Those on the left who scream from the rooftops, disingenuously equating Critical Race Theory with simply “learning about race-relations and racism in the United States” are either completely clueless as to what they’re actually advocating for or are simply lying to you.
Conservatives have been repeatedly chastised on social media, as well as by mainstream news networks, for their opposition towards Critical Race Theory. The narrative that has been constructed goes something like this: If you’re against the teaching of Critical Race Theory in K-12 schools, then you’re against learning about and reconciling with America’s racist past, which therefore makes you a racist.
Lovely, isn’t it? The left is always especially entertaining when they make false equivalencies in an attempt to frame their ideological dogmata as something it so clearly isn’t.
When Critical Race Theory is naively (and quite frankly, pathetically) conflated with simply learning about racism throughout American history, it becomes hard for people who are not clued in on what the academic theory really is and what it entails to properly issue a rebuttal.
So, what is Critical Race Theory?
To put it plainly, Critical Race Theory is an academic movement that originated among a handful of scholars with the intention of transforming the way race and race relations are perceived and conceptualized in society. What is so unconventional about Critical Race Theory, relative to traditional iterations of Civil Rights thought in the United States, is its rejection of the utility of incremental progress as a method of securing civil rights milestones, as well as its critique of the “very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law” (Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic).”
The disconnect that confuses so many people when attempting to argue against Critical Race Theory is that the theory harbors an entirely new definition of what racism and discrimination is. Critical Race Theory applies the same social constructivism that critical theorists applied to class, by applying it to race.
Cameron Hilditch, as he wrote in National Review, precisely explains this crucial aspect of CRT:
“One of the tenets of CRT is that the universalizing abstractions of European liberalism — ‘race,’ ‘mankind,’ ‘truth,’ ‘justice,’ etc. — disguise the particular provenance of these terms as products of imperialist European thought. They are thought to veil the particular injustices perpetrated by white European peoples against non-white non-European peoples. ‘Racism,’ then, ends up meaning not ‘discrimination on the basis of race’ but ‘the discrimination perpetrated by whites against non-whites.’ The abstract, universal formulation of the former definition is condemned as an example of colonial, imperial, white European, hegemonic thought.” (Emphasis added).
In other words, Critical Race Theory entails a whole new conception of the civil social order to begin with. Traditional Western conceptions of racism, discrimination, and equality are seen merely as forced social constructs designed by White European peoples to divide, oppress, and subjugate non-White European peoples.
This is why many fashionable activists and academics such as Ibram Kendi advocate not for racial equality, but for racial equity. In accordance with Critical Race Theory, these ideologues believe that the traditional tools for dealing with racial discrimination, such as incremental progress and reform, as ordained by the neutral principles of constitutional law, is simply inadequate when it comes to truly dealing with the entire problem.
Ibram Kendi explains this in his 2019 bestselling book, How to be an Antiracist:
“Since the 1960s, racist power has commandeered the term “racial discrimination,” transforming the act of discriminating on the basis of race into an inherently racist act. But if racial discrimination is defined as treating, considering, or making a distinction in favor or against an individual based on that person’s race, then racial discrimination is not inherently racist. The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity. If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist. Someone reproducing inequity through permanently assisting an overrepresented racial group into wealth and power is entirely different than someone challenging that inequity by temporarily assisting an underrepresented racial group into relative wealth and power until equity is reached.” (Emphasis added).
Critical Race Theory redefines the term racial discrimination to mean “not racially discriminatory unless.” In order for disadvantaged groups to finally attain a level playing field, the oppressors (white people) must be temporarily discriminated against in order for the oppressed to rise to an equal footing. With this, we now come to understand what activists mean when they talk about racial equity: ensuring that all racial and ethnic groups reach the finish line at the same time.
In addition, Critical Race Theory pretends to establish itself on the basis of experience by postulating the oppression of minority groups through vast monolithic assumptions about entire racial and ethnic groups. I’ve talked about this in a previous column I wrote in American Pigeon regarding the teaching of Critical Race Theory in K-12 schools:
“This curriculum couldn’t promote equality because it assumes inequality on the basis of melanin, firstly, while pretending to establish itself on the basis of experience, which, when predicated solely on skin color, is de facto racism. And it cannot create an equitable environment because the method, in principle and praxis, is de facto inequitable and racist.”
