A Glimpse of Mississippi’s Only Critical Race Theory Class and an Unlikely Ally

“Honestly, I love it,” Murphree told CNN. She feels highly respected as a white, Republican student in a Critical Race Theory course, the first to be taught in the state of Mississippi.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) has become a political and social lightning rod, with several states banning the concept in the past year. Educators insist that CRT is generally not included in the school curriculum. The concept is usually taught in college-level courses like the one Murphree enrolled in this semester.

Law 743 professor Yvette Butler said CRT grew out of the law academy in the 1980s to analyze and understand why racial inequality still exists despite the legacy of the civil rights movement.

It recognizes that racism is both systemic and institutional in American society and that white people have historically held racial power.

Murphree said many Republicans believe the CRT is inherently designed to make white people the enemy, but she said she’s learning otherwise. She said the class opened her eyes to new perspectives from a theoretical perspective.

“We’re basically studying different theories analyzing race and law and how they apply to our country,” she said. “I thought the whole class would be like criticizing white people, but we didn’t even really mention white people.”

“Another way of seeing the world”

Butler wants others to know that his course is just another course on the theoretical framework. This is not about shaming white people for the discrimination their ancestors may have inflicted on a marginalized group.

“The point is not to focus on shame and the past,” she said. “The point is to say, ‘OK, all we want to do is consider how the law has been used to perpetuate inequality and how can we be creative about solving this problem. “”

Law 743 is designed to give “a full picture of what racial inequality looks like,” especially from a legal perspective, Butler said, and to get students thinking critically.

His students learn about racial issues beyond black and white. Butler stresses how important it is for his law students to have access to all aspects of thought from a variety of viewpoints. Analyzing how the justice system has treated different marginalized groups is what her class intends to do, she said.

In the classroom, Butler often applies CRT to current events, such as racial reckoning in the summer of 2020.

These moments of racial injustice are the same events that Butler says escalated the backlash against CRT.

Lawmakers strike back

Last month, the Mississippi Senate passed Senate Bill 2113, a law banning CRT in K-12 schools. After many black lawmakers walked out of the chamber, the bill passed 32-2 and is on its way to the House.

Republican Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel, a co-author of the bill, said the CRT promotes “victimity” instead of student success.

“Here in Mississippi, we were thinking of a way to teach our kids, especially K-12, not to be victims but rather to be successful. We’re trying to teach upward mobility and prosperity and the empowerment of the individual,” he said. noted.

State Senator Chris McDaniel said critical race theory promotes

McDaniel wants students to be taught that they are capable of anything, rather than being told that racism does not allow success. The senator also said the bill is a law that fights racial inequality. Senate Bill 2113 prohibits the teaching of a higher and lower race, gender, sex, or ethnic group.

He said he always encourages schools to teach about the history of racism and discrimination in the United States.

“We’re not trying to walk away from the past or walk away from those sins,” he said, but “to teach that the sins of our past mark all of our future – I don’t believe that. I think that we’re all capable of accomplishing anything despite our past.”

History and other objective courses — like math — are more important in the classroom compared to academic perspectives like CRT, McDaniel said.

“Taxpayers’ money” and limited teaching hours prioritize what needs to be taught to children, he told CNN.

Changing misconceptions

Professor Butler said the CRT promotes a thorough education for students.

Last month, black lawmakers walked out as the Mississippi Senate passed legislation described as a critical race-theory bill.

“In K-12, it wouldn’t be an accurate depiction of the world, stripping out key elements of history from Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement or other places where people of color were instrumental” , she said.

She hopes that the CRT can be used as an opportunity to expand students’ knowledge in pursuit of higher education. For now, Butler continues to teach Law 743 with that hope in mind.

Murphree said using what she learned from this class will be crucial in opening up a dialogue with other members of the Republican Party. The CRT has been politicized by both sides, thus perpetuating very different views on the implications of the theory.

As a student Republican studying at CRT, Murphree wants to address the implicit biases and misunderstandings of systemic racism expressed by her party.

“I’m still a Republican, like I honestly felt more excited about being a Republican,” she said. “I really believe there are things that cross party lines…I think I want to lead my party by example and be like ‘we can still be Republicans and think this class is OKAY.'”

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