Who’s afraid of critical race theory (or anything that sounds like it)?

For a lot of conservatives, “critical race theory” is a dangerous concept that will pollute the vulnerable minds of children in schools. And because actual sightings of critical race theory in schools are so rare, groups like the Texas Public Policy Foundation are warning us of its other insidious names, like “diversity” and “identity.”

What is critical race theory?

According to the AP:

Critical race theory is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. Scholars developed it during the 1970s and 1980s in response to what they viewed as a lack of racial progress following the civil rights legislation of the 1960s.

It centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society.

The architects of the theory argue that the United States was founded on the theft of land and labor and that federal law has preserved the unequal treatment of people on the basis of race.

Of course, the conservatives who feel that CRT threatens our American Way of Life have a different description. According to Ben Shapiro on Breitbart.com:

CRT was an intellectual development in the late 1970s and early 1980s in which some scholars, perturbed by what they perceived as a loss of momentum in the movement for racial equality, began to doubt that the constitutional and legal system itself had the capacity for change.

This criticism mirrored a Marxist attack long voiced in academia: that the Constitution had been a capitalist document incapable of allowing for the redistributionist change necessary to create a more equal world. To create a more equal world, the Constitution and the legal system would have to be endlessly criticized – hence critical theory – and torn down from within.

The Marxist criticism of the system was called critical theory; the racial criticism of the system was therefore called Critical Race Theory. . . .

Racism cannot be ended within the current system; the current system is actually both a byproduct of and a continuing excuse for racism. Minority opinions on the system are more relevant than white opinions, since whites have long enjoyed control of the system, and have an interest in maintaining it.

This is a deeply disturbing theory. It is damaging both to race relations and to the legal and Constitutional order.

Nobody can point to a school that is actually teaching this theory. (This site tracks colleges and universities that supposedly teach it, but not public schools.)

In the Wake County Public School System in North Carolina, teachers apparently got some training in it, but it never made it into a classroom. The New York Times 1619 Project is an examination of how race and slavery pervades American history — and has becomes sufficiently popular that some conservatives feel it threatens the way we teach history. Florida governor Ron DeSantis directed the states education board to ban the use of the 1619 Project for Florida teachers. Lawmakers in other states are debating it.

Inflaming the public

In America, it’s politically hard to take a position in favor of racism. But it’s not so hard to take a position against a set of teachings that you can describe as rooted in Marxist theory. This is one reason why Republican politicians are railing against critical race theory, even though it’s not part of any actual curriculum.

But taking on a nonexistent boogeyman only goes so far. CRT ideas must be polluting schools, even if they don’t go by the same name. That’s why the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative “non-partisan” group, posted this tweet:

According to this, we also have to look out for terms like equity, diversity, inclusion, unconscious bias, social justice, systemic racism, micro-aggressions, anti-racism, white privilege, power structures, normative (normative what?), identity, Eurocentric, and ethnocentric.

These terms are part of many curricula. Do we really want to stop teachers from discussing implicit biases, white privilege, how our view of history is Eurocentric, or what identity is?

I’d like to see all of these ideas debated in history classrooms across America. If your view of history teaching is that we must indoctrinate our youth with a single view of the world, we’re going to have a very ignorant and passive electorate. I’d rather they learn to make up their own minds about race after being exposed to a variety of ideas.

Is the traditional view of history so weak and brittle that it cannot withstand these questions? Are we really supposed to believe that diversity and social justice are just other names for a theory embraced by a small minority of historians — and no actual school districts?

It sounds to me like some people are very afraid of new ideas.

In the time between when I decided to write about this and when I actually wrote this post, the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s tweet disappeared. It was really there — I saw it and bookmarked it — but it isn’t any longer. Did the foundation delete it themselves because it was too extreme even for them, or did Twitter remove it?

If you’re afraid of critical race theory in our schools, please tell me whether you feel this tweet went too far. Is it time to ban all these ideas? Or should we expose American children of all races to ideas that explore how slavery and racism have contributed to the history of our nation?

7 responses to “Who’s afraid of critical race theory (or anything that sounds like it)?

  1. I think it’s time for everyone to let educators do the job that they were trained to do.

  2. This ABA (American Bar Association) published article (https://www.americanbar.org/groups/crsj/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/civil-rights-reimagining-policing/a-lesson-on-critical-race-theory/) on CRT is interesting.

    The origin of CRT, from CLS, is interesting. “CRT grew from Critical Legal Studies (CLS), which argued that the law was not objective or apolitical.” That statement in the second phrase is obvious, but well-disputed by folks of all likes. They are wrong, but rather confident that they are not.

    I’m working on a post about those two concepts and the HAG theory

      1. Thanks for asking!

        Heisenberg/Arrow/Godel Theory: Those three folks proved that systems are biased, lead to unanticipated and unwanted results, and impacted by inspection.

        For example, the statement that the law is not objective in CLS really ought to be the law cannot be objective (and we ought to expect the makers to try to slant it in their favor and we ought not be surprised that does not work perfectly).

  3. So laws are written by, and governments formed by, those with power? Kinda describes what’s happened throughout history. Not a surprise when you think about it.

  4. I debated with myself about whether to respond to this post. Who needs my opinion, right? Then today I heard Ibram X. Kendi on the radio, and I thought, “If I’m not making my views known, then I’m contributing to the problem.” So:

    1. I agree with the assumptions of critical race theory. Of course the law, the economy and all the other systems of society are biased in favor of the people in control.

    2. I believe kids should discuss critical race theory in school, as appropriate for their age. I’d be upset to learn that kids in the schools I support through my taxes WEREN’T encouraged to think critically about the world around them. That’s what schools are for.

    3. I would like to believe, as missourimarketer suggests above, that we can leave this up to the educators, but I don’t think we can. Steve Bannon has said that “The path to save the nation is very simple—it’s going to go through the school boards.” I’m guessing that Bannon and I have very different ideas about what “saving the nation” means, so I’d better start thinking about what kinds of decisions my local school board is making in this arena.

    And a final note: Who named this thing “critical race theory”? Can someone who supports this concept come up with a better name?

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