2021年7月9日 星期五

The Daily: What Is Critical Race Theory?

And how to learn more about the issue dividing school districts across the country.
Protesting against the teaching of critical race theory, at the Loudoun County Government Center in Leesburg, Va., in June.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

We had a shorter holiday week on The Daily, but we covered a lot of ground, traveling from Afghanistan to Haiti. Along the way, many of you wrote in to share your thoughts and feelings about our episode on critical race theory.

It's a complicated subject with a lot of history and nuance to unpack, and some of you were interested in learning more. So we reached out to Trip Gabriel, a national correspondent and our guest, to answer some of your questions.

What is critical race theory (C.R.T.)?

Critical race theory is a concept, once the domain of graduate schools, that some observers say is now influencing American K-12 curriculums. The theory argues that historical patterns of racism are ingrained in law and other modern institutions, and that the legacies of slavery, segregation and Jim Crow still create an uneven playing field for Black people and other people of color. The idea is that racism is not a matter of individual bigotry but is systemic in America. Recently critics have made C.R.T. a catchall target for opposition to equity efforts, affirmative action and "wokeness" in general.

Conservatives object that critical race theory is a gauntlet thrown down to accuse all white Americans of being racist, of dividing people by race into oppressors and oppressed. Democrats are conflicted. Some worry that arguing that America is racist to the root — a view that is conventional wisdom among elements of the party's progressive wing — contradicts the opinion of most Americans and is handing Republicans a political cudgel for the 2022 midterm elections.

Do you have any examples of how C.R.T. is being taught in schools?

You'd have to look long and hard to find any K-12 classroom where the term "critical race theory" comes up. Instead, what critics tend to target is the influence of concepts derived from C.R.T. that infuse the equity training field (some examples include acknowledging and subverting white privilege, or labeling people as oppressors or oppressed based on identity). This kind of training has been offered by various school districts to teachers in the name of combating implicit bias.

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While the anti-C.R.T. activist Christoper F. Rufo lists 11 examples of "critical race theory in education," most are examples of schools offering teachers diversity training. He also cites a lesson planned for third graders in Cupertino, Calif., in which students were asked to draw an "identity map" listing their race, class and gender, and the teacher was asked to identify some characteristics as part of the "dominant culture." But according to The Washington Post, the lesson was canceled after one use when parents complained.

Meanwhile, some schools have recommended to young readers the book "Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness,'' which, in discussing the police shooting of a person of color, makes the point that white supremacy is embedded in American society.

The show covered criticisms of C.R.T. from the right. Is there criticism of the theory from the left?

Some classical liberals have argued that critical race theory rejects concepts like meritocracy, individualism and unbridled free speech, which it deems products of a white dominant culture. Taking a different angle, John McWhorter, an author who teaches at Columbia University, argues that C.R.T. as interpreted by the anti-racism training field "diminishes Black people in the name of dignifying us."

What should listeners read if they want to learn more about C.R.T.?

A seminal book by some of the founding scholars of the academic movement is "Words That Wound'' (1993). The introductory chapters of "Critical Race Theory: An Introduction" (2001) lay out the movement's genesis and principal views.

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In recent months, there have been good explainers in the press about how America's reckoning over systemic racism in policing brought new prominence to critical race theory — and provoked a backlash. I found this piece by Fabiola Cineas in Vox helpful, along with this column by Michelle Goldberg of The Times. A deep dive into the related topic of anti-bias training — inspired partly by C.R.T. — can be found in a Times Magazine profile of Robin DiAngelo, author of "White Fragility," by Daniel Bergner. Adam Harris in The Atlantic took a look at bills in state legislatures seeking to ban "divisive concepts" in education and elsewhere. And Wikipedia (insert usual caveats) has a quite comprehensive look.

Talk to Trip on Twitter: @tripgabriel.

Holding Onto Hope

Debby Rosenkrantz, a trial participant for an experimental Alzheimer's drug, spoke with The Daily on Wednesday's episode.Kayana Szymczak for The New York Times

Pam Belluck, a health and science writer, reflects on her recent reporting on Aduhelm, a controversial new Alzheimer's drug, through one family's experience with it:

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By the time I had interviewed Debby Rosenkrantz and Susan Woskie for The Daily, I had been covering Alzheimer's and dementia for more than a decade.

I've traveled to Colombia to report about the world's largest family with genetic early-onset Alzheimer's; went to South Korea to write about children being trained to assist people with dementia; and spent time in a California men's prison to observe how convicted murderers were helping fellow prisoners with dementia with activities like showering, shaving and eating. I've written about how dementia might affect the ability to give sexual consent. And this past year I've written about Covid and dementia.

I've become well aware of the complexities and cruelties of this condition, and I've followed the roller-coaster ride of the search for answers — from discoveries of a gene mutation that might protect against Alzheimer's to out-of-the-box therapeutic approaches like using flickering light and sound.

As I've been talking with patients and family members for my recent reporting on the new drug, Aduhelm, what has struck me most is how thoughtful and insightful they've been about the difficult situation they find themselves in. Several people I've interviewed are clear-eyed and candid about their poignant reality, including Debby and her wife, Susan.

The couple knows that so far Debby, who participated in the clinical trial of Aduhelm and began receiving monthly infusions of it again about 10 months ago, has experienced no discernible benefit from the drug. "It just feels like there's a blank in places where there shouldn't be a blank in my brain," Debby told me.

They understand the drug can cause brain swelling or brain bleeding, and Debby undergoes regular brain scans to check for such effects. And Susan, a retired professor of public health, told me before the F.D.A. decision that the data about the drug was "squishy stuff" and that if the F.D.A. decided not to approve it, "that wouldn't surprise me, and it might make sense."

And yet they have decided to continue giving the drug a try. They are doing so because they realize there is nothing else out there for them yet. Maybe doing something, whether it's taking an unproven drug or exercising or changing one's diet, can give some people a sense of hope that might be therapeutic in itself. In a devastating, unpredictable disease that little by little steals away part of one's mind, hope may actually be the best medicine available right now.

Talk to Pam on Twitter: @PamBelluck.

On The Daily this week

Tuesday: What we know about the Delta variant.

Wednesday: Inside the lived reality of a contentious Alzheimer's treatment.

Thursday: The American withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Friday: A presidential assassination in Haiti.

That's it for The Daily newsletter. See you next week.

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