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Let Senator Ted Cruz turn a discussion about children’s books into a terrible, horrible, not good, very bad moment. During yesterday’s Senate confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, the judge answered many insightful questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee about his court record and his thinking on the cases that are submitted to him. Senator Cruz also asked him, “Do you think babies…are racist?”
Cruz grilled Jackson on his views on race, racism, and critical race theory, while brandishing a stack of children’s books (the horror!). His apparent problem was that Jackson sits on the board of trustees at Georgetown Day School, an elite private school in Washington D.C. where power players from both sides of the aisle send their children. “If you look at the Georgetown Day School curriculum, it’s filled and overflowing with critical race theory,” Cruz said, holding up books awarded or recommended by the school, though Judge Jackson pointed out that the school board does not set the curriculum.
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Jackson rightly explained that “critical race theory, as an academic theory, is taught in law schools.” Developed over forty years ago as a framework for legal analysis, the theory holds that racism is not just a personal bias, but a social construct sometimes embedded in our laws and institutions. Republicans have weaponized the term to demonize programs that highlight ideas of racism and privilege, but if you’re looking for a CRT in K-12 schools, you usually won’t find it. Like a teacher Recount EdWeek, “The way we usually see all of this in a classroom is, ‘Have I thought about how my black kids are feeling? And made space for them, so they could succeed? This is the level at which I think it remains, for most teachers.
As Cruz railed against racist babies, pointing to the enlarged pages of Ibram X. Kendi anti-racist baby, Jackson reminded her that this moral panic was completely irrelevant to the job she was being interviewed for. “I haven’t reviewed any of these books or any of these ideas,” she said. “They do not appear in my work as a judge, which I am respectfully here to address.”
As irrelevant as Judge Jackson’s Criminal Record Reading List may be, it’s nonetheless a great list, with selections for young children, developing teens, and interested parents. It’s such a great reading list, in fact, that Cruz’s kids can find the same books available in their own school library, like a Twitter user Remarks. So we have compiled a list for your reading pleasure here. Share them with the little ones in your life. Make the senator’s day.
If you’re a parent subjected to all that CRT chatter in schools, or even just someone who cares about what kids are learning, learn about the true definition of critical race theory with this volume. essential. Now in its third edition, updated with information about Black Lives Matter and Barack Obama’s presidency, this book was written by the academics who coined the term. Get your information straight from the source, not right-wing posts.
Of course, Cruz would balk at this galvanizing and deeply researched work of non-fiction, which advocates redirecting police and prison resources toward education, economic development, drug treatment, and social justice. The author Noted on Twitter that, thanks to Cruz, sales of the book skyrocketed, making it the #1 government social policy bestseller on Amazon.
In this pivotal text, Kendi argues that rejecting racism is insufficient – instead we must practice anti-racism, which requires “persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.” Racism, as Kendi illuminates in these pages, is not simply a matter of hatred and ignorance; rather, it is a vicious structural force rooted in the bedrock of American society, infecting everything from community policing to housing policy. But hey, if you ask Cruz, a just and fair society is a bridge too far.
Another pick from Kendi, this one aimed at younger kids. “Do you agree with this book that teaches children that babies are racist?” Cruz asked Jackson. The senator deliberately misinterprets this charming board book, which sets the stage for stimulating conversations and encourages children to be the force for change and inclusivity they want to see in the world.
Shit, what’s Cruz’s problem with Kendi? The author takes up a lot of ground in the senator’s head. Kendi won the National Book Award for this comprehensive cultural history of racist thought in the United States, which connects the dots between our nation’s racist ideas and racially discriminatory policies. During Judge Jackson’s hearing, Cruz called Stamp an “amazing” book. He didn’t mean that as a compliment, but if Cruz hates a book, that’s how we know it’s good.
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