“I can think of nothing more damaging to a society than to tell a baby born today, that she has grievances against another baby born today, simply because of what their ancestors may have done two centuries ago. There is simply no point in doing that to our children.”
Those words come from a short speech from Derrick Wilburn, a Colorado father who spoke in favor of a resolution banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in District 49, in Falcon, a community northeast of Colorado Springs.
In a YouTube video that’s been seen by more than 410,000 viewers, Wilburn explained some of his family background: “I am the direct descendant of the North American slave trade. Both my parents are black; all four of my grandparents are black; all eight of my great grandparents; all 16 of my great greats. On my mother’s side, my ancestors were enslaved in Alabama. On my father’s side, we were enslaved in Texas.”
Wilburn then went on to emphatically state, “I am not oppressed. I am not oppressed, and I’m not a victim.”
The father of three was directly attacking tenets of CRT that teach students that racism is systemic and deliberate. Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic explain in their book, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, that “racism is ordinary, not aberrational,” and it is “the usual way society does business.”
Wilburn countered with some of his own life experiences in these United States, saying, “I travel all across this country of ours, and I check into hotels, and I fly commercially, and I walk into restaurants. I go wherever I want, whenever I want. I’m treated with kindness, dignity and respect – literally from coast to coast.”
Wilburn also countered the CRT narrative that individuals are either oppressed or oppressor, victim or victimizer, based on characteristics such as race, sex, “gender identity,” ethnicity or language. He teaches his own children that they are not victimized by others, but they can be victims of three things, “their own ignorance, their own laziness, and their own poor decision making.”
The resolution, which passed by a vote of 3-2, says the district “will not use principles of Critical Race Theory … as a curriculum for classroom instruction.”
It mandates, “Neither schools, nor instructors, shall assign individuals or groups of students to participate in class or complete assignments based on their racial identity,” and, “Schools shall not engage in racial bias or stereotyping.”
The resolution also says, “District leaders and staff shall not promote the following principles associated with Critical Race Theory in D-49’s classroom curricula:
- Race Essentialism: The assertion that race is the most important identity.
- Collectivism: The assertion that group identity is more important than individual identity.
- Accusatory characterization of individuals as oppressor or oppressed according to their race.”
Several individuals spoke against the ban. One parent, Rachel Sims, explained that she was not taught about some of the darker aspects of American history, such as the Tulsa Wall Street Massacre, or that it took two years following the end of the Civil War for Union Troops to free a quarter million slaves in Texas, or that there was a direct line from Jim Crow laws to the generational wealth issues in the black community.
She said, “But that is our history, and it informs our present and our future. And if we refuse to talk about the echoes of how that past reverberate in today’s laws and today’s society, we are being willfully ignorant.”
Sims also went on to explain some of the ways that the country has grown and changed – through battles, protests, and voting – to better the country. She called the resolution to ban CRT an “artificial effort to ban something that is not even taught in our schools.”
But the move to ban CRT didn’t come out of nowhere. In an interview, Wilburn told Fox and Friends that a year of COVID and distance learning has motivated parents across the country to find out more about what children are being taught. And when he realized what was happening in his district, he was motivated to learn more and to attend school board meetings.
Board members were also responding to news from around the country about CRT being pushed in schools – including by teachers unions. The National Education Association passed a resolution to spend $127,600 promoting CRT and the American Federation of Teachers wants to put a book by CRT activist Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped, “into the hands of middle- and high-school students across the country.”
Wilburn said, “Putting Critical Race Theory into our classrooms is taking our nation in the wrong direction. Racism in America would by and large be dead today, if it were not for certain people and institutions keeping it on life support. And sadly, very sadly, one of those institutions is the American education system.”
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Watch the YouTube video of Derrick Wilburn’s speech.
Photo from Christopher F. Rufo.