A historic photo from the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center shows a World War II internment camp in Wyoming between Cody and Powell. (Courtesy)

The recent attack by Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow on critical race theory gives me serious misgivings — and should concern all Wyoming residents who care about quality education.  

Balow’s editorial uses the word Marxist to imply a communistic element driving the theory. I suspect that the Republicans have put out a talking paper using this term and that we will see it used broadly.

The attack brings up meaningful questions about the state, and future, of education in the Equality State. 

Wyoming students should be able to ask why Wyoming’s prosecution of hate crimes isn’t up to snuff. Is our underperformance a passive form of institutional racism? 

Wyoming students should learn about the racism involved in the dismissal of the Black 14 from the University of Wyoming football team in 1969.

Wyoming students should learn that there was a race riot and massacre in Rock Springs on Sept. 2,1885, in which 28 Chinese were killed. What were the causes? What was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882? 

Wyoming students should learn that there is a place called Heart Mountain in Wyoming that imprisoned 14,000 Japanese American citizens in 1942. Alan Simpson, U.S. Senator from Wyoming and Norman Moneta, an internee who went on to become Secretary of Transportation, became friends there. How did they meet?

Wyoming students should learn that the state had laws forbidding interracial marriages on the books from 1913 to 1965, and what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1967. Most states had these mixed race laws. Will some of the students be of mixed races? I have six grandchildren of mixed race who deserve to learn our racial history.

Wyoming students should learn about the discrimination suffered by the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes on and off the Wind River Reservation.

Wyoming students should learn that over 4,000 lynchings of Blacks have occurred in this country and that there were five such murders in Wyoming between 1904 and 1920.

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Wyoming students should learn about the history of the Black community in Empire.

Today there are stories across America of Asians being singled out because COVID-19 originated in China. Students should be able to examine and discuss the issue in a classroom setting.

We all should be able to ask why Republicans fear the use of critical race theory in our classrooms.

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  1. Personally, I kinda think it’s funny that the GOP has conditioned this country’s working class to have a knee-jerk frothing-at-the-mouth reaction to anything with the word “Marxist” in it.

    At its core, “Marxist” theory is simply examining society from its economic (and class) base — that is, putting aside things like race, gender, nationality, etc., in order to look at the way things are, and how they came to be this way, in the context of who controls the money, and who is exploited in producing that money.

    This is super-convenient for a party that is mostly beholden to corporate interests, and maintains its power by ginning up the fear and anger in people who are exploited every day in making rich people richer.

    Gee, I wonder if maybe that’s not on purpose?

    I wonder if keeping the working class angry at everyone but the rich might not be in the best interests of the rich, rather than the working class?

    But what do I know, I’m just a random jerk on the internet.

    1. Well said. Unfortunately, your comment will mostly fall on deaf ears around here.

      It’s laughable to see all the fake outrage about CRT. It’s not something that is even taught in elementary or high school. But, there are those who believe that their talking heads on TV speak the gospel. Come hell or high water, if they’re told to be upset and outraged, that’s what they’re going to do.

      I guess it could be worse. Those same people that believe EVERYTHING they hear on the “fair and balanced” news channel could also believe everything that comes out of a pillow salesmans mouth. Now wouldn’t that be an embarrassment? 🙂

    2. The rich overwhelmingly support the Democrats. So much so that they outspend the republicans in every election.
      Where do you get your information?
      The media is owned by 9 rich corporations. Only 1 is even a little fond of republicans.
      Facts matter.

  2. I just need to know if this state is for or against real unity before moving to your state to retire. Everything else is very appealing to our family, but the forced teaching in schools, pitting any race against another, with lies of what is basically in your “DNA” upon birth, is more than we are willing to deal with. We are all human beings with past practices that have long ago been tossed out, and should still be taught for what they are…..HISTORY. We do not need to have our children’s brains filled with political “views” that pit races against each other to form definite hatred. CRT has no place anywhere in this United States, because it is just that….political posturing that will never allow us to continue moving forward in true equality. Let the past remain the past, and teach it for what it WAS.

