Following the Black Lives Matter movement, many Americans demanded change not just in the streets but in the classroom as well. Afterwards, the University of Pittsburgh created the mandatory one-credit, asynchronous course, “Anti-Black Racism” for freshman students.
This now two-year-old curriculum states that it teaches “the roots, ideology and resistance to anti-black racism.” However, not everyone is in favor of its teachings, including 2022 Republican U.S. Senatorial Candidate Kathy Barnette. Barnette has also run for Pennsylvania’s 4th Congressional District in 2020 to represent Montgomery County. As a Black woman, Barnette has repeatedly addressed the controversial topic.
“Critical race theory is going to make our country racist again. I feel it,” Barnette said. ”Progressives call themselves progressive. They’re not. They’re actually regressive. They’re taking us back in time … and likewise with critical race theory.”
Critical race theory (CRT) is defined by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund as an “academic and legal framework that denotes that systemic racism is part of American society — from education and housing to employment and healthcare.” Barnette disagrees with this characterization and thinks classes such as “Anti-Black Racism” are harmful.
“We’re churning out little racists,” Barnette said. “And it’s not enough that we’re doing it at the collegiate level. But now they’re trying to bring it into kindergarten, and to first grade, second grade.”
Pitt-Greensburg freshman visual and performing arts major Amanda Henry enrolled in the course this school year and has different thoughts on its curriculum.
“The Anti-Black Racism class is a good idea in theory, but it doesn’t actually engage the students,” Henry said. “If you want to truly leave an impression on the youth of America, especially regarding critical race theory, there has to be more engagement and discussion.”
The class is taught asynchronously online, and students like Henry worry others may skip through the class material without absorbing any of the lessons or theories, allowing them to pass the course without actually thinking critically.
Democratic U.S. Senatorial Candidate and North Philadelphia native, Malcolm Kenyatta, who is also Black, spoke on critical race theory being taught in classrooms and said that he feels it gives students the opportunity to see others’ perspectives.
“Our classrooms should not be political battlefields, and we know that kids learn best when they have windows and mirrors … seeing themselves and people like them … reflected in the [classroom] materials,” Kenyatta said. “But then also having a window into other people’s lives and other people’s experiences. That is when kids learn best.”