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State Board Of Ed Representative Speaks About 'Critical Race Theory' At Xenia Church

About fifty concerned citizens packed a small room at Xenia Nazarene Church on a Tuesday night to hear a presentation titled 'Critical Race Theory: The Oppressor and the Oppressed.' Most of the people are gray-haired, and all are white. A projector sits in the middle of the room.
Jason Saul
About fifty concerned citizens packed a small room at Xenia Nazarene Church on a Tuesday night to hear a presentation titled 'Critical Race Theory: The Oppressor and the Oppressed.'

Brendan Shea of Madison County represents Clark, Greene and other local counties on the State Board of Education. He homeschools his five children and says systemic racism no longer exists.

The Greene County Tea Party held an event in Xenia on Tuesday, July 27 about a hot-button political issue: what they called "critical race theory." At the event, Ohio Board of Education representative Brendan Shea gave a presentation titled "Critical Race Theory: The Oppressor and the Oppressed."

About fifty people—including local school board members and candidates— packed into the room at a Xenia Nazarene building on Tuesday night. They shared soft drinks and snacks, and then sat down for the presentation. The crowd was engaged and concerned as Shea repeated a number of conservative talking points.

"It's just a radical liberal agenda... the oppressor versus the oppressed," he said. "It all boils down to that, right? There's a group of oppressors, there's a group of oppressed. They've said the whites are oppressors and Blacks are the oppressed. And they see and they view everything in the world, everything that happens, systems on down, through that lens."

Shea has been an elected member of the nineteen-person Ohio Board of Education since January. He runs for re-election in 2024.

The Greene County Tea Party flyer for the meeting
The Greene County Tea Party flyer for the meeting posted to Facebook.

Shea handed out copies of the state board’s equity resolution that was passed in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020. The resolution condemns racism and says the board should be dedicated to advancing opportunities for students of color in Ohio. But Shea said the resolution is about much more than what’s just on the surface.

“I would say that this resolution contains many tenets of critical race theory, the principle of equal outcome. Bias. This idea that we can control thought,” he said.

Shea said systemic racism no longer exists, and pointed to Black politician Dr. Ben Carson as an example of someone who was able to find success in America by applying himself. He said that he is for equality but not equity.

"Equity is one of the catchphrases, one of the coined phrases of critical race theory," he said. "Equity pertains to equal outcomes. And again, it sounds good because it sounds like equality. We are for equality, equal opportunity. We're all equal in terms of our dignity made in the image and likeness of God. That doesn't mean we're the same or that doesn't mean we have the same abilities. I would argue that equity and equality are mutually exclusive."

The Center for the Study of Social Policy defines equality as: "The effort to treat everyone the same or to ensure that everyone has access to the same opportunities. However, only working to achieve equality ignores historical and structural factors that benefit some social groups and disadvantages other social groups in ways that create differential starting points."

Equity, on the other hand, is defined as: "The effort to provide different levels of support based on an individual’s or group’s needs in order to achieve fairness in outcomes. Working to achieve equity acknowledges unequal starting places and the need to correct the imbalance."

Shea said that local school districts in Ohio have a lot of say about what’s in their curriculums. So he encouraged those in the crowd who want to get involved to run for their local school boards. He also urged the crowd to see through what he called the "smokescreen" of critical race theory and workplace diversity, equity and inclusion training.

"They [the principles of critical race theory] sound benign," he said. "They seem benign on the surface. But what's underlying them is a true attempt to divide and conquer. It's Marxism. That's that's what it is, plain and simple. It's a Marxist philosophy."

Environmental reporter Chris Welter is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Chris Welter is an Environmental Reporter at WYSO through Report for America. In 2017, he completed the radio training program at WYSO's Eichelberger Center for Community Voices. Prior to joining the team at WYSO, he did boots-on-the-ground conservation work and policy research on land-use issues in southwest Ohio as a Miller Fellow with the Tecumseh Land Trust.