By Dawn Scotland
Sojourner’s Truth Reporter
An event was held this past weekend at a local Perrysburg hotel centered around the controversy of critical race theory. Sixty participants engaged in a presentation facilitated by the conservative right-wing and anti-critical race theory group FreedomWorks based in Washington D.C.
The outside grassroots organization presented information largely based on emotional and physiological needs rather than factual information. Participants were rallied to take action against their local school districts to combat the teaching of “critical race theory” in local K-12 schools. The presenters offered a range of suggestions from demanding for records of what is being taught in schools, running for elected office and joining their local school districts. On the extreme end, the group urged a rallying cry to take back the school system in protest and activism.
There is much debate about what critical race theory is and what it is not. According to the New Yorker, Critical Race Theory has origins stemming back to the 1970s in legal scholarship from a renowned legal stalwart Derrick Bell who later coined the phrase along with other legal colleagues in the 1980s. The canon of academic work was created to address and fill in the gap that existed where race was not considered a factor in understanding law.
Today, the actual critical race theory is studied as a theoretical concept and academic lens at the collegiate level in graduate studies. It is an ever-evolving lens in which race is applied to the study of societal structure and their mechanics in academic scholarship. This high-level academic theory that is reserved for halls of academia is now seeming to be used as a catch-all phrase to include all things concerning the teaching of race in the American school system.
In 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, former president Donald Trump vehemently opposed what he deemed the “critical race theory,” going as far as to issue a memo banning it from public schools [a ban that was later reversed by the Biden Administration].
This year conservative state legislators have taken action passing bills to ban critical race theory in schools with Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida referring to critical race theory “state-sanctioned racism.” The cry to ban CRT in states argues that “critical race theory” is invalid. Mainly parents seem to be concerned about “indoctrination” of their children by the reality of the existence of racism (truth) that they believe the be false. This is no different in Perrysburg.
FreedomWorks, through their BEST [Building Education for Students Together] initiative, is engaged in a “Parents Know Best Tour” across America. The event held in Perrysburg on Sunday evening, September 19, featured two Florida residents as speakers. Their credentials were limited to a mother who successfully advocated against and became a part of her school board as well as a conservative Black minister and radio show pundit C.L. Bryant. The arguments presented by FreedomWorks “experts” were largely based on emotional pleas, fear mongering and playing on participants philosophical needs (safety, money, security). There was no mention of the of the scholarship from which Derrick Bell gleaned his theory, no mention of what the theory actually pertains to or how it is taught in the graduate level in universities.
What was promulgated were touch points that drew on the emotions and miseducation of the audience. Mentioning the plight of the Irish, a quote from a vilified Hillary Clinton in support of racism as a reality and an always misappropriated quote from Dr. Martin Luther King on children playing together in unity (used as a support for their view of a colorblind society), the speakers played on the fear of losing children, losing money and losing freedom. They spoke to the centuries old tactics that have been used in arguments against desegregation, miscegenation and initially in favor of slavery itself.
Critical race theory is not synonymous with diversity training or cultural relevant teaching but for those in opposition to this boogieman that is exactly what fears are raised. The outcry seems not centered around the legal academic framework but rather the existence of racism in its entirety.
“Why do we play any sports… so we can determine winners… there won’t be any equal outcome!” said Bryant in his introduction met with agreement from the crowd. Speakers throughout the evening citied that “critical race theory” vilified White people and presented a narrative that falsely portrayed the America they believe to be true. “Our core values are being attacked and the progression of our children’s future is at stake…Why are we letting them blood poison the future of America?!”, yelled Bryant. At the conclusion of his speech the pundit presented a rallying cry to the participants with a preacher’s call, “Are there any Patriots left in Perrysburg, Ohio?! That believe in freedom!…” in which all participants stood up.
The most alarming part of the event was hearing both presenters incite the audience in agreeing that the schoolboard is not listening (to citizens) “because they aren’t afraid of you.” FreedomWorks provided participants with a toolkit and resources to take action with meetings planned for the near future.