The stage is being set for an epic battle over the role of Critical Race Theory in education as more states continue to ban its use, and teachers vow to continue teaching it. To what extent do teachers even understand what they are teaching? Critical Race Theory, when thoroughly examined, presents itself as an ideology that justifies systems of racial preferences, as concepts like achievement and success are seen as white social constructs. Solving educational problems like achievement gaps in math, are seen as attempts to hold minority students to standards built up to perpetuate white supremacy. Even the English language is now viewed as a tool that reinforces a racialized society by forcing non-English speakers into behavior patterns not conducive to their identity. How did language get pulled into CRT discourse in education and what is the end goal of stating the English language is racist? To examine this question, I will be reviewing an article entitled Introducing Langcrit: Critical language and race theory by Allison Crump, published in the journal, Critical inquiry in language studies.
While CRT scholars justify their opinions and their own racial biases by referring to everything in America as a white social construct, Critical Race Theory is little more than that itself. For example, Crump (2014) acknowledges that there is no current research model which evaluates how racism affects language use and that a Critical Race movement in English teaching has not taken hold. In response to this, she proposed an alternative approach called Critical language and race theory, or Langcrit for short. She is literally suggesting that language scholars incorporate the concepts of CRT and look for ways that race and racism interconnect “with issues of language, belonging, and identity” (Crump, 2014, pp. 207-208). If this does not fall in the framework of social construct, I do not know what does. Another example is from the book Critical Race Theory in Education: All God’s Children got a Song. On page 3 the authors admit that much of the academic discourse which has influenced Critical Race Theory over the past two decades has been influenced by what they refer to as, counter-stories to the mainstream narrative. Counter-stories refer to tales shared by individuals who believe they have experienced racism. While there is little doubt racism was a part of mainstream society at one point, relying on these stories to inform an academic theory that now dominates the educational discourse, is misguided. As I have stated before, they are looking for racism where none exists. Finally, CRT itself was founded on the idea that America’s civil rights movement had failed in delivering justice to racial discrimination in America. Derrick Bell, one of the theory’s key proponents, rejected the ideals of equality under the law and individual rights because they promoted a color-blind society (Crump, 2014). The only way to correct the course was to develop a system that viewed racism as more than an individual act, but something that reflects discrimination as being deeply ingrained in American institutions (Omi & Winant, 1994).
How does racism interconnect with language, belonging, and identity? According to Crump (2014, p. 208) an individual’s sense of self is swept away in national identity politics in a system that forces conformity through language use. In other words, white people force non-English speakers into identities not representative of their culture because they use language as a hierarchal system. Scholars examining language through the Critical Theory lens have rejected language as a system of linguistics, and view it as a system that creates social boundaries, exercises power in a way that controls what other people can or can not do and, a tool that shapes identity (Crump, 2014). On page 216, Crump (2014) justifies the use of CRT in language studies by citing the work of other CRT scholars (Sarkar, M., Low, B., & Winer, L. (2007). Pour connecter avec les peeps). They argue that minorities feel social pressure to conform to “standards of whiteness” when operating outside of their own social spheres. They refer to these social spaces as the inner and outer spheres. The inner sphere is where non-English speakers are home and among other non-English speakers of their own cultural makeup. The outer sphere, they refer to as white public space. Non-English speakers are under so much pressure to conform to the boundaries set by the use of language, Sarkar, Low, & Winer (2007) argue, that they are unable to function at all, despite being competent bilinguals. Furthermore, they posit the idea that the outer sphere is one where people are judged solely against the norms of the dominant white culture, and nothing else. Crump’s critical language and race theory then, is a constructed system that proposes to look at language studies and find ways that CRT scholars can connect racism to identity, belonging, and language.
LangCrit is a critical framework for language studies that recognize intersections of audible and visible identity in shaping possibilities for being and becoming. It is a lens that allows for an examination of how individual social practices and identity performances are connected to a larger eco-social system of discourses, policies, and practices. As discussed earlier, the key constructs of LangCrit (identity, language, and race) can be defined in multiple and contradictory ways. Though some of the definitions are problematic, this does not mean they can be ignored, since they still carry significant social force in determining possibilities for individuals. (Crump, 2014, p. 219)
This is one of the larger problems with trying to stop Critical Race Theory. You can ban its use by name, but the theoretical approach taken by people who are insistent on bringing racism into every issue cannot be stopped. The English language is considered a tool perpetuating White Supremacy because America hating liberal scholars have chosen to develop theories that justify their own pre-existing biases. CRT has penetrated nearly every aspect of our legal and educational systems. It is institutional racism that insists on looking at every issue through a racial, opposed to a colorblind, perspective. Merely banning it in elementary education is not enough. The so-called scholars that are looking for ways to intertwine racism into every subject need to be de-throned and removed from their positions of authority. It is highly unlikely that the high school teachers fighting to keep CRT in their school even know the works cited here even exist. If they do then they are fighting for a social construct justifying a need for racial preferences.
Crump, A. (2014) Introducing Langcrit: Critical language and race theory. Critical inquiry in language studies 11(3) pp. 207-224
Dixon, A. D., & Rousseau, C. K. (2006). Critical race theory in education: All god’s children got a song. New York: Routledge. D
Omi, M., & Winant, H. (1994). Racial formation in the United States from the 1960s to the 1990s (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge
Sarkar, M., Low, B., & Winer, L. (2007). “Pour connecter avec les peeps”: Quebequicite´ and the Quebec hip-hop community. In M. Mantero (Ed.), Identity and second language learning: Culture, inquiry, and dialogic activity in educational contexts (pp. 351 –372). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
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