As conservatives, we aren’t opposed to Critical Race Theory because we’re opposed to children learning about the historical flaws, downturns, and outright atrocities that exist within American history. We’re opposed to it because one: Critical Race Theory doesn’t attempt to be even remotely objective in its understanding of American history. Derrick Bell, the progenitor of Critical Race Theory, explicitly advocated for historical revisionism. Secondly, it vastly oversimplifies both the historical and current issues regarding racism and race-relations to an insufferably narrow paradigm that pits an “oppressed” against an “oppressor,” on the assumption that those categories always exist. Finally, it prioritizes story telling over empiricism, suggesting that all statistical disparities between racial and ethnic groups are automatically indicative of a deeper societal problem regarding systemic injustice, without any further substantiation on such a claim.
There’s also the charge that liberals and leftists issue, stating that banning Critical Race Theory is merely the conservative iteration of the K-12 indoctrination we are accusing the left of.
To further expand on this topic, I once again unabashedly cite Cameron Hilditch in National Review, where he connects Aristotle’s notion that “man is by nature a political animal” to the left’s accusations of conservative indoctrination. Aristotle’s point of view, as Hilditch makes clear in the column, directly contrasts with the view of famous enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who believed that the so-called “state of nature” placed human beings in their most natural form: equally free in the absence of government, as well as being totally devoid of all political tendencies without the establishment of government.
Hilditch then cites a recorded conversation where Harvey Mansfield points out to Bill Kristol that rule is the means “by which a society is given its particular character by its political institutions.” In other words, we understand that all civilizations have, to a certain extent, “indoctrinated” (this verb, for the sake of argument, is presented without its typically negative connotation) their people in accordance with what was deemed culturally and socially acceptable.
Those on the left who believe they are arguing for a middle ground: that Critical Race Theory should simply be presented to K-12 kids in a neutral manner as one of the many different options on the ideological menu for them to decide, fail to acknowledge the inevitability of some level of partisanship on part of the teacher; and more importantly, the necessity of that partisanship as it relates to passing on cultural and moral truths from one generation to the next to sustain the cohesion of the society.
Should history teachers, for example (to paraphrase Hilditch), present the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany and the tenets of National Socialism to children in a neutral manner? Should we allow them to simply examine Adolf Hitler’s ideological dogmata so that they can judge for themselves as to whether the Nazis were evil or not?
Of course not. (For clarification purposes: this example is not intended to erroneously equate Critical Race Theory with Nazism). The reason why contemporary Western society hasn’t required legislation to limit the spread of National Socialism and Fascism is because any good history teacher or professor understands their responsibility is to not only inform students about what happened in World War II, but to also explain to them why what the Nazis did was so horrifically evil. In that sense, the teacher is technically taking a side.
The same also goes for – ironically – the teaching of American history. Should teachers present, with a neutral view, the enslavement of African Americans and the subsequent genocide of Native peoples? Do teachers not have a moral and ethical responsibility to present to students with why these things are considered to be low points in American history? From this perspective, “Neutrality” isn’t desirable as it denotes moral relativism: the idea that morality is malleable across time, thereby rendering even slavery to be “morally acceptable” in relation to its historical period.
The idea that children are going to simply choose to adhere to the most desirable and compatible ideologies and philosophies as it relates to the further sustaining of Western civilization is naïve, as it neglects to acknowledge that children generally lack perspective. Aristotle’s notion that “man is by nature a political animal” also applies to the teachers. Those who advocate for Critical Race Theory’s inclusion and “neutral” presentation onto the metaphorical menu of points of view for children to choose from naively assume that teachers won’t take a side if instructed in such a manner, as if implicit biases don’t exist.
If, for example, Nazism was running rampant throughout our education system, we would probably pass legislation that would bar the teaching of Nazism as an ideology that children should adhere to.
The same logic can be applied to Critical Race Theory. When you have an academic theory that is disingenuously presented as simply “learning about racism,” but in actuality introduces an entirely new conception of racism— one that teaches students to consciously center their identity (and the identity of their peers) around race— it is perfectly reasonable to pass legislation that adequately ensures that such an ideology isn’t taught to children. This is especially important given that so many have already learned the correct way, through Martin Luther King Jr.’s assertion that colorblindness is the answer for a post-racial society, and that we should judge people not for the color of their skin, but for the content of their character.