June 14, 2021

"In fact, I don’t even believe that most people have any real concept of what critical race theory is."

"It’s just a collection of words that hint, to them, at agitation and aggrievement: a theory that mentions race and that is critical, or, in their minds, criticizes.... So the rush by states across the country to ban the teaching of critical race theory in schools isn’t really about a real threat. Very few schools even teach C.R.T. as a core part of their curriculums, if at all... This attack on critical race theory is no different than the rush during the Obama administration by states to ban Shariah law in state courts, even though there was absolutely no threat that Shariah law would be recognized or used in those courts.... The freakout about critical race theory is also not dissimilar from the ongoing attack on trans people, particularly people who were assigned male at birth.... Now states are moving to ban trans girls and women from participating in high school and college sports, although this is not really an issue...."

Writes Charles M. Blow in "Demonizing Critical Race Theory" (NYT).

If "most people" lack "any real concept of what critical race theory is," then why don't Democrats and others communicate the information? Instead, as Blow describes in his column, Republicans use the term to generate anxiety about what those terrible left-wingers want to do to us. 

I challenge proponents of Critical Race Theory to speak to ordinary people in terms they can understand and explain the theory, why it's a theory, and what is meant by "critical." Don't just tell us conclusions and demand that we accept them and don't just introduce another confusing term. That is, don't just say that there is "systemic racism." Explain the theory and what is critical about the theory. 

Why can't that be done clearly and straightforwardly? People are right to feel anxious and suspicious about something so big and powerful that can't be talked about. To say "In fact, I don’t even believe that most people have any real concept of what critical race theory is" is to blame the people for failing to understand what isn't being discussed clearly. That's perverse and elitist.

Blow writes "Very few schools even teach C.R.T. as a core part of their curriculums, if at all," but that only shows why it's obtuse to ban teaching CRT. What's being taught are lessons influenced by the CRT ideology. Students are not in danger of becoming empowered to think at the level of the academics who originally propounded the theories, whatever those theories are. They are taught history and other subjects and those subjects may be skewed when they are entitled to the truth and not ideological indoctrination.


Ann Althouse said...

Temujin writes:

"In fact, I don't believe most people have any concept of what critical race theory is."

But many do. And many more are being shown glimpses of it via their local school boards, their kids class curricula, our new Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine guidelines and *mandatory* 'training', as well as corporate HR departments and more *mandatory* training. Why, it's as if they're all trying to get some indoctrination program out and installed before anyone does actually notice what's going on or what it's all about.

So for Charles Blow, a man who cannot see beyond his own narrow prejudices, to announce that it's really nothing but a healthy dose of clear thinking that we should not be afraid of, tells me to be very afraid for the kids. He claims that very few schools even teach CRT or have it as part of their curriculum. How does he know that? In New York State- how many school systems are instituting this curriculum? Or forget school boards: how many teachers are taking it upon themselves to spoon feed this to kids? Do we know? How about outside of New York- throughout the rest of the country? Charles Blow wants you to know, he knows, and it's all OK.

And as is typical of the Leftist approach, he tries to partner up with other aggrieved groups, because, no one does victimhood like those on the Left. He tries to partner up with Muslims (this is like the pushback on Obama and Sharia Law), and LGBTQRSTUVW by claiming it's akin to the, how did he put it: "the ongoing attack on trans people". Huh? Is this a national epidemic? I'm seeing articles about the 'Drag Queen Story Hour' wherein a nice man in drag reads nice stories about Trans people to your kids, because, you know...it's for their education. I'm seeing men who want to be women but were born with a man's body, running away with trophies competing in sports against women who want to have a woman's body. I'm seeing other articles on Asians and Jews getting beaten up. What I'm not seeing are attacks on Trans people. What I am seeing is the public being fed boatloads of Trans-this, and Trans-that, as if it's 40% of the population and the rest of us should just step back and let them have their way with society.

And that brings us to CRT. Yes, let's be clear about it. We were never clear about BLM. That they were formed as a Marxist organization and among their goals was the dismantling of the nuclear family. When they gained traction, and people noticed their actual words, they took that bit off of their website. How about CRT? Can we have that actual discussion? I don't mean Robin DiAngelo standing on a stage insulting and wagging a finger at a room full of people who have lived full lives and have full lives worth of actual experience with people. I mean, let's open the books on CRT. Let's see what they have to say. Let's see how many want to be subjected to it. Moreover, let's see, after that discussion, how many parents- Black AND White- want to have their kids subjected to it.

