EL PASO, Texas -- Critical race theory (CRT) is taking center stage after police shootings of unarmed African Americans, and following the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol by groups such as the Oath Keepers and other followers of now-former President Donald Trump.
On ABC-7 Xtra Sunday edition at 10:35 p.m., host Saul Saenz asks billionaire philanthropist and historian JP Bryan, as well as a local high school teacher, what they believe CRT is, and if it should be taught in classrooms.
The encyclopedia Britannica defines CRT as an intellectual movement based on the premise that race is not a natural or biological grounded feature of humans, but a socially-invented category used to oppress people of color.
The theory contends institutions in the U.S. are inherently racist and maintain social, economic and political inequalities between whites and non-whites.
It is taking center stage in today's society as educators, civil rights groups, corporations and politicians try to grapple with the theory, how it impacts us and what should be taught in schools.
Take for instance a magnifying glass. It gives us only one perspective of how we look at things. But shine the light on the same magnifying glass from a side view, and it gives you a prism effect, different versions of the same view.
The theory has become divisive, as some say critical race theory is being used to blame the color of a person's own skin for racism now and throughout history.
Opponents say the past should remain in the past and that systems in place, which largely benefit one race, should remain in place: Slavery is behind us; If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Proponents say slavery and inequity are part of the country's DNA and are still alive today. Just days ago, Republican Florida Congressman Michael Waltz questioned the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen. Mark Milley, about CRT being taught at West Point.
"The seminar that over a hundred cadets attended titled 'understanding whiteness and white rage' is taught by a woman who described the Republican party platform as a platform of white supremacy. This is going on at West Point, as we speak, to our future military leaders," Waltz contended.
"I do think it's important, actually, for those of us in uniform, to be open-minded and be widely read. And the United State's Military Academy is a university. And it is important that we train and we understand. And I want to understand white rage. And I'm white, and I want to understand it. So what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out," Milley responded.
He continued: "I've read Mao Zedong, I've read Karl Marx, I've read Lenin. And that doesn't make me a communist. So what is wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding, about the country which we are here to defend? And I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned and non-commissioned officers of being woke of something because we are studying some theories that are out there."
Nearly two-dozen states have introduced or passed bills against critical race theory. Here in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott signed two new laws - one of those, House bill 3979 deals with social studies in the classroom. It does not compel the teacher to instruct students on a particular or controversial current event. However, it does ask the teacher to explore different perspectives of the issue.
The second bill signed into law by Abbott is the 1836 project. The project calls for the creation of a 9-person commission to promote Texas history and values. It includes the printing of pamphlets with the state's history that will available to anyone who applies for a Texas driver's license. Those pamphlets will also be placed at state parks and monuments. The issue at hand is who decides what is printed? What version of history will it provide?