Professors and retired judge weigh in on controversial subject during event at B-CU.
Critical race theory (CRT) comes from a theory that looks at history and tries to explain why laws prohibited African Americans from succeeding in the justice system, housing, education, labor, health care, voting rights and more.
The Florida Legislature has House Bill 7 (HB7) and Senate Bill 148 (SB148) on the table that would prohibit training or a curriculum that a person can say would make them feel discomfort, anguish or in despair.
Critical race theory – an academic framework that examines how policies and laws uphold systemic racism – have led to major debates around the country.
According to scholars who study the subject, CRT explores the ways in which a history of inequality and racism in the U.S. has continued to impact American society.
On Feb. 28, the Volusia County African-American Leadership Council in partnership with the Daytona Beach/Volusia County NAACP and the Bethune-Cookman University Center for Law and Social Justice held a community forum titled “Critical Race Theory: What it Is! What it is Not” at Bethune-Cookman University.
There were two videos on CRT, a panel discussion and a question-and-answer session.
Dr. Randy Nelson, B-CU’s university director of the Center for Law and Social Justice, served as the moderator.
“This is about education. It’s not a time to be political. We can all agree that we deserve a safe and productive environment to raise a family,” Nelson emphasized.
Dr. Daniel Holler, B-CU’s psychology department chair and Dr. Kideste Yusaf with the university’s Center for Law and Social Justice served on the panel.
Also on the panel were retired judge and attorney Hubert Grimes and Genesis Robinson, Equal Ground Political Action Fund director and political strategist.
“CRT is an intellectual framework used to examine racism in our institutions. It includes voices of a group of people that have often been ignored,” Yousef said.
“CRT is a tool to access and evaluate like other tools. We can’t solve problems of race if we don’t understand the history of it. CRT explains that history.”
Grimes added, “CRT is an academic concept over 40 years old. It says race is a social construct and something embedded in legal systems and policies like redlining, voting rights, the war on drugs, incarceration, police brutality and more.”
The event was well-attended by diverse elements of the community.
Listening and learning
Larry Mack told the Daytona Times, “I came to listen. I learned that critical race theory isn’t being taught in schools, bills restricting it are about to be passed, and the mainstream media isn’t researching it critically.”
B-CU student Ashanti Davis said, “I wanted to learn more about the topic. I also wanted to see how it relates to me as a student and African American.”
“We don’t often admit that we are held back because of racism but we still maintain and get ahead. We are still doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and more,’’ Davis added.
Local academic professionals also attended.
“I came out with my colleagues from Stetson University. I’ve worked with Daisy Grimes in the past. We wanted to come support and learn,” said Taylor Hibel. Daisy Grimes was one of the organizers of the forum.
“We’ve talked about this subject in classes. It’s interesting to hear from experts on the topic and how these issues impact us locally and nationally,’’ Hibel added.
History and education
CRT’s place in African American, American and world history was discussed.
Judge Grimes noted, “CRT looks to analyze the laws in our country and looks at how throughout history they have prohibited Black success.”
“Can we erase history or do we learn from it? Banning these academic discussions on topics of racism and social injustice will hurt us more in the long run,’’ he added.
Critical race theory was also discussed as in terms of education.
“Understanding this is important. If we don’t understand the history and where these ideas come from, we look at people the wrong way. It’s important to address these issues. If we don’t; they will perpetuate themselves,” Hollar stated.
Yusef added, “I have kids in school. I have taught at different levels of education. CRT is not taught in schools and never was, but it is an academic theory at the university level. As an educator I want students to think critically.’’
On state bills
In addition, the bills being considered in the state Legislature were discussed.
“If these laws are passed, they will prohibit teaching something that makes someone feel discomfort, anguish or guilt. As a person of color who has experienced some of these things, my experience is more than someone’s discomfort,” emphasized Robinson.
“Schools and businesses will have to govern by these laws, which shows people their government is OK with removing factual conversations from the classroom. It’s one thing when the government is playing a role in censorship.”
There are plans for more CRT educational discussions.
“We want to hold these at colleges and in the community. We plan to do one at Stetson University next,’’ Daisy Grimes added.
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