Destigmatizing Critical Race Theory: A Celebration of the First Amendment

Reese Chatman, Campus Carrier features editor

Brian Carroll, Professor of Communication

For the past few years, critical race theory has been a very controversial issue. At a time when conservatives and liberals seem more divided than ever, the topic of race is among the most divisive. 2020 ushered in a new era of protests, sparking new life in the Black Lives Matter movement, and bringing CRT to the mainstream of political discourse. Even though many are aware of its existence, most could not give a sound definition of the theory. In essence, it is the study of how the world is shaped by social conceptions of race and ethnicity.

This semester, Dr. Brian Carroll and his media law class put together a panel of experts for the purposes of discussing and destigmatizing critical race theory. Simultaneously, this event sought to be a “celebration of the first amendment,” showing that CRT and the support of the first amendment can and should coexist.

“Throughout our class we write a law paper, and as time goes on, we fulfill each step needed to complete this paper,” Abigail Mohler, a student in media law, said. “Each student picks a specific topic and case study they want to cover and then they write about that. Mine was AT&T and how they track individual phone locations.”

The class covers a variety of topics related to communications.

“We’ve covered just about everything,” Mohler said. “We’ve talked about libel, intellectual properties, patent and copyright law, and more.”

“My case study was on patent law,” Russell Hendley, another student in media law, said. “Basically, non-practicing entities, or organizations that don’t create products of their own, acquire patents and collect royalties from those patents or sue others for violations of patents.”

Courtesy of Russell Hendley

According to Mohler and Hendley, usually Carroll gives his students a test to take around this time of year. However, students came to an agreement with him to negotiate the planning of this panel in the place of a test.

“In our class, we look at the law within media,” Brian Carroll, head of the communications department, said. “It is a very first amendment heavy course. We’ve put on events like this before. Last year, we did an event called Freedom Sings, where the topic was on banned books and what the first amendment implications that has. It’s really a celebration of the amendment and how our negotiations of it and articulated rights surrounding it change over time.”

Carroll believes the discussion over the first amendment is crucial for every generation.

“The first amendment has no grandchildren,” he said.” Every generation has to articulate for themselves what those 45 words mean. Many Republicans have been pushing for CRT to be banned from being taught in schools across the country. According to Carroll, many of the reasons opponents to CRT cite is related to or directly quotes the first amendment.

“In reality, CRT is a ideology that is very much dependent on and in celebration of the first amendment,” Carroll said. “That’s a big reason why we chose this topic.”

Although Carroll has involvement in the planning process of this event, he insisted that it was almost entirely student led.

“This process was pretty much students do everything,” he said. Of course, there were some logistical things that only faculty members could do like reserve rooms, but everything else was them. They were the ones who chose and reached out to speakers, created the promotional material, everything.”

Courtesy of Abigail Mohler

Carroll sad that he hopes the panel is able to create meaningful and intelligent discussion with family and friends, especially with the event taking place only days before Thanksgiving.

“We want people to really think about what CRT is,” he said. “And why has it become this anti-branding of wokeness by the alt-right? What does it mean for reds? What does it mean for blues? We want to get rid of the straw man and help people to realize what is really there.”

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