The miscommunication and disinformation (“misleading on purpose”) about Critical Race Theory (CRT) and abolitionism are far bigger than simply arguing about academic theories and frameworks. Fortunately, our intimate understanding of these ways of engaging in the world far exceeds the futile calls to ban their existence. To us, they are beyond political spin. They are the spiritual, intellectual, and psychological “Blackprint” (borrowing from the hosts of the Black Gaze podcast) that have anchored the Black diaspora and other People of Color in our survival. CRT and abolitionism are the historical and cultural truths that are part of our generational blessings, healing, and heritage.
These liberatory practices were born out of love, fortitude, pain, and perseverance. CRT is about the importance of hearing our stories, knowing our truths, being empowered to live our full existence beyond the social construct of race, and striving towards excellence in our own image. Abolitionism is about healing the damage created by oppressive systems by the dismantling of those systems. It is, in fact, the truest form of my favorite quote by philosopher activist Cornel West which is “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Thus, Critical Race Theory and abolitionism intersect with critical, radical love.
Funny thing about love, though. Love, the truest form of love, is steeped in truth. A higher-level truth that basic people have a hard time recognizing, articulating and ingesting. The truth hurts, like a hot comb-to-ear kind of hurt. That is what we are seeing now: A racial flinching; a political spasm from those who either directly or indirectly uphold white supremacist patriarchal capitalism.
However, Isaiah 61:8 reminds us that God loves justice. CRT and abolitionism is Justice Work.
That said, we know that CRT and abolitionism are not only about what we “learn.” It is and has always been about who we are and how we actively navigate and dismantle oppression. We saw them at work when communities prayed and mobilized to support Mamie Till-Mobley as she fought for justice for Emmett Till, her murdered son in 1955. We see that same spirit present day during the fight for Black Lives and against voter suppression, while simultaneously working to support families dealing with food insecurity during this pandemic. Similarly, we saw it from the legendary actor activist Sidney Poitier and how he exemplified CRT in his acting roles and the ways in which he supported the Civil Rights Movement. We hold fast to the same spirit as we heal our trauma with Resmaa Menakem and My Grandmother’s Hands.
CRT and abolitionism existed when Ida B. Wells worked to expose the barbarism of lynchings and in Nikole Hannah Jones’ 1619 Project. CRT and abolitionism is felt in Maya Angelou’s “And Still I Rise” and in the historical and physical nourishment in every dish in Leah Chase’s “And Still I Cook.” Most recently, we witnessed CRT and abolitionsim when Reverend Al Sharpton and Pastor Jamal Bryant “pulled up” to support Ahmad Aubrey’s family during the trial of his murderers.
We felt CRT and abolitionism when Angela Davis and Nikki Giovanni reflected on their decades of activism and friendship, and while Ilyasah Shabazz and Bernice King shared stories of their parents’ all-encompassing love (both moderated by GirlTrek). We have heard it in the powerful words of Sonia Sanchez and Sonya Renee Taylor. The power is steadfast like each time Laverne Cox commands any stage she speaks on to advocate for and re-member Trans women of color. CRT and abolitionism feels free and unapologetic to us because they are us.
As I stated at the onset, the attempt to drive CRT and abolitionism out of existence is futile at best. CRT and abolitionism are movement, art, life, sound, and energy. And, as the Law of Conservation of Energy states, energy cannot be created or destroyed…
we simply move from one form to the next.
By Kecia Brown