Some CRT Theory/Politics of Race Thoughts

You know, some light weekend thoughts.

No to racism

Yesterday’s morning’s Memeorandum was chock full of stories about critical race theory (and the opposition thereto) along with other stories dealing with race and inclusion (to include the story James Joyner blogged yesterday morning pertaining to language). All of this stirred existing thoughts as well as some specific responses to stories in question, so here we are.

Let me start by admitting, unlike a whole lot of other people who seem to have deep opinions on the subject, I am hardly an expert on critical race theory. I am fairly confident in saying that I know more about that the vast majority of persons in the United States, but that my knowledge is limited. In a sort of academic version of the Streisand Effect, I did recently purchase a copy of Crenshaw, et al.’s Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement, and it is in my reading queue.

Here is a working defintion:

Critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that racism is a social construct, and that it is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.

The basic tenets of critical race theory, or CRT, emerged out of a framework for legal analysis in the late 1970s and early 1980s created by legal scholars Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Richard Delgado, among others.

A good example is when, in the 1930s, government officials literally drew lines around areas deemed poor financial risks, often explicitly due to the racial composition of inhabitants. Banks subsequently refused to offer mortgages to Black people in those areas.

In other words, just like it is true that for an individual it is not enough to state “I don’t use the n-word” or “I am not in the KKK” to absolve one of potential racism, so, too, is it true that society is not absolved solely by a series or legislative acts in the mid-1960s.

All that is preface to comments on several stories I read in this general genre.


First, I was struck by a piece by John O. McGinnis at Law and Liberty: “It Is a Sordid Thing, This Divvying Us Up by Race”. The quote used as the title comes from Chief Justice John Roberts.*

The piece is about the use of race as a policy category and about how the Supreme Court might respond. I am less interested in that analysis than I am about the framing of the discussion (to include the quote used for the title).

The piece starts as follows:

The use of race by government or in government-funded programs divides our politics. On one side, some citizens, predominantly but by no means exclusively Republicans, want the government to reject racial preferences in benefits and education. Others, principally Democrats, want the government to be race-conscious, even pervasively so. It is hard to think of an issue more important to the future of classical liberalism, because that philosophy of government presupposes that individuals, not groups, are the bearers of rights.

This issue is coming to head because the current Democratic Congress is enacting more race-conscious programs and the Biden administration is happily implementing them. Yet the federal judiciary, newly stocked with Trump appointees, is poised to interpret the Constitution as colorblind and strike them down.

First, yes, it is a “sordid thing” to divvy us up by race.

Second, yes, “race…divides our politics”

And, third, there is a version of colorblind that it would be nice to have.

However, the framing here ignores why we are divvied up by race and why government policy has to take it into account, let alone what “colorblind” means in context.

However.

A quick history lesson just about Blacks in America:

  • 1619-1865 (~246 years): Chattel slavery existed in what would become/was the United States.
  • 1865-1965 (~100 years): Blacks, despite the letter of law are systematically denied the right to vote, as well as during this period experienced years of quasi-slavery (especially in the Deep South in the later 19th century and into the 20th), lynchings, Jim Crow, redlining, and any number of other legal and extra-legal forms of discrimination.
  • 1965-present (~56 years): With the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (couple with the Civil Rights Act of 1964) legal barriers to voting are taken away and legal forms of discriminatory practices are outlawed. Yet, it should be noted, not all discrimination magically disappeared.

For brevity’s sake, I won’t get into things like westward expansion and wars with Native Americans and the subsequent reservation system Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese Internment in WWII, or general treatment of Hispanics over time.**

All this is to say that I find any conversation about race and politics that appears to start the conversation in the 2000s without context to be highly problematic. Or, specifically, to assert a desire for colorblindness as if the entirety of US history on the subject of race never happened to be highly problematic.

Would I like a world wherein race did not matter in terms of justice and policy? Sure. But we don’t live in that world. We live in a world wherein how law and policy treated our grandparents and great-grandparents directly affects our fortunes (literal and figurative) today.

We live in a world wherein the color of one’s skin dictated whether one’s ancestors could get a mortgage, what neighborhoods were destroyed to build the interstate highway system, and what kind of education and jobs one could get.

To act like we can just pretend like all of that isn’t true strikes me as highly problematic and ignores why and how the sordid sorting by race came to be or why the current administration might be interested in “race-conscious programs.”

Further, let’s not pretend that ongoing support for things like felon disenfranchisement don’t have racial roots or race-based motivations. Let’s not pretend like ongoing voter suppression efforts don’t target Black voters because they vote Democratic. And, really, let’s not pretend like 1965 was a big reset button, because it wasn’t.

As I understand it, one of the goals of CRT (to bring that back to the discussion) is to acknowledge these facts while trying to take into consideration current political choices.

Turning to McGinnis’ concluding paragraph:

A return to the colorblind Constitution (the famous formulation of the first Justice John Marshall Harlan’s great dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson) would help tamp down on America’s discontents. The ability of politicians and institutions to give benefits to groups defined by race and ethnicity entrenches racial consciousness and fuels identity politics. Ethnic and racial preferences in government programs or government-funded institutions are far from the only source of our divisions, but they may be the cause most amenable to legal abolition.

Two glaring thoughts.

It is worth remembering that Harlan’s dissent (note: dissent) was from a case in 1892. As a dissent, it carried no weight and, further, it should be stressed he was in a distinct minority both on the Court and in society writ large. This is important to me because it shows the hollowness of using Harlan’s words are some kind of foundation.

Here is the key passage:

The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country.  And so it is, in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth, and in power.  So, I doubt not, it will continue to be for all time, if it remains true to its great heritage and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty.  But in the view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens.  There is no caste here.  Our Constitution in color-blind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.  In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.   The humblest is the peer of the most powerful.  The law regards man as man and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved….

The arbitrary separation of citizens, on the basis of race, while they are on a public highway, is a badge of servitude wholly inconsistent with the civil freedom and the equality before the law established by the Constitution.  It cannot be justified upon any legal grounds

It seems worth noting that it starts with the acknowledgment of white supremacism’s dominance in 1892, and accepts white dominance as clear fact (a not unimportant bit of background information before we move on the loftier notions quoted). It is further worth noting that in 2021, there is a not inconsiderable number of the members of the “white race” who “deems itself to be the dominant race in this country.” And, moreover, that in many ways, such as prestige, education, wealth and power, it very much is. This is a not unimportant part of this discussion (and illustrates that while much has changed since 1892, much has not).

Now, clearly, Harlan is correct that the Constitution should “neither know nor tolerate classes among citizens” but the clear reality has been that this was not the case.

I will say that is it astonishing to me that Harlan could write about a “color-blind” constitution given that the document contained (and still contains) the words of the three-fifths compromise and the allowance of the slave trade until 1808. Yes, the effects of those words were taken away by amendment and time, respectively, but the words themselves remain. Further, the Fifteenth Amendment has to explicitly give non-white males the right to vote (an unvarnished good, to be sure), but one that reminds us all that the original words (and rights) were hardly colorblind (or gender blind for that matter). It is strikingly easy to see the US Constitution as colorblind if one is a white male, but a lot harder to do so if one is not.


The above struck me when I read in the AJC, Cobb County school board bans teaching critical race theory.

My first reaction was that it always makes me a bit itchy, as an educator, when school boards and other entities try to ban ideas. My second was, “What are the odds that CRT is actually being taught in K-12?” My third was, “Does the Cobb County School Board even know what CRT is?”

And then I read this in the piece:

Cobb’s resolution, which was approved during its work session, was introduced by board Chairman Randy Scamihorn, who said he brought up the topic because educators allegedly said on social media they were using part of the theory in their classroom discussions.

He said critical race theory is a Marxist concept that pits one group of people against another.

“It’s revisionist history and history should be thorough,” Scamihorn said.

It is disturbing, yet sadly not surprising, that education policy is being made on the basis of what one of the board members saw on social media. But the truly amazing part of about all of this is that banning an approach is revisionism and, moreover, when it comes to history, CRT is, broadly speaking, insisting that a more comprehensive version of history be taught, not the other way around. (And if Scamihorn could credibly define how critical theory is Marxist, I would be more than a little surprised).

The bottom line, it seems to me, that what is being rejected here is not “Marxism” but, rather, any uncomfortable discussion of the role of race in our social and political development. It connects to the above discussion of the McGinnis piece (and the Robert’s quote) because it wants either to straight-up ignore where we were and how we got where we are or, worse, to hand-wave away history that is uncomfortable as “revisionism.”

I suppose the good news, such as it is, that bans like this are not especially efficacious. It may stop usage of the 1619 Project or the words “Critical Race Theory” but what happened, well, happened and a ban like this can’t stop discussions of how slavery, Jim Crow, and the like shaped American development.

Really, to my Streisand Effect quip above, I am not so sure that all this isn’t bringing more attention this general topic rather than the other way around.


Next up: Florida where Ron DeSantis says critical race theory teaches kids to ‘attack cops’

Gov. Ron DeSantis lauded the decision by the Board of Education to make changes to civics and historical teaching standards.

The move to ban educational approaches such as critical race theory and The 1619 Project was a priority of the Governor’s, who messaged about it repeatedly even as he was on an out-of-state fundraising trip.

In Sarasota Friday, DeSantis offered an unsolicited defense of the decision, saying advocates of critical race theory teach students to “attack cops” even as schools struggle with students who can’t read. He did not specify which schools he meant.

“Some of the nonsense that you see in some of these places around the country. I mean, they will attack cops with this type of ideology in schools, and meanwhile, they have like 87% of the kids that aren’t even literate in some of these schools. So it shows you they’re not trying to educate; they’re trying to indoctrinate,” DeSantis said.

“We’re not going to let that come to Florida. And so I’m glad that they acted. I think it’s the right thing to do. We’re going to make sure that we’re providing access to education, but solid education, free of some of this ideology that people are trying to shove down everybody’s throats.”

If 87% of Florida students at “some of these schools” are illiterate, then I would suggest that the Governor and the state Board of Education ought to be directing their limited time and resources to that, not critical race theory.

