Some Critical Thinking About Race

by on July 1, 2021 · 6 comments

in Civil Rights, From the Soul, San Diego

by Ernie McCray

It never ceases to amaze me how we Americans continue to resist discussing the number one problem in our country ever since it came to be: racism.

That resistance has never been more evident than when San Diego City Schools decided to provide students with ethnic studies and anti-racism education and some parents freaked out and decried having CRT, “critical race theory,” taught to their children.

And what they’re fearing is having students understand the role race has played in making the country the way it is today. But how can our children change our society for the better if they don’t know their history?

Back in my teaching days, my approach to creating a vibrant learning environment for my charges was steeped in our nation’s racial history, as my sixth graders heard directly from me how people of my ethnicity had been and still were treated.

They learned that their teacher had sat in the back of the bus and drank from the “colored only” water fountains and swam in the “colored only” swimming pools; that I had been refused service in cafes and sat in the balcony at the movie show and skated at designated “colored only” times at the rink.

I put a human face on whatever was, up to then, their knowledge of race relations in the United States.

So, when Medgar and Martin and Malcolm were assassinated, my students knew what that was all about, that these actions weren’t anomalies, that they followed a

pattern going back centuries.

They were, through me, developing an understanding of what systemic racism can allow in a society, how a country, through its laws and policies, has valued White people over all others.

I was thinking of how such a form of racism can strongly influence how people view their fellow citizens who are different from them when I heard of another ugly local incident involving race.

This situation occurred after a basketball game at Coronado High, a predominantly White school. It involved tortillas being thrown at the players from Orange Glen High who were mostly Latinos.

What struck me the most about this was how the people involved claimed vehemently that their actions had nothing to do with race.

The truth is it was all about race whether the perpetrators admit to that or not. I mean if it wasn’t their intent to act in a racist way then they’ve made a strong case for why critical race theory has a place in our classrooms because they don’t have a sense of how offensive it is to throw food from a people’s culture at them.

You shouldn’t throw any food at anybody ever anyway, but you should definitely not throw tortillas at Mexican Americans or soul food at African Americans or lumpia at Filipino Americans or ramen noodles at Japanese or Chinese Americans or couscous at Arab Americans…

Find another way to show your “school spirit.”

Would these students, all caught up in winning a divisional championship in an exciting overtime game, have acted differently if they had maybe been exposed to a school environment that highlighted ethnic studies and anti-racism education?

Maybe they would have or maybe they wouldn’t have. But they would have known better.

When I taught my students about race it was all about getting them to be sensitive to issues of inequality and unfairness and we always talked about, and wrote about, and sung about, and staged performances about how we could take what we learned and make our world a little better.

Starting in our classroom, in our school, and in our community.

We were, as they say, thinking globally and acting locally.

We were thinking critically about race and in the process combating, in small ways, systemic racism.

Learning should always be about change.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

kh July 1, 2021 at 3:03 pm

It’s possible to teach CRT in schools without indoctrinating the teachers and students. That is the distinction many districts are fighting over. For example, an Islamic teacher should be able to teach about Judaism and vise versa without having to believe any of it. I think all widespread theories and belief systems should be presented, no matter how virtuous, or divisive.

The tortilla tossing was a stupid stunt and the optics should’ve been obvious to anyone planning it. I can’t speak for each individual’s intentions, but I’ve since watched videos of UCSB Gauchos spectators celebrating and even interrupting games by throwing tortillas on the field, to the chagrin of coaches and referees. Including against my alma mater which may be one of the whitest public schools in CA. The moron that planned this stunt is a UCSB alum and Latino. The district and CIF response of firing the coach and penalizing players (and future players) was way out of line. But this is the world we live in now, where knee jerk reactions and fear of the internet/media mob overrides rational discussion.

I want my children to grow up in a world where they learn to challenge and consider all viewpoints, and exercise critical thinking skills. Not be shamed or guilted into silence and conformity.


Ernie McCray July 1, 2021 at 4:11 pm

I’m with you, Kh.


Thomas Gayton July 1, 2021 at 8:22 pm



Chris July 2, 2021 at 6:54 am

As kh pointed out, the individual (Luke Serna) who brought the tortillas is himself Latnio. Whether or not there was any racist intention on his part only he knows. To give him the benefit of the doubt it can be said it was one hell of a stupid stunt given today’s political climate. One would have to be living under a rock to not think it would blow up the way it did. Also why would any former student want to bring their college tradition back to their high school? I’ve never heard of anyone doing that before.
All this being said, there really are two sides to the story. First off, there are in fact non white players on the Coronado team. The team captain is black and so are a few other players. From different accounts I’ve heard and read, some of the Orange Glen players and/or fans were yelling the N word at those Coronado players. If that’s true, surprise surprise, there exists racism from some non whites towards other non whites. Coaches, players and fans on both sides were talking trash, as in really nasty. And now fair or not, the coach on the Coronado team will have to find a new line of work. Any of the Coronado players who were not taking part in the tortilla throwing will have to accept the same punishment the others who did.
I support teaching CRT in our schools. I think it’s appropriate and necessary but sometimes we really need to be more methodical then just a knee jerk blanket punishment for who has the misfortune of being guilty by association.


GML July 2, 2021 at 9:20 am

Thanks Ernie, this is one of the best pieces I’ve ever read on the OB Rag.


Glen July 2, 2021 at 3:16 pm

Keep up the work, Ernie. This is some of your finest writing I’ve read in OBR. Aloha, Brother


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