Nikkei Q: The Wars of CRT Culture


As summer rolled into fall, I had thought that the worst culture wars over Critical Race Theory (CRT) was over, or at least it would never cross the eastern border of California. But I was wrong. In mid-November, Asian-American leaders demanded that Cupertino’s vice mayor Liang Chao issue a formal apology for saying in an email that the Chinese exclusion law was not about race. since it excluded only Chinese workers. She claimed it was to protect American jobs, similar to the H1B visa process. Chao made this statement to illustrate his opposition to CRT. According to Chao, integrating CRT into K-12 education would wrongly reduce the origins of the Chinese exclusion law to racism.

Ironically, historians have long agreed that China’s exclusion law was in fact motivated by racism. In fact, the very authors of the Chinese Exclusion Act would have also readily admitted that it was a question of specifically preventing the hated Chinese from entering the United States, since in the 1880s, being racist was de rigueur. For California in particular, being anti-Chinese and anti-Japanese was almost a requirement for a successful political career throughout the early part of the 20th century. Indeed, the Issei have gone through an incredibly difficult time, even in San Francisco.

According to Reuters, opposition to teaching CRT in schools began after May 2020, when white Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis. Four months later, amid a mass national outcry against white supremacy, journalist Christopher Rufo took to Fox News to denounce the anti-bias training taking place in federal agencies as an example of “critical theory of race ”, a radical ideology which he said sowed racism. division by education. Then-President Donald Trump ordered federal agencies to cease training he called “divisive anti-American propaganda.” And within a year of Trump’s executive order, Tory politicians then used the CRT as a galvanizing alarm, prompting parents to flood school board meetings to oppose race talks that would indoctrinate impressionable children. . Critical breed theory has now been banned in eight states, which notably never had a CRT program in the first place.

Last summer, as the nation became embroiled in what Time Magazine called the “historic wars,” I finally realized that CRT was being used as a substitute for the ethnic studies curriculum. It seems that all the courses discussing the breed were tagged as CRT. Critical race theory, however, is actually a very specific disciplinary area that has its origin in legal studies. While many researchers in ethnic studies lean heavily on the theory of intersectionality of CRT scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, that it is important to think that the intersection of gender, race and class is through therefore different. study class. Why not? First, because critical race theory often engages in legal constructs that are unfamiliar and therefore less accessible to an undergraduate student. Second, because the CRT largely focuses on how structural apparatuses destroy communities of color. While the ethnic studies do discuss structural racism, they focus more categorically on how the people of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) organized and transformed a society that was deliberately seeking to undermine them.

Indeed, ethnic studies entirely filled with CRTs would be enlightening, but also totally demoralizing. And a classroom that does not empower students would defeat the fundamental purpose of Ethnic Studies as a transformative education that inspires people to become agents of change.

As the arguments against the CRT have grown in intensity and effectiveness, leading to state bans, notable progress has also been made for ethnic studies in K-12 education. In May 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 101, making California the first state to require high school ethnic studies classes. Two months later, in July 2021, Illinois became the first state to require the history of Asian Americans after Governor JB Pritzker signed the Teaching Equitable Asian American History Act (TEAACH).

While conservative whites and apparently some people of color oppose CRT, the overwhelming evidence in countless education publications illustrates how ethnic studies classes boost student engagement. A Stanford University study found that students enrolled in an ethnic studies course improved their attendance by 21% and a GPA increase of 1.4 points. At San Francisco State University, our institutional research office found a correlation between taking ethnic studies classes and a 70% increase in a student’s graduation rate. Notably, ethnic studies classes seem to have the greatest positive impact on white students who thought about race less often than BIPOC students, according to Christine Sleeter of the National Education Organization.

Amy Sueyoshi is Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University with a Joint Professor position in Sexuality Studies and Race and Resistance Studies. She holds a doctorate. in UCLA History and is the author of two books titled “Queer Compulsions” and “Discrincing Sex”. She is also the founding co-curator of the GLBT History Museum in San Francisco. She can be contacted at [email protected] The views expressed in the previous column are not necessarily those of Nichi Bei Weekly.


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