OPINION | This article contains political commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Alright, y’all, let’s talk about Critical Race Theory.
Recently, Trump signed an Executive Order removing Critical Race Theory (CRT) from all federal institutions. Then in the first debate we saw an exchange regarding this EO when Chris Wallace asked Trump,
“Your administration directed federal agencies to end racial sensitivity training that addresses white privileged [sic] or critical race theory. Why did you decide to do that, end with [sic] sensitivity training? And do you believe that there is systemic racism in this country, sir?”
Trump responds by saying that CRT is “racist.”
Wow, that sure sounds bad, right? The president put an end to ‘racial sensitivity training’ right when there is major racial division in the country, and then calls it racist? Sounds awful, right?
Wrong. Critical Race Theory is not racial sensitivity training; it is indeed racist.
Researcher Christopher Rufo obtained a training document that listed a series of “examples of white male culture.” The list included “golf,” “quick decisions,” “self-confident,” “risk taking,” “brave,” and other attributes apparently “generated by participants.” Russ Vought, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, said this:
The days of taxpayer funded indoctrination trainings that sow division and racism are over. Under the direction of @POTUS we are directing agencies to halt critical race theory trainings immediately.https://t.co/dyMeJka9rt
— Russ Vought (@RussVought45) September 4, 2020
Vought also distributed a memo detailing President Trump’s expectation that Federal agencies end all trainings that include “critical race theory,” “white privilege” and “any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either…that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or…that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil.”
So, what exactly is Critical Race Theory? Well, let’s look at what a few of the framers of the theory have said about it in books and articles they’ve written.
According to Richard Delgado’s writing on the subject,
“Critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.”
In a book he titled Diversity and Social Justice, Sherwood Thompson wrote,
“The axis of American social life is fundamentally constructed in race. As a result, the economic, political, and historical relationships and arrangements that social actors have to institutions and social processes are all race-based.”
Here’s a currently relevant CRT example:
- A specific police officer is racist. But that’s not enough.
- The police department is racist, and therefore all officers in the department are racist. But that’s also not enough.
- Police organizations, training, and recruitment methods are racist; therefore, all police departments are racist and thus all officers in all departments are racist. But that’s still not enough.
- Even the very idea and concept of policing is itself racist.
It doesn’t matter if you are a morally upstanding police officer or that you’ve never said or done anything racist. You still must acknowledge and rectify your racism as part of a racist ideology and institution.
Consider Vicky Osterweil’s book “In Defense of Looting” as an example of CRT applied in mainstream society. The author argued that punishing looters is racist. What’s more, even the socially constructed idea that “looting” is defined as the unlawful taking of property is racist because even the concept of “owning property” is racist. Regardless of what you might have done in your life, you believe that you own property that can be looted and that it is not appropriate for someone else to loot that property and you must therefore rectify your inherent racism.
- The concept of law.
- The concept of education.
- The concept of math.
- The concept of progress.
- Even the idea of having rules that govern is racist.
- Even the idea of teaching people things that were deemed important is racist.
- Even the idea of someone deciding on the value of numbers or the usage of symbols is racist.
How can math be racist, you ask? Because, they say, 2+2 only equals 4 because racist institutions and racist people decided what the value of 2 and 4 are, what the purpose of a “+” and “=“ are, and then saturated the mathematical culture, institution, and education system (which is also fundamentally racist) with those chosen values and then told us they were important. What if someone else had decided that the value of 4 is actually what we now consider to be the value of 5? Then 2+2 would equal 5.
Getting back to the idea of progress mentioned above, Derrick Bell’s “Interest-Convergence Thesis” contributed greatly to CRT. Bell argues that any advances (especially social advances) that were made for or by people of color only occurred because it was in the best interest of white people to allow it to happen.
Pause for a second and let’s discuss because this is despicable to me and only serves to negate anything amazing that has ever been done for or by people of color. Do you know how many incredible, talented, intelligent, hardworking, dedicated, exemplary people of color there are or have been? Do you know how many incredible things they have done based solely on their hard work, determination, dedication, and God-given abilities? And when these amazing individuals do amazing things, it naturally leads to Bell’s so-called “social advances.” How despicable to negate all of that by suggesting that it was only accomplished because someone else allowed it. I can’t even wrap my mind around that.
