Dave Cieslewicz is an ex-mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, one of the more super-woke college towns, though they are all super-woke these days. Avid reader and commenter Steve Witherspoon nominated him for the Ethics Hero honor because he wrote a recent post on his blog rejecting Critical Race Theory. I initially misread Steve’s email to say that the post was from the current Madison mayor. Now that would have been courageous: students with pitchforks and torches would have gathered outside her home the second such a post hit the web. No, Cieslewicz, a he not a her, was mayor a decade ago, long before the shadow of The Great Stupid fell across the land.
I have some trouble designating anyone an ethics hero for stating what should be obvious to anyone with two neurons to rub together. Dave Cieslewicz calls himself a moderate, which only shows what is regarded as a moderate in Madison: he’s a hard progressive in almost every respect. He’s just not a racist, anti-American progressive, the most visible species in 2021.
Does not being an anti-white racist and saying so out loud in a hotbed of Marxism like Madison qualify someone as an Ethics Hero now? I guess so.
That’s depressing. I thought Ethics Heroes were supposed to lift our spirits.
Cieslewicz writes in part,
The basic idea is that the world is divided into “oppressors” and victims and that none of us control which group we fall into — that’s determined only by our race and gender. So, if you are a Black woman who went to Harvard Law you are a victim. If you are a white guy with a high school education who cleans her office, you are an oppressor.
Individual actions (and with it personal responsibility) are devalued, if not eliminated. It doesn’t matter what you do, what you think, or what your intentions are. You are not an individual, but a member of a group.
Last summer, a Madison alder reposted a screed that read, “No Good Police. No Bad Protesters.” That was a fair extension of this point of view. Good and bad are determined by which group you belong to, not who you are as an individual.
And, in fact, to be a good “anti-racist” you have to deeply examine your every utterance and thought and also call out anyone who says something that’s not exactly right….
Continuing in this vain, the only way all of this oppressor and oppressed imbalance can be corrected is through some form of reparations. So, in fact, consistent with the theory, we should discriminate for a time, mostly against white males, so that we can correct these inequities.
We must also rewrite our history. So, as alluded to above, we must believe that America itself was founded on racism. In its “1619 Project” the New York Times has declared it so, and it is even providing a handy curriculum so that this idea can be taught to school children.
So, that’s critical race theory in a nutshell. There are the obvious problems with all this.
First, once we abandon the idea of individual responsibility, that undermines everything. If all success in life is due only to “privilege” and all failure only to “oppression”, then why even try? It’s a form of nihilism. Nothing matters. This undercuts the whole idea of personal initiative.
Second, once we get rid of the idea of basic fairness and actually endorse discrimination, when does it end? When do we decide that the balance has finally been struck, and who gets to decide?
Third, when we teach our kids that our country is actually founded on slavery, than why should they love it? Why should they work for it? Why should they fight for it? And why bother to even try to make it better? Why try to fix the house when the very foundation is rotten?
Fourth, America has been fundamentally about striving, it has been an aspirational place. Critical race theory is fatalistic. It turns America into a dead end.
Fifth, it’s hard to start a useful conversation with an insult. For example, up until about a year ago, “white supremacy” was a phrase reserved for neo-Nazis. Now, we’re told that we’re all white supremacists. Well, no, actually I’m not. And I’ll bet you’re not either, but I sure don’t like the sound of it and it doesn’t make me more receptive to the arguments of those who think this way.
Of course, the ex-mayor then feels it’s necessary to make nice with the Critical Race Theory mob by saying that he “gets it.” Well, maybe his house won’t be stoned, but what does he “get”? Critical Race Theory is destructive, antithetical to the nation’s core principles, and just a contrived rationalization to eliminate accountability while rejecting free will and self-determination. I don’t “get it.” Poisoning a culture and ensuring group enmity is a formula for disaster, and the justifications don’t change that.
He ends by saying, “That’s why I think it’s so important for liberals, like me, with nothing to lose, to speak up strongly and just say it in clear terms: you do not have to accept critical race theory. It’s okay. You can still call yourself a liberal. You are still a good person. And you are not a racist.”
Gee, thanks Dave! That’s about the most wishy-washy rejection of a terrible, intellectually and unethical indefensible idea I’ve ever read, so here is a wishy-washy endorsement from Ethics Alarms.