    1. Hi Shellie,
      We chose Wyoming when retiring from Soviet California. For the most part it has been great. Most people here are normal. The Democrats are trying to change that but they are greatly outnumbered. Avoid populous and college cities. Ignorance loves company. They also like to troll the internet and make it look like they are more of a force. Find a place in a small town. It’s a longer drive to Walmart but it is definitely worth it.

      1. Thank you for your insight and kind words. By what I am reading, there seems to be unreasonable anger and intolerance trying to force hatred of the kind I was speaking of. Thank God the people I have come in contact with since moving here are more open to what they also see in this country, and feel like we do. Thanks again for speaking to my comment. I am a little late in finding it, and I’m truly surprised by the way others are responding to your overwhelmingly accurate statements. Still, I will have a happy retirement here in beautiful Wyoming, knowing there are more people like you here than from what has become of the state of Washington, the place I grew up in. It is truly disgusting, and is now nothing like “home”.

    2. Well, you are more than welcome to just stay put or go somewhere else. What you describe isn’t a reality almost anywhere anyways. There’s plenty of real issues facing Wyoming and figuring out how to appease the manufactured racial paranoia of out-of-state retirees is certainly not one of them.

    3. Best comment that iv read yet in this article. Thank you for being so bold to say this, and your response is the truth! And Wyoming is a beautiful place to live with great people and great values. There are people here that think otherwise but the majority love our state, our country and God.

  3. I love it when conservatives pretend with words that they’re not racist to the core. The act has been making me laugh for decades, though it grows more and more boring with time. If only they had the ability to add a little variation to the performance, the act might once again become comical.

    1. You appear to harbor a great deal of resentment for complete strangers.
      Might I suggest a 12 step program and actually talking to the people you have chosen to hold in contempt?
      You may be surprised if you allow them to share their history.
      Many conservatives were democrats once.
      People grow and make new choices.
      You need to get out of your comfort zone.

      1. Complete strangers? LOL. I’ve been living around them all my life. Suggest away, but don’t expect me to follow your orders.

        1. Orders?
          You are hostile and behaving outside of reality.
          There is no nice way to follow up with you.
          Karma will do.
          Peace out.

      2. Incidentally, here’s my assessment of “12-step” programs: they simply transfer addiction to drugs to addiction to the program, resulting in lots of money (paid by the patient or the rest of us) for those running the programs. The part about the client, or patient, “accepting” the nonsense that they are incapable of overcoming their addiction on their own, thus in need of help for the rest of their lives, simply sickened me. Rehab programs are just another way of making money in my opinion, just another kaputalist con.

        If we had a decent society, where people were paid a living wage and could live decently, drug use would go down. Instead we “fight” a totally useless war on drugs that infringes on constitutional freedoms, incarcerates people and ensures more money for “rehab” outfits.

        1. We finally found something we can agree on. Rehabs are a scam. People need to attain self actualization on their own. You need to be content with who you are to overcome addiction. Many people join a program and never grow out of it.

  4. Political zealotry and arguing that one group is a homogeneous crowd of racist bible thumpers is hardly a constructive way to approach an already sensitive topic. Dinesh D’Souza has thoroughly researched the supposed shift of racist southern democrats to the republicans. You named the only one. Clever but disingenuous. Many Democrats use race as a political tool. Most Republicans steer away from it. Conservatives have a “live and let live” philosophy as a general rule. Democrats owned slaves. Republicans fought to free those slaves. The NRA was founded to help those freed men protect themselves from democrats. The KKK was founded by Democrats to punish the freed men and republicans who helped them. It was rekindled in the 1900s which is why lynchings started up again. Martin Luther King was a Republican. If you want to champion a political cause you need to do some reading and ask yourself hard questions. I lived in a black ghetto. Did you?
    How many black girls have you kissed? You don’t understand the people you malign. Ask yourself how you came to judge them so harshly and how you became so misinformed.

    1. You kissing a black woman is relevant how?

      You sound like the racist bigots who claim that they can’t be racist because the have a black friend. Or those who claim that they aren’t homophobic because they have a gay friend or relative.

      You are trying too hard and it is making your arguments seem more and more foolish. Is it the weather that is making things goofier than normal up in here?