Not only have amazing things been accomplished without “white permission,” but often in spite of significant restrictions and resistance. Doesn’t this idea of “Interest-Convergence” completely devalue every single thing that any person of color has ever engaged in that contributed to race relations and social advancement? You would never tell Martin Luther King, Jr that his influential work toward civil rights only came to pass because white people decided to allow it. You would never tell Kobe that he only broke barriers, expectations, and records as an amazing basketball player because it was advantageous for white people to allow him to be that amazing. You would never tell Ben Carson that he is only a renowned and exemplary neurosurgeon, author, businessman, and politician because it was advantageous to white people to allow him to become such. It is ridiculous to imply that the amazing achievements and advancements by people of color are because a white person chose to allow it. If anything is racist, it’s the assertion that people of color can’t do things based on their merit alone.
Ok, getting back to it.
The theory’s framers say that because of the foundational and inherent racism in every single concept, idea, theory, process, institution, and therefore individual (not only in our society but in the history and construction of our society), CRT suggests that society must increase the significance of distinct racial categories in order to promote identity politics.
In a liberal society (classic liberalism, not today’s political demographic), people strive for equality, meaning that race is largely irrelevant, and all people have access to all opportunities. Individuals can then elevate themselves based on their abilities and hard work. This is called a “meritocracy.” CRT disavows this concept of treating everyone equally, arguing that it is “colorblindness” and comes from a place of racism. Instead, CRT recommends that everyone focuses on race and racism at all times and in every situation while prioritizing diversity, equity (distinctly different from equality), and inclusion in all pertinent areas.
Additionally, society must completely deconstruct anything that includes or is based upon these “racist” fundamental principles.
What this essentially does is take away all individual responsibility. It doesn’t matter what you ever do or ever have done. Your character or behavior doesn’t matter.
• You are a racist, not because you’ve ever done or said or supported anything racist, but because you are a product of a racist construct and society. And there is nothing you can do to change that, but you have to work to make up for your racism.
• Or, you’re a victim, not because you’ve ever been victimized or discriminated against, but because you are a product of a racist construct and society. And there’s nothing you can do to change that, no matter how good you are or how hard you work.
• You are at an advantage, not because you have been given extra or have more access, but because you are simply a fixture in a racist construct and society and happened to be born to a certain demographic.
• Or you are at a disadvantage, not because you have been given less or have less access, but because you are simply a fixture in a racist construct and society and happened to be born to a certain demographic.
Once again, I interrupt to discuss. Doesn’t this part of the theory likewise negate all the hard work that has ever been done by any person of color? It suddenly doesn’t matter what you do, you’re a victim. You are such a victim and the system is so stacked against you that you can literally never do anything that isn’t “allowed” in this racist system. (This goes back to Bell’s principle of “white permission.”) I fundamentally disagree. I value the abilities of people of color far more than that. And from my perspective as a white woman, I’d surely hope that all people would judge me based on the content of my character and my behavior rather than the sins of people who may or may not be my ancestors. After significant self-reflection and discussion with trusted friends and family of color, I feel confident in my conviction to judge all people based on the content of their character. As a deeply religious woman, I believe that we are all the literal offspring of a Father and Mother in heaven. We are all God’s children and are all equal in His sight, and therefore in my sight as well. Over time I may change my expectations or opinions based on the words, behaviors, or experiences that a person shows me, but that makes them no less fundamentally equal to everyone else. I don’t intend to treat anyone any differently because of the color of their skin. That’s not to say that I don’t acknowledge your lived experiences, but rather that I believe you are far more than the melanin component of your epidermis.
Here’s an enlightening anecdote from my own life that illustrated to me the shortcomings of CRT.
***Trigger Warning— infant loss and miscarriage.
I have many friends who have suffered miscarriages and infant loss. This is something I have not personally experienced and therefore was unsure of what to say or do to help someone who has. A couple of wonderful and powerful friends took the time to help me (and others) understand the difference between helpful words and unintentionally hurtful words and actions, and to give me some insight into their emotions and behaviors to better support those who were suffering. They essentially gave me an “Infant Loss Sensitivity Training” which was incredibly beneficial and eye opening. I’m so grateful to the amazing women who did me this great service to improve my character and my understanding of this very difficult and prevalent experience.
What they didn’t do was tell me that because I’m a woman and because I have children, I’m problematic and destructive and part of a debilitating system designed to cause them pain (what I might call “Critical Infant Loss Theory”). They did not tell me that because I have never experienced that loss I am part of an oppressive system intent on causing them pain. They did not do this, and I am so grateful.
Likewise, racial sensitivity training can be beneficial, especially if you have no understanding of or experience with different cultures or races. A really great place to start is by simply talking. Ask questions. Listen to the answers. Reflect. But that is absolutely not what Critical Race Theory is. Really, it should be called deconstructive racial hypersensitivity training.