Do you people even KNOW what “critical race theory” is?

I swear, there are people in this world who are completely freaked out over things that they don’t even know. And, honestly, it’s shameful.

I’m talking about “critical race theory.” This is the big bad buzzword that has conservatives up in arms. “Oh, they’re going to teach kids to be ashamed of the history of America. They’re going to blame America for everything wrong in history. Critical race theory will teach our kids to hate themselves and not want to be true Americans. We can’t let critical race theory be taught in our schools. Grab your tiki torches and pitchforks! This must stop now!!”

Please. There’s more than plenty of you who think that “critical race theory” is how you try to bump-draft to win on the final lap at Daytona.

“Critical race theory” is the understanding that much of America’s history was indeed influenced and guided by, in one form or another, racism and subjugation. That includes everything from slavery and Jim Crow, to the Chinese Exclusion Act and the three-fifths compromise, the fortified internment camps at Heart Mountain and Manzanar, the Trail of Tears and Manifest Destiny, and I can go on and I can certainly go on from there.

“Critical race theory” is an understanding not only of the inequality of America, but also of what can be done to change that inequality. Bus boycotts. Sit-ins at lunch counters. Riots in Greenwich Village. Strikes in the grape fields. The moments when we rose above our baser selves and changed “inequality” to “in equality.”

I can say this because I learned about critical race theory LONG before critical race theory was known as critical race theory.

I learned it at Street Academy, my old high school. Because the curriculum was actually tailored more towards the student body who lived at or near Street Academy (which at that time was based in Albany’s Arbor Hill), we learned about Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois. We learned about Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. But we also learned of Harriet Tubman and A. Phillip Randolph and Langston Hughes and LeRoi Jones.

We understood that the history of America was created and experienced in different ways, depending on the color of your skin or the journey your ancestors made to reach these shores. And once you know, you can not un-know.

Critical race theory isn’t designed to make you hate your history. No. It’s designed to help you understand it. And from knowing the past, you can help to build a stronger future. A future of opportunities and inclusion for all.

But some people are treating critical race theory as the equivalent of poison. “That’s not the history I was taught,” they growl through their gnashed teeth. Well, guess what. Everything is perspective. And the more you learn, the more you understand, the smarter you become.

And besides … whether people like it or not, history happened. You can’t climb into a time machine and go back and change it. But you can take that history and go forward with it. Learn from it. Understand the importance.

And for that matter, at least understand WHAT critical race theory is, before you get your pearls in a twist over what you THINK it is.