What is Critical Race Theory? Local expert explains

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Critical Race Theory is a popular topic of conversation that many may misunderstand.

Donyell Roseboro, a UNCW professor in the Watson College of Education and Interim Chief Diversity Officer, says that the misunderstanding of the theory can come from people getting their information from people who have likely misinterpreted it.

A popular misconception she has heard is that Critical Race Theory will teach people to be ashamed of the United States and its history.

“I have heard that Critical Race Theory is intentionally making young people feel shame for their country or to feel as if they’re at fault for all of the racist history. That is not true,” Roseboro said. “That is not what Critical Race Theory does or is intended to do. So I would suggest to people, if they really want to know what Critical Race Theory is, to read the scholars. That is Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Richard Delgado, and a few others.”

Roseboro offers to explain the theory and that it is not a part of the current public school curriculum.

“The teachers teach the standards and the standards do not address critical race theory,” Roseboro said. “The standards, especially in social studies, ask teachers to teach about the history of the United States. Which includes race, which includes gender, which includes all the ways that we have been imperfect and all the ways that we are moving forward towards a better future.”

The theory has several tenets, one being that race is a social construction. Basically meaning that race can be defined differently. For example, it could be different in the United States than in Brazil.

The second tenet, Roseboro says is more difficult to explain and that is the permanence of race. She uses the example of the founders writing, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union.”

“Even they recognized that the United States was not perfect, nor can we be. Nothing is perfect,” Roseboro said. “So when Critical Race Theory suggests we consider the permanence of racism, it is just that. We can work diligently to diminish the effects of racism in this country, but we always need to be vigilant because it could still be there.”

A major factor in the theory is the importance of communication and listening to one another, and understanding that we are all impacted by history.

“History impacted me on a personal level, it impacts all of us. So, big picture, we have to transfer that understanding,” Roseboro said. “Even though I’m not personally responsible for what my grandmother might have done to someone, or my grandfather, I can acknowledge that I live in relationship with other people who may still be living with the effects of that. And I can at least listen to them.”

Finally, the theory recognizes history is an incomplete story. So it’s not about rewriting history, but it becoming more detailed and robust.

“I think people get very wedded to the idea that it’s one story. That is not us,” Roseboro said. “America is made up of so many different rich and vibrant people that the more we can rely on historians and archeologists to uncover those truths, that’s the better history that we have to tell and it’s complicated.”

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