Critical race theory, the decades-old academic construct that’s recently become a flashpoint for everyone from kindergarten moms to high-ranking politicians, is the subject of a Hanover County community forum on Thursday.
The Hanover County NAACP and Together Hanover — a community-based social, civic and political activism organization — will host “The Truth About Critical Race Theory” at 6:30 p.m. at the Mechanicsville Library, 7461 Sherwood Crossing Place.
Critical race theory, or CRT as it’s widely called, originated decades ago — some say as early as the 1960s — as a way of exploring race as a social construct.
While definitions vary, at its core is the idea that racism is historically inherent in U.S. policies and institutions, and that laws and regulations within this country’s educational system, criminal justice system, housing and labor markets, and other sectors offer different outcomes for different groups of people based on race.
Some laud the idea as a means of understanding this country’s history of slavery and race in order to create more equitable policies for the future.
But as discussions on race, equity and other social constructs have increasingly entered communities — including classrooms — around the country, parents, elected officials and others in largely conservative areas are pushing back against what they see as tools that shame white students as being racist.
That growing divide, said Hanover NAACP President Pat Jordan, is what prompted the forum.
“So many people don’t understand what CRT is and we want this clarification for everybody,” she said.
“This is nothing that is taught in schools in Virginia,” said Jordan, referring to CRT. “No matter how often you say this is not taught in schools, it continues to be the mantra” for people who are opposed to it and “you cannot be quiet when people misunderstand things.”
The forum will be led by Faye Belgrave, a former Hanover resident and the director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Cultural Experiences in Prevention. Belgrave’s presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session.
Jordan said the forum is meant to “dispel myths ... to push the truth out to the public.”
According to the Brookings Institution, eight states — Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas — have passed legislation that bans the discussion, training and/or orientation that the U.S. is inherently racist, as well as discussions about conscious and unconscious bias, privilege, discrimination and oppression.
An additional 20 states have introduced or are planning to introduce similar legislation.
Locally, Chesterfield County school officials issued a formal statement in June, saying that critical race theory “is not supported by members of the board.”
In Hanover, members of the Hanover Patriots, a conservative community group with members who attended the pro-Donald Trump rally that preceded the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, rallied before a School Board meeting in May to protest, among other things, the school system’s first equity audit and the teaching of critical race theory.
Thursday’s forum is free to the public. Registration is required for both in-person and virtual attendance. It will be livestreamed via Zoom.