Let history’s chips fall where they may – Bryan-College Station Eagle

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Let history's chips fall where they may

WALTER KAMPHOEFNER

The column “We can transform current culture war” (Eagle, Dec. 28) offers some important insights and recommendations, although it uncritically repeats right-wing claims “that some K-12 educators are required to teach that all white people ... are irredeemably racist,” but fails to cite any names or places.In fact, the history of race relations in this country is a typical case of “glass half full/glass half empty.” However, conservatives are not pushing a “glass half full” approach, but rather that of the three monkeys: “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”Like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart on pornography, most conservatives can’t define Critical Race Theory, but they claim to know it when they see it.One nearby example is the attacks on Jerry Craft’s “New Kid,” the first graphic novel ever to receive the Newbery Medal “for the most distinguished American children’s book,” claiming that it deals in “microaggressions.”In fact, it is a semi-autobiographical account based on the experience of Craft and his two sons attending elite, predominantly white private academies.But because 444 parents out of some 88,000 in the Katy school district feared their sensitive white children would experience microaggression, or even macroaggression, if they learned about the microaggressions the Crafts experienced in real life, his books were pulled from school libraries and a live event with the author cancelled.Katy schools subsequently reversed course, restoring the books and rescheduling the author, and rightly so.Conservative culture warriors blatantly have misrepresented Craft, who stated in an interview: “No ONE character is always right, nor are they always wrong. And I feel like that’s important for both kids AND adults to see.”Despite what some white whiners might claim, there were and are obvious advantages to being white in this society. That holds true even for someone such as me, a first-generation college student (first generation high school on my mom’s side) who grew up without running water or indoor plumbing and went from a one-room grade school to a flagship university.Any “imposter syndrome” that I suffered was purely of my own making. There was no one in these institutions suggesting subtly, or not so subtly, that I did not belong there. Plus, I never have to worry about getting arrested for breaking into my own home, or where I walk or jog or bicycle.But there are also problems with the “glass half empty” approach of Critical Race Theorists (operating not in schools but in some elite universities and law schools).It’s ironic how the “Lincoln was a racist” trope unites radical leftists and Neo-Confederates. There is no denying the crucial importance of Black agency in the abolition of slavery or progress on civil rights. But progress on matters of race always has been a biracial or multiracial project.It is a simple fact of demographics that none of this progress would have come to pass if the majority of whites were dead-set against it — or simply willing to look the other way, as Northerners did when Southern Blacks were eliminated from the political process by a combination of legal chicanery and domestic terrorism, and Confederate monuments popped up like poisonous mushrooms all across the South.There always have been white people, even if sometimes hesitant and ambivalent, on the right side of history; there were just not enough of them at some times and places.It was courageous of The Eagle to remind us on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor of the injustice done to Japanese Americans. But even in this dismal chapter of our history, there were white American who fought the internment decision, protected their neighbors’ property that otherwise would have been disposed of at fire-sale prices, or like future GOP Sen. Alan Simpson, visited fellow Boy Scouts in a Wyoming internment camp.By leaving examples such as these, and similar ones in the civil rights struggle,out of the story, Critical Race Theorists actually are undermining their own cause.Such examples would provide inspiration and role models for white kids, who are not responsible for the past sins of their ancestors, but rather for the present and future of our country.My approach to American history is characterized by a quote from Sen. Carl Schurz, R-Missouri, an immigrant who put his life on the line for his country when many native-born were bent on destroying it: “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”If the Texas Legislature or the boards of regent try to ban that, go ahead, make my day! We don’t need no stinkin’ Critical Race Theory.Just present the unvarnished history of race relations in this country and let the chips fall where they may.Walter D. Kamphoefner teaches history at Texas A&M University, specializing in immigrant and ethnicity and the era of Civil War and Reconstruction.

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