What’s So Wrong With an Honest Look at America’s Past?

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By Quentin Choy

July 9, 2021

New Bogeyman on the Scene: Critical Race Theory

Conservatives have melted down over the idea of critical race theory and its so-called pervasion through public schools. Critical race theory was invented in the 1980s by academics and law professors and was taught in universities in obscure programs. Below are some of critical race theory’s founders.

Critical race theory views social ills and problems through a racial lens. It explores how racism ties into law as well as legal and social issues.

Many on the right believe that critical race theory (CRT) is being taught to children in America’s public schools. CRT is believed to teach students to hate white people and to hate America as a whole. If this sounds like a stretch, it’s because it is.

No, children aren’t being taught to hate white people. Nor are they being taught to hate America.

Race in Education

What many parents are actually outraged over is the mention of race in public schools. How is a student supposed to learn about American history without the acknowledgment of race?

From the interactions with the Native Americans, Spanish, and French, race acted as the center of American life in the early decades of American history.

Whether it be the subjugation of Africans as slaves, the war with Mexico, the overthrow of Hawai’i, the wars in Cuba and the Philippines, the Chinese Exclusion Act, or Irish and Asian racism, race has always been a part of American history.

President McKinley “enlightening” an “uncivilized” Filipino.

Results of Ignoring Our Racial Past

This is my view on the controversy of critical race theory:

I believe that exploring racial interactions is perfectly fine in schools, due to the massive role race has played in our history. However, I don’t think that all social and legal issues should be viewed as a result of racism as actual CRT proposes. Critical race theory overgeneralizes American history and shouldn’t be taught to children in public schools.

A realistic study of race can be taught, but CRT goes too far in viewing almost everything through the lens of race. This view is ultimately detrimental to society.

The realistic analysis of race in American history will only improve the minds of young Americans learning about their past. Learning about race in America doesn’t automatically make people hate America as some conservatives think.

If this racial past is ignored, then nothing can be learned from it. The past must be taught, no matter how ugly.

I don’t think that historical education should view too far in the other direction either. A hyper-patriotism taught in some private schools and Christian schools blinds students to America’s racial past and to a thorough understanding of our history.

Instead, these students live a blind life, believing that criticism of America or aspects of its history are unpatriotic.

They believe in an overgeneralized history, built upon the foundations of the Founding Fathers, religious freedom, liberty, and the Constitution without ever connecting these ideas to modern issues.

Race Abroad

I think most Americans would support students in other countries learning about their nation’s past in an honest way. Imagine if German students learned all of German history without being taught about the Holocaust?

Can Japanese students really learn their history without acknowledging their atrocities in China, Korea, the Philippines, and the Pacific during World War II?

Think about how Chinese students don’t learn about the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre, discouraging criticism of the Chinese government and the Chinese state.

Every student of every country should learn their history in an honest way, even if it addresses ugly pasts. Americans, like Chinese, Japanese, or German students hold the same obligation to acknowledge each aspect of their past, no matter how dark or divisive.

In the same way that atrocities of Tiananmen Square must be acknowledged, the authentic pasts of all countries should be taught in schools.

However, learning the past and speaking about it doesn’t equal hatred of one’s country. Rather it encourages students to change the future, using the past as a reminder of where our country doesn’t want to return.

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Quentin Choy, creator of <em>WeTheCommoners Blog</em>
Quentin Choy, creator of WeTheCommoners Blog

Quentin is a student of Political Science. He became interested in history and politics in 2015 watching the Republican and Democratic primaries as well as the 2016 General Election.

He is from Hawaii and currently attends school in Colorado.

Image Courtesy of Smithsonian.

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