I suspect that's a discussion Charles Blow would NOT like to have.

Ann Althouse said...


I question whether the training you describe teaches the theory itself as opposed to the conclusions that were arrived at through the theory.

To teach the theory itself would be to empower those who learn it to replicate the analysis and falsify the conclusions. I think that's arcana kept within the possession of the elite.

Ann Althouse said...

Nancy writes:

Thanks for reading Blow for us, I tried and ended up just skimming as it felt so predictable. Victor Davis Hansen’s Anatomy of the Woke Madness on the other hand, is clearly descriptive of the current phenomenon.

Both the progressives in general and the CRT adherents in particular are getting very defensive. This stuff was designed to be under-the-table, graduate level academic theory not open to the great hoards of the unwashed. Now that it is out there in all it’s whacked out manifestations they are trying to rein it back in by insulting the public asking valid questions.


Believe it or not, that VDH article is what I was skimming and finding predictable before I switched to the next thing and it happened to be Blow.

Ann Althouse said...

MJB Wolf writes:

The fruits of CRT are plentiful (BLM) all we have to judge them by and so far the fruit appears to be of the most poisonous kind to society, to politics and to anything any "critical theory" has been applied to. Marxist thought is always and forever antithetical to our way of life, given that we are a republic and a stubbornly classless society. Those theories were formed to motivate Euro lower classes to join together and revolt against their aristocratic rulers and oppressors. It just doesn't fit us. And you can't simply swap out race for class and expect it to translate well because we are a decidedly mixed-race country. I mean, the whole idea of the rainbow example is the colors blend, they are not distinct stripes like a flag. Apparently when choosing the rainbow for their coalition, the race-mongers didn't think about the analogy very much farther than "many colors." Yes. Yes there are. And they blend.

Ann Althouse said...

Birches writes:

Charles Blow is right, CRT in its academic sense, is not taught in middle school and high school. Most secondary education teachers don't have a deep understanding of the concept. Like most educational teaching fads, these teachers have a mediocre understanding of high level concepts and then teach that distortion to their students, which results in disaster. This is illustrated not just in CRT, but in how "new math," and writing are taught as well. It's like playing a game of telephone. Blow cannot say that it's normal and healthy for children to line up and take steps forward or back according to their color or ethnicity. This is what's happening. And it must stop.

On the broader point, I believe Blow is being disingenuous. If what is being preached by the likes of Kendi, DiAngelo, and Jones isn't a byproduct of CRT, then why hasn't there been pushback in their PopCRT? Conservatives weren't the ones who elevated them.

Ann Althouse said...

Patrick writes:

"Why is CRT even taught in K-12? It is a legal "theory" that takes a particular perspective that race affects the US legal system to preserve the status of the "oppressors." It is derived from a post-Marxist re-evaluation of "class struggle", Critical Theory. I don't have an issue with CRT, or CT being taught in college courses, but K-12 should stress fundamentals and basic citizenship and not esoteric legal perspectives. While it may be a useful tool, the stress on anecdotal story data is not scientific in that it cannot be falsified, that is make testable and verifiable predictions."

I don't think it is taught, so Blow is right about that. But he's obscuring the way the *conclusions* of CRT are used to make lessons that are at the level of little children. That is, compulsory schooling is appropriated for the purpose of indoctrinating vulnerable human beings instead of giving them what is morally required: true education.

Ann Althouse said...

David writes: "If this is an actual "theory", there must be conditions that would prove it false. If no such conditions are stated, then it is non-falsifiable and is not a valid theory. In other words, it is pure belief."

Ann Althouse said...

Owen writes:

The theory is very simple and goes all the way back to the Garden. Envy. The serpent was envious of man enjoying favor with God and worked to bring him low. Then Cain was envious of Abel enjoying favor with God and worked to bring him low.

Then, a bit later, Marx was envious of the productive and creative people enjoying prosperity and worked to bring them low.

Now comes the same theory in different garb: race instead of class, although each is as vague, arbitrary and irrelevant as the other. And that’s part of the trick: to disguise the envy and the raw demand for power with a red rag that angry masses can follow.

Ann Althouse said...