      1. You leftists have nothing but dishonest insults to offer. No reasoning. No solutions. My point is that I am a true liberal. You are pretending.
        I was a theatre major in southern California. I have had more gay friends than you have had friends at all.
        Always the same slogans and bumper sticker blather with you people. Learn to think for yourself.

  5. Wyoming should learn about all these things, too bad Critical Race Theory won’t teach anything about these incidents in the context of history. Critical Race theory teaches in the context of the oppressed vs the oppressor paradigm, which is the Marxism that everyone is upset about. Perhaps Cornelius Kelly should study Herbert Marcuse and Antonio Gramsci, perhaps he/she/they/it should read, “One Dimensional Man”. We don’t want to “reimagine our history” and teach our children that they’re oppressors because of the color of their skin, or oppressed and have someone holding them back because of the color of their skin. We don’t want to teach our kids to hate. Critical Race Theory isn’t a supplementary education, it’s a replacement. Just as we are not allowed to keep our Statues, or allowed to Celebrate Independence Day or Columbus Day without being called ‘oppressors’, the agenda is to erase that history. There is no redemption with Critical Race Theory.

    … if Abraham Lincoln is considered a racist and MLK is being called ‘phenotypically white’ and anyone who thinks that judging a person by the content of their character and not the color of their skin is wrong and that their mind has been ‘colonized’, what hope do the rest of us have?

  6. Context matters. I grew up in a black neighborhood in south Los Angeles. I was a victim of multiple hate crimes as a child. I spent years working in Compton and driving trucks through the most dangerous areas of Los Angeles. Some of my best mentors were black. Many of my girlfriends were black. I was a Democrat for most of my adult life. I am a white man of English and German heritage. My family never benefited from slavery or ever engaged in outright racist behavior. I have been friends and worked with and dated across the spectrum of race. I have known people who were obviously racists in every ethnic group. CRT is a political tool used by bad people to divide us and prevent open discussions. Children need to understand that all people have the same flaws and strengths. Racism is taught. Don’t let bad people tell you whites are inherently racists. It is a lie.

    1. I concur. I was raised in the south. I chose for Wyoming to be my home. I am white, of English heritage.
      There were many black people in my school. We all got along famously. That was at a time when we were taught true history about this country. Racism is taught, but not from history. However, history had been removed from the schools. True history. There are racist people in every nationality, in our melting pot of society. It is not in our best interest to bring forth laws to benefit only a few nationalities, and beat down only one. The key to stopping hate crimes is education. But we will never stop them all. This kind of thing has been going on since the creation of mankind. There are mean people all around us. In the end, most of us are just people, trying to make our way through life. I don’t like being dumped into a category that blames me for society’s problems, based on my skin color.

      1. Thanks Donna Lynn
        I’m happy to see the conversation expanding. We also chose Wyoming to be our home in retirement. I have lived in some pretty interesting places where I was definitely the square peg. All ethnic groups are challenged by learned prejudices. Living in the “hood” puts a lot in perspective. Our generation also got to experience the coming out of gay friends and family members. Upon moving here I began reading about the history of Wyoming and the treatment of our native brothers and sisters. I was aware of some of the injustices but not the extent. That was a hard lesson. Our history is not pretty. But as I have said, context matters. Politicians and media used the native groups as pawns. Just as they are using the various groups today. Violence was encouraged. Misunderstanding was actually created intentionally just as treaties were broken. And are things all that different? Academics are playing a similar game. I was going to teach in Los Angeles years ago. I had an opportunity to see how the system had deteriorated since my days as a student. Frankly, I would not subject anybody to that kind of abuse. The music classes were gone. The horticulture and shop classes were gone. I actually took Latin and Theater in the 9th grade. Good luck now. Yet the cost per pupil was never higher. The rudeness I experienced as an adult, from people I was planning to work with…. let’s just say it was like being a kid again and knowing my skin color was their problem. Wyoming has the potential to do better all the way around. We need to get our curriculum set on rational and non-political footing. We also need to build revenue streams based on other economic sectors. Finally, we need to encourage the arts and let the kids interact without the top down central planning coming from the left. Enough already. Let them have fun.

