Anu Taranath’s book Beyond Guilt Trips: Mindful Travel in an Unequal World is a great book about diversity, equity and inclusion, and multicultural education that does not employ a critical race theory lens. This is as significant as it is rare. It is decidedly not militant, while also being very honest and forthright about the shortcomings of society and global travel and white privilege.
I said it isn’t based in critical race theory, but what is critical race theory? Critical theory, not critical race theory, emerged after WWII’s Holocaust as a response to the problem of how to do intellectual labor, and what it would mean to practice critical thinking, after the trauma and devastation wrought by the mass murder of Jews. It seems that this would be a hopeless endeavor, but as one of my critical theory professors reminded us in a seminar, if it were truly hopeless, the authors wouldn’t have written the books that they did: to write is to hope.
Critical theory is socialist and often Marxist and, once the American Civil Rights Movement took place, something called critical race theory (CRT) emerged based on Marx’s theories of class struggle and violent revolution and racial justice. Mix this with ethnic studies and you get a sense of how this could be dangerous, given that ethnic studies acts like regular American history is only white history, which is false. Critical race theory was just banned in Idaho, where I am a student, and it has kind of been a relief to be studying and knowing that my school won’t be raising me to be a very specific type of activist. It’s like I can return to real education again.
I have a quote on my desk attributed to Mother Teresa that reads: “You will teach them to fly, but they will not fly your flight. You will teach them to dream, but they will not dream your dream. You will teach them to live, but they will not live your life. Nevertheless, in every flight, in every life, in every dream, the print of the way you taught them will remain.”
This is what education is about, not social justice agendas and indoctrination. And so I guess you could say I am against critical race theory. And yet, the world is not without its racial injustice, and we should still talk about it. Enter Anu Taranath’s book. It is logical about the problems of the world, and the reality of white supremacy, but it is like this in a way such that even conservatives can get on board. And the sane left.
Taranath is a professor, speaker and facilitator based out of the University of Washington, where she holds a professorship. I said I would integrate her book with world language instruction a couple of posts ago, but have lost steam with this since getting back into the classroom recently. But the fragments of my thinking are still there, and basically, I believe that to be totally decolonial is to instill in students a new type of supremacy that is actively against white people; but at the same time, we cannot not, as we argue against ethnic studies and decolonial education, forget that the history of the United States, and of the world, really, has been based in laws that are actually racially unjust and privilege white people. And of histories that intentionally hide this fact.
Taranath’s book gives me hope because it is integrative, in that it deals with all of these facets, while not being militant against white people.