Learning critical race theory pisses me off because everything that I learn is news to me, and it shouldn’t be. Growing up in a Southern school system, I was absolutely never exposed to discussions of race. The general consensus was that slavery ended in the 1800s (a long, irrelevant time ago) and the final blows to racism were delivered by Rosa Parks and MLK Jr. in the mid 1900s. No talk of the disproportionate poverty and incarceration rates that afflict the black populations today. But we were taught that racism was over, so black poverty HAS to be the result of personal choice. And if “they” are making this choice, it is no concern of ours. It pisses me off because all the facts are there. The prison industrial complex, convict leasing, structural inequalities that exist to this day. All the facts are there.
Yet no one wants to talk about it because we have such an extreme investment in this idea of individualism, and to admit that structural inequalities exist would undermine the idea that we “worked” for our wealth. That if we work hard, we can achieve anything. That we got into a good college from our own brilliance rather than the fact that we were lucky enough to be born into a certain zip code. This is the principle on which capitalism rests, and this is the indoctrination that we receive from the minute we step foot into a public school. We are all special snowflakes; our opportunities are only limited by our own lack of ambition.
So such MUST be the case with those black gangsters in those ghettos far, far from our pristine suburbs, right? They CHOSE that life, right?
Learning critical race theory pisses me off because it makes me so, so ashamed that not once in my first 18 years of life did I ever question why blacks were disproportionately poorer than the general population. I was told over and over that slavery was abolished an unfathomably long time ago, that we live in a post-racial America. So why, why, why the disproportionate poverty? Well, no one said it out loud, but we answered this question with racism, plain and simple: Black people are lazy, stupid, violent, etc. We told ourselves, “If they want money, they should get a job instead of doing drugs all the time!” “They’re lazy idiots bumming off welfare and draining tax dollars from people who actually work hard!” That’s why they’re poor and in jail. We were tacitly taught to resent them. We were tacitly taught to uphold this system of oppression because “they” chose it, not our ancestors who kidnapped and enslaved them. That was the only explanation that fit within our logical framework. Because of the complete ineptitude of our
education indoctrination, our minds could not even COMPREHEND race as a structural problem, rather than a personal one. It’s no wonder the concept of affirmative action just completely flew over the heads of most people at my school. And during college application time, our inner racists ran completely unabated because we could only see the inequalities that faced us but not others. The guilt I feel about this is immense.
Learning about critical race theory pisses me off because it makes me realize that we are born and bred to be racist. Racism must exist in order for our society to maintain its pyramidal structure, so that those at the top can continue to rise on the backs of those at the bottom. And that this racism never wavers until you are willing to challenge your own privilege, to challenge your position at the top of the pyramid. It makes me sick to my stomach, that I accepted these truths for so long, only to have my entire belief system changed in an instant. A question as simple as: Do you honestly think that when the 13th amendment was passed, the South - which depended ENTIRELY on a free labor source - suddenly stopped enslaving its people? Do you honestly think that over the course of a hundred years, we have been able to transition out of racist systems of labor?
How the fuck did I believe that “history” stopped happening when I was born? Of course these problems still exist now. But why the FUCK is no one talking about it? Why the FUCK are discussions of race silenced as emotional, offensive, radical, and irrelevant? That anyone who blames racism is seen as scapegoating their own incompetence? The fact that we, as a society, have turned a blind eye to these issues is downright scary.
It’s funny we read all these dystopian novels in high school: The Giver, Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm, 1984, Brave New World. All these novels designed to make us fear the stripping of our individuality, to make us fear socialism as the most dire affront to our autonomy. We are duped into believing we CHOSE to be successful, just like those at the bottom CHOSE to be poor. When in fact, our capitalist system relies so heavily on stripping certain groups of people of their autonomy for free or cheap labor, so those at the top can buy luxury cars while people starve. We have never, EVER existed as a nation without the exploitation of minorities as an underpaid labor source. But we accept this as long as those groups aren’t us. There is something awfully nefarious about teaching equality as an evil.
Learning about critical race theory pisses me off because, to be frank, it makes me realize we are living in a dystopia. It scares me that something so pressing could be hidden from me for so long, and if that could be be hidden, what else is the government hiding from us? What else have I been brainwashed to accept? And how is my acquiescence upholding oppresive systems?