I would note, that one of the claims that CRT makes (and not just CRT, I would add) is that any choice made in a curriculum have an ideological/political component to them but that dominant political groups have the luxury of pretending like their version of history is the one made of facts and anything else is tarnished by biases and agendas. In many ways this is the crux of what I find telling about all of these conversations: that the group is power utterly ignores its own power and actually believes in many cases that it is serving truth.

For example:

“That includes everything that’s happened, but you can’t lie, and you can’t promote your ideology and false narratives,” DeSantis said. “And so I think we have arrived at a very good spot for Florida, and it’s going to be something where we’re really focused on the basics.”

But, of course, there is not time to include “everything that’s happened” and hence the debate over what to include and what to exclude (as well as what to focus time on).

Even as Democrats object to the DeSantis agenda, donors flock to him. DeSantis, who reported nearly $40 million cash on hand to his Friends of Ron DeSantis political committee as of the end of May, is fundraising off the critical race theory ban.

“I will NOT allow this Cultural Marxism to Gain a Foothold in Florida Schools,” an email solicitation sent Thursday reads.

The new guidance for teachers certainly offers content guardrails.

American history is to be defined “largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.” Teachers’ apparent efforts “to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view” will also be banned, as is “fiction or theory masquerading as facts.”

Two thoughts:

One, I would love to see whoever wrote that letter explain what “cultural Marxism” is (and it is always interesting to see how these talking point proliferate).

Second, it is nonsensical to me to teach American history “largely on the universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence” in the sense that the document is not a descriptive text. It is an inherently political and philosophical one that doesn’t provide, one way or the other, a guide for teaching American history. I am sure this is a reference to using 1776 as a focal point over 1619 as the “founding” date (and therefore is aimed directly at the 1619 Project). It is, however, totally ham-fisted and borderline nonsensical and is that kind of thing politicians, not educators, would say.


So, what’s the point? I suppose like a lot of blogging this all about the intersection of what has been rolling around in my head and a number of news stories I happened to decide to read.

First, it seems to me that the moral panic in some quarters about “critical race theory” is based largely on reactions based in ignorance combined with an age-old American tradition of wanting to ignore the more difficult parts of our past. We have always wanted to focus on the sentence “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” without troubling ourselves too much about the fact that a slaver-owner penned those words (and God help us should anyone point out the lack of gender inclusion).

Second, it strikes me an incontrovertibly true that current distributions of socio-political/socio-economic power are a direct result of the past, which includes the way people were treated based on race and gender. We are all products of social context. A huge part of who we are is linked to directly to parents and grandparents. If your grandparents or great-grandparents could get a mortgage and start building generation wealth that likely helped you. If they had access to a decent education, that, too, had generational effects. The list goes on and on. And even if one’s family provided none of that, is there any question as to what gender and race one would choose if one was asked to face US society with nothing but the shirt on your back?

Third, a lot of this, to me, is not about critical race theory, per se, but instead about the discomfort that dominant groups have when faced with the unpleasant truths of history. Let’s be blunt: we all want to think that our successes are all our own. We were smart enough and worked hard enough and that was all that matters. Having to deal with the possibility that it is more complicated than that is disconcerting.

And, so, it is more comfortable to talk about the colorblind constitution and pretend like it it is Biden and the Democrats who are sordidly inserting race into the equation. Or, pretending like the Declaration of Independence is all you need to know about US history.

The problem, therefore, isn’t critical race theory; it is that the truth hurts


*The article does not cite the source, simply stating “As he put in a voting rights case.” I initially assumed it was Shelby County v. Holder, but I cannot find the phrase in either Robert’s opinion nor the transcript of oral arguments. Google searches deliver references to McGinnis’ piece, at least as far as I was willing to go down that rabbit hole. I am fairly certain I have read the quote before, but cannot place it.

**One interesting journey into racial politics that is often overlooked is the connection of drug prohibition of drug wars with minority groups. For example the Chinese and opium in the 19th Century, Blacks and cocaine in the early 20th Century, Mexicans and marijuana in the 1930s (and from there).

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Democratic Theory, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Ken_L says:

    Trump Republicans base their actions on beliefs like this, stated in a recent article by Victor Davis Hanson (one of the 1776 “scholars”):

    Name one mainline institution that the woke Left does not now control—and warp. The media? The campuses? Silicon Valley? Professional sports? The corporate boardroom? Foundations? The K-12 educational establishment? The military hierarchy? The administrative state? The FBI top echelon?

    The Left absorbed them all. But this time around it really believes that “by any means necessary” is no mere slogan. Instead, it is a model of how to disrupt or destroy 233 years of American customs, traditions, and values.

    They have therefore convinced themselves that they are fighting a desperate rearguard action to preserve what’s left of the not-a-democracy (white) republic. They are incapable of seeing the glaring incompatibility of this belief with their use of the power of government to limit what schools can teach.

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  2. gVOR08 says:

    I’ve been reading Hannah Arendt. She talks about the Nazis pushing The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and more. They needed a Jewish conspiracy to control the world so that their own conspiracy to control the world became not something new and evil but just another scheme for world domination, necessary for defense against other schemes to control the world.

    The VDH piece @Ken_L: quotes is pretty standard conservative pretense that it’s not that our culture is naturally evolving, it’s a liberal conspiracy to control your lives. Which justifies a white nationalist conspiracy to control your lives.

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  3. Gustopher says:

    I am sure this is a reference to using 1776 as a focal point over 1619 as the “founding” date (and therefore is aimed directly at the 1619 Project).

    The colonies sprang fully formed from Zeus’s head on or about the 4th of July, 1776. People forget that. Luckily, however, no one has any objection about teaching the history of this country after that moment, or the many times that we failed to live up to our lofty ideals….

    Here is a working defintion:
    [… definition, with an example including redlining …]
    In other words, just like it is true that for an individual it is not enough to state “I don’t use the n-word” or “I am not in the KKK” to absolve one of potential racism, so, too, is it true that society is not absolved solely by a series or legislative acts in the mid-1960s.

    My knowledge is probably more limited than yours, but I think one of the key parts of CRT is that the racism of the past — the overt racism that no one can deny — continues to have effects today through economics, opportunities, and a structure that defends the status quo. Even if all racist views could be wiped away with a magic wand, the effects of racism would continue indefinitely.

    You touch upon it later, but I think it’s so fundamental that it needs to be part of the definition — the effects and mechanisms of past racism are locked into the status quo.

    And, this is a part of what terrifies and enrages a lot of white people. They’re struggling as the middle class is declining, and some uppity college professor is saying that they are benefiting from a system stacked against black folks? That can’t be true, because it if was, they wouldn’t be struggling so much.

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  4. Ken_L says:

    @Gustopher: And then they’re supposed to stop talking about the Founding Fathers! Who would want to send their children to college?

  5. drj says:

    And if Scamihorn could credibly define how critical theory is Marxist, I would be more than a little surprised

    In case you didn’t know, rather than a critique on capitalism, “Marxism” is contemporary shorthand for any perceived attempt to subvert western society and its supposed Judeo-Christian* cultural values.

    At best, it’s the ill-defined offshoot of a yet another conspiracy theory (in much the same way that even the uninitiated have at least some awareness of, e.g., Einstein’s theory of relativity). At worst, it’s Jewish space lasers-levels of stupid.

    Pretty much all opposition to CRT goes, ultimately, back to absurd, right-wing conspiracy nonsense – even if some critiques, i.e., those that are intended for wider consumption, get couched in seemingly more reasonable language.**

    * Which, in its turn, is meant to denote “We hate Muslims,” while conveniently overlooking, among other things, centuries of pogroms.

    ** In much the same way that climate change denial can be seemingly plausible and outright crazy – but the game is invariably given away when the same people conveniently adapt their level of craziness to their intended audience.

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  6. charon says:

    * Which, in its turn, is meant to denote “We hate Muslims,” while conveniently overlooking, among other things, centuries of pogroms.

    Judeo-Christian means ” Jews are part of our team because they believe the same Christianity stuff we believe” (even though real-life Jews actually believe very different stuff in many areas).

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  7. drj says:

    @charon:

    “Judeo-Christian” really took off after 9/11.

  8. Scott says:

    I’m sorry but I can’t really take all the performative cultural outrage over CRT in the schools seriously. It is clear that the politicians and elected state boards of education haven’t a clue what goes on in schools anyway. Pretty sure most teachers are just puzzled at the controversy and are concerned that their students just learn something.

  9. Roger says:

    I cannot find the phrase in either Robert’s opinion nor the transcript of oral arguments. Google searches deliver references to McGinnis’ piece, at least as far as I was willing to go down that rabbit hole. I am fairly certain I have read the quote before, but cannot place it.

    Try Google again using “sordid business” instead of “sordid thing.” Query: should we question the thoroughness of approach and intellectual rigor of the argument of someone who butchers the lead quote underlying his thesis?

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  10. James Joyner says:

    I, too, am no expert on CRT but, from what I’ve read of it, it seems rather sound. It’s essentially postmodernism applied to race—we constructed our institutions with white supremacy as an underlying assumption and, even if we were truly without any current malign intent those institutions would tilt the playing field in unconscious-to-us ways.

    Most of the current opposition is performative. But, in the interest of steel-manning the opposition, I think it’s a function of CRT coming into the spotlight because of commercial derivatives like White Fragility and the really poorly-conceived corporate training sessions that have sprung up out of them. That kind of thing just pisses people off and puts them on the defensive. But it’s not CRT, either.

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  11. @Roger: And there you go. Thanks!

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  12. Barry says:

    @charon: “Judeo-Christian means ” Jews are part of our team because they believe the same Christianity stuff we believe” (even though real-life Jews actually believe very different stuff in many areas).”

    IIRC, that term really took off only after WWII and the Holocaust. Before then, it was clear that Jews did not believe what Christians believed. IMHO it was also adopted by Rapturists to justify the setting up of the state of Israel.

