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November 5, 2021 · OPINION

On Critical Race Theory and true understanding

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By J. Norman Reid

It is evident that the recent gubernatorial election results turned in part on negative voter reaction to the possibility that Critical Race Theory might be taught in Virginia’s schools.

That it is not currently being taught evidently did not matter. Still, that fact hardly stopped the voters’ panicked flight to feel-good education from a clear-eyed understanding about slavery’s profound impact on American society.

America’s sordid history of enslavement and its deep impacts on our social structure and political attitudes did not, of course, end with the Civil War or with Reconstruction or with the end of the Jim Crow era. Rather, these effects are deeply embedded in our current attitudes and behaviors, and they are as alive today as they ever were.

The fact that none of us ever owned slaves hardly absolves us from our responsibility to understand and work to overcome slavery’s evil consequences.

Like it or not, slavery may well be the single most important defining element of our national character. That this is so little understood by the voting public is both tragic and shameful.

I’m certain that few if any of those ran away from the term “Critical Race Theory” can even state in any meaningful way what the term means. No, an accurate and complete comprehension of slavery’s meaning for America is not being taught in Virginia’s elementary and secondary schools. But to combat the ignorance that is so widespread within the voting public, it should be.

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