The murder and the trial horrified the nation and the world. Till’s death was a spark that helped mobilize the Civil Rights movement. Three months after his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, the Montgomery bus boycott began.
Less than two weeks after Emmett’s body was buried, J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant went on trial in a segregated courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi. There were few witnesses besides Mose Wright, who positively identified the defendants as Emmett’s killers.
On September 23, the all-white jury deliberated for less than an hour before issuing a verdict of “not guilty,” explaining that they believed the state had failed to prove the identity of the body. Many people around the country were outraged by the decision and also by the state’s decision not to indict Milam and Bryant on the separate charge of kidnapping.
In 2017, Tim Tyson, author of the book The Blood of Emmett Till, revealed that Carolyn Bryant recanted her testimony, admitting that Till had never touched, threatened, or harassed her. “Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” she said.
An NBC News analysis recently found at least 165 local and national groups that aim to disrupt lessons on race and gender. The groups are largely reinforced by conservative think tanks, law firms, and activist parents.
The tension can be traced back to then-President Donald Trump’s 2020 memo in which the White House Office of Management and Budget ordered a stop to fund federal training on diversity and critical race theory. Around the same time, Trump sought to rebuke the 1619 Project, which culminated with the release of his administration’s “1776 Report” just prior to his leaving office earlier this year.
Those actions planted the seed for the recent education fight, and critics of the bills say the tension pressures schools boards and ultimately harms students most. It’s a battle that has invaded every level of government from Congress through local school boards, with conservative groups backing the efforts.
In light of recent national and local conversations and controversy regarding Critical Race Theory (CRT), NAACP-Culpeper would like to offer support, guidance, and clarity to our community. Below you will find information regarding CRT as well as teaching practices that are centered on equity.
What is CRT?
CRT is an academic framework that examines the impact of systemic racism on American society. It is not taught in K-12 schools because it is not developmentally appropriate to do so; it is used in fields of professional and academic research. Some of the underpinning assumptions of CRT, however, can already be found in curricula in many schools. In recent months, CRT has become a catch-all term for school programs (teacher education, curriculum, and more) that focus on anti-racist practices, social justice, and/or diversity and equity.
Is CRT new?
No. CRT became widely read and used beginning in the 1970s in legal research. The practices that are being inaccurately described as CRT (anti-racist education, for example) are also not new. Classroom conversations that include discussions about race and racism are also not new (although it is important to note that this is not CRT). In fact, even early childhood curricula have included discussions about skin color and racial identity for many decades. Since race is a part of people’s identities (just like where they were born or what holidays they celebrate or how their families are structured), conversations about race happen all the time in schools. Additionally, it is easy to find examples of discussions about race that occur in history or English classes for older students, since studies about history and English are studies about individuals and groups of people. When you study people, you also will encounter issues of race and equity. It is incredibly difficult (not to mention bad practice), for example, to teach the American Civil War without discussing race.
So what does teaching for equity look like?
Some of the objections to CRT can be more accurately described as objections to teaching for equity (which can include social justice education, culturally relevant teaching, anti-racist teaching, and more-these are different from each other but overlap in important ways). Teaching for equity includes: ensuring that all students’ identities are welcomed and celebrated; providing instructional materials that reflect a wide variety of perspectives (including various racial identities); a curriculum that is high-level, accessible to all students and emphasizes critical thinking; and ongoing teacher learning so that educators are reflecting on their practices in a continual way.
In a classroom, this looks like a library of books and resources that include lots of different kinds of characters. It can also be a classroom rich in discussion about current events so kids have ample opportunity to practice critical thinking and discourse. It may also be a history unit that includes several primary resources from different demographic groups, so that students may consider multiple perspectives. In a primary classroom, it may look like a read aloud about a community much like theirs, a rural one, but in an entirely different part of the world. It can also look like a guest speaker coming to share how their family celebrates a holiday unfamiliar to most of the students in the class.
