Critical race theory (CRT) has become a highly contentious subject in American discussion as conservatives push back on the expansion of its doctrine in curriculum for children. In response, the proponents of CRT, which encourages people to view history, society and one another through an obsessively racial lens, are resorting to deeply dishonest tactics.
It is, of course, not inconsequential to change the way children are taught. The teachings of the next generation are the foundation of the future and how young people are told to view themselves is ultimately the most impactful lesson. When Americans express concern for the incorporation of racial teachings in schools, they should be heard and not dismissed by liberal elites.
In a fundamentally dishonest opinion piece for The Washington Post titled “Why conservatives really fear critical race theory,” Christine Emba discussed her theories about why some have pushed back against CRT and Black Lives Matter (BLM) movements.
She claimed that Republicans — and white people “in particular” — have grown less supportive of the BLM movement than they were before the death of George Floyd last year because “theoretical discussions of racial injustice turned into a more direct personal challenge to the race in power.”
“Calls for racial accountability can feel like an attack when you aren’t ready to acknowledge how your behavior, or that of your ancestors, has harmed others. When your priority is to preserve a particular mythology — the United States as a land of equal opportunity — the push to take a critical view of the United States’ racial history becomes a threat,” she wrote.
In today’s culture where discussions about race are everywhere — in our corporate media, schools, and even businesses, Emba wrote that “[s]uggesting you’d rather not change the racial status quo is seen, justifiably, as immoral. But disguising one’s discomfort with racial reconsideration as an intellectual critique is still allowed.”
In other words, in Emba’s imagination, any critique of critical race theory is motivated by racism and an attempt to create and sustain a system that inherently oppresses minorities. Advancing the idea that those who oppose CRT are simply resisting giving up power is dismissive, promotes stereotypes, and shuts down any possibility of debate.
Questioning critical race theory is not racist. CRT demands that people view the issues in the country today within an inexorable racial framework. Immediately assigning motive to criticism offers no chance for debate, especially if that motive is given to an entire collective of people without trying to see them as individuals.
Emba noted that while arguments against CRT from the Right might seem “concerned” and “academic” on their face, “these are straw man arguments, the use of which highlights the discomfort underlying critics’ obsession with CRT in the first place: their fear of criticism itself, and an anxiety about what actually addressing racial inequality might look like.”
There is nothing wrong with looking critically at American history with regard to racial inequality. It would be dishonest to study America without learning about the brutality and evil of the Jim Crow era, slavery, treatment of Native Americans, and more, just as it would be wrong to learn about U.S. history without praising the civil rights movement and all of the good that has come from it. But “addressing racial inequality” (as Emba put it) is a broad goal and has no definitive outcome.
In a CNN article titled “Critical race theory is a lens. Here are 11 ways looking through it might refine your understanding of history,” Elliott C. McLaughlin also discussed the pushback against the indoctrination of CRT, writing, “Yes, race relations are better than they were in 1776, or in 1976, but that’s not the point. No one who overlooks the role racism has played in the laws and policies of the United States can have a true and full understanding of its history. It’s just dishonest.”
This is true, but critical race theorists themselves acknowledge that this isn’t the working definition of their specific academic method. CRT is supposed to go further than acknowledging the past. It is meant to bring the past into the present.
Kimberlé Crenshaw, a leading CRT scholar, acknowledges and even promotes the idea that the theory should not be seen as a noun, but rather as a verb, writing that “CRT is not so much an intellectual unit filled with stuff — theories, themes, practices and the like — but one that is dynamically constituted by a series of contestations and convergences pertaining to the ways that racial power is understood and articulated in the post-civil rights era.”
She continued, “In the same way that Kendall Thomas reasoned that race was better thought of as a verb rather than a noun, I want to suggest that shifting the frame of CRT toward a dynamic rather than static reference would be a productive means by which we can link CRT’s past to the contemporary moment.”
With the application of CRT in education, there is no intention of moving forward out of a negative reflection of the past, and apparently, that is the point. As Republican Senator from South Carolina Tim Scott acknowledged in his rebuttal after Biden’s address, the only realistic end goal is that adults (children when they are being taught this) will ultimately see themselves as victims or oppressors.
CNN went on to put the CRT term aside “and look instead at its underpinnings,” including “established facts of American history, many of them included in ‘Race, Whiteness, and Education’ by scholar Zeus Leonardo, who presented these and other wayposts in an effort to ‘capture a reliable portrait of White supremacy.’”
Note that CNN cites a text that includes the notoriously vague (and ubiquitously racist in its usage) term “whiteness” in its discussion of supposed “facts” of history.
It listed several events and realities that bring “key and oft-overlooked elements of America’s story to the fore,” including how land was taken from the Native Americans, slavery was law, interracial marriage was not permitted, healthcare was worse for minorities, housing areas excluded certain groups, and more.
There is no problem with teaching that these horrific things happened. They did. Americans need to remember and learn from them, but the problem with the argument behind CNN’s article is that critical race theory doesn’t stop at learning about historical racism. When members of the mainstream media and the elite Left pretend that pushing back against CRT is the same as “whitewashing” history, they are not providing the full picture.
In the same article, CNN’s McLaughlin quoted Kimberlé Crenshaw, who said that CRT is an approach to “grappling with a history of White supremacy that rejects the belief that what’s in the past is in the past.”
CRT advocates aren’t only trying to change how we study history. They are open about this. The culmination of CRT study is unknown, but one undeniable outcome is that individuals will be taught to question all of their actions — and the actions of their fellow citizens.
Decrying conservative criticism as racist and illogical is not a new strategy of the Left, but when it comes to critical race theory, it will inflict deeper harm on the future than it will ever fix the past.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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