Bob Buckley for The Examiner: We Need to Examine and Understand All of America’s History

July 15, 2021 

Bob Buckley, partner at White, Graham, Buckley & Carr, is a regular columnist for The Examiner of East Jackson County. In his latest column, Buckley Shares his views on critical race theory, a hot topic around the country. He also compares what he’s recently learned about the state of Black people and Black scholars since graduating with an undergraduate degree in American history to what he actually learned in school.

The article, We Need to Examine and Understand All of America’s History, was published in the July 9 edition of The Examiner. An excerpt from the article is below.

I promised two weeks ago that I would write about critical race theory this week. I had more email responses to my last column than to any of the previous 403 that I had written, and all were very kind, probably because I had not yet taken a stand on CRT. If you have been waiting in anticipation to see if I embrace it or scorn it, you will be disappointed.

I suspect many people who scorn CRT and even legislate against its teaching don’t fully understand it. I have read much about it, but still do not fully understand it. I think you have to be a graduate-level student to really grasp its meaning. I have a degree in history with a concentration on American history. I completed my undergraduate education nearly 50 years ago, and only remnants of my education are deeply embedded in my mind.

I did have a course in Black history taught by a Black professor. One of his assignments to a classroom full of white students was to interview five Black people. I suspect that the professor gave this assignment because most of us had not spent much time with Black people; that this was five years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the riots that followed were fresh in everyone’s mind.

My parents were not racists and were well-respected in the Black community. We had a Black babysitter/housekeeper, Ivona Hambright, who helped my mother raise me and my seven siblings. She was a part of our family. Several Black families lived a couple of blocks away, and I still consider many of them friends today. Racism was not an option in our household, so I did not need to be enlightened. What I did need was historical perspective that my history education at UMKC did not provide.

Until recently, I knew nothing about the Tulsa race massacre, or that slavery continued in Texas and other Southern states for a few months after General Lee surrendered at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, until Order No. 3 was proclaimed on June 19, 1865. We now have a national holiday to remember that momentous occasion. The Senate passed the legislation creating the holiday by unanimous consent and the vote in the house was 415-14 so there was not much controversy.

I grew up three blocks from the 33rd U.S. President, and although I learned from one of my 1973 interviews with a Black security guard at the First National Bank that Truman desegregated the armed forces, I did not know the story of his transformation.

I live in Jackson County and have Cherokee Indian ancestry, but I did not know the story of the Trail of Tears and how Andrew Jackson ignored an 1832 Supreme Court decision that opposed relocation and ordered the forced march of the Cherokee tribes and others from North Carolina and Georgia to Oklahoma.

I do not think we should rename our county or tear down Jackson’s statue. Nor do I think we should remove all of the Confederate statues around the country. It is part of our history and provides a teaching moment, but if we are going to teach about Confederate heroes, we also need to tell the story of segregation, the fallacious separate but equal doctrine and Jim Crow laws that dominated the south for 100 years after the Civil War.

Critical race theory is a body of legal scholarship and an academic movement of civil-rights scholars and activists that seeks to critically examine law as it intersects with issues of race in the United States and to challenge mainstream liberal approaches to racial justice. The principles of CRT are that racism and disparate racial outcomes are the result of complex, changing and often subtle social institutional prejudices on the part of individuals. CRT provides that race is not biologically real but is socially constructed and socially significant. CRT claims that racism is codified in law, embedded in structures, and woven into public policy. It also contends that racism is a normal feature of society and is embedded within systems and institutions, like the legal system. Frankly, it is so complex that it can only effectively be studied at the graduate level in college.