A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Bill Straub: And they’re off to the races for the dimmest bulb in protecting children from that CRT


An exciting new contest is quickly sweeping across the land as legislatures and governors compete for the honor of becoming the nation’s dimmest bulb when it comes to dealing with the subject of Critical Race Theory.

We have the newly-elected Republican governor of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, who could barely wait to say “I do” at the conclusion of reciting his oath of office before he banned the commonwealth’s schoolchildren from having to learn about the horrors of CRT, brave man that he is.

Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa and New Hampshire have all come out guns ablazing on the issue, pulling the plug and leaving other similarly backwards outposts — and there are many — looking to follow suit.

Of course, it would be silly to think Kentucky wouldn’t want to get in on the act. The great Mark Twain likely didn’t say, “When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Kentucky, because everything there happens 20 years after it happens anywhere else,” but he should have.

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com

The Kentucky General Assembly, God help us, has not one but two bills pending – HB 14 and HB 18 – that would prohibit the teaching of CRT in any way, shape or form in the commonwealth’s schools and, actually, go a few steps further in forcing teachers to essentially shut up over the entire issue of civil rights.

Why, you might wonder, are your elected officials so determined to quash CRT like a bug?

Let’s make this simple – the whole concept makes white people uncomfortable and, lord knows, we can’t have that.

So, what is this CRT grotesquery that makes men and women cringe and forces schoolchildren into hiding?

Like most academic areas, it’s pretty complicated so this, at best, is your Cliff Notes version. Critical Race Theory, which has been around in one form or another since the 1970s, studies how race and the law interconnect, usually to the detriment of the non-white population It operates under the philosophy that the disparate treatment of Blacks in society has no biological basis but is the result of a complex system of social dynamics.
There are numerous examples, let’s pick one – social mobility.

Black youths experience an extraordinarily more difficult time climbing the social ladder than white youths. It’s not because white youths are somehow superior, the theory accurately holds, but because black youths generally speaking are starting at a lower rung on the ladder. Black kids often are born into lower wealth because of not only historical racism but ongoing racism.

In other words, while white kids start out on third base and think they hit a triple, to paraphrase Ann Richards, Black youths are still legging out a grounder to short. The question therefore becomes what do we as a society do to address it?

That’s pretty simplistic and, please, don’t go around harrumphing that I said all white folks are born on third base. But certainly, more White kids start there than Black kids. And it involves solutions more than grandstanding.

Many White folks feel threatened by the concept, especially now when demographic studies show White folks are destined to become a majority minority sometime in the 2040s. As a side note, I was raised in a small New Jersey town called Dunellen, with fewer than 7,000 residents at the time. As I was growing up, Dunellen was at least 90 percent White. My high school graduating class had one Puerto Rican kid (a great guy, by the way) and no African-Americans. Now fewer than half of the borough’s 7,600 residents are White.

That’s the future. That’s America. And society has to deal with it. And it only makes sense for the schools, in social studies and sociology and history classes to give it due consideration.

But the ruling White patriarchy, secure in the moment with its privilege, wants nothing more to do with CRT than sweep it under the rug, stand athwart and tell passers-by “Nothing to see here.”

Supporters of the legislation in Kentucky to prohibit CRT from darkening the doors of our secondary schools have developed all sorts of phony justifications to bolster their position. They won’t stop the proliferation of guns that threaten classrooms but, by cracky, we’ll protect our kids from studying the origins of racism.

House Bill 14, introduced by Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Ft. Thomas, would prohibit public schools from offering “any classroom instruction or discussion that incorporates designated concepts related to race, sex, and religion.’’ Any violation would impose a $5,000 per day penalty. Rep. Matt Lockett, R-Nicholasville, authored House Bill 18, which basically states the same thing but doesn’t include a specific fine.

“Critical race theory is not based on facts or evidence but rather serves as a dangerous diversion from education priorities that are actually proven to eliminate disparities,” Fischer said in a statement. “It is a powerful tool for those who seek to divide us into categories and destroy the very institutions that have seen generations of Americans of all races and backgrounds build successful futures.”

You know, since the rise of Donald J. Trump, Republicans far and wide have started out their arguments with, well, let’s be nice and call them untruths. With all due respect, you’d have to be a dope to fail and see the mountains and mountains of evidence in support of the obvious – that White society has consistently over history dealt African-Americans a bad hand and society can’t right the wrong without education and discussion.

Black Americans don’t have the same opportunities to “build successful futures” as White Americans. It’s a fact. You might ask some Black folks if they feel they have been divided as a result of America’s institutions, although those Americans might be hard to find in Ft. Thomas.

Meanwhile, Lockett, in an interview with Spectrum News 1 last August, said his measure “will be one of the most vital pieces of legislation” this session.

“I believe our country had made great strides over the last decades when it comes to race and race relations and we don’t want to go backwards. We don’t want to go backwards and teach in our schools that America’s racist. We don’t want to go back and teach in our schools that a particular race is an oppressive race or a particular race is oppressed.”

Lockett further said he wants CRT “out of the universities’’ but that will require coming at the problem from a different angle.

In other words, the delicate constitution of our truth-seeking youth might be upset by the fact that history clearly establishes that Black Americans were kept as chattel and carry an onus of prejudice on their backs to this day. Want to really make sure our delicate offspring aren’t upset? Get rid of calculus instead of CRT.

Lockett is correct, obviously, if by “made great strides over the last decades” he means the nation ended slavery, which, yeah, you could call progress. But America has had a racist past, African-Americans are still paying the price – the evidence is there, it’s not a secret – and ignoring it, humming along as always, will only ensure that African-Americans, 12 percent of the nation’s population, continue to be deprived of their rightful status.

Should race play a part in determining the nation’s future? Of course not. Does it? Oh, you bet.

Meanwhile, the beat goes on. One of these stupid bills will pass. The voting rights of Black people are continuing to be abrogated in many states, and Washington, with a real opportunity to do something about it, does nothing.

And you wonder if Critical Race Theory should be addressed in schools?


Related Posts

One Comment

  1. Richard says:

    Two thirds of black children are born into single parent households. Are we to believe that this is caused by systemic racism among whites? Common sense says that a child raised in a stable home, by two responsible parents has a higher likelihood of being successful, regardless of race. The democrat party ignore the real issues in the black community including unwed mothers and high crime rates, because they don’t have a solution. Ironically, the democrats own actions, like the enactment of welfare in the 1960’s penalized marriage and set in motion what we see today. Disgustingly, they portray African Americans as victims of systemic racism and never talk about personal responsibility. The democrat party is interested in a high voter turnout among African Americans to ensure they stay in power. Selling racism is a way of holding onto power, especially since African Americans register as democrats at a rate of 87% [pew research -2016]. Pushing CRT in schools ensures that future African American voters will also view America through a racial lens and turn out at the polls for democrat candidates. Damn the divisiveness that CRT causes, as long as democrats have control in Washington DC.

Leave a Comment