  7. Mr. Kelly, you are woefully misguided. Teaching history and CRT are not equal. History should include factual unopinionated content used for instruction. CRT is neither unopinionated nor factual. Rather CRTis a Marxist divisive program that is based on anti white racism. So we solve race issues by teaching that all whites are racist. This program shouldn’t be taught anywhere.

  8. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Here is a footnote from the book “Wyoming in Mid-Century / Prejudice, Protest and the Black 14”:

    The word “Wyoming” does not appear in the index of The Sixties Chronicle, a 450-page large-format book published in 2004. However, on p. 9 of the book, in a Preface by one of the leading voices against the Vietnam War in the 1960s, is a reference to then (in 2004) Vice-President Dick Cheney’s wife Lynne, who grew up in Casper, Wyo. In his Preface, Tom Hayden referred to Lynne Cheney’s column “The End of History” published in the Wall Street Journal on October 20, 1994, blasting the national history standards which were about to be released after years of work by many experts in the field. In her op-ed, Mrs. Cheney, Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1986-1993, blamed “political correctness” for placing too much emphasis on subjects important to African American and Native American organizations — such as the Ku Klux Klan’s terror and Harriet Tubman, the former slave who rescued many slaves through the Underground Railroad during the Civil War — than on the traditional white male icons of American history. UCLA history professor Gary B. Nash, one of many on the committees that developed the standards, in 2004 wrote a review of Lynne Cheney’s actions regarding the standards 10 years earlier. Nash wrote that Mrs. Cheney wanted “guidelines that would exalt traditional heroes, put a happy face on the American past, and broadcast the triumph of western civilization.” Hayden, elected to the California Legislature for 18 years, died in October, 2016. He drafted the famous Port Huron Statement of the Students for a Democratic Society in 1962, one of the first manifestations of the younger generation’s turn away from the regimentation of the Fifties.

  9. Growing up and living in Laramie for nearly 30 years, I would occasionally hear about the Telephone Canyon internment camp. As of the last time I googled, there is no indication this place ever existed.

    As for CRT, I think the real lesson is that students need to be taught our actual history, not some whitewashed version of the past. We need to remember the ugly parts of history in order that we might avoid making the same mistakes again.

  10. If anyone needs a more recent example of Wyoming’s lethargy about racism, s/he might muse on why it took nine (9) years for the state legislature to accept Liz Byrd’s Martin Luther King holiday bill. In the end it did became law. But this was only after Sen. Byrd reluctantly accepted the reality that it would be renamed Martin Luther King, Jr./Wyoming Equality Day. Other states played with the name, which appeared to be efforts to diminish Dr. King. Alabama of course (Robert E. Lee/Martin Luther King Birthday), Mississippi (Martin Luther King’s and Robert E. Lee’s Birthdays) and, until 2017, Arkansas (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday and Robert E. Lee’s Birthday). Here is a test. Let’s see how long it takes Wyoming legislature to acknowledge our country’s long history of slavery and racism by making Juneteenth a paid state holiday. Taking bets on how long this will take.

  11. Here as almost everywhere, the term “critical race theory” is being tossed around (except for Ms. Lasher) without discussion or understanding of what it really means.

    Among the principles of this academic theory are that racism is woven into the institutions and culture of our society, and that white Americans, whether or not they hold racist views, benefit from this inherent prejudice in our society.

    First of all, this could be taught and discussed as a theory, in the same way that evolution and creationism could be discussed objectively in a classroom. Prohibiting the discussion of this THEORY would be a form of censorship. But accepting it uncritically and using it to discriminate against white people is in itself a form of racism, as others have pointed out here. Unfortunately, in many places CRT is now being introduced into K-12 curricula as indoctrination, and any student or parent who questions this is accused of racism and silenced as a result.

    Certainly, teaching and discussing the history of racism in Wyoming (as opposed to teaching CRT as undeniable truth) should be an acceptable and important part of children’s education at some point, especially with regard to the tragic history of the treatment of Native Americans in the settlement of the West.

    Someone in my family managed to escape Austria when Hitler took over. Many decades later, he returned to Vienna and was introduced to a class of high school students. When the teacher asked if anyone had an idea why he had to leave Vienna in 1938, only one student knew the answer. That student was Jewish. A similar ignorance should not handicap the children of Wyoming who live outside the Reservation.