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  13. mattbernius says:

    Two important points. First, the US has a long history of “colorblind” laws not being applied in “colorblind” ways. In addition to felony disenfranchisement, we have examples like non-unanimous juries (designed to silence members from minority communities without ever mentioning them) and all of the various Jim Crow election laws (which never once mentioned race, but were definitely applied along racial lines). What makes it worse is the constant use of a select passage from MLK’s “I have a dream speech” to defend biased colorblind laws–especially since the rest of the speech explicitly states that laws needed to directly address the structural racial inequalities that were (and continue to be) baked into our system.

    Likewise, I wish we could purge “revisionist history” from our language. All history is always, already revisionist.

    Which gets to:

    Third, a lot of this, to me, is not about critical race theory, per se, but instead about the discomfort that dominant groups have when faced with the unpleasant truths of history. Let’s be blunt: we all want to think that our successes are all our own. We were smart enough and worked hard enough and that was all that matters. Having to deal with the possibility that it is more complicated than that is disconcerting.

    I think it honestly goes beyond that. I think it’s an unspoken fear that if we actually have to admit that history, then it’s incumbent upon us to fix it (otherwise we are knowingly propagating structural racism). This is much like the common dodge on these issues that “my (white) family arrive in the US after the civil war and had to live as immigrants, so I don’t understand why I have to bare any responsibility for slavery or the plight of Black folks.”

    I was born in ’74 and as a child, the 60’s and the Civil Rights movement seemed like ancient history (if for no other reason because so much of it was in black and white). As an adult it’s staggering to me that I was born less than a decade after the passage of the Voting Rights Act and only a few years after the assassination of MLK. The idea that that past is far behind us is just absurd.

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  14. mattbernius says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think it’s a function of CRT coming into the spotlight because of commercial derivatives like White Fragility and the really poorly-conceived corporate training sessions that have sprung up out of them. That kind of thing just pisses people off and puts them on the defensive.

    I think there is a lot of truth to this. Especially as a lot of the necessary work to really appreciate CRT and these topics take a LONG TIME* and a LOT OF WORK* to really understand. And it requires a willingness to occupy some really uncomfortable spaces. All of that deep tissue work makes it completely the wrong type of thing to think you can effectively teach (or even introduce) in a 1- to 2-hour corporate training session (or even a daylong one).

    For me, it’s been at least a 14-month journey and I still feel like I have a long way to go.

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  15. Teve says:

    @James Joyner: I often disagree with you, but I think that’s a completely solid take.

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  16. mattbernius says:

    BTW, if you want to appreciate the “non-revisionist” that people are fighting for, this thread from Twitter contains excerpts from how textbook used in Louisiana (published in 2015) represents the Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.

    https://twitter.com/jbenton/status/1404245820103348227

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  17. R. Dave says:

    I think it’s a function of CRT coming into the spotlight because of commercial derivatives like White Fragility and the really poorly-conceived corporate training sessions that have sprung up out of them. That kind of thing just pisses people off and puts them on the defensive. But it’s not CRT, either.

    Sure, but that strikes me as very much a motte-and-bailey dodge that progressives like to trot out whenever confronted with the most absurd examples of overreach only to almost immediately revert to amplifying the same racism-based Theory of Everything, which is what the anti-CRT crowd are really criticizing.

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  18. drj says:

    @R. Dave:

    very much a motte-and-bailey dodge that progressives like to trot out whenever confronted with the most absurd examples of overreach

    You have already refuted your own point.

    Likewise, Murray Rothbard’s argument in favor of a “flourishing free market in children” should not be trotted out as a definite slam against free-market capitalism.

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  19. gVOR08 says:

    @Teve: Second the motion, @James Joyner: @James Joyner: comment covers this nicely. But I would add a snarky grammar police comment that “really poorly-conceived corporate training sessions” is redundant.

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  20. Teve says:

    @mattbernius: holy shit. The newly-freed people demanded “high wages”.

    Why, it’s almost like those jerks are profit-stealing Chipotle employees!

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  21. Chip Daniels says:

    What’s notable is not that people trot out the most absurd tweet or internet comment as examples of CRT.
    What is especially revealing is that total lack of an alternative proposal.

    What would “non-Woke” or “Non-CRT” history teaching be?
    Like, the example given of redlining, and its effects. What is the preferred alternative to teaching about this subject?

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  22. gVOR08 says:

    James notes above that much of the CRT outrage is performative. My beloved Governor DeSantis neither knows nor cares what CRT is, nor whether anyone is actually teaching anything like it in K-12. But FOX et al are ginning it up, it lights up the base, and that’s all De Santis needs to know. It’s just another episode of Republicans desperately searching for anything they can pry into being a cultural difference. They need an enemy and using gays doesn’t work anymore. And CRT is a surrogate for their traditional enemies, Blacks and intellectuals.

    There is a lot of philosophical and pseudo-philosophical background to the CRT controversy, but let’s not overthink this. We are divided because professional Republicans work very hard to divide us.

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  23. R. Dave says:

    @drj: You have already refuted your own point.

    How so? Progressives commonly express support for the following attitudes about racism – e.g., that it is pervasive in society and embedded in more or less all of our institutions (systemic racism) as well the subconscious of pretty much every individual (implicit bias), that it is the defining characteristic of American history (1619 Project), that even the tiniest, most innocuous-seeming frictions of daily life are manifestations of it (microaggressions), that questioning or disputing the “lived experience” or self-reported sense of “harm” by minorities is racist, that intent doesn’t matter in the face of a claim of racial harm and objecting to accusations of racism is itself racist (White Fragility), that racism is power + prejudice, so only white people can be racist in our society and any disparagement of white people or “Whiteness” is categorically different than racism, and that active, that vigorous interrogation and reform of our assumptions, attitudes, institutions, etc. is necessary to root out this nigh-universal racism in ourselves and our society (anti-racism), and that such efforts should be led by the victims of racism with white “allies” deferring to them whenever possible.

    Those attitudes, by their very nature, are totalizing in scope and lacking reasonable guardrails, so they inevitably create pressure for ever-more-extreme application, culminating in the particularly absurd examples that make the news. Progressives then handwave away those examples as not representative of their views and retreat to the “bailey” of some narrow academic version of CRT or a vague and undeniable claim that there are still plenty of people with racist (i.e., actually hateful) attitudes and that historical racism still has legacy effects.

    1
  24. Jay L Gischer says:

    I think all this “critical X theory” stuff goes back to Jacques Derrida, who I think (It’s difficult to say for sure with Derrida, he was deliberately opaque) understood that “marxism v. capitalism” kind of didn’t matter. Powerful groups and individuals were always going to use whatever tools or structures were available to them to make themselves more powerful, and to hide the fact they were doing that.

    You will see on the wild, open Internet those who talk Marxism and critical theory (be it gender, race, whatever) in the same posts, paragraphs, or even sentence. I feel it’s a bit silly, because they seem to want to change one set of powerful people for another. Since I’m not in either group, (even though based on identity to them I am), it’s kind of an eyeroll. It doesn’t seem like progress.

    What is progress? I’m hard pressed to give it a name. It’s habits, I guess, and customs. Bad ones lessened, better ones advanced, constant renewal.

  25. drj says:

    @R. Dave:

    Those attitudes, by their very nature, are totalizing in scope and lacking reasonable guardrails

    Show your work, because, as far as I am concerned, this is utter nonsense.

    I, for instance, do not share all the attitudes about racism (some of them yes, others no) which you claim are “commonly” supported by unnamed progressives.

    Are these “commonly” shared in the Democratic Party? If not, who then are these “progressives” you speak of?

    I could just as easily say that any believer in free-market capitalism necessarily ends up supporting a “free market in children” à la Rothbard.

    After all, capitalism is totalizing in scope and lacks reasonable guardrails.

    4
  26. dazedandconfused says:

    My issue with it is also performative. Assuming the intent of CRT is to educate people who are genuinely educatable about the topic of racism in America, it has already face-planted spectacularly. The intended audience isn’t academia and their attention span seldom ventures far beyond the practical, that which can be done about the way things are now.

    Debating whether or not it’s Marxist falls into the Rovian trap: If you can get your opponent debating the wrong issue it doesn’t matter who wins. That is is easily twistable by dedicated white supremacists towards a debate about Marxism shows the problem. The issue has dedicated, enraged opposition which actively fights to maintain ignorance, so on this topic theory is counterproductive, history says everything that needs saying, and lotsa luck trying to ban history from the curricula.

    They seek to make it a crime to teach it? Talleyrand: “It is worse than a crime, it is a blunder.”

  27. Jay L Gischer says:

    @dazedandconfused: The “intent” of CRT was to understand certain structures in the legal system 40 years ago. It was never meant as a public education campaign, though I’m sure there are some who want to make it so.

    It makes a really great straw man for the right, though.

    The above, in no way repudiates the ideas of CRT or associated with CRT. But it’s an academic project, not a public education project.

    3
  28. Gustopher says:

    @mattbernius: I liked the part about how some of the slaves moved into the house and divided up her possessions while she was gone.

    @Teve: This little biography/story really gets to the heart of the economics of slavery. There’s also a bit about the family wealth being land and slaves, and thus secure.

    The pages on the reconstruction are awful, but I honestly wish we had the blurb about white slave-owner lady in my 6th grade history books. Not as the only thing, or the main thing, but to provide a little balance and show the views and economic interests that were going to oppose reconstruction.

    Also, it would have been nice if my 6th grade books mentioned reconstruction — instead things were just great after the civil war, it solved everything and there was no backlash.

    1
  29. charon says:

    @R. Dave:

    Your entire first paragraph looks to me like a collection of straw men built on exaggerations, caricatures.

    2
  30. Tony W says:

    I have nothing to add, other than to say that this is one of your best pieces ever.

    Thank you for such a comprehensive thought piece on a tough subject.

    3
  31. Andy says:

    I agree with this from Freddie DeBoer:

    What was it that you marched for, when you took the streets last year? Was it so that an obscure set of theories from legal education could be clumsily grafted on to school curricula in order to be implemented by overworked, sometimes hostile teachers and taught to bored and apathetic students no more engaged than they are with algebra? Or did you demand a new world?

