Critical Race Theory — And What We Can Do About It
In 2016, half of the student’s family is Hispanic and yet one day, in a public school classroom, a teacher shocks a student by saying, “You, yes you, are racist because you are white.
There must have been confusion and anger. But I imagine most of all shock. That’s how I would respond. The accusation is so ludicrous, how can it be made, how could such an accusation even be imagined?
That story did happen, though the teacher and administration have said the discussion was “poorly handled,” that the teacher was just innocently trying to share all viewpoints.
Whether or not it was just a neutral presentation of all opinions or meant literally, such words are no longer scandalous but are actually encouraged. For instance, “White identity is inherently racist; white people do not exist outside the system of white supremacy,” writes Robin DiAngelo in White Fragility. Barbara Applebaum, in Being White, Being Good, writes, “All white people are racist or complicit by virtue of benefiting from privileges that are not something they can voluntarily renounce.”
And many of us are simply left wondering, “Where on earth did this come from?”
Most likely, you’ve heard of Critical Race Theory, but because it is a hot button topic, it’s easy to have a knee-jerk reaction. Some people, shockingly, even try to say it doesn’t exist. Sadly however it does exist and is the underpinning ideology of society, and so it is worth understanding it thoroughly.
We’ll quickly go over what it is, where it comes from, what it looks like in practice and what, if anything, we can do about it.
What is Critical Race Theory?
Critical Race Theory (CRT) is, “an academic discipline that holds that the United States is a nation founded on white supremacy and oppression and that these forces are still at the root of our society.” Some of its core values are collective guilt, equality of outcomes (usually called ‘equity’), being against equality of opportunity, against meritocracy, against capitalism, and against free speech. For a more in-depth definition, check out Christopher Rufo’s “ Briefing Book.”
CRT also holds that all people are reducible to “whiteness” and non-whiteness. Whiteness is a racialized identity defined as those who accept the largely Anglo-Saxon heritage of our country, and the principles and culture that includes, and can refer to anyone who ascribes to that culture, regardless of race. That is why black people who are against CRT are called racist. It’s not an ideology with a lot of grey, everything is black and white. If you are not actively anti-whiteness, to CRT advocates, you are actively supporting “white supremacy. “Silence is violence,” they say.
So Why Do People Call it Marxist?
This sounds like a race theory, sure. But Marxism is a socio-economic theory; why then do people call CRT Marxist when it seems to have little to do with German philosophers?
In essence, CRT is Marxist because, like Marxism, it explains all human history and all modern society through the filter of class warfare. Everyone is reduced to their class, but where Marx defined people as “haves” and “have-nots,” CRT advocates draw the line between White and POC (people of color).
The connecting tissue between Marxism and Critical Race Theory is Critical Theory, a theory popularized in Europe by the Frankfurt School in the 1870s and on. These philosophers took a “critical” eye to everything in European society — governments, the church, tradition, family values, the justice system, history, philosophy etc. — reinterpreting all these institutions with Marx’s lense of conflict between haves vs. have-nots. They believed European society was made by Haves to give themselves power and oppress the proletariat have-nots.
For example, they decided that tradition was just a way to get the agrarian and proletariat masses to feel loyalty to a king so he could leverage their power in a war. They saw the church as a tool the nobility used to get cheap obedience out of the masses, something bishops, dukes, and kings wielded to exact fealty and prevent revolution without any true justification for that loyalty.
The United States, of course, did not have the same arbitrary classes of nobility and peasant that existed in Europe, which formed the core of the explanation on why the means of production were so concentrated. So, when the philosophy was exported to the United States in the early to mid 20th Century, the philosophers had to use race. Instead of Haves vs Have-Nots, CRT thinks in terms of Power-Haves and Power-Have-Nots. All American society is reduced to the Power-Haves (whites) oppressing everyone else.
Not Just Race But Morality
Does it feel like the country is falling apart? That’s because the Critical Race Theory framework of power dynamics has been working to eat away anything that holds us together. The Power-Haves vs Power-Have-Nots lense is applied to all institutions and morality, reinterpreting them, and pitting us all against each other.
Power is a zero-sum game. Those who have it, have it at the expense of others. Thus, when all society is evaluated along the lines of power dynamics, conflict is inevitable, and compromise becomes impossible, as people strive to be the ones holding the power to craft society along their vision of truth.
In Critical Race Theory, having what they define as power, what they call privilege, makes you an “oppressor” and not having power makes you a victim. It’s obviously bad to be an oppressor, and you aren’t allowed to blame victims for their moral shortcomings since that is, supposedly, the fault of the oppressor.
