Critical race theory author headlines AFT conference

Author and prominent critical race theory advocate Ibram X. Kendi will headline a discussion about educating children Wednesday at an American Federation of Teachers conference — set to cover “developing anti-racist mindsets and actions” with the second-largest teachers union in America.

Kendi, a humanities professor at Boston University and author of “How to Be an Antiracist,” will participate in a talk with AFT secretary-treasurer Fedrick Ingram and other union members at a conference called “Together Educating America’s Children.”

“Hear from Dr. Ibram X. Kendi in this free-ranging discussion with student activists and AFT members on his scholarship and on developing anti-racist mindsets and actions inside and outside classrooms,” the agenda for the conference says.

Kendi argues that the only way to undo centuries of “systemic racism” in America is to “constantly identify and describe it — and then dismantle it​” in the effort to advance “equity.”​

“One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.’ The claim of ‘not racist’ neutrality is a mask for racism,” he wrote in ​”​How to Be an Antiracist.​”​​

The theory has been circulating in academic circles for decades but gained prominence after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May 2020 amid discussions about race, police reform and equality.

A logo sign outside of the headquarters of the American Federation of Teachers in Washington, DC.
The American Federation of Teachers is hosting a conference called “Together Educating America’s Children.”
Alamy Stock Photo

Opponents of critical race theory say it ​is a form of Marxism and an attempt to indoctrinate school children that America is inherently a racist country.

The National Education Association recently passed a resolution pledging to “fight back” against critics of teaching the theory in schools.

As part of its effort, the NEA will work to publicize “an already-created, in-depth study that critiques white supremacy, anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, racism, patriarchy … capitalism … and other forms of power and oppression,” according to the NEA site.​

A number of Republican-led states, including Texas, have passed legislation that bans the teaching of critical race theory in schools. ​

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi.
Dr. Ibram X. Kendi argues that the only way to undo centuries of “systemic racism” in America is to “constantly identify and describe it — and then dismantle it​.”
Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty images

About 20 other states have legislation pending prohibiting it as part of the curriculum.

​​In June, the Department of Education announced a series of actions to “advance equity in education” through a series of summits.

“​The first installment will feature remarks from Department leaders, panel discussions focused on evidence-based practices and promising strategies for building equitable and inclusive environments in our schools, and insights from leaders working to make equitable and inclusive schools a reality,” the department said in a release.

The Department of Education in the spring proposed beefing up ​American ​history and civics education to support “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.​”

​”For example, there is growing acknowledgment of the importance of including, in the teaching and learning of our country’s history, both the consequences of slavery, and the significant contributions of Black Americans to our society​,” the proposal said.

It also quoted Kendi: ​“[a]n antiracist idea is any idea that suggests the racial groups are equals in all their apparent differences — that there is nothing right or wrong with any racial group. Antiracist ideas argue that racist policies are the cause of racial inequities.”

“It is critical that the teaching of American history and civics creates learning experiences that validate and reflect the diversity, identities, histories, contributions, and experiences of all students,” the proposal said.

A logo sign outside of the headquarters of the American Federation of Teachers in Washington, DC.
AFT president Randi Weingarten vowed to protect teachers who include critical race theory in their classrooms.
Alamy Stock Photo

Randi Weingarten, the AFT president, said she will protect teachers who include critical race theory in their classrooms.

“The backlash [to teaching about race] that you see in these radicalized circles is going to hurt kids,” Weingarten told EducationWeek in an interview. “I felt the need to make it crystal clear to teachers … that I honor their professional responsibilities and that their union will have their back.”

She said while the theory isn’t taught in K-12 schools, “culture warriors are labeling any discussion of race, racism, or discrimination as CRT to try to make it toxic.”

Advertisement

Leave a Comment