Donna West

Donna West is a former member of the Redlands Unified School District board of trustees.

There has been much discussion about equity and Critical Race Theory (CRT) recently. I expressed my thoughts about equity in an earlier commentary where in a school setting “need” rather than “race” was the determining factor in receiving additional resources.

Our goal was to help raise each student to a level to take advantage of opportunities to succeed. However, there was no promise of equal outcome — that depended on the effort of the student.

Keith Osajima, professor of race and ethnic studies at the University of Redlands, said “West and Clark do not explain how equity efforts and critical race theory actually cause harm,” referring to Harriet Clark, who also wrote about CRT in the Redlands Community News.  

Here are some samples of both:

• Curriculum committees throughout the nation are eliminating “math tracks,” keeping all students in the same math classes until the junior year of high school. Students will no longer be able to take advanced math classes before they graduate. Quality education focuses on the needs of each individual student rather than bringing them into a group where they will not receive individualized instruction. Parents are fighting for math excellence not math equity.

There has been a general trend lowering academic standards because of equity efforts. This limits the education of our children and causes harm.

• In Cupertino, California, an elementary school forced first-graders to deconstruct their racial and sexual identities, and rank themselves according to their “power and privilege.”

• In Springfield, Missouri, a middle school forced teachers to locate themselves on an “oppression matrix,” based on the idea that straight, white, English-speaking, Christian males are members of the oppressor class and must atone for their privilege and “covert white supremacy.”

• And in Seattle, the school district told white teachers that they are guilty of “spirit murder” against black children and must “bankrupt [their] privilege in acknowledgement of [their] thieved inheritanc

This is harmful to our children.

Questions many have concerning CRT influence in our children’s classrooms:

Why is it that parents can make great efforts to teach their children to respect others, be kind and accept differences but at school their children are judged only by the color of their skin?

Their good character is inconsequential.

Children are met with hateful CRT slogans “white privilege,” “white fragility,” “systemic racism,” “silence is violence,” etc. This is harmful to our children.

Why do too many institutions of higher learning get caught away celebrating diversity to the neglect of their primary purpose of preparing our children for future careers and expanding educational horizons? When did merit-based education become racist?

Separate white and black graduations, offering courses and majors that do not prepare our children adequately for their futures, too many policies developed around race. This is harmful to our children.

Why is it that a nation can acknowledge its past mistakes, apologize, improve the lot of many, continue to advance freedom but be judged solely on past failures and present weaknesses?

Mr. Osajima recounted past and present grievances and then declared, “The list goes on and on.”

This constant reciting lists of criticism of our nation, unbalanced by the blessings of our nation, skews the image of the greatest nation on earth. Our children are told that our Constitution was written by “white supremacists.” This is harmful to our children.  

Why is it that teachers, friends and neighbors will tell me privately that they agree with my points but are “afraid” to voice them because of vehement criticism (as I will surely receive!), being canceled or afraid to lose their jobs?

So much for Mr. 0sajima’s “cultivating this environment of openness and curiosity.”

And finally to Mr. Osajima’s plea as a professor of race and ethnic studies at the University of Redlands “to learn more about the complexities of race so that we can chart a course beyond the current divides.”

Unfortunately, he sees through a race lens. Focusing on race does not move us “beyond the current divides.” By acknowledging the needs of all, (not just by race), right wrongs, put resources into programs that lift and encourage personal responsibility and focus on the positive aspects of our great country will heal differences. This is a country, unlike others, where people have the opportunity to live a life that transcends race and rewards the efforts of anyone (of any race or background) with success.

Donna West is a former member of the Redlands Unified School District board of trustees.