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What Utah Rep. Burgess Owens says is the ‘disinfectant’ to critical race theory

Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, speaks to journalists at the Malouf Foundation in Logan.
Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, speaks to journalists at the Human Trafficking Policy and Education Summit at the Malouf Foundation in Logan on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Owens sees recognizing the contributions of Black patriots to the American Revolution as a “disinfectant” to an “anti-American virus” fueled in part by critical race theory. 
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

A Utah congressman sees recognizing the contributions of Black patriots to the American Revolution as a “disinfectant” to an “anti-American virus” fueled in part by critical race theory.

Republican Rep. Burgess Owens says the attempt to recast history denies the 245 years spent honoring the accomplishments of the Black community.

“As our history is stolen and rewritten, Americans lose not only pride in our past, but also appreciation for our present and a vision for our future. We’re seeing this unfold as the teaching of critical race theory continues to infiltrate our classrooms,” he wrote Wednesday in an op-ed for Newsweek.

“Although radicals would like the masses to believe otherwise, America has historically revered its Black patriots from our visionary beginning.”

Owens has called for the firing of educators who teach critical race theory, which he has called a “warped” ideology. He also has proposed a bill that would restrict the teaching of the concept in federal institutions and a resolution on the dangers of teaching it in U.S. schools.

Critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old, according to Education Week. The core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.

At least two dozen states have banned critical race theory or introduced legislation to ban it from being taught in the classroom. Educators, however, argue that it is generally not included in grade school curriculum, according to CNN.

The Utah State Board of Education last month adopted a rule to clarify what concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion cannot be taught in public schools. The decision came after Utah lawmakers passed resolutions encouraging the board to ban the teaching of “harmful” concepts.

Owens wrote in Newsweek that white historians have preserved a 230-year legacy of respect for Black Americans with thousands of pictures and documents archived in the Library of Congress.

“Yet it is virtually impossible to find reference to America’s Black patriots in today’s educational system. These heroes have been universally (and purposefully) erased from the national public school system curriculum,” he wrote.

“If you are looking for systemic racism, don’t look in the American story; it can be found in an educational system that has yet to teach true history in its entirety.”

Owens said the country, national anthem and flag are under assault by celebrities, athletes and media commentators. Symbols that represent freedom and opportunity are being painted as divisive and hateful by “ill-intentioned revisionists.”

“But there is a simple disinfectant to the anti-American virus we are seeing everywhere: true American history,” he said.

Rewriting history, Owens said, denies years spent honoring the accomplishments of the Black community. It instead offers the narrative of a hapless and hopeless intergenerational community that has been historically oppressed by a more powerful and privileged white race, he said.

“This propaganda has resulted in an increasing number of angry Americans,” Owens said.

Owens said it’s time to collectively acknowledge the Founding Fathers who have been deleted from the modern-day curriculum and teach children about the Black patriots whose courage, leadership and contributions were instrumental in the quest for independence. Among them, he wrote, are Crispus Attucks, James Armistead, Peter Salem, Prince Estabrook, Oliver Cromwell and Prince Whipple.

“As Leftist organizations and activists demand that Americans accept a revisionary and divisive version of American history, let’s choose a different way,” he wrote. “Instead of tolerating the falsehood that we, as Americans, fundamentally judge others based on their race, let’s return to the vision of Martin Luther King Jr. that ‘my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’”