On Monday, Mississippi state Rep. Chris Brown (not that one) introduced two bills in the state legislature affirming the “resolute opposition to the promotion of race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating.” While the concurrent resolutions seem like no-brainers, the measures are part of the Republican Party’s nationwide effort to eliminate the anti-racist terror threat that has triggered white people around the country.
Everybody—from preachers to teachers—is talking about it. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton introduced legislation to ban it from the military. School boards across the country are up in arms about it. White people briefly considered boycotting Coke over it.
It’s the dreaded Critical Race Theory (CRT).
Not since Rev. Jeremiah Wright insisted that God doesn’t like racism has one phrase caused so much consternation. CRT has become the conservative equivalent of Black Santa Claus delivering a Little Negro Mermaid while telling little white kids that Jesus was born with melanin. It’s not what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have wanted.
So, to separate truth from white lies, we decided to offer this simple explainer to why white people are so upset by Critical Race Theory.
Is there a backlash against Critical Race Theory?
If you mean one that is sanctioned by federal, state and local authorities, then, yes.
Under the Trump administration, the Office of Management and Budget issued a memo instructing government agencies to “identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on ‘critical race theory,’ ‘white privilege,’ or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil.”
“Critical Race Theory is basically teaching people to hate our country, hate each other. It’s divisive and it’s basically an identity politics version of Marxism,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during an interview with the racial scholars at Fox News. “Florida’s civics curriculum will incorporate foundational concepts with the best materials and it will expressly exclude unsanctioned narratives like critical race theory and other unsubstantiated theories.”
Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center says the term became the subject of a GOP disinformation campaign after the Trump administration turned against it. Using Critical Race Theory, the Georgia legislature would have considered the historical and structural factors of voter suppression before passing their draconian electoral reforms. And now, regular white people are lashing out against the term.
What is Critical Race Theory?
Basically, Critical Race Theory is a way of using race as a lens through which one can critically examine social structures. While initially used to study law, like most critical theory, it emerged as a lens through which one could understand and change politics, economics and society as a whole. Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic’s book, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, describes the movement as: “a collection of activists and scholars engaged in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power.”
Kimberlé Crenshaw, one of the founding members of the movement, says Critical Race Theory is more than just a collective group. She calls it: “a practice—a way of seeing how the fiction of race has been transformed into concrete racial inequities.”
It’s much more complex than that, which is why there’s an entire book about it.
Can you put it in layman’s terms?
Former economics professor (he prefers the term “wypipologist”) Michael Harriot, who used Critical Race Theory to teach “Race as an Economic Construct,” explained it this way:
Race is just some shit white people made up.
Nearly all biologists, geneticists and social scientists agree that there is no biological, genetic or scientific foundation for race. But, just because we recognize the lack of a scientific basis for race doesn’t mean that it is not real. Most societies are organized around agreed-upon principles and values that smart people call “social constructs.” It’s why Queen Elizabeth gets to live in a castle and why gold is more valuable than iron pyrite. Constitutions, laws, political parties, and even the value of currency are all real and they’re shit people made up.
To effectively understand anything we have to understand its history and what necessitated its existence. Becoming a lawyer requires learning about legal theory and “Constitutional Law.” A complete understanding of economics include the laws of supply and demand, why certain metals are considered “precious,” or why paper money has value. But we can’t do that without critically interrogating who made these constructs and who benefitted from them.
One can’t understand the political, economic and social structure of America without understanding the Constitution. And it is impossible to understand the Constitution without acknowledging that it was devised by 39 white men, 25 of whom were slave owners. Therefore, any reasonable understanding of America begins with the critical examination of the impact of race and slavery on the political, economic and social structure of this country.
That’s what Critical Race Theory does.
How does CRT do that?
It begins with the acknowledgment that the American society’s foundational structure serves the needs of the dominant society. Because this structure benefits the members of the dominant society, they are resistant to eradicating or changing it, and this resistance makes this structural inequality ordinary.
Critical Race Theory also insists that a neutral, “color-blind” policy is not the way to eliminate America’s racial caste system. And, unlike many other social theories, CRT is an activist movement, which means it doesn’t just seek to understand racial hierarchies, it also seeks to eliminate them.
How would CRT eliminate that? By blaming white people?
This is the crazy part. It’s not about blaming anyone.
Instead of the idiotic concept of colorblindness, CRT says that a comprehensive understanding of any aspect of American society requires an appreciation of the complex and intricate consequences of systemic inequality. And, according to CRT, this approach should inform policy decisions, legislation and every other element in society.
Take something as simple as college admission, for instance. People who “don’t see color” insist that we should only use neutral, merit-based metrics such as SAT scores and grades. However, Critical Race Theory acknowledges that SAT scores are influenced by socioeconomic status, access to resources and school quality. It suggests that colleges can’t accurately judge a student’s ability to succeed unless they consider the effects of the racial wealth gap, redlining, and race-based school inequality. Without this kind of holistic approach, admissions assessments will always favor white people.
