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Indoctrinating Children Into Critical Race Theory Undermines MLK's Dream

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP

Over almost six decades, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech has inspired American students to believe that they will be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Dr. King gave the country hope of a brighter future, but now a much more hopeless vision of America undermines his dream. It pervades American classrooms and tells students that their dreams will be limited by their race.


Critical race theory is showing up in schools across America. And when a Virginia middle school began implementing it, courageous parents stood up recently to stop it. The five sets of parents come from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. They have united to challenge Albemarle County Public Schools for violating their children’s rights and their own rights under Virginia state law.

They filed the claim after the school district adopted a so-called “anti-racist” school policy and curriculum based on the tenets of CRT. This might sound like the next chapter in Dr. King’s fight against racism, but “anti-racism” departs from his dream. Instead of providing students with a message of hope, individual equality, and empowerment, CRT does the opposite. It tells students that their place in life is predetermined by their skin color, their group identity is all that matters, and they don’t have the agency to shape their own futures.


Dr. King’s hope was that we could move forward from the injustice of racial prejudice, rooted in the evil of slavery, to become a nation where all children could achieve the American Dream. He envisioned a country where opportunity was available to “all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics.”

The curriculum in Albemarle County told minority students that they are victims of an oppressive system of white culture and white supremacy. One family in the lawsuit immigrated from Latin America and built a successful business. They taught their children that the American Dream was available to them, regardless of their ethnicity and national origin. But Albemarle County Public Schools showed their daughter a video that suggested minorities cannot live in “big houses,” leaving her distressed and confused. CRT tells minority students that their skin color determines their ability to live the American Dream.


Individual Equality

Dr. King told the audience of 200,000 who gathered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that he had come to “cash a check” written by the architects of our great republic in the “magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.” He told them that the true meaning of the “American creed” is the self-evident truth “that all men are created equal.” Because of the creed, the government could not deny any citizen opportunities simply because of their skin color. Dr. King said that religion revealed “that God loves all of his children and that all men are made in his image and that the basic thing about a man is not his specificity but his fundamentalness [sic], not the texture of his hair or the color of his skin but his eternal dignity and worth.”

CRT’s message of “collective guilt” challenges America’s creed of “individual equality.” If people are “oppressors” or “victims” simply because of their race, as Albemarle County educators are teaching, then students aren’t equals. But assigning moral or social status to people simply because of the color of their skin or the texture of their hair denies their eternal dignity and worth. Instead of telling students to cash the check that the Founders wrote, Albemarle staff told students to “fight against” the “dominant culture” by contesting “white supremacy, white-dominant culture, and unequal institutions and society.”


According to Albemarle County Public Schools officials, “colorblindness”—an idea championed by Clarence Thomas, the second African-American U.S. Supreme Court justice—is a racist institution. The school district’s “anti-racist” policy violated the rights of students to be treated equally by prejudging them according to race, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. More discrimination cannot undo discrimination.

Collective guilt drives a dagger into the heart of the American creed. It also undermines the rights of parents to teach their children that all men are created equal, because we are made in God’s image. Because the school stereotyped their children by race, the Albemarle County parents, through their attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, have asked a court to stop subjecting their children to a hostile environment. One family has additionally asked the court to order the school to pay for private school tuition that the policy forced them to incur.


Dr. King told Black Americans, and all people who have experienced the pain of discrimination that their suffering was unjust. He also told them that, with faith, their “unearned suffering” could be “redemptive.” At a time when people of color couldn’t find lodging in motels, and their children saw signs that said “whites only,” Dr. King told his audience that “somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.”


We should all seek to eliminate racism from our society. But CRT is misguided and damages children. It promotes a new form of racism that diminishes students’ confidence that they can achieve their own goals and create a more just nation.

Albemarle County teacher training promoted crude racial stereotypes. It described “white talk” as “verbal” and “intellectual,” and “color commentary” as “nonverbal” and “emotional,” implying that students’ ability to communicate is limited by their race. This was accompanied by descriptions of “white culture” (characterized by individualism) and a “white way of thinking.” Dr. King’s dream inspired American children to believe that they could reach their own dreams, but CRT tells them they cannot—that America’s endless racial power struggle limits their dreams.

Dr. King’s message of hope, individual equality, and agency propelled the nation towards greater racial justice. It deserves to be honored. CRT is pitting American children against each other by dividing them into different categories simply because of the color of their skin. It diminishes their sense of agency, unjustly discriminates against them, and denies them hope.

Brave parents and students are holding Albemarle County Public Schools accountable to the American creed that the rights of all people should be respected, regardless of their race, color, or religion. May their stand against discrimination make America a more free and just society as Dr. King’s did.


Emilie Kao is senior counsel and vice president of advocacy strategy with Alliance Defending Freedom (@ADFLegal).

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