VP's Niece, Meena Harris, Defends CRT, Fueling Round of Criticism Meena Harris speaks onstage during The Talks: Activism in Fashion at IMG New York Fashion Week 2019 at Spring Studios on Sep. 9, 2018, in New York City. (Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for IMG)
By Fran Beyer | Monday, 28 June 2021 01:59 PM
Vice President Kamala Harris' niece came to the defense of critical race theory in a tweet that highlighted the story of Black NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson.
But the Sunday comment by Meena Harris stirred up backlash from anti-critical race theory social media posters.
Johnson's contributions — recounted in a 2016 book "Hidden Figures" by Margot Lee Shetterly and a movie of the same name — included her pivotal role as NASA prepared for the orbital mission of John Glenn.
According to NASA, Glenn, before his flight, asked engineers to "get the girl"—Johnson — to double-check the numbers that had been programmed into the computer, but by hand, on her desktop mechanical calculating machine.
"If she says they're good,'" Johnson recalled Glenn saying, "then I'm ready to go." Glenn's flight was a success and marked a turning point in the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union in space, NASA noted.
"You've never heard of her. George Floyd has statues," former NYPD member and conservative commentator John Cardillo tweeted along with a picture of Johnson. And Harris replied, "Thank you for making such a compelling case for teaching CRT and black history in schools."
Critics pounced on the exchange.
"Black History, which is and should continue to be taught in schools is not the same thing as CRT. You're anti-reality," one social media poster wrote.
"CRT is not Black History. Wasn't sure if you knew. Doesn't appear that you knew," another argued.
Pollster and political consultant Rod McCulloch also weighed in, writing: "Black history is already taught. CRT isn't history of any kind. That toxic poison should never be taught anywhere." Harris shot back: "Do I need to define the word 'and' for you?"
Kimberlé Crenshaw, executive director of the African American Policy Forum, a social justice think tank based in New York City, was one of the early proponents of critical race theory. Initially, she said, it was "simply about telling a more complete story of who we are," the Associated Press reported.
But critics claim critical race theory is an effort to rewrite American history and persuade White people they're inherently racist.
Over the past year, the idea of critical race theory has become a political flashpoint, Education Week noted, with former President Donald Trump pushing for "patriotic education" and accusing teachers who discussed racism and bias with students as doing "left-wing indoctrination."
As of Monday, at least 25 states have considered legislation or other steps to limit how critical race theory can be taught, according to Education Week. Nine states have enacted these bans, either through legislation or other avenues.
Last week Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill prohibiting public school teachers from making any of 10 concepts part of their curriculum. That includes the idea that the advent of slavery in what is now the United States marks the true founding of the nation, the AP reported.
In Florida, at the request of GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, that state's education board approved a resolution last week stating that teaching critical race theory and using instructional material related to the 1619 Project violate state standards.