What is Critical Race Theory?

Give us a child for eight years and it will be a Bolshevik forever.

Vladimir Lenin

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is an academic framework forged during the 1970s in American law schools. One sympathetic commentator writing in Slate describes CRT as “an academic movement that looks at society and the law through a racial lens…racism, according to this line of thought, is not a matter of bad behavior by individual racists; it’s embedded in American attitudes and institutions.” Adherents of CRT will often describe the United States as a “white supremacist” country wherein black and brown minorities are “oppressed” by those who wield “white privilege.”

Originally construed as a legal doctrine, CRT holds that the American criminal justice system is deficient due to persistent “systemic racism” directed at minorities. CRT’s theoreticians include Derrick Bell, Kimberle Crenshaw, Richard Delgado, and several others. Bell was known for his view that America is a “society structured on racial castes.” When white Americans support civil rights for their black peers, says Bell, they do so only out of concern for a competing caste system based on class. Delgado specializes in “hate speech”; he believes that the First Amendment is too broad and that legally curtailing “objectionable” speech will make the United States a “fairer, more equal, and less hateful place.”

Krenshaw originated the theory of “intersectionality,” a doctrine in vogue on college campuses that holds it is not enough to redress oppression against traditionally marginalized groups, but rather that we should focus our attention on subgroups within marginalized groups that are even more oppressed.  For example, an intersectional thinker would hold that while blacks as a group have been oppressed and women as a group have been oppressed, black women are more oppressed than black men or white women. Hence, the moral focus should be on black women, at the expense of black men and white women. We can, of course, add further qualifications to make them even more oppressed; A black, transgendered, homosexual, woman for this ideology is the unicorn of oppression.

Though it began as a niche legal doctrine in American academia, CRT recycles older philosophic ideas. CRT owes its intellectual firepower to the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, a German faction of Marxism that arose in the 1930s. The Frankfurt School was led by Max Horkheimer, Erich Fromm, and Herbert Marcuse, all men that fled the Nazis for the United States and became active intellectuals. Horkheimer delivered lectures on Marx at the University of Chicago. Fromm became known for applying Marxism to psychoanalysis. Marcuse, the man often described as the “father of the New Left,” taught at Columbia, Harvard, and Brandeis.

What made the critical theorists distinct from orthodox Marxists is that they were acutely aware of the 20th century’s failed experiments with communism in the Soviet Union, Red China, Cuba, Cambodia, etc. Once it became clear that the socialist regimes recommended by Marx could not outproduce the United States, the critical theorists decided it was time for a change in strategy. America at the time was a land beset by racial strife, with segregationists battling civil rights activists over America’s future. Sensing what Jimmy Carter would later refer to as America’s “crisis of confidence,” the critical theorists believed the path forward was to undermine America from within, in effect exploiting the flaws in America’s founding and using that as a wedge to wipe out America’s virtues. To this end, they adapted the traditional Marxist dialect of “worker vs. capitalist” into a paradigm that set white and black Americans against one another, with the former exploiting the latter.

In short, critical theory exchanged Marx’s coveted class war for a race war. Intellectually fathered by the Frankfurt School and gestated in American academia for decades, CRT has now gone mainstream in the United States and is being applied to every facet of the culture, not just law. In American schools and businesses, CRT comprises the basis for “diversity, inclusion, and equity” initiatives or “unconscious bias training.” By “equity,” critical race theorists mean equality of outcome, bereft of concern for dessert; by “diversity,” they mean diversity of skin color, bereft of concern for merit. CRT advocates desire more affirmative action programs and more redistribution of wealth along racial lines at the expense of white Americans. A tipoff that you are dealing with a believer in critical race theory is the “anti-racist” moniker that many have adopted. Such a label is ironic, given that CRT is obsessed with race and does more than “play the race card”: it removes all other cards from the deck.

CRT’s influence has grown for decades in higher education, and it is now consuming every other American cultural institution. Why you might ask, should we balk at the idea that it is now entering grades K through 12?

The answer is that young children are ill-equipped to shield themselves from the intellectual barrage that the critical theorists have loaded and aimed at them. Rather than learn that the United States was founded on Enlightenment ideals and that it gradually came to live up to those ideals over the course of its history, children will be taught that it was founded as a racist country. They will be taught that the founders’ intellectual achievements are airy platitudes concocted by wealthy slave owners to placate the poor and the non-white. Take a white and non-white child at random from any classroom in America: the former will be told that everything that she has and will have is the result of “white privilege,” and the latter will be told that he is entitled to more because he was born a victim, and that “the system” has it in for him.

Consider the effect that such an education would have on the self-esteem of these children and what it would mean for the country when they got old enough to seek redress for these injustices. We cannot allow this to happen to our children or our country.

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