An Open Letter to Teachers Everywhere

Dear Teachers Everywhere,

We enlightened Americans owe you an apology. We have stood idly by while a small group of unenlightened Americans (conservative Republican operatives really) have implemented schemes to make it more difficult for you to teach our children how to be critical thinkers and responsible civic leaders.

The voices of these unenlightened Americans are being heard in local school board meetings all across the country, and just recently, I learned that a small contingent of unenlightened truckers used their 18-wheelers to block traffic on a major thoroughfare between the United States and Canada, all to express their opposition to COVID-19 mask mandates. But we enlightened Americans know what is really going on. Conservative Republican operatives have initiated a campaign on both the micro and macro levels to make us all less enlightened about inconvenient truths.

But long before these conservative Republican operatives started displaying bullish behaviors at our school board meetings and on major thoroughfares, they were railing against the multi-racial and multi-ethnic groups of enlightened Americans peacefully exercising their First Amendment right to march through our streets to loudly proclaim, “Black Lives Matter!” And even though over 90 percent of the Black Lives Matter protests and rallies were peaceful, then president Donald Trump used his high position to falsely designate the Black Lives Matter organization as a hate group. He cited incidents where shady characters embedded within the BLM protests sparked violent outrage from a few of the peaceful protestors by breaking out windows and looting neighborhood retail stores. But when he encouraged his MAGA cult followers to march on the United States Capitol to “stop the steal,” he called these same MAGA cult followers true patriots even after the world watched them break windows, doors, and damage historical artifacts, before illegally entering the U. S. Capitol vestibule and ultimately the House and Senate chamber floors. Unenlightened Americans consider this ballsy on the former president’s part. I consider such behavior unpatriotic, and a permanent stain on our democracy. Why? Because property was damaged, innocent lives were lost.

Conservative Republican operatives railing against CRT
in public K-12 schools

Teachers everywhere, I know you recognize that Donald Trump used his presidency to make it right for White Americans to push back on Black Americans’ ongoing struggle for equity, justice and fairness. When you hear conservative Republican operatives stand before school boards to rail against Critical Race Theory, something that is not even taught in public K-12 schools, you realize that the conservative Republican movement’s play is to generate support for conservative Republican candidates by appealing to White fears and resentments.

White conservative Republicans want White parents to believe that you teachers teaching their White children about all the bad things their White ancestors did to black, brown, red and yellow Americans is another bad thing because it makes their White children (and them) feel uncomfortable. They want White parents to believe that you teachers engaging their White children in discussions about ongoing racism, prejudice and discrimination makes their White children feel guilty about something they’re not responsible for (and have no responsibility for undoing). They want White parents to believe White children being exposed to books by Black writers like the late Toni Morrison and her contemporary Ta-Nehisi Coates causes their White children to be ashamed of their own racial/ethnic identity. Heck, they want White parents to believe that they did not inherit any privileges from their White ancestors systemically trying to crush the hopes, aspirations and dreams of Black Americans and other Americans of color.

Most, if not all of you, have opted to enter a profession that doesn’t pay well, but has the greatest impact on young minds. You are the professionals who set the tone for how our children will think and feel about their obligations to each other as members of the human race. And ever since the 1954 ruling in the Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas case, which stated that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional, you have gone out of your way to encourage our children and adolescents to work together to create a more perfect union, not make America great again.

Let’s be clear: the GOP slogan “Make America Great Again” is nothing more than a dog whistle to White Americans from conservative Republicans that now is the time to make America White again. In short, it is a nod to individuals who falsely believe that White people are the ruling class, and White people more fully exercising their power, influence and control over the masses is the key to keeping America great. But this just isn’t true. Yes, numerous White people have made positive contributions to our country’s greatness, but similar, and sometimes more significant, contributions have also been made by numerous Black Americans and other persons of color, despite the obstacles that the racist Whites have tried to put in our way.

Teachers everywhere, we, the enlightened Americans of this great nation, the United States of America, are depending on you to continue teaching our children how to think critically and lead responsibly. As you well know, critical thinking is the ability to use acquired knowledge and shared experiences to make decisions that positively impact individuals and collectives. Responsible leadership, on the other hand, is the ability to use these same critical thinking skills to work with other patriotic Americans to develop and implement strategies that promote peace not chaos, justice not criminality, truth not lies, unity not division.

