Why is it that hyper-white Fox News, Newsmax, and OAN are the people driving the “conversation” (re: bullshit fear mongering) about Critical Race Theory? Because white people in America always drive the conversation about what Americans are allowed to study.
To dive into how CRT has become watered down and distorted in recent months on the “news,” #BuildingPower’s Zakiya Sankara-Jabar hosted Dr. Tommy Curry, a professor of philosophy who serves as Personal Chair of Africana Philosophy & Black Male Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Dr. Curry is an award-winning author and editor of the Black Male Studies series on Temple University Press.
Dr. Curry speaks hard truth after hard truth about how racism is a permanent fixture of American society and how it’s been exacerbated by public policy. The good news, Curry says, is that public policy can and must be used to minimize these racist views and outcomes.
All of This is Socially Determined
“We’ve developed a kind of ambulance-chasing scholarship that’s just following what white people decide we should study,” Dr. Curry said.
Specifically, Curry noted, since white men have most of the power, they have modeled all forms of oppression—of women, of disabled people, and others—on traditional American anti-Black racist tactics. He said white women, who make up significant majorities of the American teaching workforce, spread the oppression they themselves face.
“No other group of men got to oppress white women besides white men,” he said. White women have more success in combating their oppression than Black people in America, as well, he said.
“There is no actual punishment for racism” because of centuries of laws protecting institutions that systematically harm Black people.
“You can accuse someone of sexism in the academy, in the job, on national television, they lose their job,” he said. “You can have someone systematically killing, brutalizing, and saying negative things about Black people, and they’re given promotions.”
“That’s the difference,” he said about anti-Black prejudice in America versus other kinds of oppression. “There is a social recognition and compassion toward other marginalized groups, specifically white women, that don’t exist for Black people.”
“Until we start having a real conversation and not settling for the crumbs that white people hand us out as social and substantive progress, then we have no other choice than to listen to what Derrick Bell [and CRT experts over the last 50 years] are telling us,” he said.
He warned that so many people in education spaces will perceive you as asking the “wrong” questions when you speak up like this.
“We’re told in the academy, if you say these things, if you ask these questions, you’ll never get a job,” he said.
In Curry’s mind, it is clear as day that these issues are created by the social determinants of health.
“I don’t pathologize Black people. I believe there are social determinants, a condition we face as a people,” he said. “We have to get off blaming Black people for our condition and look at the social and psychological determinants.”
This has led him to be adamant in his self-belief.
“I refuse to put myself in a position where I have to respect what white people think about me more than what I think about myself,” he said.
Curry has expanded his self-belief into belief in all Black men who wish to educate.
“We create systems so that Black boys, Black men don’t fundamentally believe they can even be professors, be in the academy,” he said. But no more.