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Thursday, May 26th, 2022
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MADISON — Wisconsin public school teachers got a crash course in “A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements” during a professional development meeting in February.

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) conducts monthly webinars to provide Wisconsin’s public school teachers with advanced training on critical race theory (CRT). CRT is a highly-controversial, divisive, race-based philosophy that liberals fight fanatically to advance while denying it even exists.

In February, DPI brought in Charlene Carruthers for its equity webinar series to talk about social transformation. Carruthers is a community organizer and PhD student at Northwestern University who specializes in “interrogating historical conjunctures of Black freedom-making post-emancipation and decolonial revolution, Black governance, Black feminist and queer theory,” according to her website.

“We’re going up against 300 years plus, at least of it being a formal state, of white supremacy, of patriarchy and of capitalism,” she told the teachers.

Those also are the core principles of CRT, which describes all aspects of American history and society within that framework. Although Carruthers’ life is dedicated to that work, she claims she’s not sure what people mean when they refer to CRT.

“I’m a black studies scholar, I cannot tell- I think could tell you what critical race theory is, and I can tell you for sure it is not the most radical thing to come out… ha! Wait until you hear what we really think, what we really believe in!” she told teachers during the session.

DPI’s in-house education consultant Chrissy Thuli was nodding and laughing as Carruthers made that admission.

Carruthers is a vocal advocate of the defund the police movement. She referenced Freedom Inc’s work in Madison for the #PoliceFreeSchools campaign. Freedom Inc. played a key leadership role during the riots that destroyed downtown Madison in 2020.

The young people who lead this campaign had experiences in their schools that said cops in our schools are actually not keeping us safe. They are not creating a safe environment for us,” she said

Carruthers says police officers are the last people she wants to see during a crisis.

“What they do is they show up with guns, and they show up with no actual expertise on how to deal with crisis.”

For situations involving “intimate partner violence,” Carruthers says “community-based crisis intervention teams” should respond instead of police.

“If I’m in a mental health crisis, I want a trained mental health professional whose directives are to listen to the people around me, whose directives are to care for me – not with a gun. Because an overwhelming amount of black people who are shot and killed by police officers in this country are also people who are living with mental health challenges,” she explained.

Carruthers organized her talk around “five questions for social change.” Those included: Who am I, who are my people, what do we want, what are we building, and are we going to win? She provided ample context to those questions, but got wishy-washy when it came to direct answers.

“Some people might say actually what we want to build is something that is outside of the state or something that is adjacent to the state or something that is within it,” she said cryptically.

How will they get it? Carruthers is skeptical of elections as a way of achieving the change she wants.

“One could argue that it is necessary for us to have black people in elected office. It is not sufficient. It is not enough. Having someone who is reflective or representative of your community and identity and background, does not tell you anything about their politics. How they’re going to vote. What kind of legislation they’re going to advocate for,” she said. “We actually deserve a lot more.”

DPI’s monthly “Education Equity Leadership” webinars each feature three guest speakers like Carruthers. Future subjects include “Guide for White Women (Educators) Teaching Black Boys,” and “Teaching When the World Stays on Fire: The Need for Educators’ Political Clarity.”

Read more at the MacIver Institute.

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