We enlightened Americans know that conservative Republican operatives are not making it any easier for you to teach our children critical thinking and responsible leadership skills. That is why more of us are starting to become more committed to countering their false claims about Critical Race Theory with real stories about how White racism, prejudice and discrimination adversely impacts the lives of children of color. That is why more of us are starting to remind school board members and school administrators that representation matters. Our children and adolescents of color must see themselves and their racial/ethnic groups’ contributions reflected accurately in textbooks and supplemental material, which help them establish good habits for lifelong learning.

Teachers everywhere, I implore you to not allow these conservative Republican operatives to normalize ignorance in our society. Enlightenment is what we need, and you are the patriots we’re depending on to help our children become enlightened in the face of the Conservative Movement’s coup to confound their common sensibilities.

The CRT Dog Whistle

For most Black Americans, the ongoing attack on Critical Race Theory, or CRT, is something that makes you go, “Huh?” Individuals who are more educated than you and me tell us that CRT is not being taught in K-12 schools, but this truth falls on deaf ears. It seems to fall on deaf ears because so many White parents want to exonerate some of their White ancestors from the crimes they committed against Black citizens and other citizens of color. And they don’t want their White children feeling uncomfortable about the advantages these crimes give them in the here and now. In short, they want to maintain the status quo by convincing the general population that non-White citizens are similarly criminal when they make White children and adults feel uncomfortable with all this talk about White racism, prejudice and discrimination.

But truth be told, America’s non-White citizens have not, and never will be, the perpetuators in this scenario. That’s a dishonor reserved solely for unenlightened, White children, adolescents and adults. Black parents have been complaining for decades about the suppression of Black American history. Study the history curriculum of any public school in America, and you will discover that integration has done nothing to expose White children to the excellence within the Black community. Instead, these public schools present a whitewashed version of this excellence by trying to make it look as if even founding fathers like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson did right by their enslaved African Blacks. This historical suppression is what produces generations of White children who lack the compassion to reconcile with Black and other non-White citizens.

If you can’t see through these attacks against CRT, you’re a fool. This constant railing against CRT is nothing but another dog whistle that stirs up White people’s fears and resentments. The fact that it is being blown by conservative Republicans is telling, for it shows the Republican Party lacks plans for the country’s governance.

Like so many in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I shook my head when Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the 2021 gubernatorial election. We must wait and see if Youngkin and members of his administration plan on leading responsibly, for we had just experienced four years of Donald Trump’s irresponsible leadership and were hopeful that another responsible Democrat would succeed Ralph Northam. But it wasn’t to be.

I give Youngkin credit for stiff arming Donald Trump when Donald Trump offered to campaign for him in Virginia. But if the Youngkin administration proves to be as disastrous to the Commonwealth of Virginia as Trump was to the country, the unenlightened, White voters who voted for him must ask themselves why it was so easy for them to fall for the big lies surrounding who won the presidential election and whether Critical Race Theory is being taught in public schools.

Truth be told, the CRT dog whistle was first blown in Southlake, Texas. Based on the information I read, it was a way to derail efforts to promote talks about racial diversity, equity and inclusion in the public schools there. It didn’t matter that these talks were initiated because Black students complained about being the victims of outright racism and microaggressions. By ignoring these complaints, the White parents attending school board meetings to blow the CRT dog whistle have proven to us that they believe their fears and resentments about a manufactured CRT controversy are more valid than Black students’ actual grievances.

We Black people have had to endure this country’s worst, and we’re still standing. Part of me wonders why unenlightened members of the White majority still look down on us with disdain, even after some of us have become similarly situated. I believe it has everything to do with their refusal to get to know us, our daily struggles, as if the closer they get to us, the more we take from them. But the Black people I interact with aren’t trying to take anything from White Americans. We just want to be treated fairly, and not used as proverbial punching bags. And that’s what today’s Republican Party is doing to us, all in its quest to acquire executive, legislative and judicial power. But we have to fight back. And we have to accept the support received from our White allies along the way. We have to acknowledge when some members of the White majority are working with us Black people to get it right. We have to keep believing that true racial reconciliation is possible within our lifetimes.