Gwinnett County Board of Education Chairman Everton Blair pushed back against opponents of teaching Critical Race Theory in schools in a statement published on Facebook early Friday morning, saying opponents are missing its point.
The post came after Georgia’s State Board of Education adopted a resolution on Thursday effectively rejecting the teaching of Critical Race Theory in Georgia schools. The theory, which is centered around the idea that systemic racism exists in the U.S., stems from the 1619 Project — whose name is based on the year the first slaves from Africa arrived in the Jamestown settlement — that was attacked by then-President Donald Trump last fall.
“There have been abundant, recent discussions and even adopted resolutions from statewide elected officials regarding the teaching of race in America and the concerns over critical race theory,” Blair said. “But, it’s confusing as there is already nothing remotely racially critical in Georgia’s social studies or history curriculum.
“We’re manufacturing outrage around a problem that isn’t even present, over a concept that most of us haven’t even understood.”
Critical Race Theory has faced heavy criticism, including from Republican elected officials such as Gov. Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr, in recent weeks.
The backlash grew after the U.S. Department of Education unveiled, in April, new federal grant priorities that used the 1619 Project as an example of how “American History and Civics Education programs can play an important role in this critical effort by supporting teaching and learning that reflects the breadth and depth of our Nation’s diverse history and the vital role of diversity in our Nation’s democracy.”
Kemp sent a letter to the State Board of Education last month calling on it to ban the teaching of the theory in Georgia schools. Meanwhile, Carr was one of 20 Republican attorney generals from around the country who co-signed a letter to the U.S. Department of Education last month, asking it to reconsider its stance on programs such as the 1619 project.
ATLANTA — An approach to teaching that emphasizes the existence of systemic racism in the United States that has caught the attention of the Biden administration is coming under attack in Georgia and other Republican-led states.
The State Board of Education’s resolution says, among other things, that districts cannot teach students or train teachers that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex” or that “an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.”
ATLANTA — The state Board of Education voted Thursday to essentially endorse Gov. Brian Kemp’s opposition to teaching “critical race theory” in Georgia schools, despite criticism it would muzzle open discussion of America’s history of racism.
There have also been local opponents. Last month, a group calling itself “Gwinnett Parents For Quality Education” took out a full-page ad in the Daily Post on May 23 which, in addition to calling on the district to stop requiring face masks in schools, called on the district to not teach Critical Race Theory in Gwinnett schools.
Several parents denounced the theory at last month’s Gwinnett school board meeting, and a speaker at a pre-school board meeting public comment period on Feb. 18 told the board he believed the theory was created by Satan.
But on Friday, Blair — who became the first African-American elected to the school board in 2018 — said, “To be candid, America is a country with an inextricable history of racism. Because of this fact, vestiges of our racially discriminatory past show up across discrepancies in economic security, healthcare, educational access and more.
“And I get it, we’re very ashamed. We don’t want our children to feel bad for things they did not do. It is also uncomfortable and difficult to reconcile — even for Black Americans.”
Blair went on to say that focusing the debate over Critical Race Theory on whether or not racism exists misses the point of the theory. He said it also prevents an acknowledgement of slavery and racism that occurred in the past and finding ways to move forward from what happened in the past.
“Masking our fear of confronting the truth by rejecting only the elements of which we are ashamed teaches our children that they can cherry-pick data, falsify evidence and fabricate reality,” Blair said. “It further fails to recognize their potential as learners who are capable of complex, intersectional thought. We can do better than that.
“But we will only do better when we acknowledge where we must improve. And if only we spent a fraction of the time working to address and reckon with our history as we do trying to sanitize or deny intractable aspects of it, perhaps we would get there sooner. Interestingly, this is exactly why critical race theory exists.”
It remains to be seen how big of an issue Critical Race Theory will ultimately end up being in the 2022 election cycle, but Gov. Brian Kemp — who is running for re-election next year — did highlight the controversy over it in a fundraising email on Friday.
“Let me be 100% clear: I reject this Critical Race Theory movement outright,” Kemp said in the email. “I know that the vast majority of Georgians do too, and for very good reason. This is a partisan left-wing scheme, plain and simple. It’s divisive, anti-American, and dangerous.
“The Critical Race Theory curriculum does not represent an objective look at our nation’s history. Far from it ... It has no place in our Georgia classrooms!”