    But they should also not be made to feel bad, sad, or guilty if they happen to have been born with white skin.

    1. Thank you for one of the best comments I’ve read in some time. We all profit from critical reading and critical thinking.
      I would hope that people would read comments here seeking wisdom and a fresh perspective. I have changed my mind on many subjects over my lifetime and every chance to see a different perspective is welcome.
      Having witnessed racial hate on the receiving end I can tell you it is exactly as portrayed in Schindler’s List. All races can be trained to express it just as all dogs can be taught to heel.
      But in saying that, I emphasize that we are universal beings. All can love and all can hate.
      We must be aware of these capabilities and be taught the difference. CRT is a tool of conditioning. It was introduced to cause a racist response systemically across the nation. It has indeed done so. The violence across the nation is testament to it’s success. It should be withdrawn as a conditioning tool and instead examined as the weapon it was designed to be.

    2. Thank you for this well thought out post. I read about CRT from different viewpoints and it is hard to get a firm grip on it. I believe we need to teach history as it happened. I believe there is such a thing as white privilege and I am sure I have held racist views without realizing it. I don’t want white kids to be admonished or feel bad for being white either. I wish I could get my thoughts out as articulately you did. I have a lot to learn and want us as country to do the right thing for all people. We have not gotten to a point of racial equity. I am not sure it can happen in my lifetime. (I am from Riverton).

  12. Once again, the Republican legislators in Cheyenne have chosen a windmill to tilt with, this time “Critical Race Theory”, an academic construct from cultural anthropology to explain how cultures and societies address the allocation and uses of collective wealth. What CRT does NOT do is assign blame, rationalize specific “favored” means of cultural organization, or demonize any particular group of people.

    Historically, Wyoming has had a fair share of racist and xenophobic behaviors, as both group and individual actions–to fail to teach those actions is yet another failure of an already mediocre state educational system, on par with the rejection of the teaching of climate change and mankinds’ contributions.

    I know emphatically that I did not vote to have the Legislature pushing bills that have been authored and pushed by extreme right-wing organizations (think “No Turn Left in Education” ) and Tucker Carlson’s faux outrage. It is past time for the Legislature to do some original thinking and create solutions for real problems the state faces.

  13. I would contest the implication that espousing the inappropriately named “CRT” automatically means one thinks that all whites are inherently racist. I would contend that history speaks for itself and let the facts point where they will. Not teaching anything at all about past “uncomfortable issues” looks to me like another brain-washing technique that seems to have become more and more popular with a certain political party these days. Purity and belief at the expense of true facts. Sad.

    1. Who is advocating not ” teaching anything?” Kelly is incorrect to infer that CRT is not Marxist in its origin and foundation. It absolutely was conceived and is founded on a Marxist class perspective. More broadly, it is “theory” meant to impart Marxist philosophy upon history. I would say Wyoming teachers need to methodicaly teach factual history without a philosophical overlay any kind. Period. My stake in this is as 4th generation native of the state.

  14. Thank you, Mr. Kelly, for this piece in defense of our students and our future – and thank you for your service.

    Using the “CRT” label is not necessary (it actually refers to a specific set of academic writing from the 1970s and 80s and does not fully capture the ideas educators are trying to help kids with today) and buys into the propaganda machine of fear that has appropriated CRT as a divisive buzzword.

    What is so terrifying to people about simply teaching factual history? Freedom and true strength come from acknowledging the truth.

    Yes: if we want our Wyoming students to be limited, marginalized, uninformed, ignorant, unprepared for work and citizenship in the 21st century, let’s keep truth, facts, and conversations about history out of our schools.

  15. All of the facts mentioned in this article are true and part of the history of Wyoming. My question is when does Mr. Kelly think these facts should be brought to the eyes of our children? First grade, during the fourth grade when Wyoming History is the topic of the year? Wait till later?

    Part of the criticism of CRT is that is pushes issues toward younger and younger children. At what time is is it necessary for a child to begin to understand this past?

    Another issue with CRT is that it is race based theory. Reading objectively once learns that everything depends on the color of your skin. Everything.

