Critical Race Theory: What It Is, What It Isn’t and Why It Matters

Ohio State University professor Hasan Jeffries says if we want to make this country better, we can’t ignore how racism continues to impact our lives.

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Many GOP lawmakers see critical race theory as something that promotes “anti-American” ideas, in some cases going as far as to ban the teaching of it in schools. Hasan Jeffries says the reality of critical race theory is not what Republicans make it out to be, but the misinformation surrounding it means we do need to enhance our education on race and Black history in America. 

“The great danger with what folks [in the GOP] are trying to do now… is that they are saying ‘we cannot talk about the things that are so central to the American experience.’” –Hasan Jeffries, Ohio State University 


Listen: Hasan Jeffries talks about the danger of banning critical race theory.


Guest

Hasan Jeffries is a history professor at Ohio State University and host of the “Teaching Hard History” podcast. He says those attacking critical race theory are misinformed as to what it actually is. “It’s a term that comes out of law school … in a nutshell critical race theory is not particularly complicated. It’s a framework for looking at the U.S. … that in order to understand America … you have to take race and racism seriously.”

Republican lawmakers are opposing critical race theory in the interest of preserving the status quo after last year’s calls to dismantle systemic racism, according to Jeffries. “It’s that intersection of politics and racial fear … people hate to be indicted and when you say America is a racist country … that is an indictment and many white folks take it personally.” 

Jeffries says as much as we can try to ignore the impact of race in America, it’s embedded in our society. “No one is racist because they’re born that way. People are racist because they’re born in America … if you breathe the air in America, then you’re breathing in these racial prejudices and these racial stereotypes.” Miseducating students about American history allows political conservatives to ignore institutional racism, Jeffries says. “The great danger with what folks [in the GOP] are trying to do now… is that they are saying ‘we cannot talk about the things that are so central to the American experience.’”

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