Critical Race Theory is not, in fact, theoretical

Mike Moroski wants to clear some things up: The newly controversial Critical Race Theory (CRT) has been around for a long time. It’s not a rewriting of history, as some people fear, but a deep-dive into all versions of the past that have shaped our country.

“All Critical Race Theory means, quite simply and quite non-combatively, is that when we look at the history of the United States of America and we teach the history of the United States of America, we do so through a lens of equity, meaning we teach the whole history,” he explains.

With this method, schools create critically thinking students, a valuable life skill.

He says that when he was growing up, history was taught in a linear way, but in reality, history is multi-faceted.

“Critical Race Theory seeks to uncover those, look at the different version of history that have shaped this country,” he says, “and do what schools are supposed to do, which is create critically thinking citizens that do well by the common good.”

Still, there are dissenters, although Moroski hasn’t heard of any in the Cincinnati Public district.

“I try to help [people] understand that just by acknowledging that somebody else has a different take or perspective on what happened in this country, it doesn’t take away from your history,” he says. “It’s all real.”

The newly adapted African American history curriculum is great, he says, and although it will be used universally, teachers of all subjects have happily adapted it to fit their classes, including English/Language Arts, Social Studies, and even Health.

“Most of our CPS schools are pretty diverse, the loudest push against is coming from parents in schools that are 90% white,” he says.

In other words, parents who don’t live in the district.

One woman in Loveland — who doesn’t have kids in the district — demanded copies of every curriculum in each school that mentioned racism.

“I hope they’re happy, to pick on children in urban school districts who they don’t like. There are people who don’t like our kids,” he says. “That’s part of fuels what I do.”

Another reason he doesn’t like the term “Critical Race Theory” — aside from the fact that it fuels parental paranoia — is that there are people protesting that they are not racist, they just don’t want their kids learning about slavery.

“’I Had a Dream’ is the only thing white people ever talk about,” he says.

And he’s not wrong — protestors outside of the Forrest Hills school board meetings held signs that said “MLK not CRT.”

Moroski is the partnership policy manager at Cradle Cincinnati, which means that he is the lobbyist for Black infant and maternal mortality. He also handles housing and transportation workforce policies. Along with that, he’s a board member for Cincinnati Public Schools. Both jobs make him passionate about anti-racist work.
 
“I was taught in school many, many times — and I believed this until probably my late 30s that the GI Bill helped veterans secure housing after WWII. In reality many banks refused approve loans for Black veterans, resulting in less than 100 out of 67,000 mortgages going to non-white people. And that’s part of the reason it’s nearly impossible for Black people to build up equity."

Moroski grandparents immigrated from Poland and faced many obstacles, but he admits that they had at least a slight advantage being white — they were treated better than the Black people in America.

“Admitting that there was an advantage, it does not take away from my grandfather’s hard work on the railroad,” he says. “People’s sense of self — their self-identity — is threatened by even having to admit that maybe the mantra that they were brainwashed to believe that America is the land of opportunity and that they got what they got through hard work might have some addendums.”

Moroski’s wish is for a safe, supportive, respectful environment for all kids, no matter what they look like and where they came from. He believes that there’s something to be said for people to look like him to learn from people who don’t look like him.

“The reactionary fear of Critical Race Theory is that somehow, teaching it, is an effort to make white people, white children feel guilty,” he says. “And that’s not it. What I’ve said to people who say that to me is, ‘Well if you do feel badly, or your child feels badly about some the things they learn, use it as an opportunity’”

“Maybe we should feel badly,” he continues. “It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person; nobody is saying your experience is invalid, but maybe we shouldn’t feel good about the fact that we made it quite literally impossible for Black people to build equity in this country.”

He’s well aware of his white privilege and is committed to using it for good — lessons imparted by his immigrant grandparents and passed down to his parents.

“I got busted by the federal police for some pretty serious drug charges a month before my 18th birthday,” he says. And it’s not on my record. It’s not on my record because I’m white and my dad had the money to hire me a lawyer.”

Moroski goes on to explain that there are kids at Cincinnati Public who are younger than he was when they committed less serious offenses. They now have juvenile records. His concern is that many of these kids end up dropping out of high school.

“I want the kids in the Cincinnati Public School district who don’t look like me to be able to go to college and get degrees and do the things that they want to do — if they want to,” he says. “Right now, the fact is, if you’re a 17-year-old kid busted by the federal police with drugs and you don’t have the family infrastructure due to generations of privilege to stick up for you, that’s a different story. My story would have ended very differently.”

Read more articles by Jessica Esemplare.

Jessica Esemplare is the managing editor of Soapbox Cincinnati and a graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Shortly after completing her degree in magazine journalism, she began covering local and regional topics at The Cincinnati Herald and, later, as an editor at Ohio Magazine. Her writing has also been featured in U.S. News and World Report.
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