K writes:

CRT was the basic theory of the Confederacy: that slavery was essential to the success of the United States and protected by the US Constitution which was written by white supremacists to keep slavery going. This theory was developed by John C Calhoun. It was this theory which was opposed by the soldiers of the Union including by 180,000 former slaves in the Civil War. This theory was defeated. This theory was revived by Wilson and the Progressives in the form of segregation - they who claimed the new social sciences showed African inferiority and inability to handle technological society and hence a need to exclude them from participating in running society which they were unfitted to do. The revival was opposed by Republicans, Northerners and, just before WW II, by a majority of Southerners. It was defeated by the civil rights movement of the Sixties. It was revived by Marxists at Harvard who wished to alter the democratic US government into an authoritarian form of government. They wish to discredit that democracy and its strongest group of supporters as a first step to installing tyranny. So, the theories of John C Calhoun were again declared to be the founding principles of the United States and, as such, worthy to be overthrown just as when they were the principles of the Confederacy. The Harvard Marxist and their clones see this as the Union v. the Confederacy. But since they wish to overthrow democracy in favor of Tyranny X (distant, alien, centralizing, globalizing = X) it is really the American Revolution again - Americans v. King G.

Ann Althouse said...

Cheryl writes:

Blow blithely states the CRT isn’t being taught in schools. He’s probably right—CRT as a theory, as one of many theories, is not taught. But curricula and teachers who have been formed in that cesspool ARE educating our kids, and he knows it. This parsing of phrases is tiresome but so typical of the language that the CRT’ers use. Actually, it’s typical of many people who want to obfuscate the truth.

Changing meaning, defining words narrowly or broadly as it suits them…these are but two of the tools is a CRTheorist’s toolkit. It’s an easy way to spot them.

Also, as an aside, trans athletes (chromosomally male) absolutely ARE affecting girls’ sports. There are lawsuits in Connecticut right now about it. He is completely wrong even though he dismisses it with a figurative wave of his hand.

Thanks as always!

Ann Althouse said...

Mikee writes:

I understand Critical Race Theory. I have been told for decades now, with increasing frequency and force over the past year, that I am inherently, irredeemably, inalienably and even unconsciously racist based solely on my skin color, that I enjoy racist benefits from my skin color, that I oppress members of other races merely by having my skin color, and that no matter how hard I try, members of other races suffer due to my existence with my skin color. Only whites can be racist, all others are oppressed by white people's racism.

In simpler terms, CRT states that skin color is determinative of my status as a human being.

In even simpler terms, CRT is exactly the same as classic racism.

And in terms even the simplest minds can understand, CRT is an attempt to gain social and political power on the basis of racist behavior by hustlers, grifters, academics and politicians.

To hell with them, and to hell with that.

Ann Althouse said...

Tom writes:

I believe CRT claims that explaining theories in clear and concise language is part of White culture and that must end.

Like it’s communist roots, the mechanisms of CRT are left vague and the language is designed to evolve IN order to pronounce guilt on the targeted class. They’re not looking for those guilty of racism - we all agree racism is bad. They’re looking to punish the innocent because only by punishing the innocent can fear be used as a lever of control.

Who knew that the descendants of people truly oppressed by racism would be more interested in preserving racism than those who descended from the race that harbored the oppressors? And yet, here we are.

I think that people are waking up to discover an immense threat has metastasized out of academia and into our culture. Many of the people waking up spent their life working to bring about more equality for everyone.

Ann Althouse said...

lawlizard writes:

I think the debate is simple: Equality v. Equity. Critical Race Theory is being implemented through Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Committees. Capitalism is based on a social Darwinism theory: “survival of the fittest”. Democracy is based on a simple majority rules system. DEI is based on a belief that all people are not equal and therefor some people need to be given extra advantages to achieve “equity”; and the majority must give way to the minority because of historical events.

DEI goes against the American ideal “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.” DEI says certain people were not created equal based on the color of their skin, their family background, or their poverty and it is up to the strong to give the weak more resources. Further, the strong should feel bad for their own comfortable lives and families.