    All of the useless binarism of our culture war is on display in the debate about CRT. And in particular, we see the way that, when the “other side” attacks, people rally around ideas and arguments that they might not actually care that much about, had their opponents not decided that this was the new target. I have to laugh when defenders of CRT say, accurately, that most critics don’t know anything about it; is the suggestion that the average social media defender of CRT has been diligently reading their Kimberle Crenshaw? No. Culture war exists to convince people that things are happening when they aren’t.

    An argument that starts with “I don’t understand CRT” and then immediately moves to criticize the critics of CRT seems…well, logically weak is the nicest way I can put it. If one doesn’t understand CRT, then how can one be confident that critics are wrong?

    This whole debate, IMO, is a waste of time until we understand what CRT actually is. And if most people, even the most highly educated who follow politics and social issues, don’t know what it really means, then the obvious thing to do is for proponents to explain it. As with any theory, proponents must make their case. And they should do it in terms that ordinary people can understand.

    Skepticism and criticism are completely warranted until they do.

    I think it’s completely appropriate to prevent teaching CRT – or any theory – in K-12 until it is properly understood and the curriculum is properly and fully vetted.

    Similarly, ff government policy is going to be at least partly be based on the precepts of CRT, then ought to know what that means exactly and how the theory will be operationalized into policy.

    None of that can happen until we understand WTF CRT actually is.

    So I feel a bit miffed that I spent time reading a ~3000 word blog post that did not ask or consider these fundamental questions, that did not put any responsibility at all on CRT proponents to even minimally explain what it even is, and instead went on a long tangent including a lot of criticizing the critics for criticizing. The problem isn’t the critics, the problem is proponents of CRT who don’t, won’t, or can’t explain what it is and how they want to use it.

    2
  32. mattbernius says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    The “intent” of CRT was to understand certain structures in the legal system 40 years ago. It was never meant as a public education campaign, though I’m sure there are some who want to make it so.

    Kinda… yes. It started as a legal studies tool. It then moved into educational studies (at the collegiate and graduate level). Ideas from CRT spun out and were expanded upon.

    Part of the challenge is that one of the core tenents of CRT is shifting the concept of white supremacy from being about direct racial animus to a more systemic definition. That’s definitely moved into some of the corporate tutorials. At the same time, somewhat in parallel, other folks developed “the characteristics of white supremacy culture.” These come from the community/anti-racist activism and organizing side of the house.

    Most of the current corporate training has more to do with the latter material (the characteristics) than the former (academic CRT). I think the name CRT has caught on because it’s (a) scary and academic and (b) allows conservatives not to have to directly say “white supremacy” over and over again.

    tl:dr; – CRT and “characteristics of white supremacy culture” are connected, but not necessarily the same thing. When people typically talk about CRT in popular discourse, they are usually actually talking about the characteristics.

  33. Modulo Myself says:

    @mattbernius:

    Exactly. CRT takes the legal system and makes it an institution with has created its own values, in the same way that Foucault the ‘naive’ conception of Victorian sexuality–which was that they were repressed–and showed this ‘repression’ was a creation of a much wider interest in sex, if I remember from what I pretended to read of him.

    A good example–outside the legal system– is theclassic response to anti-racism in this country–that telling a poor white man in WV that he’s benefitted from racism is about the worst thing you can do. This is treated as a natural fact about the world. I.e. that if you’re poor and white you have no room to understand poor and black and the differences between them. When this could just be a creation of CRT’s version of racism.

    1
  34. @Andy:

    An argument that starts with “I don’t understand CRT” and then immediately moves to criticize the critics of CRT seems…well, logically weak is the nicest way I can put it. If one doesn’t understand CRT, then how can one be confident that critics are wrong.

    I am a little surprised at you, Andy, as this is either you not reading carefully, or being a bit disingenuous for effect.

    What I said was

    I am hardly an expert on critical race theory. I am fairly confident in saying that I know more about that the vast majority of persons in the United States, but that my knowledge is limited.

    5
  35. gVOR08 says:

    @Andy: Seriously? I don’t claim to understand CRT. That doesn’t mean I can’t be pretty sure Ron DeUseless doesn’t understand it either. Nor do I feel it’s incumbent on proponents of CRT to explain arcane academic legal theories to the average base Republican. And why would anyone be an advocate for continuing to teach CRT in FL K-12 when, as far as I can find, no one was anyway?

    3
  36. mattbernius says:

    @Andy:

    The problem isn’t the critics, the problem is proponents of CRT who don’t, won’t, or can’t explain what it is and how they want to use it.

    Man, you’re right. Clearly no one has ever attempted to do that. If only an internet search engine existed where one might look for such explainers…
    https://www.edweek.org/leadership/what-is-critical-race-theory-and-why-is-it-under-attack/2021/05

    The reality is that people have been explaining this over and over again. The problem is that many critics are simply not acting in good faith or doing the work to listen. Or they will chose a single author or advocate and engage in whataboutism (just has been done with so many other issues like this).

    This strategy isn’t restricted to one ideological side or the other, but calling out bad-faith criticism is necessary if we’re going to be able to have a real discussion about this.

    4
  37. @Andy:

    So I feel a bit miffed that I spent time reading a ~3000 word blog post

    Look, you are entitled to not like what I wrote and while I appreciate the fact that read this (and other things I have written), I always get a bit miffed myself by criticisms that amount to “you didn’t write what I wanted you to write” (especially given that your thesis is that I claim not to know what CRT, which is not what I said).

    2
  38. @mattbernius: All excellent points.

    1
  39. @mattbernius: Indeed-it is linked in my post along with an excerpt.

    And, really, I thought I was pretty clear on the basics, but I guess not.

    1
  40. Other thoughts:

    1. It strikes me an intellectually honest to admit one is not an expert. But, likewise, not being an expert doesn’t mean one does not know enough to discuss a topic. If expert level training was necessary to discuss any given topic, that would curtail a lot of the comments on this site.

    2. Side note on actual expert status: when I do write about subjects about which I am actually expert, I don’t recall anyone treating me or my views as sacrosanct.

    3. It is impossible, even in this long of a post, to cover everything about a topic.

    6
  41. R. Dave says:

    @drj: Show your work, because, as far as I am concerned, this is utter nonsense. I, for instance, do not share all the attitudes about racism (some of them yes, others no) which you claim are “commonly” supported by unnamed progressives. Are these “commonly” shared in the Democratic Party? If not, who then are these “progressives” you speak of?

    @charon: Your entire first paragraph looks to me like a collection of straw men built on exaggerations, caricatures.

    Serious “fish doesn’t recognize that it’s immersed in water” energy from you guys right now. Tell me, which of these views on race/racism do you think is *not* commonly held and/or expressed among self-identified progressives? And if the statements were softened a bit with words like “often”, “many”, “frequently”, etc., would you still argue that they aren’t commonly accepted/espoused among progressives?

    1. That racism is pervasive in society.
    2. That racism is embedded in more or less all of our institutions in the form of systemic racism.
    3. That pretty much every individual carries implicit racial biases.
    4. That racism is the defining characteristic of American history.
    5. That even the tiniest, most innocuous-seeming frictions of daily life are manifestations of racism in the form of microaggressions.
    6. That questioning or disputing the “lived experience” or self-reported sense of “harm” by minorities is racist.
    7. That intent doesn’t matter in the face of a claim of racial harm.
    8. That objecting to accusations of racism is itself racist.
    9. That racism is power + prejudice, so only white people can be racist in our society.
    10. That any disparagement of white people or “Whiteness” is categorically different than racism.
    11. That active, vigorous interrogation and reform of our assumptions, attitudes, institutions, etc. is necessary to root out this nigh-universal racism in ourselves and our society.
    12. That such efforts should be led by the victims of racism with white “allies” deferring to them whenever possible.

    2
  42. R. Dave says:

    @gVOR08: Nor do I feel it’s incumbent on proponents of CRT to explain arcane academic legal theories to the average base Republican.

    Fair enough, but to flip it around, does the average base Republican need to understand the arcane academic theories to legitimately criticize the collection of dumbed-down, mass-market, concept-creep version of it that’s been cropping up in progressive/lefty spaces, activist manifestos, and corporate ass-covering seminars?

  43. Mikey says:

    @R. Dave:

    Fair enough, but to flip it around, does the average base Republican need to understand the arcane academic theories to legitimately criticize the collection of dumbed-down, mass-market, concept-creep version of it that’s been cropping up in progressive/lefty spaces, activist manifestos, and corporate ass-covering seminars?

    It’s entirely fair to point this out and to acknowledge they do not, but in reality this isn’t the focus of very much of their criticism.

    Most of their attacks on CRT boil down to wanting to continue teaching whitewashed, incomplete, or just plain bad history, and they are using bad-faith discussions of CRT to justify doing so. Which is why we’re seeing all these astroturfed pushes to “ban” teaching CRT to 12-year-olds, who would never be taught it in the first place unless they are 200 IQ super-geniuses who are in law school.

    1
  44. Kurtz says:

    @James Joyner:

    Yes. Thank you.

    1
  45. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am a little surprised at you, Andy, as this is either you not reading carefully, or being a bit disingenuous for effect.

    What I said was

    I am hardly an expert on critical race theory. I am fairly confident in saying that I know more about that the vast majority of persons in the United States, but that my knowledge is limited.

    I concede the point that “I don’t understand” is not the same thing as “my knowledge is limited.” So my apologies for that mischaracterization. I do, however, stand by the rest of my comment.

    @gVOR08:

    Nor do I feel it’s incumbent on proponents of CRT to explain arcane academic legal theories to the average base Republican.

    The point isn’t to explain to the “average base Republicans” because it seems that most people regardless of their politics don’t understand it. Fundamentally, for there to be any kind of informed debate on CRT, there has to be some kind of baseline understanding of what it is, what it means, and how proponents wish to utilize it in terms of policy, education, or any other sphere.

