COMMENTARY-The battle over critical race theory – at its core, a “different” way of looking at race relations in the U.S. – continues to heat up.
As a community organizer on the ground in a very divided Orange County, I am front and center witnessing top-down efforts to implement and fund Critical Race Theory curriculum into our local schools. I am also of Asian descent – and stand leading the charge for pushback from those who see CRT for what it really is.
Critical Race Theory is, in a word, racist. While supposedly honoring the minority experience, it is condescending and hateful towards the dominant culture experience, calling anything “white” racist, ugly, and guilty. Anyone who conforms is “white adjacent” and therefore also guilty. The entire premise of CRT is rooted in disdain and rejection. That doesn’t mean that many of the bigger and finer points concerning race are not worth exploring. That doesn’t mean that minorities don’t have a different and often alienated experience in every facet of American life. Validation would be obviously preferable in a perfect world. Still, I believe that approaching race as the overriding issue and a CRT curriculum fundamentally rooted in division and victim mentality ultimately offers no positive way forward.
When CRT was developing in legal circles in the 1970s, the idea was that certain groups -- like Asians, in particular -- were so foreign that the dominant white culture with all its assumptions would be doubly difficult for an Asian person to understand. Simple example: a math test might reference a NASCAR race, asking students to compare the speeds and arrival times of two vehicles. Now, for an Asian student who was never exposed to NASCAR, this would be completely foreign background and possibly add some extra mental stress to solving that math/word problem. Still. . .I myself managed to excel in math. Many others of every race and background did and continue to do so. As Lindsay Lohan said in the movie Mean Girls, “I like math because it’s the same in every country.”
Why are we removing a necessary part of the learning experience -- the struggle -- and shielding our students from the uncomfortable growing pains and feelings that come along with it? Ultimately, minority students will suffer more by remaining in their own box. I speak as someone who understands the feelings of being an outsider all too well. If I had wallowed in those feelings, I would be a useless human being, unproductive and bitter, and would not have achieved much in life.
CRT is particularly galling to Asians, the so-called “Model Minority.” Its tenets are doubly racist -- first stripping us of “minority” status because of our success and successful integration into the American fabric of business owners, home buyers, and the scientific and academic professions (and making inroads into every other field!) More insidiously, CRT limits the major vehicle for upward mobility in our communities: academic success. These days, the California Department of Education is considering removing Honors and Advanced Placement Math in high schools. Destroying meritocracy: How, exactly, will that benefit our society?
Progressives bemoan the lack of diversity in higher education. Funny, that – Asian-American students – who make up 1/11th of K-12 students in California, take up 1/3 of University of California spots. There is plenty of backlash about that – and the UC system is on track to follow in the footsteps of America’s finest private universities. Harvard has effectively capped Asian-American admissions to 20 percent – a policy ruled acceptable by a federal judge last fall.
The focus in our schools needs to go back to the individual, not subgroup solidarity. Yet this is exactly what CRT attacks. Its fundamental premise is to say that as part of a group you are forever chained to the insecurities and trappings of that particular subgroup. If you are Hispanic or Asian, you are chained to the immigrant experience and will always be seen as “foreign.” If you are black, you are oppressed by the white man who continues to keep you down. If you are white, you bear a legacy of racism and must forever manage your white guilt and make amends and reparations.
My lived experience is a better barometer for me than academics trying to condescend to me with theories. I am Marc Ang, not just an Asian American but a collection and summation of my many experiences in life and the roles I play, from my work to my community activism to my love for music and my collection of animals -- an individual with interests, experiences and passions that are uniquely me. I have chosen to not let my race define me or prevent me from accomplishing everything I want to in my limited time here. Isn’t that what CRT should really be about?
Break free of those chains, whatever color you are. Do not let the double-talk of the CRT ideology kill your valuable spirit by trapping you into being defined by your skin color and their definition of what it means to be white, black, Latino or Asian. You are so much more than that.
(Marc Ang ([email protected]) is the President of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance in Orange County, a community organizer in Southern California and the founder of AsianIndustryB2B who specializes in race relations and the minority conservative experience. His book “Minority Retort” will be released in late 2021.)