    1. One good answer to the when question that I’ve heard: When do students learn that Columbus discovered America?

  16. Having an MA in history and having taught the subject for 40 years, Mr. Kelly is absolutely correct. The State codifying what can and can’t be part of the accurate and objective instruction of Wyoming and US history should be seen for what it actually is, the manipulation of the truth to manipulate the mind; a practice used by authoritarian governments of the past (The Third Reich) to the present ( Russia).

  17. So an English and Spanish teacher is giving an opinion on racism in WY and the need for CRT education? Maybe we can get an article from a math professor on the proper use of personal pronouns. Sorry, I digress. To support the teaching of a Marxist based identity political theory and to somehow use Wyoming history as support, Kelly has to go back to one terrible incident in 1885 (136 years ago), the internment camp at Heart Mt (75 years ago which was a federal action by a democrat president and resisted by the Wy governor), the five murders (may or may not racially motivated) of Blacks over a 15 yr time period taken place over 100 years ago, the fact that all states had laws against interracial marriage until 1967 (55 yr ago) was hardly “Wy history”, etc.

    Unfortunately, the shallow recitation of unrelated and unexamined events taking place decades or even a century ago to justify a divisive political and social agenda as espoused by a “professor” makes some nod in agreement saying ” oh, yeah, that sounds right.” Help us all.

    1. let’s not forget a retired cop that is seemingly an expert in everything. I’d much rather take the advice from ex teachers than an ex police officer that resorts to name calling and questioning a persons honesty and integrity just because they disagree with their beliefs. But, I digress….

    2. You forgot to mention all the nice christian white folk in Fremont county who just love tribal people.

  18. I’m all for teaching Critical Race Theory, having come from a rural school system, in the mid 50s up to the late 60s, where race wasn’t even mentioned (except by us kids, at recess or after school, slinging racial epithets around…), save for the eighth-grade “teacher”, who told us the Civil Rights movement was asking for “too much, too soon”.). It was shortly after that I began to literally despise conservatism, a trait that has, thankfully, lasted a lifetime. Conservatives are such masters of double-talk, and so “clever” about disguising their putrid racial views…so condescending.

    The theory might be better named as The Truth About Racism in the US, since it is NOT a theory but a reality. Conservatives as expected, take great pleasure in denigrating teaching the truth, but tough on them! I myself am fed up with the propaganda, double-talk, and lies we have been fed by the media, by teachers, and by our so-called leaders during my lifetime. It’s past time this country grew up.

    1. What you mean to say is you like only the propaganda that confirms your world view.

  19. While I have the upmost respect for Mr. Kelly, who was my high school Spanish Teacher and agree that we should teach about the history of racism in our state and country, I don’t agree with the teaching of Critical Race Theory in our schools.

    CRT teaching only cause division by espousing white privilege, internalization, institutional racism, critical legal studies, feminist jurisprudence, and postcolonial theory.

    My family is also mixed raced. I don’t want them to be taught that all white people are inherently racist, that they are a victim because they are a minority, or that they deserve special treatment over other races to compensate for past injustices.

    We should apply a simple test to determine if something is racist. Simply exchange the words, white, black, brown, yellow in the sentence and see if it sounds racist. If it sounds racist with any other color mentioned, then it is more than likely racist.

    Stating the Republicans must be racist because they oppose CRT being taught in our schools is political rhetoric. It attempts to silence the opposition by labeling them racist. Maybe we should teach about the Democrats opposition to the Civil Rights Amendment or Jim Crow. What we don’t need is revisionist history that aims to further divide this country.

    1. Oh I agree we should teach about the Democrats opposition to the Civil Rights Movement and Jim Crow as that opposition divided them and those that could not abide ending those laws became Republicans. I am glad that you would teach that the name of Mitch McConnell’s dining room in DC is named after a racist Democrat, whom raped his housekeeper, but became a racist Republican in 1965. Strom Thurmond and his brand of racism, which he gleefully embraced, should be taught just like Sen. Byrd’s brand of racism and his repudiation of that horrible affliction. Wyoming children should hear the truth, but republicans will not like the look.

      It should be taught how one party is now embracing white nationalism and religious zealotry while the other party is not.