Does teaching for equity teach Black, Asian, Hispanic, and multiracial children to feel victimized?
No. Many families are concerned about this-no one wants children to feel dis-empowered or victimized. When multiple perspectives are presented, however, children of color are more likely to find themselves in the learning, which leads to a deeper and more rigorous educational experience. Classrooms in which students are welcomed to bring their full identities to the community, including their racial identities, are more likely to be classrooms in which students feel safe and known. This also leads to greater and deeper learning.
Does it teach White children to feel guilty?
No. This is a concern of many parents of White children, and understandably so. No one wants their children to feel guilty or upset, including teachers who teach for equity; that’s not the goal. Teaching about the history of race and racism should empower students to make the world better and more equitable. Slavery and Jim Crow, for example, are painful parts of our history, but students need to understand how these came about and how the lingering effects of them are still apparent today so that they may be empowered to ensure that we continue to work toward equity for all. Including multiple voices when studying periods of history or when reading literature also asks students to consider new ideas and perspectives. Moreover, asking students to engage in critical discourse prepares them to be active citizens of their community, both now and when they are grown.
Is teaching about race and racism indoctrination?
No. Presenting students with resources that reflect multiple perspectives means that students are learning to look critically at historical events, literature, media and more. All of us want our students to think critically and independently…that’s what this kind of teaching supports. It teaches children HOW to think, not WHAT to think.
Does NAACP-Culpeper support CRT in our K-12 schools?
No-CRT is for higher ed, not K-12! We DO, however, support teaching for equity, which is often inaccurately conflated with CRT. We know that structural racism exists-the data is unequivocal on this. We also know that education is one area of our society where we simply cannot ignore opportunity gaps. Every child deserves a high-quality, rigorous education that pushes them to reach their full potential. Currently, not all students have these opportunities; students of color, especially Black students, continue to achieve at much lower levels than their White peers in Culpeper, Madison, and Rappahannock counties. There are significant gaps between White and Black/Hispanic students’ reading levels, math achievement, graduation rates, and participation in gifted education programs and AP programs.
Teaching for equity supports the closing of these gaps. Research shows that a positive school climate where all students feel welcomed and valued leads to higher achievement for all children (students of color as well as White students), as does rigorous, high-level instructional programming. Teaching for equity IS high-quality, rigorous education because it engages students in higher-level thinking that encourages them to consider multiple perspectives. It also affirms and welcomes the identities of all students in a classroom, not just those in the racial majority.
As a civil rights organization, we will continue to fight for this every single day. Education IS a civil right.
If you have additional questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com . You are also invited to attend our NAACP general membership meetings, held over zoom the third Thursday each month.
NAACP-Culpeper Education Committee
Dr. Laurel Blackmon, Chair
We have to deconstruct the way that science is taught, the concepts that are included and the concepts that are excluded, because what we’re not talking about is also a problem—those silences in our curriculum are problematic.
Lorena Germán has worked in education for nearly 20 years. As director of pedagogy at EduColor, chair of the National Council of Teachers of English Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English, and co-founder of Multicultural Classroom, she has advocated for culturally sustaining pedagogy and practices. Nearly three years ago, Germán joined together with educators Tricia Ebarvia, Dr. Kim Parker, and Julia E. Torres to form #DisruptTexts, a grassroots movement encouraging K-12 English teachers to rethink their approach to teaching the “classics,” including deciding whether they need to teach them at all. In 2019, she published The Anti Racist Teacher: Reading Instruction Workbook, a resource to help educators develop anti-racist practices in their ELA classes. And late last year, Germán sat down with then-TT Professional Development Manager Val Brown to discuss the damage white supremacy causes in education—and the uplift inherent in reimagining the process. Their conversation included here, has been edited for length and clarity.
Lorena Germán has worked in education for nearly 20 years. As director of pedagogy at EduColor, chair of the National Council of Teachers of English Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English and co-founder of Multicultural Classroom, she has advocated for culturally sustaining pedagogy and practices.
