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EDITORIAL: Let MLK’s vision guide anti-racism efforts

Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to judge people by their character rather than the color of their skin should guide the Clark County School District’s anti-racism efforts. At this point, it’s unclear if it will.

On Thursday, the Board of Trustees heard an update on Superintendent Jesus Jara’s anti-racism task force. It’s scheduled to produce a first policy draft in October.

“Critical race theory will not be a part of the discussions,” said Sam Scavella, an assistant superintendent.

That’s good news. Critical race theory — or CRT — contends that America’s founding ideals and institutions are inherently and irredeemably racist and must be abandoned and dismantled. Racism, the academic theory contends, remains the dominant force in U.S. society despite the end of slavery and passage of the Civil Rights Act.

The alternative to this isn’t to peddle a fantasy regarding America’s perfection. It’s to acknowledge the value of America’s founding principles while recognizing the horrors inflicted when those ideals were only selectively applied. It’s also to appreciate the progress our country has made in living up to them.

Unfortunately, the district is sending mixed signals. The term “anti-racism” is at least CRT-adjacent.

“A racist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between racial groups,” wrote Ibram X. Kendi, the author of “How to Be an Antiracist.” “An antiracist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between racial groups.”

If the school district penalized Hispanic children because of their ethnicity, that would be racist. But if a race-neutral grading scale results in Hispanic students doing worse than their white and Asian students, that doesn’t mean the grading scale is racist. But that runs counter to the CRT mindset.

By Mr. Kendi’s logic, the “antiracist” policy would be to get rid of the grading scale.

That appears to have been the reasoning behind the district’s decision to gut grading standards this summer. Unfortunately, lowering expectations in the name of “equity” or equal outcomes won’t help the Hispanic and African American students who lag behind their white and Asian peers. It won’t help struggling students of any race.

By blaming racism in the system, leaders such as Mr. Jara are subtly relieving themselves of the responsibility they bear for the district’s many academic shortcomings.

Perhaps, district officials don’t mean to use anti-racism in the way Mr. Kendi does or haven’t fully considered all the implications. Their vagueness, however, should give parents reason to be wary.

The task force should assuage these concerns by reaffirming its commitment to the ideals of Mr. King in his “I Have a Dream” speech — ideals that are incompatible with those promoted by Mr. Kendi.

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