To me, it is an evil idea because it encourages the strong to pity the weak, discourages those born with disadvantages from rising above it to be successful, discourages the strong from reaching their full potential, and discourages people from melting into the American identity first, instead of the group identity. The American dream was built on the idea of a self-made man: in America anyone could succeed if they wanted it badly enough and no one other than some snobs cared about your family or ethnic background. Maybe, to some extent, the American dream is a myth, but it’s a much healthier myth than the belief that strong people should be held back so that weak people can catch up; or that we can identify weak people by the color of their skin, the money their parents earn, or their broken home.

It’s funny, DEI and equity even sound like those shareholder business terms you mention in the other post. Equity is what is left when you subtract assets from liabilities. Are some people in society assets and other people liabilities? Should we give the equity to the liabilities?

Ann Althouse said...

Taylor writes:

He can't explain it because critical race theory is critical of the idea that we can be a color-blind society. Critical race theory takes racism and normalizes it. "We're all racists," according to the theory, and there's no way to escape racism.

After separating humanity into racial groups, critical race theory says that white people are the most powerful group, and so it attacks white people. Hence, "Whiteness studies." That's a specifically racist course offering and any CRT scholar should be asked very hard questions about it.

Ann Althouse said...

Michael writes:

Critical race theory takes its name from critical theory. I think that was a mistake, because most of its insights don't depend on a heady and controversial theoretical frame. I like to think of it as critical in the specific sense that it takes on conventional understandings of racism and racial justice. As with many academic theories (think Constitutional originalism, people) there is a lot of stuff that hasn't held up. But there is real substance, that tracks with a lot of historical and social science data. Here are my takeaways from 30 years of encountering the theory.

One widely held belief is that intentional discrimination is an adequate description of racial prejudice. Critical race theory contends that this view is false. The focus here is on the role of biases, often in the form of scripts or preconceptions, that are not intentional, but sill operate to disadvantage persons of color and advantage whites as well as structural features of our government and society whose origins have been obscured.

A second belief is that our understanding of our own history is itself neutral. Critical race theory contends instead that it is skewed by conscious or unconscious racism, which causes many things to be not seen or distorted, for example, the continuing wealth effects of things like redlining and the GI bill or the impact of mass incarceration on communities of color.

A third is that color-blindness provides an adequate framework for understanding the effects of both past and present racial bias, and of what it would take to eliminate them. Critical race theory contends that it does not do so.

A fourth is that because courts now forbid and punish intentional racism, the complaints of persons of color about the prevalence and effects of racism are largely false or special pleading. Obviously, given its view about the prevalence and effects of racial bas, critical race theory argues that this is wrong. More strongly, it argues that because the harms of racism are heavily concentrated on and visible to minority populations, while the benefits to whites are diffuse, minority accounts of racism are likely more reliable than white denials.

These points also support an argument for continuing white responsiblity, both to understand the truth about racial injustice and to redress it. For example reparations.

Critical race theory further contends that one of the reasons why its insights are not more widely accepted is that many people, notably whites, are uncomfortable with knowing, or acknowledging, those truths because those truths threaten their interests, economic or social, and that many politicians frame their arguments, and their attacks on critical race theory, to appeal to people who do not want to acknowledge those truths.

Ann Althouse said...

Michael's comment continues:

Obviously some critical race theorists go further. Some ground their arguments in post modernism--which is a dead end, since it neutrally undermines all empirical or moral critiques. Others make claims about, for example, the relationship between racism and economic organization. These theorists are a favorite target of those seeking to discredit the theory, because they can be characterized as socialists, an epithet with unique force in American life. But the claims above do not depend on what theory of economic organization one favors.

So Blow is right that critical race theory, as such, is not taught in the schools. But the right wing is right that some of its insights are being deployed in support of changes to the school curriculum.

But what is wrong with that? If racial prejudice and its effects play a larger role in American history and in current conditions than has heretofore been acknowledged, shouldn't that larger role be acknowledged? I mean do we want our students to grow up thinking, as earlier generations of students did, that slavery was in many ways a benigh institution, that the south did not fight the civil war to preserve slavery, that reconstruction had no moral basis, that opposition to reconstruction was simply opposition to corrupt interlopers, and not an effort to maintain racial hierarchy, that lynching was infrequent and the involved only a few bad actors, that separate but equal really was equal, that the internment of Japanese citizens, and the de facto confiscation of their property, was not sought and obtained on the basis of false evidence, etc. So by all means, take on the 1619 project, whose claims are excessive. But do so with facts, not by demonizing critical race theory without engaging with its core claims.