Dr. Tom Prasch, Professor and Chair of History/Geography at Washburn University, and Dr. Kara Kendall-Morwick, Associate Professor of English at Washburn University, presented “The Truth About Critical Race Theory” at the May 3, 2022 League of Women Voters Topeka-Shawnee County Tuesday Topics. We’ve included highlights of the presentation below. The library is a partner with the League of Women Voters in sharing nonpartisan civic information.
Understanding Critical Race Theory
History of CRT
Prasch and Kendall-Morwick provided an overview of Critical Race Theory. This included the truth about what it intends to explain and also what it does not contain. The name, Critical Race Theory (CRT), was coined by Kimberle Crenshaw, professor at UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School, in 1989. CRT was politicized by Christopher Rufo, a conservative activist and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Prasch explained race is a social construct not a biological fact. Race shapes our lived experiences. CRT emerged to understand the way in which the Civil Rights movement had stalled. The theory does not say one race is better than another. CRT is a framework that helps people understand issues such as household wealth, college education rates, home ownership, poverty rates, health outcomes, COVID deaths, longevity, incarceration and political representation. As a legal theory CRT asks “why are there disparities?”
Bills and laws being introduced and passed in numerous states are very nearly identical. Prasch described them as boilerplate legislative acts employing the same language and misrepresentations over and over. He said the idea that CRT should be banned from classrooms because students should not have to experience discomfort or guilt would make teaching history next to impossible. In 2021 Kansas State Department of Education announced CRT is not part of Kansas academic standards.
In the humanities classroom
Kendall-Morwick spoke about CRT in the humanities, film, mass media and literature. Critical Race Theory allows us to understand how members of a group construct their identity and how might things be different. For example, a novel like The Great Gatsby, which is filled with descriptions of privileged whites, could lead to a discussion of race.
Kendall-Morwick said, “Although CRT itself is not taught at the high school level, the language in anti-CRT legislation could suppress virtually any discussion of race and racism in the classroom.” Another example from literature is to consider how a novel by Toni Morrison could be taught without talking about race.
“Critical Race Theory, or CRT, is a theoretical and interpretive mode that examines the appearance of race and racism across dominant cultural modes of expression.” – Purdue Online Writing Lab
Upcoming Tuesday Topics
Mark your calendar for Tue, June 7, at noon for an interactive Zoom presentation on “Reframing Topeka: Deliberative Conversations on What Should We Do to Improve Topeka?” from Lissa Staley, Community Connections Librarian . Find the Zoom link and more information on the library’s calendar. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.