Today’s narrative of systemic racism is an insult to the black Americans who lived through the Jim Crow South.
At least, that’s how Sheila Qualls sees it.
Her father, born at the end of the 1920s, experienced the brunt of prejudice leading up to the Civil Rights movement. He was intimately familiar with the very-real racism of segregated water fountains, restrooms, bus rides—and eventually served in the American military during its transition from segregation to desegregation.
With this legacy, Sheila grew up knowing exactly how bad racism used to be in the United States. But her father also taught her about personal accountability—the idea that she was responsible for how she acted and the results that followed. He had seen the American dream open up to people of all ethnic backgrounds during his lifetime, and he taught his daughter that this dream works.
Introducing Sheila Qualls of TakeCharge
Sheila Qualls is a black American woman who spends her life promoting the idea of the American dream. She and her husband Kendall Qualls founded TakeCharge, “a nonprofit that strives to unite Americans regardless of background toward a shared history and common set of beliefs. TakeCharge champions the notion that the promise of America works for everyone regardless of race or social standing.” Sheila currently serves as TakeCharge’s Executive Director, “inspiring black and other minority communities to take charge of their own lives.”
She believes this dream is possible in America and that the idea of systemic racism’s continued grip on our nation is utterly incorrect. “In America, we fix things,” she shared in Part One of her recent interview with Noah Webster Educational Foundation. “We see problems and we try to fix them….We are the least racist country in the entire world.”
As a wife and mother of five, Sheila is passionate about the roles of faith, family, and education in stabilizing society and creating prosperity. She’s an experienced speaker and writer with dual bachelor’s degrees in English and Journalism from Cameron University and a Masters of Art in Communication from the University of Oklahoma.
CRT Isn’t the Next Civil Rights Movement
In her conversation with NWEF founder Melvin Adams, Sheila argues that critical race theory (CRT) isn’t about race.
Instead, it presents a tribalistic perspective of permanent victimhood. “Critical race theory says there are no individuals. Everyone is part of a group,” she explains. In this tribalistic grouping, people are assumed to possess all the features and characteristics of the group to which they belong.
Critical race theory, Sheila recounts, is rooted in the idea of critical theory, a Marxist approach that defines society in terms of class warfare. (Learn more about critical theory here.) While the theory didn’t make much progress in the early 1900s among Americans suspicious of all things Marxist, the word “race” was added to the concept of critical theory later in the 20th century. Critical race theory, coasting on the emotional reactions that most people naturally have to the term “racism,” begin to make inroads. Today, Americans have begun to accept the idea that there is a group of people who are permanent victims because of white privilege.
This idea stands in stark contrast to one of the central precepts of America’s founding: you can make your life better through integrity and hard work.
Proponents of CRT twist the definitions of words like equity and anti-racism to make anyone who disagrees with the perspective sound automatically suspect. After all, what’s the opposite of antiracist? Racist, right? If you don’t agree with the term, it doesn’t matter—you’ve already been stuck with the label racist, an adjective that society today is desperately running from, whether it’s true or not.
“The definition of racism has been expanded beyond discriminating against someone because of the color of their skin,” Sheila says. Now, racism is viewed as a societal norm that is irrevocably intertwined with the American way of life.
Should We Still Have Black History Month?
Sheila thinks that purposeful exposure to black history during a set-apart month used to be a helpful practice, especially in the years following the Civil Rights movement and desegregation.
But she takes issue with the current approach to black history that idolizes criminals, athletes, and black pop stars rather than highlighting the contributions of true black heroes.
“We shouldn’t be having to segregate our history—we should be talking about the contributions that everyone has made. Black history has become more about ideology and telling us how we should think and how we should feel and reminding us of the wrongs that we have been done as a culture, as a race in the past of this country. And I don’t think that’s healthy. I don’t think that’s healthy at all.”
Rather than focusing on past harms, TakeCharge emphasizes black futures. The promise of America is not just for white people. The nonprofit recently released a video explaining what they believe should be the true emphasis of Black History Month: