Critical Race Theory has firmly cemented its place among the most discussed topics of 2021, with many members of the media and the academic community sharing their thoughts on how American racism has shaped our history, policies, laws and education.
The core idea of the theory is that race is a social construct that divides people by creating a hierarchy in society that affects political power, laws, social organization, education, health and outcomes. Critical Race Theory, according to some, forces people into one of two categories: victim or oppressor. Many critics claim it discriminates against whites.
However, there are some who believe Critical Race Theory, which dates back to the 1960s, can improve racial issues by providing diversity training and education to different disciplines.
The topic has spurred such a wide-reaching debate that many states are seeking to ban it before it is thoroughly examined.
But it begs the question: how does Critical Race Theory and its related discourse impact indigenous people?
Far too often, Native Americans—who account for roughly 2 percent of the U.S. population—become a footnote in discussions surrounding racial inequality. The topic of race is being hashed out on a national level, but indigenous people are seldom included in the discussion in meaningful ways. Make no mistake: we need to have voices in this arena, because the ongoing erasure of indigenous people will not be tolerated.
If included, indigenous people can steer the narrative, the educational aspects provided to various disciplines, and have a say in how much access Critical Race Theorists have to our culture, language, and history. Fundamentally, the concepts of racism, beliefs, and outcomes affect our children. If our children are old enough to experience racism, children from other races and ethnicities are old enough to learn the repercussions of their actions.
All of these different ideas, intellectual debates, and universal values may evolve as more people become exposed to different viewpoints. Yet, the subtext of Critical Race Theory is to equalize the playing field by exposing the damaging and demoralizing issues our children constantly face. And that cannot happen—really happen—without the contributions of First Nations individuals.
Critical Race Theory is still in limbo and some question its constitutionality due to its implications of race, lack of solutions and the aforementioned alleged increase in divisiveness. Conservatives have longed feared socialist and Marxist ideology in school systems and how the exposure would harm students. As schools become more diverse, cultural representation is more needed than ever before and indigenous people must be there to help lead the charge.
But first, we need a seat at the table.