-Americans;
    – slave owners did not want their slaves to read, so has to prevent their education and rebellious thinking;
    – the stories of what happened in places like Tulsa, OK and Wilmington, NC were not taught in any textbook I ever saw; and
    – just today, I learned that in 1969 there was a Soul music festival in Harlem that was filmed and no one would produce a movie, as they did with Woodstock with footage sitting in a basement. The acts at this festival included Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, David Ruffin of The Temptations, The 5th Dimension and many others.


    Liked by 1 person

    • You are very right, my friend … the fight has been long and tiresome. Critical Race Theory has only recently become the Republican’s Boogeyman, their “public enemy #1”. I don’t understand, though, how ANYONE can think that teaching our children only the good things that have happened in this country, sweeping the dark and ugly things under the rug, can possibly benefit us going forward! If … IF we fail to learn from our past mistakes, then future generations will simply repeat them at even greater cost! When do we, as the human species, begin to improve, learn to be better??? All of your bullet points are very important parts of our history. I remember when I first learned of the story of Emmett Till … I was in my 20s, for it certainly wasn’t taught when I was in high school, and it wasn’t talked about at the time it happened ( I would have been 4 at the time) at the family supper table! When I read the story, I fought tears for days. It IS part of our history just like Japanese internment camps, the Trail of Tears, Jim Crow, and all the rest. I want my children, grandchildren, and if they ever happen, my great-grandchildren to know this part of our history. It is part of what made us who we are today … it isn’t pretty, but it is our history, we cannot simply bury it. Sigh.


      • Jill, the Emmitt Till is story is as good metaphor for what we should not allow happen. At the Greensboro, NC Civil Rights Museum which is built around and includes the Woolworth’s counter where the first sit-in occurred, the guide speaks about what happened to Emmitt Till. It is both maddening and heartbreaking that a bunch of extreme racist assholes (I will not expunge the word this time) “destroyed” this young man for the crime of being black. We are all prejudice to varying degrees, which is why Critical Race Theory should be taught. The Republican party is using this as a wedge issue, because the party has a dearth of good ideas and has become untethered to what they are previously advocated. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for the explanation Jill. You’ve tied in the three things I despise most. About the only thing you left out are the Karens..The latest bunch of racists to show their true colours. And just in case anyone thinks the KKK are truly a thing of the past who just poked their heads out to test the wind during Trump’s short but way too long occupation of the White House. It’s only a few short years ago they had the money to send a team of recruiters into my country hoping to establish a faction here. Hoping to build on a few racist problems we had. They were kicked out of Dodge in a short time as we don’t hide behind sheets to air our problems or resort to the hate like they do, the denigration, the killings. Racism is built on the arrogance and the lie that white is better than colour. It isn’t true, and were it not for a lack of education, science could show that we all come from the same stock but that melanin in the body produces the best skin colour to deal with different temperatures over millennia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope it helped some, David. I have ‘Karens’ on my list of things that will yet be covered. This post was mostly about our somewhat distant past, and the next one (if there is a next one … there wasn’t much interest in this one, it seems) will cover more about where we are today, the ways in which racism is affecting our lives, and the outright lies being told about Critical Race Theory. I only vaguely recall that the KKK made a recruiting drive on your side of the pond, and I’m so pleased they failed!

      You make some excellent points, not the least is the reason there are different skin colours to begin with … environment of their ancestors. And … if you could peel back the skin of two men (or women) side-by-side, one Black and one white, you would find there is no difference underneath the skin. The heart and organs and bones and whatever else is under there is exactly the same! Sigh. People are so stupid, aren’t they?

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  4. Pingback: Understanding our past: — crt part 1. | Ramblings of an Occupy Liberal

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