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Christopher Smart: There is no racism here. Not really.

Do Utah Republicans really think there is no racism in America?

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, speaks, standing with other House Democrats who walked out of the House Chamber as Republicans moved to debate resolution on teaching critical race theory in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 19, 2021.

OK, if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? Well, it’s the same thing with racism, if you don’t see it, then, well...

That’s why critical race theory is so dangerous, said state Sen. Todd Weiler, a Republican from Woods Cross. “A lot of parents, they’re afraid — they’re afraid that critical race theory may be used in schools to shame their children.”

And who wants to shame white kids.

So, Republicans on Utah’s Capitol Hill passed a resolution to stop the teaching of whatever it is that critical race theory is — after all, it could be lots of things.

“It might be that white above black or black above white, or purple above red,” said Senate President Stuart Adams, a Republican from Layton.

“It’s hard to put your finger on it,” agreed Sen. Lincoln Fillmore from South Jordan who sponsored the resolution. “I have no idea what it is,” he said. “I looked up two dozen definitions and they all were different.”

But who cares what it is, because systemic racism really doesn’t exist here. We know that because Republican lawmakers said their voicemail boxes were filled with angry calls from white constituents to keep critical race theory out of our schools because, more of less, this isn’t a racist country. And the fact that critical race theory isn’t taught in Utah’s public K-12 classrooms is no reason not to panic.

Some say the critical race theory would have us recognize that racism is a daily fact of life for many men, women and children and we should be aware of how it became entrenched in our political and legal systems.

Rep. Steve Christiansen, a West Jordan Republican, said bad stuff like that must not be repeated around kids. “I think we can agree that those kinds of things should not be taught in our educational institutions in this in this great state.”

All 17 Democrats in the House walked out in protest, which was a total bummer for Republicans who like large audiences. How in the world could they get up and leave just because the Republicans wanted to make sure that America’s racism isn’t taught in Utah schools.

Education should focus on the good things in this country, like how Republicans want to make sure everyone can vote, even if they’re Black or Latino. And how everyone can have the American dream and move into a white neighborhood, no matter what color they are. And how if you are Black or brown the police won’t treat you differently than white people.

Were it only true. In her recent book, “The Sum of Us,” Heather McGhee writes: “There are many white Americans who think of themselves as non-racist fiscal conservatives and who are sincerely unaware of the influence of race on their judgements. Then there are the increasing numbers of white Americans who are aware of the influence of racism but don’t acknowledge it — further still, they claim that it’s the liberals and the people of color that are the racists.”

We might ask our Republican brothers and sisters on Capitol Hill to which group they belong. Are they really unaware that racism is baked into American culture or do they fall into the second group that contends it’s really black and brown people who are the racists.

Christopher Smart

Christopher Smart is a freelance journalist in Salt Lake City and the author of Smart Bomb, which appears in City Weekly.

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