Critical race theory sparks ongoing debate in Utah and across America

Betty Sawyer joins educators and community activists in protesting Utah lawmakers’ plans to pass resolutions encouraging a ban of critical race theory concepts outside of the Capitol in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, May 19, 2021, as both supporters and counterprotesters stand behind her. (Kristin Murphy/The Deseret News via AP)

Critical race theory is an intellectual movement that was organized in 1989.

According to Britannica, critical race theory is based on the premise that race is a socially constructed category, not a biologically natural feature of subgroups of human beings.

The theory also states that the socially constructed idea of race may be used to oppress and exploit people of color. It originated at the first annual workshop on critical race theory in 1989, but ideas of the critical race theory date back to the 1960s and 1970s.

Scholars Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic published “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction” in 2001 which became a work that many scholars and theorists would widely accept, according to Britannica.

According to Purdue Online Writing Lab, critical race theory scholars focus on understanding how systemic racism affects minorities, how they are affected by cultural perceptions of race and how they can counter prejudice.

There has been a mix of responses toward critical race theory and dissents over whether including it in school curriculum and the federal government would be beneficial or detrimental to society.

According to Time magazine, former President Donald Trump and many other right-wing conservatives have said that critical race theory is a “radical revolution.”

Trump also told Time magazine, “We are paying people hundreds of thousands of dollars to teach very bad ideas and frankly, very sick ideas. And really, they were teaching people to hate our country, and I’m not going to allow that to happen.”

On President Joe Biden’s first day in office, he signed an executive order “On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.”

This executive order rescinded President Trump’s order to stop teaching about the critical race theory.

Since this has been rescinded, state governments across the nation have taken action by passing bills and resolutions regarding the subject. The Utah State Legislature called an “extraordinary session” to discuss critical race theory on May 19.

Steven Leach, a BYU history, Japanese language and literature student, said as a white male, it seems that any contribution to critical race theory he makes academically or by any other means is unwanted.

“Any majority/minority interaction promotes a power imbalance, and therefore, to rid our society of systems of racism, I feel incentivized to avoid those interactions altogether,” Leach said.

Loyola Law School professor Priscilla Ocen told Time magazine she believes critical race theory is an important theory that addresses and explains a history of inequality. It also explains the changes that can be made to counteract the inequality.

“Critical race theory ultimately is calling for a society that is egalitarian, a society that is just, and a society that is inclusive, and in order to get there, we have to name the barriers to achieving a society that is inclusive,” Ocen said.

BYU communications alum Joseph Carson said the critical race theory is like any other moral panic. “Critical race theory doesn’t exist in all the way that many opposed to it think it does. Any article about critical race theory is barely controversial or radical, all of this is just more culture war fodder fueled by (usually) right-wing pundits,” Carson said.

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