ST ALBANS-- Two crowds, one night: As Vermonters for Vermont presented their evening of speakers criticizing critical race theory in the St. Albans City Auditorium, hundreds gathered on the Taylor Park green amidst tie-dye stations, long tables of salads and barbecue fare, and lawn games for Neighbors for a Safer Saint Albans’ first Community Rally for Togetherness.
Brittanica defines critical race theory as an “intellectual movement and loosely-organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially-constructed (culturally invented) category used to oppress and exploit people of colour. A founding principal of critical race theory is that the law and legal institutions in the United States are inherently racist insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans.”
Fifty people attended the evening event in City Hall hosted by Gregory Thayer of Vermonters for Vermont to talk about critical race theory, share poetry and their thoughts on why critical race theory should not be taught in the school systems.
But when asked, founding member of Neighbors for a Safer St. Albans said the theory isn’t present in public school curriculum.
“Critical Race Theory isn't being taught in our schools,” said Reier Erickson. “CRT is a Master's level education theory that wouldn't be even usable among K-12 students.”
Presenters in City Hall including former Vermont legislator Linda Kirker called for citizens to seize control of school curriculum to ensure that teachers weren’t teaching their students information that wasn’t vetted by the community.
“Jesus loves the little children of the world,” sang speaker Ellie Martin of Vermont Grassroots in City Hall when describing her first encounters with information around communism. “When you’re brought up with that, what chance is there that you’re going to become a racist? I’m not a racist.”
Meanwhile, on the Taylor Park green hundreds gathered to spread their picnic blankets and lawn chairs to feast in an event complete with a full-sized grill, game and activity stations and instruments in tow to hear speakers, performances by the Freedom and Unity Chorus, and play games.
“Finally, many Vermont educators are speaking out and bravely speaking the truth,” said Alyssa Chen, coordinator for the Education Justice Coalition of Vermont. “As attacks on the Critical Race Theory boogeyman sweep across Vermont, we are writing to take a strong stance for many teaching about race, for teaching the truth of our history, and for moving forward as a society to dismantle systemic racism and other forms of oppression.”
John Klar of the Vermont Liberty Network alleged that Critical Race Theory was inherently unconstitutional, and repeatedly related CRT to a religion or cult, claiming that it used the Bill of Rights as an enemy to liberty and prohibiting the recognition of race.
“If you don’t bow to this cult, you are by definition, evil,” Klar said. “Critical race theory is much more like the eugenics and nazism movements….this has happened with Pol Pot, its happened with Mao, its happened with Stalin...how do you award BIPOC people, Abenaki, how do you give them money from white people when you can’t identify who they are?”
Chen spoke out against anti CRT movements and said they made the experiences of black, indigenous and people of color invisible.
“Boiled down to its essence, CRT simply believes that systemic racism exists and is embedded in all aspects of society,” Chen said. “We must remember that resistance is a sign that we are making change!”
UVM professor Aaron Kindsvatter spoke at City Hall, and said in his counseling practice he finds people, especially ‘young people,’ often choose to ‘take up the cause’ of CRT because they fear the repercussions of standing against it, and end up ‘recruiting’ others.
“This is what makes CRT so very effective and so very pernicious,” Kindsvatter said. “It fundamentally gives those on whom it is inflicted a choice between temporary status as a good person who is doing the work. Work which is purposefully never clearly defined so as to make it indefinite...CRT gives a person a choice between being valued as a human, or being dismissed as a problem...and that is no choice at all.”
Calls for Kindsvatter's resignation echoed around Burlington earlier this year after he published a video claiming he was being discriminated against for being white.
Those who don't support CRT he said, are relegated to silence, and he said CRT as a theory defined reason as “problematic,” and related those who taught CRT as “ideological predators,” who used vulnerable students to gratify themselves and their inherent shame.
Others, still, alleged CRT was a communist ideology.
“How are we to know that marxism and communism is at the root of everything that we see. Is at the root of black lives matter...What are you going to do about the Black Lives Matter flag in our schools?” alleged Ellie Martin. “They’ve decided that they want to repopulate Vermont and so we see a lot more black people now than I saw as a girl.”
“Anyone saying that (about CRT) has a complete lack of understanding of its foundation,” Erickson said. “It was formed as a scholarly movement in the 1970s by an America civil rights lawyer and Black teacher at Harvard. While critical theory has its origins in the Frankfurt School, all post modern critical theory, which CRT is, has no relation to the Frankfurt School. Comparing the two would be like comparing Lincoln Republicans to modern-day Republicans. They are, in virtually no way, the same.”
During their discourse, Chen urged supporters to trust the future generations and educational institutions to understand and teach CRT as a tool to understand and unify society around a universal truth.
“Students deserve to understand themselves and the world around them,” Chen said. “We can trust young people to have meaningful discussions about complex topics. Teaching about race and racism unites across differences as we move towards more honestly understanding each others experiences instead of assuming what we know.”