Michael N. Searles



It can be asked why Critical Race Theory or CRT deserves as much attention as it has been given, since most folks who have investigated the subject know that CRT is not taught in the public schools. It has been repeated many times that CRT is a subject examined in graduate and law schools often as an elective. Yet it has become a rallying cry of those who wish to attach anything they dislike. Ideas develop in interesting and sometimes strange ways.

Christopher F. Rufo is a name most people would not recognize, but his writings and investigations were the seedbed of the Critical Race Theory tumult. Rufo examined the anti-bias training taken place in corporate America and adapted CRT to connect with a deep historical and intellectual pattern that would anger and disturb the white public. His appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” provided a platform that Republican politicians and later President Trump would use to challenge the social change that was sweeping the country following the execution of George Floyd. While the success of Rufo’s phony CRT campaign surprised and amazed even him, it has left many in a dilemma of how to discuss racial matters or what and how to teach American history.

There are deep divisions in our society and many of them are race related. If race becomes a forbidden subject, we will never have a full understanding of our past or be able to establish a more harmonious future. Many aspects of the founding of America involve conflict with People of Color. The story of the first Thanksgiving told in elementary schools is much different from the one told by the Wampanoag Indians and their descendants. This includes much of what we have been told down to the menu for the feast.

Most Americans do not want to hear or have their children hear a version that is less celebratory than the one portrayed in coloring books and cartoon shows. While many would want to conceal a harsher reality from children, this same practice of avoidance continues when the issues of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, segregation, and discrimination are discussed. The story of slavery has changed over time from happy slaves contented to live out their lives in service to others to those who challenged and fought for their freedom.

Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass was highlighted recently on HBO through five of his more famous speeches. Those speeches laid out the nature and challenges of slavery and prescribed a path to a more inclusive America. In that struggle, black people did not engage in the fight alone. Elizabeth Margaret Chandler, Lucretia Mott, Sarah and Angelina Grimke, Lydia Maria Child, and Abby Keller are all white women who fought valiantly to abolish slavery. It can be said without their efforts the abolition movement would not have been as successful as it was. However, their stories and those of Maria W. Stewart, Mary Prince, Sarah Mapp Douglass, the women of the Forten family (Charlotte, Sarah, Margaretta, Harriet, and granddaughter Charlotte L.), Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman all black women must be mingled together for us to have a more complete understanding of the struggle for freedom.

However, there is a cost for telling a truth that some do not want to hear. The story from slavery to modern times includes racial violence perpetrated by whites and supported by those with a stake in the system. Telling stories of lynching, persecution, discrimination, and denial of rights are required even when they bring shame and self-loathing to those who hear them. In John 8:32, it reads, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” While the truth shall set you free, there is a price to be paid. While that cost often includes suffering, despair, and pain, it also brings redemption and freedom. We as a society must develop a critical racial tolerance and understanding if we are to be the people God would have us be.

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