Guest post by JP
(From an Ethics Alarms Open Forum)
A while ago I told you all about my opportunity to run for the school board. I didn’t win (not even close). The incumbent and a teacher at the local university were the winners. I (and another conservative candidate) decided that we were going to do our civic duty and attend the meetings anyway (they are open to the public). We learned that the next one was going to have someone there proposing CRT for our school system. This worried me and the other woman a lot, so we decided to prepare a rebuttal.
CRT (Critical Race Theory) is a ideology that asserts that at its core the United States is a fundamentally racist country. This means that all aspects and institutions such as our system of government, our laws, our economy, and equal protection are built upon protecting white supremacy and keeping down black people and minorities. However, CRT does not limit itself to only white supremacy; it also seeks to protect people from so called white institutions such as capitalism and patriarchy, and the nuclear family.
The idea of CRT is not new, going back at least 40 years. It is typically attributed to two CRT scholars, Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic. Theirwork is built upon a twisted definition of racism that isn’t what the average person would understand. Most people understand racism to be prejudice against a particular person or group of individuals based on skin color (or perhaps even culture). Going back to their book, “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction,” Stefancic and Delgado argue there is no objective way to define racism, essentially arguing that it is whatever the everyday experience is for a person of color in this country. This leads us to our first two big problems with CRT: Interest convergence and lived experience.
Interest convergence is another ideology or subset of CRT that argues the only reason white people help minorities is when it also benefits their own self interest. Derrick Bell (Building on the work of Delgado and Stefancic) believes that the only reason racism persist in our society is white (both elite and working class) have little incentive or interest in eradicating it. Therefore, when they do, it serves their interests. Here Bell uses the example of Brown v. Board of Education. What should have been a landmark case to our society is nothing more than ulterior motive to serve the self-interest of whites.
Interest convergence creates a sad and ironic twist. If you are white, it damns you if you do, and damns you if you don’t. Proponents of CRT state that there is no sitting on the side lines of racism. If you are not actively working against it, you are part of the problem. However, interest convergence says the only reason you are actively helping is not to make society better, but because you are really just serving your whiteness…which brings us to “privilege.”
White privilege is another part of CRT ideology that argues if you are born white, despite all hindrances, you are automatically better off than minorities. As life progresses, you will always have a leg up. When combined, interest convergence and anti-racism mean you must acknowledge your sins as a white person, and even though you are doing “anti-racism” to benefit yourself and your whiteness, others must see your repentance so they know how bad your whiteness is, therefore advancing their cause.
Now lets look at the other problem: the lived experience. In sociology the lived experience is an experience you or particular individuals partake in due to your surroundings, culture, race, home life, job, and many other factors that may or may not apply to anyone else. For example, while I lived in China for 5 years, it was a completely different experience from the native Chinese who have lived there all their lives, a completely different experience than a Chinese-American visiting China for the first time, but was very similar to most of the expatriotss who have lived there for at least a year or two. The lived experience isn’t a problem, but it offers a different prospective on life. It is the reason qualitative studies exist. However, in CRT cant there are no individuals, only groups. Therefore blacks collectively share the same desires and experiences with other blacks, and whites share the same desires and experiences as all other whites. Since blacks were historically the recipients of racism at the hands of white people in the United States, all blacks experience racism because whites collectively demand white supremacy. This is also one of the reasons why proponents of CRT argue blacks cannot be guilty of racism.
I’m going to come back to this idea in a moment, but first let me focus on a different problem with CRT: the rejection of science, reason, evidence, and free thinking. Perhaps you have read articles or seen headlines that say something like, “Math is racist.” This is a very simplified version of the problem, but it is also built upon the work of Delgado and Stefancic.
In their book they write, “First, that racism is ordinary, not aberrational—‘normal science,’ the usual way society does business, the common, everyday experience of most people of color in this country.” Since modern science was predominately produced by white, Western men, CRT views science as a white and Western way of thinking that ensures and perpetuates white dominance. At its core CRT is arguing that science cannot be objective but must is an oppressive social construct.
Here we see the lived experience and interest convergence, as well as racism, intersect. Since white people are the creators of the current scientific method, it is only another form of white supremacy. Therefore (paraphrasing Delgado and Stefancic) black people aren’t served by science. Sharing their lived experience is the best route to producing and advancing knowledge. This is incredibly insulting to black people and white people alike. Not only is it the worst case of bigotry of low expectations I have ever seen, it supposes the absolute worst in people. With this kind of language I can’t imagine white people or black people ever getting along, let alone ever overcoming racism.
