Dispossession and oppression of, and genocide against, Native Americans. Slavery. Dismantling the first generation of civil rights legislation. The Chinese Exclusion Act. Internment of Japanese Americans. Jim Crow laws. Segregation. Ghettoization of minority populations. Poverty and incarceration rates.

Critical Race Theory posits that our country, government and institutions are built on laws that are rooted in racism. The fact that our country is built on slavery and dispossession would support that. But the politicians and others attacking critical race theory would not understand that, because they do not understand the theory and they don’t know American history.

Critical Race Theory does not single out individuals. It does not inspire hatred. It calls out a system that allows exclusion and discrimination to exist and continue. Many of us benefit from that system. It is necessary for us to admit that. And it is incumbent upon us to address the institutional and systemic wrongs that have occurred.

Additionally, to believe the critics would be to believe that teachers and professors expend our energies teaching nothing more than Critical Race Theory and Marxism. This is obviously untrue, but that does not fit within their narrative. My students do read Marx, but they also read Aristotle, Locke, Hume, and Machiavelli. I do teach about racism and oppression, but I also teach about freedom of religion and speech. Before we can criticize something, we need to understand what it is. Before we can embrace something, we must be aware of the alternatives. Successes and failures must be addressed just as costs and benefits. That’s what education systems are for.

Partnered with the dismissal of Critical Race Theory is the concurrent dismissal of the 1619 Project. Slavery and oppression existed prior to our birth as a country and continued well after. Our governor would have us believe that we are in need of a “patriotic” education program where American history begins in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence, and presumably one that continues to whitewash American history. I would suggest such an approach to history is unpatriotic, for it presents a narrative that is simply wrong, and it ignores the reality of the American experiment. It also prevents us from achieving our ideals.

The attacks on education at all levels in South Dakota and across the country are an attempt to entrench racism, bigotry, discrimination and exclusion for another century. It means our students will not have a full understanding of our history and will lack the ability to think critically about our existence. Education and propaganda should not be confused. Those who attack Critical Race Theory, social justice and inclusion do so because they know that their opinions are not based on facts, and that their ideas would not survive the light of day. The critics are not interested in honest discussion; they wish to shut down the marketplace of ideas. The positing of theories is to encourage discussion, not end it. Critical Race Theory encourages and open and honest discussion, as do other academic theories.

Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project are more important than ever. They help us to understand our real history and can spawn the open discussions that are necessary for a great country. It is time for our governor, our legislators, and members of other governing bodies and institutions in South Dakota to get on the right side of history and issues and stay there.

Moreover, our focus cannot just be on race. American history is replete with other examples of discrimination and exclusion as well: refusal to admit Jews during the buildup to the Second World War and the Holocaust, the attacks on Muslims after Sept. 11, the rejection of Catholics for centuries. This country was built on rejection and bigotry. We cannot change that if we don’t admit it. We can ill-afford to become a reincarnation of the Know Nothings, which is what will occur if the attacks on educators continue.

Will Gov. Noem’s education program include the Tulsa Massacre? The collaboration between state and local leaders and the KKK through the 1960s? The contemporary moves to disenfranchise minority voters? Violence perpetrated by the police or other government actors? Probably not. Which ultimately means ignoring the past will be combined with ignoring the present; discrimination, exclusion, and racism will continue to permeate our system and institutions.

Tim Schorn is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of South Dakota.

(12) comments

SoDakD

👍👍👍

Mr. T

Well said, Mr. Schorn, but your words will fall on deaf ears.

Ms. Noem and most South Dakotans get their reality from Fox and think you’re “Deep State Fake News.”

It’s clear that the Party of Trump’s strategy for the 2022 midterms will focus on cultivating both 1)- his base’s belief in the Big Lie that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen and 2)- their outraged rejection of America’s true racist History.

White Grievance is a powerful - if false - message that may herald another hundred years of Jim Crow control of our electoral process.

Black folks know all about this. The only difference this time is that many white folks are experiencing it for the first time.

But thanks for trying anyway…

Jon Wick

Still drinking the kool aid I see Mr. T.

VoiceforAll

Why do we have to teach critical race theory, why don't we start with teaching plain old history first. I have had four children go through the public school system in this state and none of them were taught near the amount of history I had when I was in school, democratic theory is that if you teach it, they might see what makes this county great so it is tougher to brain wash them into thinking you are a bad person just for being an American, it is not only happening in our public schools but in our public universities as well, I know because my kids have gone to them too. So along comes this strategy by the democrats to teach our kids how bad of a person you really are and how awful the founding fathers of this great nation were to do what they did, were they perfect, no, they made alot of mistakes, but they did alot of things right too. I am so tired of hearing how bad everyone is and how wrong everyone is, and how terrible America is and everything needs to change because such and such says so, how we need to pay reparation's to this group over here because 200 years ago something happened, because as all you democrats know, money fixes everything, just ask Joe B. and the checks he keeps sending out, after all, it's just money, they can always print more. I always get a kick our of all you democrats saying how republicans can't think for themselves, you are so wrong, that is why we stand up for what we believe in, because we think for ourselves and don't just fall in line with whatever the democratic party tells you to think. Fall in line Mr. T and SoDakD, tow the company line, don't have your own thoughts on anything, it is easier for you that way. Critical race theory is wrong, it should not be taught to our children, thank God we have people like Governor Noem who knows this and will stand up against it.

Gimmy A. Breake

At most “VoiceforAll” speaks for 30 percent.

For everyone else, it’s without their consent

From dubious sources his wisdom is drawn

One thing is certain, he’ll “go on and on…

Jon Wick

Thanks for speaking up VoiceforAll.