    Instead, we have a lot of people who don’t know anything about CRT, or have “limited knowledge” about it, who make arguments that boil down to attacking opponents that have very little to do with the actual merits of CRT (because they don’t know anything about it or their knowledge is limited). That’s the culture war aspect of criticizing the critics. If Ron DeSantis is against it, then it must be good, because DeSantis is bad.

    Or, to put it another way, the point is that people aren’t attacking the critics of CRT based on the merits, whatever they are, of CRT. Because, as you yourself admit, you -and they (and I) – don’t understand CRT or don’t understand it well. Neither do most people who’ve commented in this thread (including myself). If the critics of CRT are wrong, then they should be shown to be wrong based on the tenets of logic CRT.

    Full-disclosure – I don’t have an opinion on CRT yet because I don’t think I know enough about it to judge. That’s why these “debates” about CRT are so annoying because listening to either side does nothing to inform me about CRT – it just the usual culture war noise.

    1
  46. just nutha says:

    @R. Dave: I’d be more likely to go with “race is A defining characteristic” rather than “the” because there are more characteristics that define America than racism. I’m also open to (but not sold on) the notion that racism is a more determinative characteristic than others, but need to hear an argument in favor of that proposition. It’s an easy declaration to make without having analyzed its significance.

    2
  47. Kurtz says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    It doesn’t all go back to Derrida. This is one of the issues with using umbrella terms like Marxism, classical liberalism, Founding Fathers, postmodernism, etc. The label is effective in a narrow, general sense. But once the label is used as a shibboleth, to self-define, or to define the opposition it loses any meaning.

    CT is large enough that there may be some strains that rely heavily on Derrida, but even then it’s unlikely that they solely, or as a whole, his work. Some take deconstruction as a tool, but one of many.

    Within postmodernism, there are plenty of theorists who take pretty dim views of Derrida. Much of language-focused critical theory can be traced to Saussure and others.

    As a concrete example, take the use of legacy terms now considered exclusionary. How do we deal with it if Freire or Ellul uses “mankind”?

    Pedagogy of the Opressed was republished with modified language. That strikes me as dishonest, even as one sympathetic to the goals of critical theorists.

    Do we issue a prefatory statement like Whoopi Goldberg’s introduction on the DVD re-issues of Looney Tunes? That seems like a safe choice.

    Do we use strikethroughs? This is my personal preference.

    But the most difficult part of this question resides in applying varying standards to different speakers. The very act of treating Freire differently from, say, Jefferson or Madison creates the potential for conflict via accusations of inconsistency, hypocrisy, and ignorance.

  48. Andy says:

    @mattbernius:

    The reality is that people have been explaining this over and over again. The problem is that many critics are simply not acting in good faith or doing the work to listen. Or they will chose a single author or advocate and engage in whataboutism (just has been done with so many other issues like this).

    Except it is not just critics that say they don’t really understand it. You have most people in this thread – decidedly not a right-wing community – claiming they don’t understand it. I read widely on both sides of the political spectrum and many people I read on the left say they don’t understand CRT or what it’s supposed to do or achieve either. That can’t be waved away by asserting bad faith or whattaboutism.

    The link you provided isn’t particularly helpful. About half of it is spent criticizing the critics or noting what critics say about it. At one point the author states that the academic understanding of CRT differs from the popular understanding, yet never explains what that difference is and instead immediately to “the what critics say” mode leaving the reader to wonder just what is the difference between the academic and popular understanding.

    2
  49. @Andy: I feel like you are being a bit deliberately obtuse here, because the basics of the concept are in the post and in the link that Matt and I both provided.

    From that link, and from my post “The core idea is that racism is a social construct, and that it is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.”

    That strikes me as pretty straightforward unless one does not understand what a “social construct” is.

    Not to be too much of a smartass, but that definition is more than enough to have the starting spot for at least a non-expert level of discussion.

    I think if you know what redlining is, or the history of interstate construction (both mentioned in the post), one has at least some operational ability to understand what is going on here.

    I am perplexed by your insistence that no one knows what CRT is.

    6
  50. Kurtz says:

    @Andy:

    This whole debate, IMO, is a waste of time until we understand what CRT actually is. And if most people, even the most highly educated who follow politics and social issues, don’t know what it really means, then the obvious thing to do is for proponents to explain it. As with any theory, proponents must make their case. And they should do it in terms that ordinary people can understand.

    @James Joyner: @Steven L. Taylor:

    One thing on which I am quite consistent is the need to look at primary and original sources. When an op-ed touting some new research gets posted here, if I comment at all, I exhort people to locate the actual study.

    In a WaPo op-ed recently posted in an open thread, the headline declaration was at odds with the carefully circumscribed language in the piece written by one of the authors of the study in question. As is often the case with academic studies, once translated into journalism, caveats and limitations disappear and suggestion tends toward absolute.

    In the case of California’s math curriculum, I encouraged people to look at the actual proposal. Even reading the introduction alone would reveal the glaring deficiencies in the opinion piece at Reason.

    But you know what? If the conversation continues, it’s easy for me to tell who read my comment carefully before responding, who took a position reflexively, who is only drawing on personal experience, who did a bit more work before embarking on a doomed journey. In short, it reveals who reasons by ideology or partisan identity, who is nakedly bullshitting, and sometimes whether a person is engaging with good faith.

    One more example. I was reading a blog post by Michael Huemer and in the comments section, Huemer started a thoughtful response with, “I’m not a Marxist scholar, but…” We are talking about a political theorist and ethicist who wrote the most succinct, analytic defense of Anarcho-Capitalism to date. Should we dismiss his arguments contained in The Problem of Political Authority simply because he hasn’t spent the years required to be a Marxist scholar? I don’t think so.

    More germane to this discussion is that Huemer showed more knowledge of Marxist theory in a short comment than most of the bobbleheads who cosplay expertise on TV or write op-eds for print. And certainly more than the vast majority of regular-ass people.

    The point is that when @Andy points to “the most highly educated who follow politics and social issues” as indicative of the fact that CRT shouldn’t be a topic of discussion is only partially true and in any case, beside the point. Of course our political science professor hosts aren’t going to be familiar with everything that falls under the rubric of political science and political theory. Ellul’s themes in Propaganda apply here. There has been so much knowledge produced that one person can’t possibly consume it all. It’s unlikely that Paul Rabinow has read every word of the literature in hermeneutics.

    To some extent, I will support Andy’s point. I doubt any activist engaging in some form of direct action with nothing more than an undergraduate degree and some recreational reading, has an ocean-deep knowledge of critical theory. But at the same time, one person here insisted on dismissing those actions as “virtue signaling” before angrily asking me what I had done in comparison to the amount he donated to Dems that cycle. Is it (!!!) or (???) in chess notation. Oh, it’s the latter.

    But Andy, cui bono? Who benefits from training a lazy gaze at an umbrella term for a wide and deep body of literature drawn from (extensions of) 18th and 19th Century German philosophy and mostly unknown theorists like Freire? The same crowd that in apparent but probably feigned earnest seriousness invoke terms like ‘Western Civilization’ and ‘Judeo-Christian’ to make their points.

    AKA Professional Bullshitters and the vested interests in business and politics who prop them up. I can concede that the sort of direct action questioned above may be politically misguided, but also say that the donor here is way out of his depth. And that blaming the activist is probably not the best look for a rich white guy when their actions only gained salience via Tucker Carlson or OANN.

    That tricky place, the junction of praxis and pragmatism. Maybe Jay-Z had it right when he said he “drove by the fork in the road and went straight.”

    3
  51. Kurtz says:

    @Kurtz:

    No edit button, usually a refresh works for me.

    And that blaming the activist is probably not the best look for a rich white guy when their actions only gained salience via Tucker Carlson or OANN.

    Yes I’m aware that this also cuts against the efficacy of direct action. But only if we are talking about institutional change. Some here, including those I sub-posted above rather than name names, criticize Taylor’s focus on systemic analysis, while also taking dismissive aim at those working face to face despite often engaging in the behavior they criticize.

    I lean toward changing institutions as the preferred long-term strategy. But I think it’s pretty clear that institutional inertia can only be overcome by forms of direct action and symbolic protest. As I told people on FB during the Kaepernick protests, hey you can use Sundays to escape from politics when you do something to fix problems the other six days of the week.

    I bet, if virtue signaling had entered the zeitgeist before CK’s protest, people would have called it virtue signaling. (maybe they did and I didn’t see it or don’t remember it.) But it cost him a lot.

    2
  52. al Ameda says:

    I’ve assumed that CRT was about telling the true 400 year story about race in America.

    Liberals and Progressives see this as an ‘it’s about time’ issue. Republicans and Trumpers see this as ‘Liberal indoctrination’ of the ideas that (1) we are a racist nation and (2) ‘white privilege’ has been an enduring feature of American culture.

    I would say that Republicans have successfully defined CRT even though I suspect that even the most fervent anti-CRT’ers could not tell you what CRT is. It’s become a Radical Right talking point, it’s a bookend companion to the ‘Liberals say that were all racists’ phony grievance.

    1
  53. Kurtz says:

    @R. Dave:

    Okay, here’s the thing. They aren’t labelling those carrying implicit bias as racist as they would David Duke, Richard Spencer, or Derek Taylor. Hence, the phrase “recognize [your] privilege.”

    Pointed aside: when I took the implicit bias test, I scored way below the average for Dems much less Reps. And the latter two were much closer than the average Dem’s score to me. More than that, the one time I made a ‘mistake’ I knew it immediately and had already slowed down in my responses a bit before it came up.

    And no, I’m not saying I’m holier than all you motherfuckers. I’m just pointing out that to the extent that test is a good measure, it shows that racial judgement is pervasive.

    If your reflex to reading my results was umbrage, then maybe you should worry more about yourself. Give me your address, I’ll be you a mirror.

    But look at what sparked this discussion: a change by a semi-official body chaired by a Republican that only has one Democrat in its ranks.

    Put yourself in the shoes of an activist. The people who claim to be on your side are blaming you for a controversy manufactured by right-wingers over a decision made by a body dominated by members of the conservative party.


