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A teacher in Illinois is defending critical race theory as a valuable tool for addressing racism.

A TikTok video showed teacher Caleb Wells, whose username is “tiktoksmellyboi” and “emo teacher,” responding to a question about why it was racist to oppose critical race theory in the classroom.

“When you don’t want to teach about how these systems were designed to oppress people, you’re taking the side of the oppressor and being racist,” said Wells in a video posted last month that recently gained a lot of attention on Twitter. 

He argued that critical race theory helped students learn about purportedly oppressive systems like the prison-industrial complex.

“Critical race theory talks about how the systems that we have, the laws that we have – how all of those are designed to oppress people groups,” said Wells.

“Things like mass incarceration, the prison-industrial system, the military-industrial system. All of those are used to oppress people groups. By teaching this in the classroom, we can show our kids what systems need to be challenged and thought about differently.” 

“Racism isn’t going to be fixed by me going down to a kid right here,” he added, approaching a desk, “and saying, ‘hey buddy,’ you really need to be nicer to that kid over there even though they look a little bit different than you. We can dismantle racism by dismantling systems of oppression, not by being nice to people.”

Wells is an eighth grade English teacher in Illinois, according to his profile. 

His Twitter account appeared to be @calebsmells, which has a bio that reads: “BLACK LIVES MATTER (he/him).” It also links to the Wikipedia page for “emo,” a term used to describe certain music or teenager. 

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