Critical Racism, Not Theory

Terry H. Schwadron

Oct. 15, 2021

Amid the hullabaloo over “critical race theory” somehow staining our national image by acknowledging slavery and its continuing effects, our day-to-day lives are reflecting exactly the ugliness of calling out The Other.

We’re seeing a critical racism pandemic, not some debate about educational theory. It is a broad brush of denial that also strikes women, gays, trans people, and those of non-dominant religious and ethnic groups.

It’s not as though we must look very far to find public examples of people, prominent or not, calling out neighbors for Living While Black or running afoul of a Right-leaning view of acceptable gender, religious or moral identification. The source might be a teacher, a school parent, a movie star or, as it turns out, a football coach.

The forced resignation this week of Josh Gruden, the Las Vegas Raiders coach and former ESPN commentator, for repeated rude remarks over a decade about gays and Blacks should tell us something about the spread of shame. Now there is interest in those with whom Gruden was communicating and over the rude team culture that gave rise to the original investigation.

The public attack by North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, Republican, that homosexuality and “transgenderism” are “filth” is a wake-up call that homophobia is alive and well, drawing the defense of influential evangelical leader Franklin Graham who praised the foul-mouthed politician for “having the guts to stand up and tell the truth.”

Even as the rest of the country was acknowledging that Christopher Columbus had a dark side abusing and killing Native Americans, here was Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis rising on his hind feet to bay out tribute to Columbus for “courage, risk-taking, and heroism.” DeSantis said that those who wish to erase the day on the calendar “do so as part of a mission to portray the United States and Western history in a negative light as they seek to blame our country and its values for all that is evil in the world.”


Just where in this political movement that finds a need to defy history and demographic change towards preservation of a world of White privilege is it necessary to demean those who differ by skin color, ethnicity, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation?

Why is posturing for more White voting districts and against affirmative action in hiring and promotion or acknowledging that there is more than one way to find a mate just so difficult? Why does the answer to a more productive White, straight life require a rotten shake for anyone non-white, non-Christian, non-straight? Why do we see that people nameless here find personal affirmation only by running down others for their identity?

Are we just to accept the idea that people need to express their anger and frustration by scapegoating others? Why do we as Americans preach human rights and then show that living by such principles is, well, optional at best?

We have serious, built-in, institutional racism and Otherism in this country, but these recent examples are all right out there on the surface. We hate our neighbors and seem only to want to pull up individual drawbridges around our home castles. How does demeaning the hiring of a female football referee or a gay athlete help Gruden prove himself to be a better professional football coach? For that matter, does Gruden feel that football is only to be enjoyed by straight White men? Actually, these emails and their crude messages emerged in an investigation of an offensive work culture at the Washington football club, for which there has not been a full airing of other such behaviors.

Or is that lieutenant governor a better leader for publicly abasing homosexuals and trans people? “There is no reason anybody, anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality or any of that filth,” Robinson told a church congregation as the congregation applauded. “And yes, I called it filth. And if you don’t like it that I called it filth, come see me about it.”

According to NBC News, A Southlake, Tex. school administrator told teachers that they need to “balance” use of a book in the school library about the Holocaust if it is used in class, presumably with something that denies that the Holocaust took place or that preserves the Nazi culture. In what universe is this a reflection of appropriate “critical” thinking or preservation of American greatness?

Attacking The Other

Obviously, castigating The Other is not an American experience, but a human one. I exist at all because my mom’s family was forced to flee Hitler’s extermination campaign aimed at German Jews, and, as a family, we’ve seen plenty of anti-Semitism even in this country.

We see examples of people victimized over race, sexual orientation, religion or ableness all the time.

Serbs fight Croats, Hutus and Tutsis clash, Bangladesh is putting Rohingya people on an island, Indian Hindus are killing Indian Muslims.

To Live While Black in America is too often a prompt to call police or for vigilante attacks for walking in the wrong neighborhood, for purchasing a home, for integrating a school class. To request a bathroom that matches gender fluidity choices or to marry in a same-sex ceremony can still trigger public anger or dismissal. The list goes on and on.

Those who worry that teaching our kids a curriculum that encourages critical thought about what we do to one another daily should care a whole lot more about what we are saying about each other.

The important part of Critical Race Theory is the “critical” part. We need to re-learn how to think, and to think before we open our mouths.


Journalist, musician, community volunteer