Systemic Racism and Critical Race Theory

Essay by Sky Foerster, Citizens Project Board Chair

Systemic racism is a reality, and to pretend otherwise is to deflect the responsibilities of a citizen in a free society.

Unfortunately, the editorial leadership of The Gazette seems to be on a major campaign against “Critical Race Theory”—or at least its understanding of what is subsumed in that phrase. On July 23rd, the editorial board printed a self-congratulatory reminiscence of how, in the 1920s, Colorado Springs, with vocal support from The Gazette, stood up against the KKK, and, in the 1940s, protested the internment of Japanese Americans. Then, in mid-article, the editorial board pivoted to attack critical race theory in our schools as a “Marxist curriculum” that “tells white children to consider themselves oppressors and the nonwhite children to consider themselves oppressed by everything that defines their country.”1

This indictment of critical race theory—which local School District 49 recently banned—is a gross distortion of reality. For a better understanding of critical race theory and a rebuttal to SD 49’s decision, I only need to refer you to Patience Kabwasa’s editorial in last week’s Indy. Patience writes in her individual capacity, as do I, but she also serves as Citizens Project’s vice-chair.

On August 8th, The Gazette went on the attack again.2 Editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen conveniently lumped everyone who seeks to address systemic racism as “radicals” prone to violence and “leftist aggression.” He pointed to America’s successes in ending slavery, reversing Jim Crow laws and overt segregation, passing a Civil Rights Act, and electing a Black president.

Fair enough. But Laugesen ignores the ways in which Blacks and other minorities continue to be systematically disadvantaged in wealth accumulation, in treatment by police, and in access to the ballot box and to affordable quality education and health care.

On August 18th, The Gazette fired its third salvo in its endorsement of SD 49’s decision to ban critical race theory in its public school system.3 The Gazette clearly wants it both ways: “To call out racism, wherever and whenever, is not only laudable but in fact necessary in a just society. To claim to find racism where no reasonable person of any race would believe it exists, is irresponsible.”

That argument only makes sense if one really believes that systemic racism doesn’t exist. But it ignores the stubborn reality of institutional and legal structures that persist in reinforcing systemic racism. Those realities need to be understood—by adults and school children alike. Understanding systemic racism does not make one a racist and does not pit one group against another. It is neither “radical” nor “Marxist” nor “un-American.” In our constitutional mandate “to form a more perfect union,” it is what it means to be a true American.