Ignoring CRT’s many other problems, I want to share only two more before I go to two bad examples of its current use. The first problem is the CRT rejects all potential alternatives as solutions for racism, especially that it will be fixed with the passage of time. While studies have shown we have become significantly less racist since the Civil War and even less so since the civil rights movements in the 50-60s, CRT says the only way racism will diminish is by focusing on race all the time. This is why so much time and devotion is given by CRT proponents to find racism in every situation and every interaction. It is why you have to find “hidden” racism in your job, school, society, church, etc… If you can’t find anything, the problem isn’t that it doesn’t exist, the problem is you. I read an biography by a Chinese person living in Mao’s China that said the Party used to say this exact same thing. Based on these assumptions, racism will never be overcome.
The second problem is you are not allowed to disagree with CRT. To disagree with it automatically makes you a racist and therefore, the person you are disagreeing with doesn’t have to listen to you. A dissenter or critic is judged based on the collective lived experience, and those lived experiences must reflect the over-arching problem that racism is a constant in our society. This statement is so strong, it doesn’t even protect you if you are black. The treatment of Kanye West is a famous example of this happening, but a lesser known black man, Daryl Davis, was called a white supremacist because he was willing to associate with racists (he is famous for talking people out of the KKK). Nikole Hannah-Jones sums up this problem nicely by saying that there is racially black and politically black. This is the concept Joe Biden was channeling when he he told a black audience that if they didn’t vote for him, they weren’t black.
Summing up, I want to mention two works that use CRT. The first is the best seller, “White Fragility.” According to the author (Robin DiAngelo) I am guilty of white fragility just for writing this statement. Because I enjoy white comfort, any idea that challenges that comfort or my interest prevents me from confronting my racism. Therefore anything I say must to defend myself from the accusation of racism must always be treated as suspect.
While I roll my eyes at the first, the second is a bigger concern for me: the “1619 Project.” I’m going to ignore the stealth edits, the fact that Hannah-Jones won her Pulitzer in commentary, her lies about what she said or did not say regarding the project, despite the fact that the internet is forever, and focus on what is being used is propaganda as history. Elementary and secondary schools across the country are adding the 1619 Project to their history curriculum despite the inaccuracies and historians’ objections to its content. The most obvious distortion is its central claim that the US started in 1619. Historian James Oakes had this to say about it: “[T]he project asserts the founders declared the colonies’ independence of Britain’ in order to ensure slavery would continue. This is not true. If supportable, the allegation would be astounding—yet every statement offered by the Project to validate it is false.”
What happened in this project is everything I mentioned above. It was built upon the “lived experience,” which would have been acceptible as anecdotal evidence and supplements to history, but they are not historical fact. The people who objected to the project’s assertions were wrong, not because their facts were wrong, but because they had “hidden motives.” When challenged by Sen. Tom Cotton, who brought a bill to prevent its teaching in public school systems as uncontested fact, Commentary Magazine noted:
“Cotton’s initiative, which is more a political statement than legislation, would strip schools of federal funding equivalent to the amount of instructional time dedicated to teaching the 1619 Project. ‘This bill speaks to the power of journalism more than anything I’ve ever done in my career,’ Hannah-Jones wrote while promoting the Pulitzer Center’s ‘educational resources and curricula’ designed to ‘bring ‘The 1619 Project’ into your classroom.’ American education, implied in the series of articles she subsequently promoted, does not adequately teach ‘the history of American slavery.’ And what is objective knowledge anyway? ‘LOL,’ the Pulitzer-recipient wrote when confronted with Civil War historian James MacPherson’s assertion that the project ‘lacked context and perspective.’ ‘Right,’ she continued, ‘because white historians have produced truly objective history.’
Commentary Magazine sums up this section by essentially saying the use of the 1619 project in schools is a waste of time. There is a lot wrong with how we see and study history, but the 1619 project would have us debate it before learning it (this is a lot nicer than what I would have said).
I would like to sum up my thoughts on all of this with the following statements:
First, CRT is itself racist. To use it is to practice racism. If your not sure, just ask Coke-cola, Disney, or even any of those Silicon Valley places that have tried it and rejected it.
Second, if you’re going to try it, because it is racism, you are risking a lawsuit. People are going to only put up with you telling them they are horrible for so long. Keep it up in the lawyers will get involved.
Finally, the demands of CRT activists can never be satisfied. If you don’t choose to stop it, all you can do is pray that it doesn’t come for you.