Saint Mary’s Division for Inclusion and Equity hosted a panel via Zoom on Monday to discuss some of the key principles of the controversial critical race theory. The panelists were Saint Mary’s teachers Stacy Davis, Dan Horan and Kelly Faust.
The professors set out to clearly define critical race theory and settle the disagreement surrounding the subject. Each panelist detailed a tenet of critical race theory and argued that the ideas are important to understanding race relations in the United States.
Davis, an associate professor of religious studies and gender and women’s studies, first spoke about the idea of racism as a permanent reality in America.
“Advocating for the permanence of racism is arguing the opposite of a phrase we constantly hear whenever something bad happens, and that’s ‘it’s not who we are,'” said Davis.
Davis pointed to historic treatments of non-whites in America. She said stealing land and excluding Native Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos reinforces that racism “is exactly what we are.”
Although the Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship to black Americans, “we’re still waiting for that amendment,” she said.
Police brutality, educational inequities and many other hardships facing black Americans are examples of how they are not treated as full citizens, she explained.
Critical race theory plays an important role in acknowledging the realities of American history, Davis said.
“It means we can stop feeling like we’re in the spotlight because every time someone says, ‘that’s not who we are.’ People who are black and brown can come up with a long list of reasons why that’s exactly who we are,” she said.
The professor explains the idea of ”whiteness as a property”
Horan, a professor of religious studies, theology, and philosophy, described the tenet of critical race theory that the social construction of “whiteness” as property in America has far-reaching legal and social consequences.
Horan explored historical examples of the use of whiteness as a means to gain rights and privileges in the United States. He concluded by comparing his experiences as a white man to the case of Ahmaud Arbery, who in 2020 was shot and killed while running along a road in Brunswick. , Georgia.
“This notion of whiteness as an inalienable, non-transferable property is something that identifies with me,” Horan said. “I carry with me everywhere that I am not exposed to the same threat of danger or discrimination, violence or subjugation as others by virtue of this property of whiteness.”
A professor details the phenomenon of “convergence of interests”
Faust explained how critical race theory argues that progress and reform in addressing racial inequality in the United States occurs exclusively when white Americans also see a benefit in reform.
“Convergence of interests is essentially where black interests with respect to racial equality will only be considered when they converge with white interests,” Faust said.
Using progress in desegregation as an example, Faust said desegregation was aligned with white interests through its benefits to his international reputation.
“Desegregation allowed the United States to increase our prestige and credibility amid the struggle against communism,” she said.
Increases in support for the Black Lives Matter movement by white people following the death of George Floyd in 2020 could also be seen as an example of a convergence of interests, Faust said.
“It was a point where it finally became popular or at least socially acceptable to embrace Black Lives Matter,” she said.
Critical race theory under fire
Discussing the current controversial status of the concept, including a speech on Saturday in which former President Donald Trump called on his supporters to “give their lives” in the fight against critical race theory, the professors expressed their frustration with the common misunderstandings of the concept.
“I was teaching critical race theory for a long time before this happened,” Faust said. “And now, all of a sudden, I have students who are more resistant to it than before. It’s really unfortunate.”
Davis said the discomfort critical race theory can cause by exposing the realities of racism in the United States — despite occasional advances on race issues — is significant.
“The reason I don’t like to use that kind of ‘less’ language is because it suggests you don’t have to keep hustling, and you still have to keep hustling,” Davis said. , referring to the idea that the United States has become “less racist”.