MLK’s Dream in the Era of MAGA and CRT? Still a Dream
Pardon me if you’ve heard this story (I tell it a lot), but Martin Luther King Jr. Day always reminds me of how I learned the word “segregation.”
I was a kid, visiting relatives in Alabama, which my parents called “down home,” when I decided I needed to get a drink of water.
I was directed to a pair of water fountains, one marked “white,” the other marked “colored.”
Curiously, I turned the knob on the one marked “colored,” and was quite disappointed to see the water come out as clear as the water fountains I had used in the north.
“Why?” I asked my dad.
“Segregation,” he responded — and didn’t say much more.
That was in the late 1950s. Those days are mercifully behind us, thanks largely to Dr. King’s civil rights movement, although a lot of the old social, legal and political arguments have only been replaced with new ones.
For example, we used to argue about race in America. Now we argue about the history of race in America. “Critical race theory” has become the label for a new furor over how this country’s racial history should be taught in public schools.
“Ironically,” as Boston University’s bestselling anti-racism scholar Ibram Kendi explains, “it was this nightmare of post-civil rights racial inequality that caused legal scholars in the 1970s to develop critical race theory in law schools, particularly to study and reveal the law’s role in the maintenance of inequality.”
That’s the “critical race theory” that’s not taught in public schools. But activists on the political right have demonized the label so well that 32 states have introduced bills or taken other steps to restrict teaching it or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism, according to an Education Week analysis.