IN Denver, a public school recently announced that it would offer a Thanksgiving-themed approach that included “more of a domestic story,” according to a letter sent to parents. The letter also explains that teachers would “circumvent some of the common myths and misconceptions often associated with the holiday.”
One parent claimed that by teaching accurate history, the school tried to “indoctrinate” students. “That’s what this is about,” the parent, who is also the founder of a libertarian think tank, told The Denver Channel. “If you really want to help these children understand oppression, the best thing you can do is teach them to read and teach them to think instead of what they should think.”
And even if that parent did not mention “critical raste theory” verbatim, the rhetoric is common to what white opponents of the academic framework believe – that schools teach white children to hate themselves.
That understanding of critical racial theory contradicts its origins, even though it fits into the model that former President Donald Trump offered late in his term. In September 2020, Trump wrote a letter to all heads of federal departments who demand that they cut contracts or ties with agencies that have spent money on “training” critical critique theory, or as it was written in the letter, “propaganda efforts that teach or suggest either (1) that the United States is one in itself racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity in itself is racist or evil. “
One executive order signed two weeks later, Trump reiterated his contempt for the principles of the so-called “critical raste theory”, arguing, “many people pursue a different vision of America based on hierarchies based on collective social and political identities … rooted in the harmful and false belief that America is an irrevocably racist and sexist country. ” Thus began a cultural clash between people who wanted to talk about experiences of racism and those who did not want to hear anything about it.
In reality, critical raste theory is a term coined by forensic scientist Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s and intended to criticize “how the social construction of race and institutionalized racism perpetuates a racist caste system that banishes colored people to the lowest levels,” according to the American Bar Association.
Instead, the term has come to represent a political dog whistle against racial law efforts. The counter-reaction to teaching the true story of Thanksgiving is not in a state either. A school district in the suburbs of Kansas City, Kansas, announced this year that it would pause Thanksgiving meals throughout the district, and an internal memorandum to the district’s food service staff suggested that the decision may be motivated in part by concerns about inclusion, stating that “[a]As we learn more about diversity, justice and inclusion, we evaluate our practice of having holiday-themed meals. ” op-ed published by a local non-profit media rejected the decision and likened the shift to “brainwashing”. But a spokesman for the district told the Kansas City Star that there had been no discussion about canceling the Thanksgiving meal for reasons described in the letter – even if it did not prevent rumors from circulating on social media. The Star says they hope no celebration will include “headbands and feathers of construction paper that are meant to represent Indians but are actually stereotypical images that perpetuate historical inaccuracy.”
Other districts have faced public opposition to implementing school policy changes that simply seek to recognize the existence of indigenous and indigenous peoples. In May, for example, a school district in New Jersey tried to change the names of feasts that celebrate colonization, such as Columbus Day, instead refer to it as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The move is not unusual – at least 100 cities and 12 states have done so made the switch. Even President Joe Biden signed one announcement makes October 11 an Indigenous Day, even though the administration did not end Columbus Day as a federal holiday. But the backlash against Randolph Township School board members in New Jersey was so rapid, with thousands signing a petition calling for members to resign, that the change was reverse one month later.
The lack of understanding of who indigenous peoples are and how each tribe maintains distinct cultural customs can lead to cases of racist stereotypes in schools. A district in Riverside, California, has recently become too aware of this, when a teacher presented a racist portrayal of an “Indian” by putting on a fake feather headdress and mocking in an attempt to teach a trigonometric concept.
In response to the incident, which a student recorded on his phone and later posted on social media, the Riverside Unified School District Board of Education conducted a study session with members of local state assemblies and tribal council members “to adopt ways to engage Native American communities and strengthen cultural competence, diversity and equality in the school district, says a district representative to Prism. resources that would be available to native students who witnessed the event.
With only one handful of states requires public schools to teach native history; students in most states receive no native history lessons, except for the fake and racist ones offered around Thanksgiving. Without comprehensive native education, proponents say teaching the true story of Thanksgiving is the least schools can do.
Ray Levy-Uyeda is a Bay Area-based freelance writer covering justice and activism. Find them on Twitter @raylevyuyeda.
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