Trying to understand fear of critical race theory and diversity programs

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I’ve been watching school board races across the country — in places like Southlake, Texas and Guilford, Conn. — because of the debate over  “critical race theory” and growing opposition to diversity and equity programs.

These are mostly white, affluent communities near big cities.

Imagine my surprise this week to discover the debate is happening in my town, too.

Patrick Brenner, a vice president of development for the Rio Grande Foundation, a prominent conservative think tank in New Mexico, is running for the school board in Rio Rancho, New Mexico’s third-largest city composed mostly of Anglos and Hispanics. According to Brenner’s personal blog, he believes the district’s teachers are being trained in critical race theory, which will result in “All white people” feeling guilty “for being white,” including his 8-year-old daughter.

District officials have denied embedding critical race theory in teacher training or curriculum, but Brenner is skeptical.

There is “indisputable evidence that critical race theory is very much alive and has infected” Rio Rancho, he writes on his blog, although I didn’t see any of that indisputable evidence.

I saw my chance to try to understand what all the fuss was about, so I called Brenner on Friday to interview him.

At times, Brenner came across as more measured than in his blog during our nearly hour-long conversation. No, he said, he doesn’t believe critical race theory is being peddled by the district. Then, he’d ratchet up the rhetoric. Win or lose Tuesday, he told me, he’d “continue digging into the hyperbolic racist material …. incorporated into our school system.” (Brenner is running for the District 1 seat against Gary Tripp, a former principal of Rio Rancho High School and a longtime educator. The contest will be decided Tuesday. I tried but failed to get in touch with Tripp. For the record, I do not live in District 1, so can’t vote for either candidate.)

Brenner had trouble tamping down his own hyperbole.

“Diversity equity and inclusion is bigotry,” he said at one point.

You’re saying seeking diversity, equity and inclusion is a form of racism, I asked.

Brenner: “Racism, yes.” 

I had trouble following the logic, maybe because of my upbringing in the Deep South in the 60s and 70s and knowing how much white opposition arose to dismantling Jim Crow, especially in public schools.

Brenner came to the issue, he said, after a teacher contacted him about training the district had required and shared images. One phrase, in particular, caught his eye: “culturally responsive teaching.” It struck him as a component of a larger program that’s Marxist at its core, one that seeks equal outcomes for everyone in society, he said. 

I often wonder if people who make such claims realize how this sounds to someone who knows that segregationists tarred civil rights activists in the 1950s and 60s, including Martin Luther King Jr., as communists, socialists and Marxists as a way to combat progress. I am not calling people who use those terms today bigots or segregationists, but it does give me pause when I hear them. Red-baiting is a well-known American tradition.

Anyway, Brenner raised a stink and the training was discontinued, he said.

A Rio Rancho schools spokesperson on Friday denied the teacher training included elements of critical race theory. The district, she said, began requiring teachers to train on a specific program it thought would meet a requirement of a new law, the Black Education Act, which passed unanimously during this year’s legislative session. The district stopped requiring the training when the New Mexico Public Education Department told officials it was developing resources for educators to meet the new law’s requirements, according to the spokesperson. 

It’s not my intent to paint Brenner as a cartoon villain. During our phone conversation, he came across as articulate, intelligent and friendly, if not misinformed. To his credit, he never got flustered, either, when I challenged him on his understanding of CRT. 

I am deeply skeptical of the accusation that critical race theory is taught at the K-12 level. Everything I’ve read says it exists at the collegiate and graduate levels. And there’s a reason. It’s not easy to digest.

A focus of critical race theory is how human systems — laws, regulations, cultural behavioral patterns, etc. — and institutions interact over time to create different outcomes for different populations, in health, finances, incarceration rates, etc. (For example, think of Blacks who were kept from qualifying for prime mortgages for decades by financial institutions at the same time governmental regulations kept them out of certain neighborhoods, and you begin to understand the “wealth gap” between whites and non-whites. Home ownership is the easiest way for Americans to accumulate intergenerational wealth. Deprive people of home ownership, and you shut off an avenue of wealth accumulation.) 

Imagine a high schooler trying to digest all of this — the history of redlining and local zoning practices across the country over several generations — then synthesizing it into an understandable, coherent analysis to show how it affected certain populations.

Except for a few brainiacs, yeah … no.  On a personal note, I’ve read books I suspect fit into the CRT universe and they were not easy — and I devour government reports and history for fun.

Secondly, critical race theory doesn’t target individuals for the state of affairs today. It focuses on larger forces — economics, laws, regulations, systems, institutions, history.

Many critics seem to miss that distinction and get offended that critical race theory might out them as a bigot.

Brenner seemed worried about this and went out of his way to tell me he wasn’t a racist. I don’t know him well enough to make any judgments. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt the first time I talk to them because every one of us is a walking, talking knot of complications, and people can suprise you. 

