Chariho, RI —– Rhode Island residents Polly Hopkins and Robert Foster met when they were students at Chariho High School in Wood River Junction, RI back in the 90s. Members of the same group of friends, they enjoyed playing sports and hanging out. Now they’ve come together again over another shared concern; the Critical Race Theory curriculum gaining momentum in public schools across Rhode Island.
Hopkins, a Caucasian mother of three and chairperson of the Chariho Special Education Advisory Committee said that a few months ago she discovered, “During the pandemic, while the school was closed, Chariho School formed an anti-racism task force. I started listening to the meetings and I couldn’t believe what I was listening to. People think two different ways. Some people think technically. Some people think emotionally. They are trying to get people riled up so they can get them to think collectively. They are putting adult perspectives on children.”
Foster, an African-American father of five, a lifestyle coach, owner of RBF Fitness and motivational speaker, is angry. “Kids are being indoctrinated to keep the segregation story alive,” he said. “Kids will play together without question until someone tells them ‘this one is bad’. You want kids to hate each other for something their ancestors did? How do kids benefit from that? Schools need to teach English, science and math. Yes, history too but not in a manner that makes them hate their country and themselves.”
Hopkins has now founded an organization called Chariho Community Fight Against Critical Race Theory In Our Schools to combat what she calls “the use of school resources to put out political agendas.”
Chariho School’s Anti-Racism Task Force provides an online glossary which defines such words as “cultural appropriation” (the unique relationship to whiteness that people of color have which shapes the relationship to white supremacy); “ally” (a person not a member of a marginalized or mistreated group who makes an effort to recognize their privilege and work in solidarity with oppressed groups); and “white privilege” (the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed on people because they are white).
On the school’s website are numerous links to books, articles and activities concerning white privilege such as “A Guide On How To Unlearn Your Racism”, “Seeing White: An Introduction To White Privilege And Race”, “Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria?”, “White Privilege: Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack” and “The End Of Policing.”
There is a link for students to take an “Implicit Bias Test” and another to take a “Privilege Walk” in which they are instructed to follow directions such as “If you are a white male, take one step forward.”
There is also a video link for students to obtain protest tips. One of the tips reads, “If you’re white, use your body to protect black or brown people. Police are more likely to at least hesitate to cause harm.”
The school’s website asks students “What can I do once I recognize my white privilege?” It points out that when you have white skin, people won’t hesitate to trust your financial responsibility, you will be less likely presumed guilty if accused of a crime, and your personal faults will be unlikely to affect your opportunities. It also states that the ability to accumulate wealth is a “white privilege.” That’s just the sort of statement that riles Foster.
“I was born in the city,” he said. “The media promotes propaganda. People who live in poverty become convinced that’s all they can do. We’re told white supremacy is our big problem. Well, I’ve climbed every ladder in every trade I’ve ever been in so how do you explain that? I refuse to let Critical Race Theory affect my kids. I’m in control of shaping their values. I don’t teach them they have disadvantages and I’m not going to let a school system put that into their heads. Slavery and racism used to be legal. If you’re still in that place, its because you’re choosing to stay there.”
Foster says he is tired of what he feels is the government’s constant need to divide the nation. “There’s money in disaster,” he said. “If white people speak out against Critical Race Theory, they’re racist. If black people speak out against it, they’re sell-outs. I have never felt threatened but you turn on the TV and they want us to believe that there are KKK members everywhere looking for someone to hang. If you don’t see it that way, you’re accused of not being black enough. If people want to feel oppressed, that’s their right. But I’m not oppressed. I’ve taught my kids the only thing that can stop them is themselves.”