• Thomas Jones

Talking About Critical Race Theory (CRT)

President Trump denounced CRT in a September 2017 speech, and announced formation of the 1776 Commission to promote "patriotic education". President Biden rescinded Trump's executive order in January 2021 and dissolved the 1776 Commission. Opposition to CRT was subsequently adopted as a major theme by conservative think tanks, media outlets, and Republican politicians. Legislation was introduced in Republican-controlled state legislatures to restrict teaching CRT in public schools. As of June 2021, eight states had enacted laws banning the teaching of CRT, and nine others were in process of doing so. What is critical race theory, and why the furor?

A recent Wall Street Journal editorialized "Critical race theory is a neo-Marxist ideology that is pervasive in higher education and teaches that a person is defined above all by race, gender, and sexual orientation, and that American institutions are designed to ensure white supremacy and patriarchy". CRT is defined in Wikipedia as follows. "Critical race theory is a body of legal scholarship and an academic movement of civil-rights scholars and activists...that seeks to critically examine U.S. law as it intersects with issues of race in the U.S. and to challenge mainstream liberal approaches to racial justice. CRT examines social, cultural and legal issues primarily as they relate to race and racism in the U.S. A key CRT concept is intersectionality, which emphasizes that race can intersect with other identities (such as gender and class) to produce complex combinations of power and disadvantage...They favor a race-conscious approach to social transformation, critiquing liberal ideas such as affirmative action, color blindness, role modeling, or the merit principle...They view that a member of a minority has an authority and ability to speak about racism that members of other racial groups do not have, and that this can expose the racial neutrality of law as false."

I don't know if CRT meets customary academic standards of evidence, theorems, and objective repeatable "proof" of theory. CRT may be more akin to political progressives' calls to "Defund the Police" -- i.e., more of a slogan or alluring argument than strong policy framework supported by rigorous research and analysis. I do know that I don't believe in viewing the world through a prism of race, or skin color, or gender, or sexual orientation. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I focus on mine own and others' content of character, rather than color of skin. I believe that a person is defined above all by character. My assessment of your character has nothing to do with your race or color or gender or sexual orientation, or what your ancestors did or didn't do. It has everything to do with what you say, and what you do.

My reading of history informs me that some whites have been on the "right" side of history, and some blacks have been on the "wrong" side of history, and vice versa for both. For example, African kingdoms aided and abetted the slave trade, some blacks owned slaves in the U.S., and some black soldiers fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. Conversely, some whites were leaders in the anti-slavery movement, hundreds of thousands of white Union soldiers were killed or wounded in the Civil War which ended U.S. slavery, and some whites provided important support to the dramatic breakthrough progress achieved by the Civil Rights Movement between 1950-1975.

In my opinion, no race has standing to claim a mantle of moral superiority. Further, America may not survive as a multiracial and multicultural democracy if we persist in viewing one another primarily in terms of race and other group identities. The resulting cauldron of tribal animosities may metastasize into terminal cancer for our country. We're in this together, for better or worse, so people of good character should step forward and claim the public dialogue.

What do you think?

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