The Conscious Corner by Maceo Z. Keeling, Sr. –
Discrimination? Fact or Fiction?
The generally accepted definition of Critical Race Theory (CRT) is as an academic movement of civil rights scholars and activists in the United States who seek to critically examine the law as it intersects with issues of race, and to challenge mainstream liberal approaches to racial justice.
I hold the position that Americans at large do not need “scholars” to examine the laws and legal systems of this country to see how they intersect with issues of race. Racial activists, scholars, liberals, and conservatives all need to examine the impact of the race-based laws and institutional practices that create and perpetuate discriminations on the basis of race.
We need not look beyond the “three-fifths compromise” in the United States Constitution to see that discrimination against African American people has been woven into the fabric of this county since its inception.
The compromise counted three-fifths of each state’s enslaved population toward that state’s total population for the purpose of apportioning the House of Representatives. Even though enslaved African people were denied voting rights, this gave Southern states higher population numbers and a third more representation and more electoral votes in presidential elections than if enslaved African people had not been counted at all. Freed African people were not subject to the compromise and counted as one full citizen for representation, but still could not vote.
Critics of CRT say the liberal approaches to racial justice pit one race against another. These critics, mostly conservative Republicans, say the approach makes all white people oppressors and all Black people victims. I imagine this debate may never be fully resolved, but one thing is for certain: Black people by nature—and by experience—are not victims, but survivors.
We are survivors of atrocities of our past and the vitriol of today.
We are familiar with these injustices, so I will just make this claim that Critical Race Theory is basically academic. Pontificating on a theoretical and academic basis is just more hyperbole engineered to deflect the conversation from the real issues: human subjugation, economic disenfranchisement, and unequal treatment under and within the laws of this land.
Keep your eyes fixed on the goal. Race relations have emotional energy and momentum, but the impact of the law on African American people is quantifiable and verifiable.
The biggest problem of the debate in theory is that it asks us to disregard the evidence before us. Compared to whites, a hugely disproportionate number of African Americans are incarcerated for the same offenses. Asheville’s local schools have the widest education gap in the state. Black people face inequitable money-lending practices from banking institutions. These facts are irrefutable.
To suggest that the impacts of enslavement and racism are not real, and that post-trauma is imagined, is like suggesting that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki wasn’t really that bad. To suggest that Jim Crow was just an attitude and that we were not harmed economically and socially by the laws of this land—or that we are now in a post-racial time in a post-racial country—is like saying that “not that many people” were harmed during the blast on December 7,1941 and there really weren’t long-term effects from it. Claims like that would ask us to just forget that part of our history because things are okay now for Japan nowadays, and the Japanese people are doing pretty well comparatively.
Let’s not spend time and energy dickering about the past. We must acknowledge and understand where we as a nation went wrong. We all have to acknowledge that America’s check was returned with insufficient funds. The experiment has so far, once again, failed for African American people, but America must not give up. We have another opportunity to get it right—and “Yes, We CAN!”
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