Texas policy group shares—then deletes—ridiculous list of critical race theory 'buzzwords'

Before we get into the Texas Public Policy Foundation deleting its ridiculous CRT graphic, let's be crystal clear about the fact that the state of Texas was quite literally founded on racism.

That's not an opinion from modern critical race theory scholars, but a statement of fact—"undeniable truths"—straight from the mouth of Texas itself in 1861. Just take a moment and let these excerpts sink in:

"We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable." The state of Texas describing why it wanted to secede from the Union, 1861

Texas's self-stated reasons for secession include the non-slaveholding states having "an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color—a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law."

Texas also explains, "That in this free government *all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights* [emphasis in the original]; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations..."

Oh, and there's also this little tidbit: "She [Texas] was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery—the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits—a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time."

So to sum up, Texas stated in no uncertain terms that it 1) was founded for white people to be able to enslave Black people because that's what God wanted, 2) that slavery was not a "necessary evil" but was actually good, 3) that racial equality was against nature and Divine law, and 4) that's the way it was intended to be for all time.

But sure, let's not talk about "oppressors" or "power structures" or "white supremacy" or "ethnocentricity" as we teach kids the history of our nation. It's not like the primary source excerpts above reek of such ideas.

This morning, the Texas Public Policy Foundation shared—then deleted—a graphic with a list of terms they claim are indicative of critical race theory (CRT) being taught in children's classrooms. Terms like those above, as well as "anti-racism," "unconscious bias," "identity," "social constructs" and more, are apparently words parents need to "stay on the lookout for" as they hunt for clues that their children are being taught the full spectrum of history and racism in the U.S. (now distilled and demonized into a bogeyman known as CRT).

The Texas Public Policy Foundation's stated mission is "to promote and defend liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise in Texas and the nation," so of course it would advocate banning an entire academic field of study, including any words that liberty-loving lawmakers deem even slightly related to it.

It's probably just a coincidence that the terminology listed here comes largely from the work of Black and Brown scholars specializing in the role of race in American history and society. Surely, this isn't a mostly white power structure pushing the 95% white Texas Republican lawmakers to "cancel" anything that touches on how Texas's objectively racist history might possibly impact people in the present. That would just be far too on-the-nose with what CRT explains.

Maybe that's why they took the tweet down. Or maybe the backlash was just too much.

It is entirely possible for people to have legitimate criticism of and debates about critical race theory. But such debates take place in law school classrooms or other higher education settings among people who have actually studied it in-depth and actually know what they're talking about, not between people who spend their days consuming 280-character hot takes and their evenings sucking down soundbites from cable television hosts.

What we're seeing in current public discourse is not informed debate. What we're seeing is a deliberate attempt to paint the racial reckoning that this country has long needed to go through as "dangerous" by highlighting and misrepresenting certain CRT concepts, lumping everything having to do with anti-racism under that umbrella, and convincing people that their children—think of the chilllldrennnnn—are being "indoctrinated" with it in schools.

The "Reefer Madness"-style hysteria over CRT would be hilarious if it weren't so harmful to progress. We've just finally gotten around to teaching (some) true history when it comes to race. My generation didn't learn about Juneteenth or the Tulsa Race Massacre. We didn't read the Declaration of the Causes of Secession to see how blatantly some of those Southern states justified and defended the enslavement of Black people with unapologetic racism. And that's just basic history.

Critical race theory is a method of understanding how that history, and the laws and policies that came along with it, have impacted racial groups differently. It explores the possibility that disparate outcomes along racial lines are due to systems and structures that serve to maintain the status quo rather than some inherent deficiency in certain races. To call CRT "racist" because it acknowledges and explores the effect of hundreds of years of white supremacist oppression (again, see Texas's own words above as just one example), and because that exploration might make white people feel bad, is just silly.

(For a good synopsis of the current debates over CRT in education, what it is and what it isn't, see this article from Education Week.)

It's possible to learn about CRT fully and not agree with every part of it. It's also possible to learn about CRT as a white person and say, "Yeah, that makes sense. Race is a social construct, but a powerful one. White people have held the power in this country since colonial times and often used racism to keep it. Over hundreds of years, through various power structures (government, courts, policymaking groups, educational systems, etc.), we enslaved Black people, murdered and displaced Native Americans, made laws against immigrants from certain ethnic groups, made laws against integration, made laws against interracial marriage, put Japanese citizens into concentration camps, etc. Surely, that history has had an impact on the present and there are surely residual negative effects that need to be remedied. It makes sense that different racial groups have different roles to play in that remedy, with white people bearing the greatest responsibility since we've always benefitted from that history and we still hold the most power."

That's my simplified version of what I understand CRT to be exploring. There's nothing scary or dangerous in there that I can see. Some of it can be easily misconstrued by bad faith actors or people who plug their ears as soon as they hear the word "racism," but reality is reality.

Figuring out the solutions to racial issues in the U.S. is obviously a complex endeavor. But we will get absolutely nowhere by canceling an entire academic field designed to explore those issues. And to rail against terminology that would make it impossible to accurately teach your own state's history is quite telling.

Way to reinforce the very concept you're attempting to attack, Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

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"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

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