This is why CRT advocates say that people of color (POC), supposedly, can’t be racist —they define racism as wielding privilege that others don’t have, and since POC don’t have privilege by definition, they can’t be racist. It’s also why they see traditional American institutions and American values, such as working hard, capitalism, meritocracy, faith and family, as inherently racist because in their minds those ethics and their institutions made America possible, enabling “a systemically racist empire.”
How can this racist empire be redeemed? What can even out the power/privilege imbalance? Their answer is the new Gospel of Equity.
How to Spot CRT
CRT advocates don’t use this sort of language in public, though you can find it in their academic writings. What makes CRT tricky is they use traditional language to push their ideas, after slightly tweaking the definitions.
Instead of equality, they say “equity.” Instead of “justice”, they say social justice. And instead of “moral,” “righteous” or “upright,” they use words like “diverse” and “inclusive.” After all, according to power dynamics, the more non-white people are preferred in society, the more “equitable” the power balance between races becomes. Thus, when you hear “DEI,” — Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion — you know you are dealing with modern-day Critical Race Theory.
“I thought it had been banned in many states? If so, why worry about it?” While it is true that many states have passed bills to ban CRT, CRT gets around the ban by using words like diversity, equity and inclusion instead of words like Critical or Race or Theory. Such simple tactics have worked. No matter what words you use, CRT is the application of power and privilege dynamics as the primary explainer of society.
Basing morality on something like power will lead to all sorts of perversions and crimes because you are valuing power above truth, hence why they say “speak your truth to power.” That leads to permanent division and hatred because where you can work together with someone to discover truth, power is a zero-sum game.
What Does CRT Look Like In Education?
We don’t need to wonder what this ‘equity’ would mean in practice. We just need to look around.
In Missouri, students are being taught that whiteness makes someone racist. Documents leaked by a whistleblower show that students are taught saying “all lives matter” is racist. Students are then forced to identify themselves on an “oppression matrix” and watch indoctrination videos experts say are designed to propagandize them into modern CRT.
Oregon has just passed a law ending the requirements for proficient reading and writing before graduation. Done in the name of equity, to ensure students of color aren’t kept from diplomas, what the law actually does is protect negligent teachers and failing school systems. And it is far more racist to assume POC students can’t learn to read and write like white students than it is to hold them to identical standards.
In Virginia, schools are considering getting rid of AP mathematics, at least for freshmen and sophomores, citing that such meritocracy-based schooling “supports white supremacy.” Worse, when confronted, many media outlets have denied this is happening, Snopes even rates the claim false, despite the option being openly discussed.
In California, they teach ancient Aztec rituals and chant their chants as a form of acknowledgement of indigenous peoples, condemning “western colonialism.” Yet, if they were to learn the Lord’s Prayer in Latin, there would be a huge uproar about the separation of church and state.
Such examples could be multiplied across the country. Dumbing down curriculum, pushing soft sciences in place of hard subjects, and infusing all subjects with a White vs. Black framework.
Not Just Students But Also Subjects
CRT advocates have not limited themselves to hamstringing students, they are also running rampant through the house of Western Civilization and burning as much as they can. They seek to redefine the meta-narrative for all subjects as class warfare between whiteness (power-haves) and blackness (power-have-nots).
That is the goal of the 1619 Project, which explicitly stated — though author Nicole Hannah Jones and the NYT have started deleting incriminating tweets — their desire to reframe American history: “The 1619 Project … aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.” Though it claims to be merely journalism and not history, Jones has made supplemental history curricula for schools so they can teach her 1619 Project, and many public schools have adopted them.
CRT advocates have also attacked biology, stating that teaching that there are only two biological genders is anti-trans. Though not race-based, this move is still power-based. That is, since transgender people are seen to have less privilege than straight, or “cis-gendered” people, we need to “normalize” them to make the privilege equitable. That is why they promote Drag Queen Story Hour, allowing sexual deviants to perform simulated sex acts in front of children as young as 6. They even succeeded in getting The American Medical Association to support removing gender from birth certificates.
Classics are also under fire. Princeton, along with other universities, is gutting Latin and Greek in their Classics Departments in the name of “racial equity”, and the Princeton website declares that the “history of our own department bears witness to the place of Classics in the long arc of systemic racism,” arguing that idolizing the mostly white societies of Greece and Rome while also tending to have few POC students in those classes entrenches white supremacy by increasing the power and privilege divide.
