“They’re teaching young kids as young as kindergarten to essentially hate their white skin.”
“It diminishes all Blacks as racially oppressed victims.”
“The nation’s history is being presented as something to despise.”
Over the past months, our community in Southlake and the nation writ large have been gripped by one term. Critical Race Theory. CRT. Some may welcome it and some may denounce it but we have all heard of the term. The quotes above are all lines taken from a variety of articles from different media outlets, decrying the field of study as something abominable and something that should not be explored in American schools. Close to our home, the Carroll ISD Cultural Competence Action Plan, or CCAP, has been attacked as another instance of the “infiltration” of CRT in to our school system by both parents and the Carroll ISD school board itself.
This article will not be a defense of that proposal nor will it present an argument for why CRT should be explored by Carroll ISD or any other school district. Instead, I will simply present an explanation of what CRT is, and address some of the attacks made against it, and in doing so, show how Critical Race Theory is not the boogeyman that many have made it out to be, but rather a philosophy that deserves just as much consideration as any other field of study.
So let’s begin.
Defining The Debate
Before addressing specific arguments against Critical Race Theory, it is worth defining what it actually is. Contrary to popular belief, Critical Race Theory is not one theorization of race in America. Critical theorists attempt to analyze how power operates between different groups in local communities, the country, or the world. Critical race theory is a subset of critical theory, in which different critical race theorists present different theories for how power operates in relation to racial groups. There are many different forms of critical theory, from Afropessimism to Afrofuturism and more. The intricacies of these theories are too far and complex to get into for the purposes of this article, but the fact that that is true shows that critical race theory is not a monolith; rather it is an framework of analysis where scholars each posit their own theory of how they think racial relations occur. With this said, let’s examine some common arguments against critical race theory and determine the merit of each argument.
Objection 1: CRT Labels All White People as Racist
This is not true. No widely studied brand of critical race theory says white people are bad or are the enemy. This argument is dangerous because this false premise is utilized to make arguments such as “white children will be demonized and ostracized.” The reason for this myth most likely stems from the fact many strains of Critical Race Theory criticize a concept known as “Whiteness”. It is important to note that Whiteness is not the same as white people. Many CRT strains present an argument that racism is present in almost all institutions in America, whether it be overt or subtle. White people by consequence of being white therefore benefit from this system. Is it the fault of those people? Of course not according to CRT, they are born into this system, and them benefitting from it is no fault of their own. Instead, Critical Race Theorists often will present arguments for how people can be anti-racist and work to fight this system.
Objection 2: CRT Dehumanizes and Demotivates People of Color
Also false. To start off with, many Critical Race Theorists are people who’ve spent the large majority of their lives fighting for civil rights and educating the masses on these struggles, often to great success. Critical Race Theory does not present a message of hopelessness. From Christina Sharpe’s ideas of “Wake Work” to Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s description of “the Undercommons,” these scholars present methods for black people and people of color to engage with the systems they contend to be against them and present a way forward. Even the most pessimistic strains of CRT such as Afropessimism don’t neglect to include their own methods of engagement. Even if CRT starts from an admittedly grim premise for people of color, this objection ignores the possibility that that premise could actually be a reality for people of color, and unfortunately for many, it is.
Objection 3: CRT Precludes Meaningful Discussions of Racism
This objection rests on the argument that the jury is still out on whether systemic racism exists. The argument becomes that, since many critical race theorists argue that in order to be an ally in the fight for racial justice, people must recognize the fact systemic racism exists, CRT shuts out any discussion on whether or not it does exist by branding those who question it as racist. The most important thing to address here is that systemic racism, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is present throughout much of America. This can be seen through more examples than can be listed within a singular article, including unemployment rates, differentials in prison sentences for the same crime, representation among high paying jobs, and more. Even if you don’t believe present laws don’t overtly discriminate on the basis of race, the fact remains that as recently as about 50 years ago, they did, and they have resulted in negative intergenerational effects. With that being said, even if you don’t believe in systemic racism. nothing about CRT will shut down discussions of whether or not it exists. Just as there is a side in the debate that believes it does not exist, CRT just introduces another side in the debate that uses a particular lens to argue that it does, and in a county that values diversity of ideas, that should be encouraged.
Objection 4: CRT is Marxist and Therefore Bad
This objection starts with a somewhat correct premise. Yes, just like Marx in the mid 1800s, many scholars of Critical Race Theory find capitalism deeply problematic in everything from it’s structure to the results it produces; the difference being that Marx analyzed it from the standpoint of class divides while CRT scholars analyze it from the perspective of racial division. The reply is going to be familiar. Disagreement about the goodness of Marxism, and it certainly has many valid criticisms worthy of debate, isn’t a reason to shut down discussion of it. Freedom of speech means allowing points of view other than yours. Just as capitalists criticize Marx, CRT should be allowed to criticize capitalism, and the debate should be allowed to be had.
Much of this article has revolved around a central point: the freedom of speech. The inherent consequence of that important liberty is that points of view other than your own have to be allowed. The dialogue around CRT bans in Southlake and elsewhere have been almost singularly based around criticisms of the content of what it teaches. The fact is, people who support CRT find the perspective that it is false extremely flawed, just as those on the other side believe those people as completely incorrect. There is always going to be a difference of opinion. That difference of opinion is not a valid reason to shut down Critical Race Theory. In this country with free speech, doing so is both un-American and based on a lie.