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Critical Race Theory Is Causing A Stir, Yet Many Don't Grasp Its True Meaning

Diverse hands raised
Arguments are now common over critical race theory being taught in classrooms [shutterstock]

Is it safe to assume that prior to a few months ago, not many of us were familiar with the term "Critical Race Theory?"

Critical Race Theory has been around for 40 years. But conversation in recent months shows that many people still don't understand what those words really mean.

Yet that hasn't stopped it from being the subject of arguments in the halls of government, around our classrooms and at school board meetings coast-to-coast. Last month, heated testimony was heard at a school board meeting in Rocky River.

A handful of parents were angry about the school offering a series of courses on diversity, equity and inclusion. They were designed by The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio.

So what is Critical Race Theory?  At its core, it's an academic concept. It looks at race, and racism, through the lens of legal, economic, and cultural institutions.

CRT argues that racism is not merely individual bias or prejudice, but something more ingrained in our power stuctures.

That's not the definition you'd derive by scanning recently through headlines and social media though, where it appears to be misunderstood and misconstrued as something that's anti-American, or that it's school curricula that teaches white children to hate themselves.

Legislators across the country are getting involved in the argument over CRT. In Ohio, a bill was introduced at the Statehouse last week that seeks to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in public schools.

Its sponsor later admitted he has no evidence of it being taughtt now, but inhtroduced it because he believes citizens are concerned about the issue.

How did this topic become so political, so quickly?

Today on the program we discuss that with a panel of academics who have spent their lives studying these issues.


- Harvey Graff, PhD, Professor Emeritus of English and history at The Ohio State University

- Tamika Nunley, PhD, Associate Professor of History at Cornell University

- Ronnie Dunn, PhD, Interim Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Associate Professor of Urban Studies, Cleveland State University

Drew Maziasz is a coordinating producer for the "Sound of Ideas" and also serves as the show’s technical producer.