Even though the timeless lessons of the ancients are accessible to everyone, CRT advocates seek to defund and undo Western Civilization to remake it along Marxist lines. But at least this has a poetic justice to it, much like a Greek tragedy, since many of the people in those departments support Critical Race Theory.
Destroying students and heritages isn’t enough. It’s also necessary to “be anti-racist” according to CRT leader, Ibram Kendi, a famous Critical Race Theory proponent. That means attacking traditional American values like meritocracy, patriotism, rational thinking, hard work, and individual responsibility (and those who preach it like Jordan Peterson).
What can be done about it, then, when state legislators aren’t savvy enough to go after it?
What To Do: Tell the truth
The main thing we can do is tell the truth — even when it’s uncomfortable.
We should seek to ban CRT in schools, even though our legislators aren’t savvy enough to do it. It is up to us to help educate them and help write the legislation. We have to be proactive in vetting local public school curricula and getting on school boards. Contrary to what some conservatives have argued, you have every right to change those curricula because it is funded with your tax dollars and raises children in your community.
But there is really only one thing we can do right now, and it’s hard to do, even if it’s simple: tell the truth.
Tell the truth about history, philosophy, and biology. There are only two genders. Humanity can’t be boiled down to something as simple as power dynamics, and justice is more than equity. Equality before the law is biblical, but while all men are created equal, they aren’t all alike, and we should learn to celebrate our differences, even in achievement.
Learn history without relying on revisionist sources. Our country may never have lived up to its founding principles, but we’ve always tried. Since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we’ve expanded rights and freedoms constantly and millions of slaves have been set free all around the world. We’ve accepted millions of immigrants freely, and raised the quality of life globally for billions of impoverished people, regardless of race. Learning the truth is hard, it takes work, and sometimes you get things wrong, but it’s worth it. Speaking the truth now is hard but more necessary than ever.
And of course, we do need to tell the truth about slavery, segregation, and racism. Those are real, and they are a part of the American story. Though race relations, until recently, have been getting better, racism and discrimination are recent. Even after Jim Crow, many black communities were deliberately impoverished by Planning and Zoning boards and neighborhood covenants up until the 1980s.
Meanwhile, much of the legislation meant to help actually made things worse. Minimum wage laws were originally instituted to protect white labor against black labor by pricing them out of the market, and the welfare state instituted in the Civil Rights era has subsidized broken families instead of building them up.
The fallout from this is real, it has resulted in an imbalance of opportunity, and it does need to be addressed — but addressed along Biblical lines, not Marxist ones. We can address racism without reverting to Marxism. But in order to do the right thing you first have to stop doing the wrong thing. It’s easy to take a Marxist tact, because CRT advocates cloak their ideology in Christian sounding language: “fighting oppression,” and “fighting for justice,” and even use the language of repentance. But it diagnoses the problem incorrectly, and using that interpretation of the world rather than the lens God gives us, is idolatry.
A white child isn’t evil because he’s white. He’s evil because he’s a sinner. And a black child isn’t oppressed because of his skin color. He is oppressed because of his, and sometimes others’, sins and it is only the true Gospel who can set them free.
“By their fruits, you will know them.” Since CRT started gaining traction, race relations and the economic outlook for blacks have worsened, not improved. Co-opting the Bible to demand reparations is easy. Living in grace and truth is hard. While we have a lot of work to do figuring out the right answer, we need to be more comfortable with questions we can’t answer than answers we can’t question — without being labelled a racist or white supremacist.
The God Who Redeems the Past
I won’t pretend I have all the answers on how to make it right. We as a church need to repent of our apathy and lack of wisdom, and work hard to find Biblical answers (if anyone can deal with past sins, it should be the church).
I do know a few things, though. I know that when Jesus’ disciples asked why a man had been born blind, for his sins or his parents’, Jesus answered, “ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’ “ (John 9:3) It is human to ask whose fault it was, but it is godly to ask how to glorify God in the current situation.
So we should be more concerned about crime and poverty and suffering and systemically poor education in areas that tend to be black and brown, not in the name of a false Marxist gospel offering salvation by taking from others, but rather in the name of Christ who gives freely. We want to lift these brothers up so the glory of God can be revealed to the ends of the earth. Even when that end of the earth is your own backyard.
What has God put in front of you that you can make a little better? How can you help and uplift those less fortunate than you, regardless of race? How can we promote truth and good education for all? God does remember our sins to the third and fourth generation, but he shows mercy to thousands, and it is up to us to be that mercy, to raise the next generation in truth, and give freely while telling the truth in love.