Stay WOKE: Critical Race Theory and Black History Education

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Jeanetta A. Johnson

Education Chairperson, Florida Black Women’s Roundtable

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The basic principle or belief of CRT emerged out of a framework for legal analysis in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s created by legal scholars, Derrick Bell, Kimberle’ Crenshaw and Richard Delgado among others. Yet, legislators and others who do not understand the concept have made it a negative concept that is spreading fear in certain sectors of the population.

As a resident of Florida and the education chairperson for the Florida Black Women’s Roundtable, I am disappointed in the state leadership’s decision to ignite misguided, harmful and unnecessary restrictions on African American studies, history education and CRT.  This decision ‘woke” many of us up, and we, the “SiStars” of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP) and Florida Black Women’s Roundtable, are committed to promoting and protecting the right and the fight to educate all Americans truthfully and accurately.

The following states have banned CRT: Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. These states are just the beginning of a snowball that is swiftly gaining momentum to soon become an avalanche.  

Currently, there are state legislatures and school boards that are advancing legislation and school policies to forbid the teaching of CRT. These states are Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Some state legislation does not include CRT in its language. Instead, the terms, “oppression” and “privilege” are used as the intent to protect white students from being exposed to class material that makes them feel “discomfort”. 

Anti-CRT legislation has also been introduced in the U.S. Senate. Senator Tom Cotton has introduced bills that would prohibit federal funding to schools that teach CRT and prevent CRT from being taught in U.S. Department of Defense institutions such as military academies. Companion legislation has also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Are you awake? If not, WAKE UP AND STAY WOKE! CRT was primarily a concept used in law school education for almost 40 years. Yet, since January 2021, 44 states have introduced bills or taken steps to restrict teaching CRT in state-funded schools.

There is a “rat trap in the house!” Just because you are not a rat does not mean you will not get caught in the trap. “WAKE UP AND STAY WOKE!”