QgopFromnowon

This is all Ivory Tower Propaganda.

Our Founding Fathers built this country for European Americans, and Donald Trump will soon return to his rightful Presidency at the head of his loyal military.

Finally he’ll wrest control of our country from the Mongrel Marxist trash that threatens true AngloSaxon Americans' birthright.

Just because we didn’t succeed on January 6th doesn’t mean the patriotic struggle to Make America Great Again is over.

Polls show that in South Dakota most people know the election was stolen. This is why Republican Patriots like VoiceforAll support passing laws to prevent the Communists from ever stealing another election.

Where We Go One We Go All!

Jon Wick

Professor Schorn, like you, I also hold an advanced degree in education spending almost a decade in the post-secondary classroom and understand academia very well. I have also spent many decades in the private sector, where reality lives, so I also understand that theory and reality are only theoretically related.

The 1619 Project has been completely discredited by actual historical scholars. “so wrong in so many ways” according to Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Gordon Wood. Additionally, James McPherson, a Pulitzer Prize winner himself states it is a “unbalanced, one-sided account” that “left most of the history out.” Even the National Association of Scholars has called on the Pulitzer Prize Board to revoke its award to Nikole Hannah-Jones. The actual goal of the project, as Hannah-Jones herself explains, is to get “white people to give up whiteness.” This is simple identity politics. Her work is a revisionist account of history grounded in racial grievance. Not something any valuable class time should be wasted on.

The main tenets of CRT are themselves based in racism. White people are all oppressors and POC are always the oppressed, nothing more and nothing less. And that America at its very core has been, is now, and always will be a racist nation. Hence, in critical race theory, the concept of “social justice” is just a façade used to cover a basic divide-and-conquer strategy with the end goal being absolute power. Marx stoked divisions in the populace by class, today’s CRT stokes these similar divisions through race. Mao used a similar tactic, that capitalism was an oppressor and that through the destruction of the Four Olds (Old Ideas, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Customs… does this sound familiar?), he would create a new future through the cultural revolution.

Professor, you state “The attacks on education at all levels in South Dakota and across the country are an attempt to entrench racism, bigotry, discrimination and exclusion for another century”. That statement is pure academic hyperbole and demonstrates you are more concerned with being a social justice warrior than being a thoughtful educator and you are more interested in telling your students what to think than teaching them how to think. What a disservice to your students. The actions you complain about are the beginning of a process to return academia to its original purpose of actual education, and away from its obsession with all-encompassing social/cultural indoctrination.

Finally, you state “to believe the critics would be to believe that teachers and professors expend our energies teaching nothing more than Critical Race Theory and Marxism. This is obviously untrue.” Professor, really…. I’ve been in both secondary and post-secondary education and the basic tenets of Marxism/Communism/Socialism/Progressivism or whatever you wish to call it, are alive and well in the very fabric of higher education today and dissent from this group think is not ever welcomed with open minds.

Mr. T

Professor Schorn seems more credible to me.

However, the real question for this time in history is whether the furor over CRT - coupled with the Big Lie that the election was stolen - will be enough to put the Party of Trump back in power.

Jon Wick

Mr. T, I'm not surprised that you would side with the professor, you obviously have a shared ideology. I also understand how difficult it can be begin broadening out one's own thinking. Who knows, maybe one day I can convince you to think a little more purple,

Your question is an excellent one and no one knows the answer, only time will tell. I agree with you on the election, until there is sufficient proof of the fraud allegation is presented, logic dictates the election was fair. I also share your concerns about the ongoing rhetoric surrounding it.

CRT is another matter. This is truly a wolf in sheep's clothing. The law of unintended consequences will be significant. I fear history will ultimately prove this experience to be a tragic one.

Mr. T

Academics always disagree, Mr. Wick. And there are things in CRT that I as a layman believe are historically arguable.

However, the core reality it expresses still holds. And that is that American society has always been skewed to favor the white folks in power. Whether it’s slavery or the inability for Black folks to vote until the civil rights act of the 1960s. The historic consequences of this are undeniably still with us.

As a white person, I don’t hate myself, and I don’t see that CRT teaches that lesson. To me it just teaches us to accept our historical realities

But I am very aware of how my blue eyes bring me the benefit of the doubt when I’m traveling through the South or South Dakota and other parts of the Midwest.

And although none of my ancestors owned slaves, I am clearly the beneficiary of this injustice. I wouldn’t have been privileged to go to college if my father hadn’t benefited from the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the G.I. Bill, which systematically excluded Black folks.

I would be interested in understanding what you mean when you write. “The law of unintended consequences will be significant. I fear history will ultimately prove this experience to be a tragic one..”

Jon Wick

Mr.T, the best way to think of CRT is by the old fable of the Spider and the Fly. Don't be the fly Mr. T.

CRT is a "transformative resistance strategy" committed to the dismantling of American society. CRT preaches that all aspects of American life, politics, economics, capitalism, finance, law, housing, education, and even the country's social systems are just tools of ethnic supremacy. To the CRT believer, racism is a structure, it is not necessarily an individual or an event.

Several words that will not be spoken by the CRT crowd are "individual rights" and certainly not "individual responsibility" they don't believe in these concepts. CRT also states that all inequities in outcomes are entirely the result of structural racism. The key word here is outcomes. CRT proponents want to dictate all outcomes within society only by race. That can only be accomplished through authoritarian means.

This addresses my comment about the Law of Unintended Consequences. Mr. T, if all or even some of American life is destroyed and then restructured to dictate outcomes only and purposely by race, what would the ramifications be? Can anyone predict this with any accuracy?

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