Critical Race Theory Panel


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

The Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the College of Liberal Arts and Education sponsored a panel on Sept. 28, discussing Critical Race Theory from four different angles. 

The speakers at this event included Dr. David Krugler, Professor of History; Dr. Frank King, Executive Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Associate Professor and Program Coordinator in the Ethnic Studies Program; Dr. David Gillota, Associate Professor of Humanities; and Dr. Will LeSuer, Assistant Professor in the Criminal Justice and Social Sciences Department.

The event began with Dr. Krugler’s discussion on “Liberty, Slavery, and the Founding: How does CRT fit in?” in which he used the words of anti-CRT legislation and the U.S. Constitution to prove his point that CRT is important to telling the true history of the United States of America. 

Much of the recent legislation on banning Critical Race Theory from K-12 schools consists of some iteration of the idea of not teaching “false history”, meaning that teachers would not be allowed to discuss any of the historical events that might paint historical figures in a negative light.

Dr. Krugler’s response to this idea was that “history is not a morality play. History is not about reading something and feeling good and going out and cheerleading or sitting down and weeping.”

The U.S. Constitution was also used by Dr. Krugler to explain why banning CRT from classrooms could inhibit the historically accurate teaching of history. 

Dr. Krugler explains that banning CRT is not about protecting children, but it is “about preventing teachers from showing students, and using the documents of history, to get them to understand how complicated the United States’ history is.”

Next, Dr. King gave some more practical information about Critical Race Theory with his presentation titled “Defining CRT and the Movement to Sanitize History.” Dr. King first gave some data on states’ laws and bills banning Critical Race Theory, with seven states having laws signed by their governors, and eight states with laws that are still waiting on signatures. 

His next point was about the common misconceptions regarding CRT. These include that it is racist toward white people, it is indoctrinating our children and that it promotes Marxism.

In order to explain why these misconceptions exist, Dr. King offered a few definitions of CRT. The first one states that it is an “academic idea that analyzes racism as being tied to institutions both historically and in the present,” and Dr. King’s preferred definition states that, “Critical Race Theory is a focus on American law through the prism of race.” 

Using both of these definitions, Dr. King explained that because the academic theory is such a large concept, it is not taught in K-12 school, or even undergraduate programs. Critical Race Theory is mostly discussed in law schools and graduate programs.

Other topics that Dr. King spoke about were the founder of Critical Race Theory, Derrick Bell, interest convergence, intersectionality and the anti-Semitic and racist roots of cultural Marxism.

Dr. King finished his presentation with some statistics about the use of the term “Critical Race Theory” by Fox News in the past year. Over the course of three and a half months, Fox News mentioned CRT over 1,900 times, with 901 of those instances occurring in June of 2021. 

Given that CRT is not taught in schools, and is often a term used incorrectly, Dr. King believes that it is simply a distraction from real, life-threatening issues such as climate change. 

As he put it, “We see a squirrel and we’re distracted by that … instead of focusing on addressing real, real problems in the United States.”

Next up was Dr. Gillota, with his presentation “Is CRT anti-American?” which focused on how banning CRT, or what people perceive to be CRT, from schools white-washes history. 

Dr. Gillota spoke about schools banning literature written by Americans of color, on the basis of banning CRT. 

To this, Dr. Gillota responded by saying, “Since people are using the term Critical Race theory without knowing what it is, courses like mine, literature courses, things like that, often get caught in the cross-fire.”

Dr. Gillota’s other topics included definitions of patriotism, nationalism and jingoism, as well as the most common answers to a question about American values that Dr. Gillota asks his classes. 

Taking those responses into account, Dr. Gillota asked, “If we have those values, and we believe in those values, how do we deal with it when our country has not lived up to them?” as banning CRT would stop teachers from discussing the events that display opposing values, which are a major part of American history.

Finally, Dr. LeSuer gave his presentation about the “Applications of Critical Race Theory.” He discussed how CRT can be used in classrooms effectively. 

His main topics included the umbrella of “critical perspectives,” which CRT falls under, and the different lenses of critical perspectives. He also discussed that in order to see the full picture, one must look through all of the “lenses” of critical perspectives.

The event ended with a question-and-answer session, in which audience members were able to virtually submit questions to the panelists. One question asked: “How do we avoid making people feel guilty when talking about race-specific topics?”

Dr. King responded, “Sometimes it’s not necessarily about you. It’s about the broader spectrum of society.”

Dr. LeSuer said, “We all live in this society that has taught us to do these things, and you have to unlearn it.”

Dr. Gillota’s response was, “The emphasis, and I can’t speak for every teacher in every class room … but, the emphasis, most of the time when we’re talking about these issues, is not on individuals. It’s on systems and institutions.”

To view the recording of this event, readers can visit the UW-Platteville Campus Climate YouTube channel.