One of the headline questions we posed in our most recent blog was the following:
“What Is Critical Race Theory, and Why Is Everyone Talking About It?”
To be clear, “everyone” includes multiple news sources all over the biased political spectrum. For example…
Critical Race Theory Is Patriotic, Not Anti-American
Critical Race Theory Spits on Civil Rights Movement
Setting Record Straight on Critical Race Theory in Education
NEA Goes All-In on Critical Race Theory
The Left’s Critical Race Theory Ruining U.S. Public Education
And that’s a mere smidgeon of the news. There’s a bit more emotion displayed in the headlines…
Private School Expels Children of Moms Who Advocate Against Critical Race Theory in School
‘Panic’ over Critical Race Theory Because White People ‘Afraid They Might Be Complicit in Racism’
Teachers’-Union Head Claims CRT Is Only Taught at Colleges
National Education Association to Spend over $100K to Promote Critical Race Theory
Largest Teachers’ Union Erases Campaign to Push Critical Race Theory from Website
“Everyone” also now includes the Intramuralist.
Across the country, people have been talking about critical race theory (CRT). Many of these emotionally-charged discussions have come in the education arena, where the question is whether to adopt the theory, teaching it to K-12 students. Is it an accurate lens to teach about race? Is it just a theory — an uncertain belief that hasn’t proven to be either true or untrue? One of the clear challenges of this discussion, no less, is the underlying question as to whether or not people know what CRT actually is — or instead discern the theory’s folly or sagacity based on who articulates concern or support.
So what is it?
Let me humbly state before we begin that a singular blog post is insufficient. As known to active Intramuralist readers, I have now read over 16 books on racial issues in the past two years and still feel there is more to learn. Hence, this post is not intended to provide comprehensive discernment on the issue. It is, however, intended to provide increased insight into why concern and support both exist.
Critical race theory is a term derived by the writings of academics Derrick Bell and Richard Delgado in the 1970’s/80’s. According to Delgado and his wife, Jean Stefancic, CRT is “a collection of activists and scholars interested in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power. The movement considers many of the same issues that conventional civil rights and ethnic studies discourses take up, but places them in a broader perspective that includes economics, history, context, group- and self-interest, and even feelings and the unconscious. Unlike traditional civil rights, which embraces incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.”
The basic premise of CRT is that society is divided into two groups: the oppressors and the oppressed. White people are the oppressors; black people are the oppressed. With the existence of systemic racism still in our country — and the even more emotionally-charged debate in regard to what’s systemic and what’s not — it is logical how the bifurcation is attractive to some as a tool to make sense of a complicated society.
Delgado and Stefancic publicly acknowledge that critical race theory builds on the insights of critical theory. Critical theory originated from the Frankfurt School in Germany in the 20s and 30s — an academic institute founded by Carl Grünberg, a Marxist professor of law.
It’s insightful then to recognize that the bifurcated approach of CRT — whether intentional or not — mirrors the teaching of Karl Marx. Like CRT, classic Marxism teaches that society is split into two groups — the oppressor and the oppressed. This oppression, however, is based on class — not race. The capitalists are the oppressors; the larger working class is the oppressed. Marxism contends that capitalists actually desire to exploit the working class for the purposes of maintaining self status and power. CRT makes like contentions in regard to race.
The resulting question we’re left with on this admittedly tough subject is whether in concern or support we are aware of CRT’s origins and parallels. What is the effect of those parallels? Are other agendas knowingly or unknowingly in play? If we could analyze historically and defuse emotionally, all over the biased political spectrum, my strong sense is we’d collectively have a more productive conversation about the wisest lenses to employ in regard to current societal challenge.