The remarkable social, cultural and political impact of George Floyd’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis Police has brought a new term to the forefront of the discussion of race in America. That term is Critical Race Theory. The term doesn’t mean what you probably think it means from your understanding of each of the three words. For instance, it does not mean applying critical thinking to the understanding of race.
To understand the term Critical Race Theory, you must first understand the term Critical Theory. That term is both Marxist and Freudian, and was developed by the Frankfurt School of Sociology in Germany in the 1930’s. The basic idea of Critical theory is that “that social problems are influenced and created more by societal structures and cultural assumptions than by individual and psychological factors.
It posits that ideology is the principal obstacle to human liberation.” Critical Race Theory is defined by the UCLA School of Public Affairs as the recognition “that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society… Institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. [and its] … power structures… based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color.”
The current issue of The Economist magazine features an intriguing cover story on race in America, titled “The New Ideology of Race and What’s Wrong With It.” The subtitle warns that “a set of illiberal ideas about how to tackle American racism will only hinder its progress.” To The Economist, liberalism isn’t the philosophy behind big government as favored by the American Democratic Party, but rather a political and moral philosophy based on liberty, consent of the governed and equality before the law, which is often called classical liberalism, and to our ears sounds very much like American conservatism.
Listen to The Economist when it says “Leaders like Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King used vigorous protest and relentless argument to push society toward their vision of equality of opportunity and equality before the law. Most Americans still hew to that classical liberal ideal as do many of those who marched with justified anger over the killing of Mr. Floyd.
But a dangerous rival approach has emerged from American universities [that] rejects the liberal notion of progress. It defines everyone by their race, and every action as racist or anti-racist. It is not yet dominant, but it is dynamic and it is spreading out of the academy into everyday life. If it supplants liberal values, then intimidation will chill open debate and sow division to the disadvantage of all, black and white.
The premise underlying this ideology is correct: that racial inequality is shockingly pervasive. This ideology has some valid insights, but then [it] takes a wrong turn, by seeking to impose itself through intimidation and power, not the power that comes from persuasion and elections, but from silencing critics, insisting that those who are not with you are against you.”
Eleanor Krasne of the Heritage Foundation recently produced an article with the provocative title, “How Leftists’ Critical Race Theory Poisons Our Discussion of Racism.” She claims that Critical Race Theory’s “fight against prejudice is being done through what is perhaps the worst tyranny of all; namely, the tyranny over the mind. It leaves no room for meaningful discourse. She continues that it “posits that “nonbelievers”—those who don’t subscribe to critical race theory—are enemies in the fight to defeat racism.
Critical race theory does not seek equality or justice. Instead, it categorizes people. One’s gender, race, or sexual orientation posits you as the oppressed or an oppressor—a status from which you are freed only when all existing societal structures, which are inherently racist, are overthrown.”
That is how radical Critical Race Theory is. If you are a thoughtful listener to American Radio Journal who welcomes an intellectually honest discussion of the difficult issue of racism in America, be on guard if the person you’re talking with employs the term Critical Race Theory. You are probably facing a Marxist who seeks to destroy American culture, not a liberal idealist. We need to stand up for the same unifying American values that were so powerfully articulated by Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, not the divisive rhetoric of the new ideology of race.