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COMMENTARY: 'Living' Critical Race Theory

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Factually, critical Race Theory is not mandatorily taught in public schools in America. It is true that CRT is often taught in college and university classes in politics and in law. Scholars have developed CRT as in-depth courses on the intersection of law and race in America.

While I was in seventh grade, Orangeburg school district sanctioned a student field trip to the Cinema theater for two hours to view on large screen “Gone With The Wind.” It is the epic Margaret Mitchell novel that is also an entertaining tale, though it was not required reading. Classes then used the movie as a springboard to teach about the Civil War in social studies and history.

For the record, Mitchell’s GWTW is historical fiction, received a Pulitzer Prize and is considered the highest grossing film of all time.

It is inescapable that the Civil War was the bloodiest war ever fought in America. The Civil War was a fight about the moral issue of slavery, for the South did not wish to give up its hold on chattel -- enslaved “colored” people, nor its $192 millionr export of cotton.

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“Cotton” was economic king with free labor. Southerners say that their fight was about states' rights. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the federal Union on Dec. 20, 1860 – 161 years come December 2021.

The Civil War dead reportedly numbered 620,000 men. Still, primarily many white historians who write about Civil War accounts note that the total casualties were more like 1.5 million when counting the number of killed, wounded and captured/missing. The Confederate glag is the symbol associated with the Civil War. Still, Confederate flags were wielded in the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, at the citadel of American democracy.

And there was always “religion” or “Christianity” used mendaciously to justify slavery and enslavement. In her opinion piece, Donna Jackson suggests “CRT undermines religion” (The T&D, Nov. 12, 2021). What “religion” is threatened is the question for Jackson. Even the first Psalm (23) children learn suggests, “I will fear no evil.”

To censure CRT, extreme measures are on the horizon like burning books, and Texas has proposed a STOP CRT Act. And Sen. Tom Cotton has introduced STOP CRT legislation. Tom Cotton. It is only drawing attention to the futility and inanity of these CRT arguments. However, history is living Critical Race Theory.

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In 1955, Emmett Till was murdered for flirting or whistling at a white woman. Here is a fact. An all-white jury found J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant not guilty of Emmett Till’s murder. The living history of Critical Race Theory is not new. Gerald Chatham, the prosecutor said, “They murdered that boy, and to hide their dastardly act, they tied barbed wire to his neck and to a heavy gin fan and dumped him into the river for the turtles and fish.” Is this not an intersection of law and race?

Fast forward to 2021, amid all the murders of many Black people by police, even 12-year-old Tamir Rice, the living CRT cannot be discounted. Finally, Derek Chauvin is found guilty after nine minutes and 46 seconds with a knee on the neck of George Floyd. Surely, a discussion about these trials merits the living intersection of law and race. And though Cornel West seems a little disoriented these days, he graced Orangeburg on Russell Street during a book tour of “Race Matters" (1993) that bears his signature in my library.

On a personal note, my late maternal grandmother Clotell was arrested for “telling off” a white man, euphemistically speaking, and she was summarily arrested. She, a Negro woman, lived the intersection of race and law. Fortunately, my late grandfather Joseph, her husband, worked for a white owner of the Cadillac dealership on Broughton Street who bailed her out. Mother recalls afterwards on Seaboard Street where they lived that the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in front of their home.

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Banning curricula, barring books, and burning crosses will never kill the “living” Critical Race Theory.

Terrence M. Cummings, a native of Orangeburg, is a freelance writer who formerly contributed to The T&D editorial pages. He can be reached at terrencemcummings@gmail.com.

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