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What does systemic racism mean to you?

Disagreements over phrases like “systemic racism” can make it difficult for opposing sides to notice when they share common values.

Does critical race theory belong in the classroom? That’s become a contentious question for communities as more schools have incorporated into curriculum the idea that residual racism continues to shape modern America. In many states, the debate has shifted from schools to legislatures, as education writer Chelsea Sheasley explored earlier this month.

Both sides bring distinct worldviews to the discussion, and even defining terms such as “systemic racism” has become a stumbling block.

For Andrew Gutmann, a New York parent, “Systemic racism, properly understood, is segregated schools and separate lunch counters,” he wrote in a letter to parents at the elite Brearley School that was later published online by former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss. “We have not had systemic racism against Blacks in this country since the civil rights reforms of the 1960s,” he added.

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