    TRIGGER WARNING FOR THOSE WHO ONLY ACCEPT ARROGANCE FROM THEMSELVES

    For those questioning the importance of (official) language and anyone else opining on a complex issue with zero background knowledge:

    I think someone mentioned something similar in one of the other threads. When Reynolds on more than one occasion has said that the only group with a beef as big as Black people’s is indigenous groups, my first thought is, “what the fuck does he think Mexicans are?”

    Could it be because the official census ethnic designation is Hispanic? Which, by the way, isn’t descriptive of ethnicity. It’s a linguistic distinction, not a place-of-origin distinction.

    Need another example? Why did an ex-gf of mine get screamed at by drivers as she walked home from school shortly after 9/11? She is of Indian descent. She doesn’t wear a hijab, because she’s not Muslim. And why did people say to me, “she’s hot. Is she Middle Eastern?”

    Could it be because the official census designation for Asian is so broad as to be meaningless except in the discourse of regular people? Or the fact that technically, someone from Iraq would be Asian? Yet that person may get confused with a person descended from an Egyptian, who would technically be African American, but unlikely to be confused with a North Indian, a person from Turkmenistan, or a Persian?

    Or how about a benign example? The study that showed Russian speakers were better able to quickly distinguish between different shades of blue than English speakers. Russian has two words for blue vs. the one in English. Conclusive? No. But drip drip drip results in a puddle and there is plenty of other similar research. If you want to slip, then by all means ignore it. Hope you have a Life Alert.

    Yeah, language doesn’t matter because MR says it doesn’t and he’s a kid-lit novelist so he understands people with the depth of Tolstoy. So he’s practically a campaign manager. McWhorter is a linguist so he knows what he’s talking about, right? Yeah, and Ryan Zinke is a Geologist so let’s trust his expertise on Keystone XL and ANWR.

    Anybody else have an incisive, weighty opinion on critical theory?

    Anybody else want to shoot from the hip like the deranged progeny of Brett Favre, Johnny Ringo, and John McCain?

    Oh, am I talking down to you? Well here’s a hankie for your tears. I’ll be right back with your blankie and binkie.

    To two very specific people and no one else:

    You’re smart enough to know who you are, so you should be smart enough to know that you’ve drifted too far from the shore without a floatie.

    Grow up before you engage with me on this particular issue. Proceed with caution, because I’m fucking done trying to neutrally and politely explain things you would rather errantly lob SCUDs at. Oh, and while you strut and peacock about how you stuck it to those damn kids, I added to my knowledge.

    Most of all, I’m fucking tired of showing respect to people who don’t show it back. Sit down. Be humble.

    Oh, it’s okay, I have your bah bah on its way. I’ll test it on the back of my hand; I know you’ve been burned enough today.

    I Made it look sexy, too.

  54. Kurtz says:

    @Andy:

    Full-disclosure – I don’t have an opinion on CRT yet because I don’t think I know enough about it to judge. That’s why these “debates” about CRT are so annoying because listening to either side does nothing to inform me about CRT – it just the usual culture war noise.

    Hey! If you ever wanted to feel like Tom Cruise, you finally have your chance!

  55. Mimai says:

    A few stray thoughts.

    1) I wish CRT would drop/replace the T. It’s descriptive, not predictive. Framework or model would be more apt. (I recognize that I come at this as a scientist, hence my preference.)

    2) The “white supremacy” language is really difficult for a lot of people. The associations to KKK etc are just too ingrained. Maybe this will pass as generations come and go.

    3) As many have noted, CRT is primarily focused on institutions. And yet, when humans talk about CRT, they (including CRT experts) frequently use “individual” language. This framing (racism etc are individual failings) is deeply ingrained and, hence, seeps out.

    4) Teaching CRT requires a nuance-appreciating mind. And a deft touch. It is one framework (see #1) by which to understand complex and emotionally laden past/present. Now ponder who taught your history, social studies, civics etc courses in middle/high school? Oof! [Note, this is not a commentary on whether CRT “should” be taught in schools.]

    2
  56. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    This whole debate, IMO, is a waste of time until we understand what CRT actually is. And if most people, even the most highly educated who follow politics and social issues, don’t know what it really means, then the obvious thing to do is for proponents to explain it. As with any theory, proponents must make their case.

    No, I think that the burden is on those who are banning something to actually be able to specify what they are banning.

    If the various state governments were banning Flockensprocken and the teaching of Flockensprocken (critical and/or uncritical variants) you would want to the legislators and governors to actually know what Flockensprocken is. You would not want a ban of Flockensprocken on the books, where the definition of Flockensprocken is nebulous, ill-defined and just means “things that make us uncomfortable despite a nice internal rhyme scheme”.

    You claim to be libertarian or libertarian adjacent… This is one of the times that is the right instinct!

    2
  57. Kurtz says:

    @Mimai:

    The “white supremacy” language is really difficult for a lot of people. The associations to KKK etc are just too ingrained. Maybe this will pass as generations come and go.

    I may have mentioned it here, but only as a stray round from the spray of an AR.

    I’ve long thought it may be useful to sub out “racist” with another word. My pick has been racialism, but it probably carries too much baggage even if it could fit nicely without a ton of work to re-frame it.

    But who am I kidding, it would get criticized by that subset of media and some mostly politically aligned people will repeat the criticism.

    And, you may be thinking it but unlikely to ask. Yes, I’m having a bad day. A bad couple days actually. Oh well. Too much on my mind to give a fuck about being an asshole to some assholes right now.

    I still love a couple of them. But damn, they should stop being assholes.

    2
  58. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am perplexed by your insistence that no one knows what CRT is.

    I’ve not insisted that “no one” knows what it is. The fact remains that a large number of people – including many in this thread – claim not to understand it or only understand it at the margins.

    Not to be too much of a smartass, but that definition is more than enough to have the starting spot for at least a non-expert level of discussion.

    I think you’ve misread my previous arguments in this thread, especially regarding the tactic of “discussing” CRT by criticizing critics. More below in my response to Kurtz:

    @Kurtz:

    The point is that when @Andy points to “the most highly educated who follow politics and social issues” as indicative of the fact that CRT shouldn’t be a topic of discussion is only partially true and in any case, beside the point.

    Just as a point of fact, I’m not at all stating that CRT shouldn’t be a topic of discussion. Quite the opposite. My complaint is twofold:
    – That CRT isn’t actually being discussed, except as a proxy for criticizing political enemies as part of the larger culture war. This is the part where I think the Freddie DeBoer quote is relevant.
    – That CRT isn’t well-defined, even among proponents, except in very vague terms, which results in a lot of motte-and-bailey arguments and goalpost moving.

    I’ve seen CRT described only as an academic theory, but many proponents also say it is a political/social movement which, if true, would mean it has the features of a movement including a governing ideology, leaders, and political goals along with the strategy and tactics to achieve them which is something different from a banal academic abstraction like “racism is a social construct.”

    In a lot of ways it strikes me as perhaps a more mature version of “defund the police.” What “defund” it means beyond handwaving about problematic policing depends entirely on who you ask.

    Hence why I think that productive discussion on “defund” or CRT is difficult at best because the topic lacks a common frame of reference, even among proponents.

    But Andy, cui bono? Who benefits from training a lazy gaze at an umbrella term for a wide and deep body of literature drawn from (extensions of) 18th and 19th Century German philosophy and mostly unknown theorists like Freire? The same crowd that in apparent but probably feigned earnest seriousness invoke terms like ‘Western Civilization’ and ‘Judeo-Christian’ to make their points.

    The cui bono also works in other directions, particularly if, as some proponents suggest, CRT isn’t merely a theory but a movement.

    2
  59. drj says:

    @R. Dave:

    And if the statements were softened a bit with words like “often”, “many”, “frequently”, etc., would you still argue that they aren’t commonly accepted/espoused among progressives?

    Shorter R. Dave: “Progressives believe in this caricature I just provided.”

    Me: “Who are these progressives?”

    R. Dave: “Well, they don’t actually believe in my caricature, but something rather more nuanced. Why are you denying this?”

    And even then, some of your statements that progressives “commonly” believe (allegedly) remain completely absurd, e.g., “that intent doesn’t matter in the face of a claim of racial harm.”

    Seriously, who actually claims that there is no difference between a KKK pamphlet and a shitty racist joke?

    AOC, Bernie Sanders?

    Give me some names that aren’t Twitter randos.

    As I said before, show me your work – which, I should note, you didn’t even try to do the first time.

    I’m starting to suspect that wasn’t exactly a coincidence.

    1
  60. Mimai says:
  61. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    I do not support governments at any level banning or attempting to ban ideas and it’s no different in this case where what is being banned is nebulous.

    You claim to be libertarian or libertarian adjacent… This is one of the times that is the right instinct!

    I’m Libertarian adjacent in the sense that I value individual autonomy and freedom and am skeptical of centralized power and authority. In most other ways I depart from Libertarians. (Of course, it needs to be pointed out that “Libertarian” can span a wide range of actual views and there is a lot of diversity under that label.)

    1
  62. Mimai says:

    @Kurtz:

    Yeah, I think “racialism” would be similarly problematic for people. “White superiority” has come up a lot more in my neck of the woods. But that too is but a mere baby step and condescendingly transparent.

    You are of course right to note that any term(s) will get bastardized by a certain set. But there are a lot (!) of people in the middle of the poles who are “getable” if the packaging is remotely palatable. [Side bar: this is similar, on the surface, to recent discussions (aka “pile-ons”) about language but is substantively a different topic/issue.]

    ps, Sorry to hear you’re having a shitty run. Sending best wishes through the ether.

    1
  63. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Sorry I missed that link on the first read.

    1
  64. Kurtz says:

    @Andy:

    I knew that particular phrasing would get me in trouble when I wrote it. I had enough things I wanted to say at that point, that going back to correct it went by the wayside.

    Sorry, I know that isn’t your argument. But I didn’t base any of my post on that mischaracterization. It was just a shitty shorthand.

