Rich Elfers, “In Focus”

Rich Elfers, “In Focus”

On Critical Race Theory | In Focus |

We must confront racism to remove it from our nation

What is Critical Race Theory (CRT)? According to Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, published in 2001, CRT contains six tenets:

1: Race is a social construct; it is not biologically natural.

2: Racism in the United States is the ordinary experience of most people of color. It is systemic.

3: Legal advances (or setbacks) for people of color tend to serve the interests of dominant white groups.

4: White groups attribute different negative stereotypes to people of color depending on what whites need or want.

5: No person can be classified into just one group. For example, a Black person could also be identified as female, Christian, or gay.

6: People of color are uniquely qualified to tell society what it is like to experience racism.

According to three Black professors in an article entitled “What is Critical Race Theory, and Why is Everyone Talking About it,” published in the Columbia News of Columbia University (NY), Republicans in twenty states have introduced or passed laws that would ban schools from teaching about institutional racism.

These Republicans are seeking to demonize CRT following the murders of George Floyd and other Blacks by police, and the resulting protests.

Two well-known Republicans strongly reacted to CRT: Former vice president Mike Pence said “critical race theory is racist.” At the same conference, Sen. Ted Cruz asserted that “Critical race theory says every white person is a racist.”

The issues in the CRT controversy need to be clarified and made understandable to the public.

CRT initially began as a movement at Harvard in the 1980s as a challenge to the 1970s legal theory that the law is just and neutral. Why, for instance, does possession of cheaper drugs receive higher jail sentences than more expensive ones? Does this explain why more people of color make up the prison population? Can laws be racially neutral on their face, but disproportionately affect one race more than another?

The authors responded to Pence’s and Cruz’s assertions that “every white person is a racist according to CRT” by stating that this is not the intent of CRT.

“…We can’t censor classroom discussions about the meaning of race if we want to prepare young Americans for the responsibilities of democratic citizenship in our increasingly diverse multicultural society…. The idea that anti-racism is racism has got to be the oldest talking point in their playbook.”

In other words, Pence and Cruz are trying to deflect attention from the facts of America’s history. They are trying to keep our racist history from being taught in schools.

CRT is about attaining racial justice in this country. As a teacher of history, politics and government for over 44 years, I see racism in America as systemic. It is part of our history and culture from our colonial beginnings. Some of our racism has been blatant, and at other times subtle, but many of our laws have neither been just nor neutral.

One key example in the Constitution in 1787 was the Three-Fifths Compromise. In order for us to become the United States of America, Northern delegates had to allow slaves to be counted as population in determining representation in the House of Representatives. These slaves were given no rights or freedom or citizenship. Each slave was counted as 3/5 of a person. At least three Southern states would have bolted from the convention had the Compromise not been made.

A second example was the need for the creation of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments after the Civil War. These Amendments reveal the reason for the conflict—to end racism along with slavery. The 13th Amendment ended slavery. The 14th gave equal protection of the law and due process to all people, citizen or not. All people born in this country or naturalized were considered American citizens. And the 15th Amendment gave all adult male citizens the right to vote.

Eventually in 1877, Union soldiers ended their occupation of the former confederate states. Soon afterward, Southern white racists used violence and voting restrictions to overturn the freedoms gained by those amendments.

In 1896, the Supreme Court upheld Jim Crow segregation laws in the Plessy vs. Ferguson ruling declaring that “separate but equal” was constitutional. Laws were passed against Chinese in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Japanese-Americans were imprisoned in U.S. concentration camps during World War II. These are only a few of the examples of institutionalized racism in this country.

Racism hurts all races, not just those who are oppressed. When we treat others badly, we actually hurt ourselves, whether we are aware of it or not. CRT is not a new idea; it is embodied and implied in the premise that “all men are created equal” found in the Declaration of Independence. The six tenets of CRT are essentially correct.

Unfortunately, institutional racism is as American as apple pie, and only through open discussion in our schools can racism be excised from our cultural DNA.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 500 words or less.

More in Opinion

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact
King County primary election candidates to watch | Roegner

With the Aug. 3 primary election, the public will narrow the field… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at
Massive reforestation effort needed in Washington and beyond | Brunell

Massive forest fires in the western parts of our country are not… Continue reading

LtE bug
The rebel flag does not belong in Enumclaw

Cheers to the young man who silently protested it.

LtE bug
Change doesn’t come easy

My children were teased terribly at Enumclaw schools.

LtE bug
Rich Elfers
The Threat Reflex | In Focus |

How do nations balance personal freedoms with public safety during major crises?

Jeff Antonelis-Lapp, “All Things Mount Rainier”
More Ways to Explore Mount Rainier National Park | All Things Mount Rainier |

There are many, many ways to enjoy the mountain. Here are a few.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact
Why wouldn’t you vaccinate to save loved ones? | Roegner

Many Americans continue to be hesitant to get the COVID vaccine, even… Continue reading

Rich Elfers, "In Focus"
Conspiracy theories | In Focus |

We’re all vulnerable to magical thinking

Most Read