The Virginia NAACP strongly believes that systemic racism has manifested as a determinant to public health through persistent racial disparities in criminal justice, housing, education, health care, employment, worker protections, climate, outdoor access, food access, and technology.
More than 100 studies have linked racism to negative health outcomes, including the research supporting that the cumulative experience of racism throughout one’s life can induce chronic stress and chronic health conditions that may lead to otherwise preventable deaths. Many communities of color suffer from increased exposure to environmental hazards, poor air quality, lack of access to safe and affordable opportunities for outdoor recreation, lack of mental health services, and lack of educational and career prospects.
The Madison County School Board passed this resolution on a 5-0 vote at their July virtual meeting. Since then, we’ve been informed that Culpeper has adopted it and that Rappahannock is in the process of building support to do the same. A anti-racism task force is being convened to begin the work of turning the resolution into official policy.
Resolution condemning racism and affirming the division’s commitment to an inclusive school environment for all.
Whereas, the Madison County School Board has, in the initial section of its policies entitled “Foundation and Basic Commitment,” affirmed its commitment to nondiscrimination and noted that that this commitment “prevails in all of its policies and practices concerning staff, students, educational programs and services, and individuals and entities with whom the Board does business.”
Whereas, there is ample anecdotal evidence that this commitment, particularly with respect to race, has been more of an aspiration than one we have steadily and fully accomplished,
WHEREAS, members of the Madison County School Board, as well as the Madison County Public Schools staff, are saddened and outraged by recent events that demonstrate the prejudice and injustice that persists in our country;
WHEREAS, racism and hate have no place in our schools or our society, and we must protect the Constitutional rights of every person who lives, works and learns in our community;
WHEREAS, recent events and realities require us to LISTEN to those who have endured discrimination and to LEARN through a deeper engagement with our community in meaningful and honest conversation about racial inequality.
WHEREAS, because of these events and realities we cannot be silent. We must act urgently to stop the racial injustice that harms and anguishes black people, who are our family, friends, neighbors, students, staff members and fellow Americans;
WHEREAS, we must lead. Each of us, individually and collectively, is responsible for creating and nurturing an anti-racist learning environment where every child is respected and valued for who they are, regardless of their skin color. We must actively acknowledge, address and prevent racial bias that occurs as a result of division policies, practices and actions; and WHEREAS, we must do better. Our school division can be and will be a sanctuary of safety in our community and a beacon of light for the world, as we build and strengthen trust with those we serve, and we model the acceptance of all people.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that we, members of the Madison County School Board, stand steadfast in our commitment to foster an inclusive educational environment where every student, teacher, support professional, parent and community member is treated with dignity and respect, as well as our commitment to continue fighting for racial justice and human and civil rights for all.
FURTHER, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that we fully support the Madison County Public School Administration’s commitment to confronting racial injustice and making equity central to our work. This will involve continuing to take a closer look at our policies, our curriculum, and our daily interactions.
FURTHER, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that we fully support the Madison County Public School’s formation of an Equity Task Force involving concerned students, parents, staff, and community members to help us fulfill our commitment to nondiscrimination.
Approved by the Madison County School Board this 13th day of July 2020.
Washington, D.C. (May 7, 2020) – The NAACP, the nation’s foremost social justice organization, has launched a campaign entitled #WeAreDoneDying, aimed at exposing the inequities embedded into the American healthcare system and the country at large. From COVID-19 to running while Black in America, the abuse faced by people of color, particularly African Americans is devastating.
NAACP | NAACP Launches #WeAreDoneDying Campaign, Empowering Black and Brown Communities to Take Action Against Senseless Killings of African Americans
The NAACP has launched #WeAreDoneDying, aimed at exposing the inequities embedded into the American healthcare system and the country at large.
The Culpeper branch of the NAACP holds its regular monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on the 3rd Thursday of each month at the public library at 271 Southgate Shopping Center, Culpeper 22701. All are welcome; you do not have to be a member to attend.