    And again, I will express a form of agreement with you. We have enough historical evidence from Marxism alone to see how difficult it can be to move from observation – – > framework – – > practical action.

    I suspect that there are a few leaders of the activist groups who have a decent depth of knowledge. But as the movement expands, you get to people who took a class or two in college, people who learned from the leaders and those with ‘more’ knowledge, to people who read Kendi, to people who already thought these things through diffusion from art or off-hand references.

    Through that expansion, you get a lot of people saying things that, well, they don’t understand. But this is a cultural problem that may be intractable.

    Your point about the two way street of cui bono is taken. But this strikes me a bit like tracing funding of climate research organizations and screaming “FOLLOW THE MONEY” as an argument against the reality of AGW. One of the two sides funding these organizations/movements has a lot more to protect than the other.

    And it kind of ties in to the previous point as well. Some will take the funding argument and weigh it appropriately. Others will accept it without thinking it through and look ridiculous. But some very loud people will link climate scientists to a foreign Marxist takeover attempt engineered by Soros and his band of child-eating Satanist Zombie-Nazis.

    Some commenters here may want to put all those groups into one bucket. But you know I don’t.

    1
  65. Kurtz says:

    @Mimai:

    Just send ether and a plastic tarp, please

    1
  66. @mattbernius: No worries. As has been rightly noted, there were a lot of words in this one to keep track of.

  67. Kurtz says:

    @Andy:

    I also thought Libertarian-adjacent label was off even if I understand why it was applied.

    “libertarianism” (not a typo) is an (arguably) co-opted term that in a broad sense applies more or less to every type of anarchy and adjacent approaches.

    But to those of us in the US, it means something very specific that only partially overlaps with the umbreall term within political theory.

    From a completely unrealistic standpoint, it would be much better for the libertarian approaches from the left and right of the theory (sorry, @Mimai) crowd to take-over the actual LP. But that would require both sides to agree on:

    Unfettered is not a synonym for free; collective intervention is required for a free market

    But the chances of that are zero, because R. Paul sycophants acolytes swallowed dogma disguised as scientific truth. And it ironically became a label to apply to oneself as a social signal of independent thought without independence or thought.

    Marketing is a mangy dog with fleas.

  68. gVOR08 says:

    @Andy: Let me try again. This whole discussion is a category error. Not Dr. Taylor’s post, which is a well thought out, even handed discussion. But the whole RW freakout and the response to it. You say we, me, someone should explain what CRT is and why it’s good. I’d as soon explain the death panels in the ACA and why they’re good.

    There actually was once a “death panel”. When there were only a few dialysis machines and treatment was hugely expensive there was a board who decided who got the treatment and who died. That, and “death panels” in general, have nothing to do with the ACA. CRT apparently exists as an academic method and as @James Joyner: notes it’s apparently used for some questionable corporate training programs and some, perhaps flakey, public school curriculum discussions. But the subject of the RW freakout is K-12 classroom instruction, and CRT has little or nothing to do with K-12 classrooms. Here in Florida, the Governor got the state Board of Education to agree to not teach CRT. But they had no plans to, so this is another content free DeUseless performance for the base.

    This really is death panels all over again. Republicans have found a concept and a word, “CRT”, that they’ve been able to twist and inflate into a boogeyman. Didn’t Rove say something about if GOPs have us debating the wrong thing, they win? The proper response is to explain to the GOP voters that this is all nonsense and the GOP elites are conning them. Again. But we don’t seem to have found any way to do that.

    1
  69. Kurtz says:

    @gVOR08:

    The proper response is to explain to the GOP voters that this is all nonsense and the GOP elites are conning them. Again. But we don’t seem to have found any way to do that.

    Well, not without getting pilloried for condescension.

  70. R. Dave says:

    @drj: If you honestly don’t recognize “intent doesn’t matter” as a common claim in progressive discussions of racism, then I question whether you actually know any progressives or have ever read any progressive writing on the subject. Of course, I don’t really believe that’s the case; I think you’re rather clearly just pretending these dead standard progressive points are novel and bizarre mischaracterizations you’ve never heard uttered before because admitting otherwise would give away the game.

    So, I’m not going to waste a bunch of time digging up links to prove to a bad faith interlocutor that water is wet, but to save you the effort of Googling “intent doesn’t matter” and variations thereof for yourself, here are a few results from literally 2 minutes of searching:

    Everyday Feminism

    Toronto Star

    Ibram X Kendi

    Robin DiAngelo

    1
  71. de stijl says:

    Rs: let’s ignore reality and pretend slavery did not happen, and if it did it was uplifting to the enslaved.

    2
  72. Ken_L says:

    @de stijl: Well as Ben Carson said, they were just a different kind of immigrant, were they not?

    1
  73. JohnSF says:

    A bit late to this but I’ll throw in my tuppenceworth anyway.

    I said some of this before in a posting on another thread:
    I first came across “critical theory” (note: not CRT explicitly) as a concept in the mid-1990’s.

    At the time I was doing a degree course that was centred on history.
    A couple of the tutors were very interested in the history of European communist parties and concepts.
    Right wingers they were not (broadly marxist Labour Party, basically); but they were a bit sceptical about the whole post-Frankfurt School-postmodernist development of it, from a left perspective, as becoming increasingly detatched from materialist/historical foundations.
    As it was outside my my areas, my information was more conversationalist than academic, and it was not a subject I pursued.

    I would say though, it can fairly be argued that critical theory has definite postmodernist and therefore sorta-marxist lineage.
    Which certainly does not put it beyond the pale for me; “socialist” is not the boo-word for most British and Europeans that it seems to be for a lot of Americans.
    But it might make it a tricky prospect for consensus formation in the US.
    Maybe, or maybe not; you folks will be better qualified to judge than I am.

    As said though, all this is a view on critical theory in general, from almost 25 years ago.
    Could well be that Critical Race Theory has in effect evolved way beyond these origins as to make this mere ancestral pedantry. Dunno.

    As I’ve partially, at least, said before, by own doubts about CRT are rather academic, NOT political re. objectives or methods.
    In part because I think the objectives are laudable; in part because the questions of political judgement really need an American perspective, and I am not an American.
    I simply don’t understand your politics or sociology deeply enough to offer an informed opinion on political campaigning one way or the other.

    The academic quibbling I have is that as CRT as I (superficially?) understand the concepts, relates to the economic bases determining the ideologies, ideas and attitudes of society.
    This undoubtedly WAS the case, IMO, for the development of racialized slavery in the Modern era, in the context of the Atlantic colonial/slaver economies. Here CRT is spot on; arguably the best explanatory model.

    The problem is, it might be expected that the end of slave/plantation systems as a primary economic base would lead to a reduction in racialist ideas and politics.
    But it seems the opposite was the case; racialist-basis politics seem if anything more the main determinant of political alignments in the Southern states in the post-reconstruction era.

    It might be argued that that reflects the interest of the now dominant capitalist/industrial system.
    And that it was this which aborted the emergence of European type social party politics in the US.
    Or alternatively, that the landowning elite in the South continued to shape regional institutions and attitudes enough to pursue their interests of a dependent, divided, impoverished and semi-peonised population of agricultural labourers.

    I still don’t think either, or both, fit all the evidence, or explain some aspects at all well.
    Or how concepts of racial justice could survive or prevail at all in a basis-conditioned society CRT envisages.
    I still think ideas have their own dynamics (a very non-materialist line, there).

    Finally though CRT seems quite right about one thing: institutions are very often not necessarily the neutral arbiters or arenas of fair competition they are made out to be.
    They may be, or they may not.
    As with most things human, it needs work to make them work.
    Justice is not a given.

    1
  74. R. Dave says:

    @drj: Since my previous attempt at a reply is still stuck in moderation for some reason, I’ll try again here with a shortened version. In a nutshell, I find it hard to believe you really aren’t familiar with the very common principle that “intent doesn’t matter” when someone is accused of having said or done something racist. It’s a pretty standard line in DEI trainings, college orientations, online discussions, etc.; it was trotted out by the Editor of the NYT when they forced out Donald McNeil earlier this year; it’s central to the arguments of both Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo, not to mention the general concept of structural or systemic racism; it appears in newspaper editorials periodically, etc. I’m not going to spend hours trying to dig up the perfect links to prove to you that water is wet, but here are a few that popped up with just a quick Google search:

    Everyday Feminism

    Toronto Star

    Washington Post

    University of Calgary ACLRC

    Kendi

    DiAngelo

    Seriously, who actually claims that there is no difference between a KKK pamphlet and a shitty racist joke?

    I agree that it’s ludicrous not to distinguish between those two things, based on the differing intentions, but among the progressive left / antiracist crowd, both are “racist”, both are “white supremacy”, and both should get you called out, disciplined, and potentially fired. Honestly, telling an overtly racist joke isn’t even really a close call anymore. The threshold for controversial close calls these days can be as innocuous as a white guy who opposes a supposedly antiracist school reform holding his friend’s mixed-race baby on his lap during a meeting of the Manhattan Community Education Council. There’s a reason we’re seeing a growing backlash to this ideology, however amorphous, ill-defined, and difficult to label that ideology may be, and it’s not just that Fox News, OANN, Newsmax, etc. are making stuff up.

  75. R. Dave says:

    Mods – I’ve tried twice to post a response to drj’s comment upthread, but both attempts are stuck in moderation. I’m guessing it’s just the embedded links triggering a spam filter or something. Could you release them when you get a chance? Thanks in advance!

  76. dazedandconfused says:

    @JohnSF:

    Great post. Can anyone explain the continued existence of the caste system in India? I think the answer must have economic determinism within it somewhere, but there is an instinctive need within most human societies to have omegas, even if we must conjure them from thin air.
    Economic determinism can explain the root cause but from there it seems the system develops it’s own logic. We keep it going with fiercely defended rationalizations, perhaps to avoid guilt. At any rate, economic determinism shouldn’t be taken as the whole story in just about anything to do with human society, labeling it as THE critical factor may be wrong and naïve.

  77. drj says:

    @R. Dave:

    I find it hard to believe you really aren’t familiar with the very common principle that “intent doesn’t matter” when someone is accused of having said or done something racist.

