There’s a lot of talk about critical race theory, also known as CRT, across the U.S. As with anything controversial and complicated, we’ve come across some misinformation and lots of posts that could use some explanation.
Defining critical race theory
Let’s start out by defining the term itself. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, critical race theory is the idea that “race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour.” Basically, it teaches that racism is embedded in our society on purpose.
Background research on CRT
When you begin background research, you will find articles that say that The New York Times’ “1619 Project” and the George Floyd Protests revitalized conversation around the theory.
In 2019, on the 400th anniversary of the first ship of slaves arriving in the U.S., The New York Times published the “1619 Project.” The collection of essays reframed America’s founding around slavery and its legacy. While not strictly critical race theory, it brought some of the main ideas of the theory to the general public’s attention.
Then-President Donald Trump reacted to The New York Times, stating that they “warped, distorted, and defiled the American story with deceptions, falsehoods, and lies” and issued an executive order to create the 1776 Commission to “promote patriotic education.”
Although debates about CRT are exploding around the country, according to NBC News, “Virtually all school districts insist they are not teaching critical race theory, but many activists and parents have begun using it as a catch-all term to refer to what schools often call equity programs, teaching about racism or LGBTQ-inclusive policies.”
Through a few Google searches, I learned that during social justice protests in 2020, activists aimed to fight systemic racism and educators wanted to explain to their students why people were protesting. Police killings are a prime example, according to critical race theorists, of how it’s actually whole systems — like policing — that are racist, not just biased individual cops. Some educators thought aspects of CRT could help.
Opponents criticized CRT and subjects related to it as unpatriotic and attempts to “rewrite” history. Some have said that this will strengthen lines of division between races. It became a political buzzword and conservative rallying cry.
CRT becomes part of the national and state politics
On May 14, Republican legislators introduced a bill banning the teaching of critical race theory in federal institutions. This spurred statewide school board movements against CRT. Now, 25 states are making moves to ban the teaching of CRT from their schools. Eight have already successfully banned it.
With such a hotly debated and emotionally charged topic, there’s bound to be misinformation spreading on your social media feeds.
We came across this Instagram post claiming, “The Georgia Board of Education has banned any discussion on race, racial inequality, racism, meritocracy, white privilege, etc in schools.” Specifically, we are going to focus on whether the Georgia Board of Education banned any discussion of race in schools.
Who’s behind the information?
It’s always good to first ask who’s behind the information to see if there’s some bias. It adds context to posts we’re fact-checking. First, we’re going to jump off Instagram into a few new tabs and use lateral reading to find out more about the source behind this claim.
If we check out some of the Linktree links in the Voice of the People Georgia bio and read laterally across those tabs, we find out a few important details: First, this is a lobbying organization, which means they are active in politics, and second, they are associated with Democratic lawmaker Kim Schofield.
Knowing that this post is coming from a source that is likely against these bans on CRT is important to know as we move forward in our fact check.
What’s the evidence?
Let’s try to answer the second important question to ask when fact-checking a post: What’s the evidence?
The post mentions a resolution that states that teaching certain lessons reminiscent of CRT “violates the premises of individual rights, equal opportunity, and individual merit underpinning our constitutional republic.”
The language seems like a quote from a legal document, even though it doesn’t use quotation marks. Let’s do another quick Google search to find out where this quote is from. This is called reading upstream. It’s when you follow a trail until you find the original source of a quote, statistic, image or other piece of evidence. In this case, we are looking for who said this particular statement.
When you’re looking for a quote, try to include as many words as possible, and add quotation marks in your search to make sure all of the words included pop up in the results. When we search the words on the slide, we get this article from local ABC station WTVM.
It includes a copy of the resolution that was passed by the Georgia Board of Education. In the second paragraph, we see the quote the Instagram post used, along with lots of other legal guidelines we can use to vet this claim.
The guidelines in the resolution say that no teacher can state that “one race or sex is inherently superior to the other” or that someone “bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by a member of the same race.” There are a lot of restrictions on teaching about different aspects of race — but no outright ban on any conversations about race.
What are other sources saying?
We should answer the third important question to ask before sharing something you see online: What are other sources saying? It’s always good to fill in more context by seeing what other credible sources are saying about the topic or claim. So, it’s time for more lateral reading!
This time we plugged the keywords “Georgia Board of Education” and “teaching race” into Google. The first thing that pops up is an article from Georgia Public Radio. But it doesn’t explain whether this resolution bans the teaching race. Good thing we’re opening multiple tabs.
Next, we found an NBC News story with this headline: “Georgia school officials condemn some teaching about race.” It goes on to explain, “The resolution is symbolic and does not impose restrictions on school districts or teachers, though it could lead to binding rules in the future.”
Misinformation that builds on a little bit of truth and plays on emotions can be the most dangerous. If you were angry about bans on teaching CRT, this exaggerated post may feel true. Maybe you almost want it to be true because it reinforces an opinion you’re passionate about.
These sources confirm that the Georgia Board of Education passed a resolution — and that there are plenty of guidelines in it restricting certain discussions about race — but they don’t support the claim made in the Instagram post that all discussion of race in schools is banned. We rate this claim a “mixed bag.” Remember to check your emotions when you see a post before sharing it.