After nearly an hour, I ended the conversation. I appreciated the time Brenner gave me. But, honestly, I hadn’t gotten any closer to understanding why critical race theory or diversity and equity programs terrify so many people.

It sounded like fear-mongering based on imagined ghosts and goblins.

I’m stil waiting for someone to help me understand. Until then, guess I’ll keep watching school board races around the country for a clue to unlocking that mystery. 



4 thoughts on “Trying to understand fear of critical race theory and diversity programs

  1. I just read this article about CRT and your interview with Brenner. I do not remember anyone trying to get a hold of me to speak about CRT and the election is tomorrow!

  2. I saw your article the other day about Critical Race Theory/Reparations and wanted to comment. I have written many books and given many public presentations from a different viewpoint…a viewpoint of Reincarnation, which I believe is far superior to almost any current theory or hypothesis relating to personal reality.
    One such book I wrote was an historic matter relating to Reincarnation. The book was based upon a true story of a person who used the vast powers of their Greater Self to win a lawsuit (for a criminal stabbing in the back) in State Supreme Court as a Pro-Se lawyer (a non-lawyer representing themselves in Court). The Pro-Se person who went to Court, had few resources and no legal training. Yet, as a Pro-Se lawyer they were able to win many times in Court, against almost countless many experienced lawyers, police, courts, and judges, many of whom were corrupt, greedy, and extremely biased against them. The person they were apparently biased against was White, and perhaps the prejudice encountered, (from the Criminal Justice and Justice System) was due to corruption and greed and not racism. While this does not prove that Critical Race Theory is incorrect, it is though evidence that it may be incorrect. It is strong evidence that what appears to be systemic racism, could actually be systemic corruption and greed, as the courts and legal systems were systemically prejudiced against White people, and hence, a more appropriate alternative hypothesis is that perhaps our legal system has many corrupt and greedy people in it.
    Nevertheless, they did eventually win using information given to them by their Greater Selves. The facts about this have been enshrined in Government documents including many States Supreme Court Appellate Decisions, and State Supreme Court Decisions, Law Enforcement Documents, and many other Governmental documents. Many of such documents had true copies included in some of my many books, but were to some degree, redacted to obscure the identities of people involved. Some of the information was about Reincarnation and spoke of Karma. That is, the Greater Selves spoke specifically how a Slave Owner can’t own a Slave without becoming a Slave in another existence, and a Slave becomes a Slave Owner in another life. In other words, Karmic Debts are paid back in full. Also, how a wealthy White male segregationist could quite easily Reincarnate as a Black female with little wealth. With such Karma, reparations from those not involved in the slavery to those not involved…takes on a new meaning. This could mean that arguments for reparations are strengthened, and reparations could be applied to the actual slave owner, if one could prove it. On the other hand, it could mean reparations don’t apply at all. Other parts of the books, which do not involve slavery nor Reincarnation, also show how each person gain the power and wisdom their Greater Self as well.
    For many years, I have given presentations for the general public and for schools, universities and colleges showing how people can realistically and simply protect themselves from danger using the power of the Greater Self. This also includes intuition, and Reincarnation; making meaningful predictions, like the coming of certain important and well-known political figures many years before they were known; using and developing better relationships using the Inner Senses, obtaining equality and peace. Or how to protect the public and in particular children from polluted air and water. Or how Man/Women are equal to each other regardless of race or national origin. Or how a concentration upon negative aspects of life will only create more such unfortunate circumstances. Or simple, creative ways to protect the environment, in particular from Global Warming. Also, very importantly, I spoke about how statements credited to Martin Luther King Jr. such as driving out Hate with Love, or driving out Darkness with Light, or how one should judge a person on their character, not color of skin…can be animated and manifested in our reality.
    There may have been peace on the planet before, but never full equality and peace. I have methods that can help create that.
    The foregoing statements about Karma, Reincarnation, Love driving out Hate, a Greater Self working on your behalf etc. may seem like almost Pollyanna fluff, like any hypothesis, it needs to be tested out in your personal reality to see its Truth.
    If you would like to know more, you can contact me at the below information.

    Yours Very Truly,

    Loren Christian
    Educator, Spiritual Speaker, Author, State Certified Teacher, Former University Faculty

    Email: speaker2075@yahoo.com

    (Some of my Books)
    Author of: Angel Justice
    Author of: The Secret of Life

  3. It’s amazing. There would be universal condemnation if kids were taught to “be less black,” that they need to acknowledge their “black criminality, ” and take responsibility for things done by others whose only relation is skin color.

    All of these things have been shown to have been taught in schools, but it’s OK because the target is the right race, and authors like the one who write this author defend it and want to belabor whether or not it is CRT.

    It’s racism. Stop defending it.

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