    What I believe is that intent is not solely determinative regarding the question whether racial harm has occurred, or, in simpler terms, that racial harm can occur without racist intent. (Which logically follows from the assumptions that social structures can be racist and that implicit racial biases do exist.)

    If you want to attack me (or CRT) because of those claims, be my guest.

    But you insist on that these reasonable assumptions are the same as (or must lead to) “intent doesn’t matter,” which is ludicrous.

    Even looking at your first link (leading to a 2013 article by someone I never heard of), the author categorically is not claiming that there is no difference whatsoever between intentionally throwing a frisbee in someone’s face and accidentally throwing a frisbee in someone’s face.

    Instead, we get this:

    What we need to realize is that when it comes to people’s lives and identities, the impact of our actions can be profound and wide-reaching.

    And that’s far more important than the question of our intent.

    Can’t you see that this – in the specific context of unintentionally making a racist remark – is something completely different than what you claim that progessives “commonly” believe?

    Even when it comes to some random article on everydayfeminism.com (what’s in a name, eh?), you need to distort and decontextualize for your argument to work.

    That’s wholly on you.

    2
  78. R. Dave says:

    @drj: Sure, and “defund the police” doesn’t really mean defund the police. Your position seems to have gone from calling the idea that these are common progressive positions “utter nonsense” to arguing that I’m ignoring the context of those positions (thus tacitly admitting that they are, in fact, progressive positions). So…progress, I guess?

    1
  79. drj says:

    @R. Dave:

    Your position seems to have gone from calling the idea that these are common progressive positions “utter nonsense” to arguing that I’m ignoring the context of those positions (thus tacitly admitting that they are, in fact, progressive positions). So…progress, I guess?

    Now you’re just outright lying.

    “Racial harm can occur without racist intent” ≠ “intent doesn’t matter”

    Similarly (quoting “Everyday Feminism”):

    “When it comes to people’s lives and identities, the impact of our actions can be […] far more important than the question of our intent.”≠ “intent doesn’t matter”

    Sad…

  80. R. Dave says:

    @drj: Nope, you’re just engaging in the exact motte and bailey defense that I noted in my initial comment – retreating to the more nuanced and carefully contextualized position while denying anyone (except maybe some “Twitter randos”) actually holds or espouses the more obviously ridiculous position I highlighted. That said, if you’re saying you agree that the positions I noted are ludicrous, wrong, and not positions that self-styled progressives should hold or espouse, then that’s great. We at least have that as common ground to start from, and we merely disagree over the factual question of whether self-styled progressives do in fact hold or espouse those positions. For that, I suggest you “do the work” and read some reputable, reasonable sources that critique CRT, antiracism, and lefty racialism more generally to see for yourself, since I’m clearly not going to convince you of anything.

    2
  81. drj says:

    you’re just engaging in the exact motte and bailey defense that I noted in my initial comment – retreating to the more nuanced and carefully contextualized position while denying anyone (except maybe some “Twitter randos”) actually holds or espouses the more obviously ridiculous position I highlighted.

    Everyday Feminism (YOUR source):

    When it comes to people’s lives and identities, the impact of our actions can be […] far more important than the question of our intent.

    Which is certainly not the same as “intent doesn’t matter.”

    Are you having short-term memory problems?

  82. JohnSF says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    Can anyone explain the continued existence of the caste system in India?

    You’d need a real specialist in Indian cultural history and sociology for that.
    My personal understanding, from some very general knowlege of history, would be that a social system derived from the conquest of the Indo/Gangetic plains by the Indo-Iranian or Avestan groups led to a aristocracy/peasant cleavage similar to that in post-Norman Conquest England.

    The difference being that the class/ethnic difference got entrenched in the emerging religious synthesis of post-Vedic culture in India, notably in the relation to the whole concept structures of reincartion, dharma/karma, and “purity”.

    And once something gets embodied in religion, you can have a heck of a job getting over it.

  83. R. Dave says:

    @drj: You’re simply not engaging in good faith here, drj. You’re cherry-picking a sentence from an article to incorrectly and misleadingly imply that the article as a whole is more nuanced and carefully contextualized than it is. If this was a reading comprehension test in which you were asked to select a sentence that best summarizes or represents the main theme/argument of the article, you would fail miserably. And you’re smart enough to know it, so I can only conclude you’re acting in bad faith here. So, I’m bored now and moving on. Last word is yours if you want it.

    1
  84. drj says:

    @R. Dave:

    If this was a reading comprehension test in which you were asked to select a sentence that best summarizes or represents the main theme/argument of the article, you would fail miserably.

    In that case, this would have been an EXCELLENT opportunity to support your argument by explaining what the (obviously ludicrous) key sentence of the article actually is.

    I mean, you were already typing your response. So what stopped you? Even if I were not to engage honestly, there are other readers as well.

    So, I’m bored now and moving on. Last word is yours if you want it.

    Nope. Storming off in a huff instead. How convenient.

  85. Item #1 on this from Jonathan V. Last at the Bulwark seems apropos to this thread.

    1
  86. JohnSF says:

    @JohnSF:
    A further thought: a (caricature of a) “critical theorist” might day:
    “Duh! It’s all to do with the class interest of the landowners in pre-industrial times and capitalists today in fostering division in the labouring classes.”
    Too which I’d reply: Sure, but if that is the only aspect, how come you don’t get caste societies in China, and Africa, and the “Muslim East”, and Western Europe, and Russia, and…?

    Critical theory at once explains too much and too little.

  87. mattbernius says:

    I think this article/interview from Vox is quite helpful on this topic:
    https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/22464746/critical-race-theory-anti-racism-jarvis-givens

    I think there are some final thoughts I’ll put in for now.

    1. Critical Race Theory has academically been used as an analytical framework. A way to unpack laws and social movements. Despite the protestations of folks in this thread, while this form of CRT has continued to evolve (like most frameworks in the Social Sciences), it’s actually quite well defined.*

    2. Projects like the “1619 Project” use critical race theories in how they are analyzing history. This is no different than other projects using tools like cultural hermenutics, social linguistics/semiotics, or any other host of academic tools.

    3. The books and corporate training that most people are pointing to falls more into “anti-racist” work. Again, this is not the same thing as Critical Race Theory. The point of confusion is that many anti-racist programs use Critical Race Theory as a tool for pointing out… wait for it… racism.

    3a. Note, I’m leaving anti-racism to the side for this conversation. Why? Because people keep asking for a definition of CRT and, taking those requests in good faith, I’m going to deal just with CRT. IF you really want to drag anti-racism into the conversation, then I would argue you really are not interested in defining CRT.

    4. While CRT can be used to look at individual interactions, it’s really designed to look at things at the macro scale versus the micro scale. Can it be used at the micro scale? Yes. Is it great at that use — YMMV. I think there are a lot of problems with using it as a micro-analysis tool.

    5. Does intent matter? This is also a scaling question. Generally speaking, I’m increasingly to the point where I think it matters far less than impact. And usually, the people who emphasize focusing on their intent versus their impact are folks who are not willing to return that favor when situations are reversed (despite their protestations). The first rule of a good apology is always to focus on impact versus intent, because talking about your intent makes it about you and your feelings (versus the person who suffered the impact).

    * – As to the core tenents of the CRT framework, I think this articulation of them from an article on the topic from the ACLU matches my training on the topic:

    While recognizing the evolving and malleable nature of CRT, scholar Khiara Bridges outlines a few key tenets of CRT, including:

    * Recognition that race is not biologically real but is socially constructed and socially significant. It recognizes that science (as demonstrated in the Human Genome Project) refutes the idea of biological racial differences. According to scholars Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, race is the product of social thought and is not connected to biological reality.

    * Acknowledgement that racism is a normal feature of society and is embedded within systems and institutions, like the legal system, that replicate racial inequality. This dismisses the idea that racist incidents are aberrations but instead are manifestations of structural and systemic racism.

    * Rejection of popular understandings about racism, such as arguments that confine racism to a few “bad apples.” CRT recognizes that racism is codified in law, embedded in structures, and woven into public policy. CRT rejects claims of meritocracy or “colorblindness.” CRT recognizes that it is the systemic nature of racism that bears primary responsibility for reproducing racial inequality.

    * Recognition of the relevance of people’s everyday lives to scholarship. This includes embracing the lived experiences of people of color, including those preserved through storytelling, and rejecting deficit-informed research that excludes the epistemologies of people of color.

    CRT does not define racism in the traditional manner as solely the consequence of discrete irrational bad acts perpetrated by individuals but is usually the unintended (but often foreseeable) consequence of choices. It exposes the ways that racism is often cloaked in terminology regarding “mainstream,” “normal,” or “traditional” values or “neutral” policies, principles, or practices.
    Source: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/crsj/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/civil-rights-reimagining-policing/a-lesson-on-critical-race-theory/

    2
  88. @mattbernius: All very useful.

    Thanks. I think this addresses quite a few concerns as expressed in this comment thread.

    1
  89. mattbernius says:

    @mattbernius:

    And usually, the people who emphasize focusing on their intent versus their impact are folks who are not willing to return that favor when situations are reversed (despite their protestations).

    Slight build on this statement, I think people tend to not concentrate on impact when they don’t care about the impact. And everyone has their biases in this regard.

    Unfortunately, a key bias many folks have is being biased about their biases (or rather unaware). This means that in the story they tell themselves they are more concerned about intent than impact because, in most cases, the stories that come to mind are cases where the impact of an action doesn’t really matter to them.

    1
  90. Ken_L says:

    Let’s cut through the crap, shall we? CRT “basically teaches that certain children are inherently bad people because of the color of their skin, period.”

    That’s the informed opinion of an Alabama legislator who’s trying to prohibit it from being taught in schools. And who can blame him? https://www.al.com/news/2021/06/whitmire-alabama-lawmaker-wants-to-ban-critical-race-theory-so-i-asked-him-what-it-is.html

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  91. @Ken_L: Along those lines, this column by Josh Moon is worth a read.

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