CRT doesn’t just say this is racist, it explains why these kinds of race-neutral assessments are bad at assessing things.
What’s wrong with that?
Remember all that stuff I said the “material needs of the dominant society?” Well, “dominant society” means “white people.” And when I talked about “racial hierarchies,” that meant “racism.” So, according to Critical Race Theory, not only is racism an ordinary social construct that benefits white people, but it is so ordinary that white people can easily pretend it doesn’t exist. Furthermore, white people who refuse to acknowledge and dismantle this unremarkable, racist status quo are complicit in racism because, again, they are the beneficiaries of racism.
But, because white people believe racism means screaming the n-word or burning crosses on lawns, the idea that someone can be racist by doing absolutely nothing is very triggering. Let’s use our previous example of the college admissions system.
White people’s kids are more likely to get into college using a racist admissions system. But the system has been around so long that it has become ordinary. So ordinary, in fact, that we actually think SAT scores mean shit. And white people uphold the racist college admissions system—not because they don’t want Black kids to go to college—because they don’t want to change admission policies that benefit white kids.
Is that why they hate Critical Race Theory?
Nah. They don’t know what it is.
Whenever words “white people” or “racism” are even whispered, Caucasian Americans lose their ability to hear anything else. If America is indeed the greatest country in the world, then any criticism of their beloved nation is considered a personal attack—especially if the criticism comes from someone who is not white.
They are fine with moving toward a “more perfect union” or the charge to “make America great again.” But an entire field of Black scholarship based on the idea that their sweet land of liberty is inherently racist is too much for them to handle.
However, if someone is complicit in upholding a racist policy—for whatever reason—then they are complicit in racism. And if an entire country’s resistance to change—for whatever reason —creates more racism, then “racist” is the only way to accurately describe that society.
If they don’t know what it is, then how can they criticize it?
Have you met white people?
When has not knowing stuff ever stopped them from criticizing anything? They still think Colin Kaepernick was protesting the anthem, the military and the flag. They believe Black Lives Matter means white lives don’t. There aren’t any relevant criticisms other than they don’t like the word “racism” and “white people” anywhere near each other.
People like Ron DeSantis and Tom Cotton call it “cultural Marxism,” which is a historical dog whistle thrown at the civil rights movement, the Black Power movement and even the anti-lynching movement after World War I. They also criticize CRT’s basic use of personal narratives, insisting that a real academic analysis can’t be based on individually subjective stories.
Why wouldn’t that be a valid criticism?
Well, aren’t most social constructs centered in narrative structures? In law school, they refer to these individual stories as “legal precedent.” In psychology, examining a personal story is called “psychoanalysis.” In history, they call it...well, history. Narratives are the basis for every religious, political or social institution.
I wish there was a better example of an institution or document built around a singular narrative. It would change the entire constitution of this argument—but sadly, I can’t do it.
Jesus Christ, I wish I could think of one! That would be biblical!
Why do they say Critical Race Theory is not what Martin Luther King Jr. would have wanted?
You mean the Martin Luther King Jr. who conservatives also called divisive, race-baiting, anti-American and Marxist? The one whose work CRT is partially built upon? The King whose words the founders of Critical Race Theory warned would be “co-opted by rampant, in-your-face conservatism?” The MLK whose “content of their character” white people love to quote?
Martin Luther King Jr. literally encapsulated CRT by saying:
In their relations with Negroes, white people discovered that they had rejected the very center of their own ethical professions. They could not face the triumph of their lesser instincts and simultaneously have peace within. And so, to gain it, they rationalized—insisting that the unfortunate Negro, being less than human, deserved and even enjoyed second class status.
They argued that his inferior social, economic and political position was good for him. He was incapable of advancing beyond a fixed position and would therefore be happier if encouraged not to attempt the impossible. He is subjugated by a superior people with an advanced way of life. The “master race” will be able to civilize him to a limited degree, if only he will be true to his inferior nature and stay in his place.
White men soon came to forget that the Southern social culture and all its institutions had been organized to perpetuate this rationalization. They observed a caste system and quickly were conditioned to believe that its social results, which they had created, actually reflected the Negro’s innate and true nature.
I have no idea.
Will white people ever accept Critical Race Theory?
Yes, one day I hope that Critical Race Theory will be totally disproven.
Well, history cannot be erased. Truth can never become fiction. But there is a way for white people to disprove this notion.
Derrick Bell, who is considered to be the father of Critical Race Theory, notes that the people who benefit from racism have little incentive to eradicate it. Or, as Martin Luther King Jr. said: “We must also realize that privileged groups never give up their privileges voluntarily.”
So, if white people stopped being racist, then the whole thing falls apart!
From your lips to God’s ears.
The Black one, of course.