Americans are spontaneously organizing to oppose Critical Race Theory. President Donald Trump has a plan to remove it, and calls it “divisive” and “radical.” Florida (and at least three other states) banned it in classrooms, and Governor Ron DeSantis is probably using the battle to prepare for a presidential run. Conservative leaders including Steve Bannon are joining the fight, and formerly unknown activists such as Christopher Rufo have become prominent leaders.
Many progressives and journalists are responding with a variation of the bait-and-switch they use to talk about The Great Replacement. “Critical Race Theory doesn’t really exist, isn’t a threat, isn’t being taught, and isn’t what conservatives say it is. At the same time: Critical Race Theory is a good thing, and we need more.”
- Vox – “Conservatives have appropriated critical race theory as a convenient catchall to describe basically any serious attempt to teach the history of race and racism. It’s now a prop in the never-ending culture war, where caricature and bad faith can muddy the waters.”
- The Texas Tribune – “Those who study the discipline say that the attacks [from conservatives] have nothing to do with critical race theory, but instead are targeting any teachings that challenge the dominate narratives about the country’s history and identity.”
- U.S. News & World Report – “Dozens of Republicans backed-bills banning the teaching of divisive topics on race and inequality are piling up in Congress and in statehouses . . . . GOP-led states . . . have seen divisive discussions about how racism and oppression are represented in school curricula and in a wider culture.”
Critical race theory assumes that structural racism is built into American institutions, and that those institutions must be examined, deconstructed, and dismantled. Huge swathes of Americans are “racist,” and they too must be deconstructed. By its nature, it’s divisive. I would argue that it’s designed to encourage radical political activism.
Many Americans sense its radicalism and don’t want it taught in schools. Some public school students can’t even read or do basic math. They don’t need CRT. However, now that there’s a reaction to it, journalists and academics have changed their story on what it is.
Now, it’s just talking about the history of racism. The Loudoun County School Board says it isn’t even teaching CRT — while it warns darkly about the KKK organizing nearby. Conservatives, says New York Magazine, are giving in to “hysteria.” The Atlantic says they are “fixated.”
We’re used to this sort of thing. Non-whites can see racism in bird watching, in expressions like “brown bag lunch,” and when people hold up three fingers to indicate the number three. They are feted for seeing racism when none exists. At the same time, powerful institutions heap scorn on parents who worry that their children may be tormented by “anti-racist educators.” Words like “hysteria” or “fixate” imply mental illness. Teachers are already compiling blacklists of parents who are insufficiently enthusiastic about Critical Race Theory.
However, I side with Critical Race Theory. We should study it. American students should examine the American power structure, the attitudes that support it, and the financial interests that benefit from it. American institutions aresystematically biased. Privileged groups don’t just get preferences in jobs and education or favorable media. They have entire careers created for them. Outsiders can be insulted, attacked, jailed. They can even be killed. They are politically voiceless.
The proponents of Critical Race Theory have just one problem: Whites are the politically powerless group. Whites have no collective power. Aside from this website and a few others, no one speaks in defense of whites as whites. There are whites who have positions of great power, but they would lose that power instantly if they used it explicitly to defend whites.
Critical Race Theory cites a mythical “white privilege” or even a “white supremacist” society as rationales that defend the power structure. I note in passing a CNN article called: “In China, the media doesn’t hold the powerful accountable. It ensures those in power hold onto it.” Is America any different?
My entire life, I have heard people with sinecures, big salaries, power, and prominent platforms tell me that they are oppressed. Long ago, I understood that those who lectured me about privilege were some of the most privileged people in history. “Elites” during other times usually at least had to do something to show their right to lead. Our political class claims the right to lead because they claim they need to be protected from ordinary people.
CRT is a broad subject, but I will describe it as fairly as I can. There are two ways to understand it.
The first is as a structural framework — as a way of understanding the world. CRT began when scholars tried to explain persistent racial inequality after legal equality and even racial preferences. Daniel HoSang of Yale University said that CRT is not just a set of beliefs or a political ideology but an approach, a way to “move past the superficial explanations that are given about equality and suffering, and to ask for new kinds of explanations.”
That’s legitimate. Why is the country the way it is even after the supposed goals of the Civil Rights Movement were met? In this, CRT is like Marxism, which explained social conditions as the outgrowth of modes of production and class conflict. Marxist scholars have a theory that explains social relations. The Right lacks such a scholarly approach.
There are elements of a kind of Rightist Critical Theory that date back to the 19th century. Conservative thinkers such as Edmund Burke to Joseph de Maistre defended traditions and prejudices, not because they were inherent or unchallengeable; tradition explained the way the world works better than “rational” explanations did. In many ways, Burke and de Maistre’s commentaries on the French revolution were a kind of Critical Theory from the Right, which dismantled the assumptions about the “self-evident” truths of democracy, equality, and the rights of man.
Critical theory, or what is somewhat loosely and inaccurately called “Cultural Marxism,” is an internally coherent approach. It shows that things most of us think are “normal” or non-ideological are the products of important cultural assumptions backed by power. These assumptions can be deconstructed and changed.
Critical Race Theory as it is used today may not be a political program per se, but it has political goals and is built on certain assumptions.
- First, race is not a biological reality, but a social construct designed to protect those in power. The “white race” doesn’t really exist but was invented to prevent the poor from uniting across racial barriers and overturning an unjust system. The most popular variation of this argument is the idea that groups like the Irish are not white but “became” white as those in power needed new allies to fight social movements from below.
- Second, “racism” is embedded in American institutions, and this racism protects whites. Social relations between whites and others are determined by this unjust protection of privilege in American law and custom. Thus, we have “white privilege,” an “invisible knapsack” of advantages we carry everywhere.
- Third, whites are the “default” mode of American society, such that whites enjoy the “privilege” of being “raceless,” and this hurts non-whites. Phia Salter and Glen Adams write of the assumption that “race and ethnicity apply only to certain ‘others’ who acquire racialized subjectivity primarily by virtue of deviation from a raceless White American or European norm.” Instead, CRT shows that race is central to social relations and power relations, and just about everything else. (In passing, I question whether “racial invisibility” is a privilege, but instead proof of white weakness. White identity was taken for granted for most of American history, and “colorblindness” was white America’s way to deal with the country after the “Civil Rights Movement.”)
- Finally, CRT is a set of tools for understanding “dynamics of oppression and power,” including the “consequences of private violence as well as state-sanctioned wrongs against vulnerable populations.” The purpose is not just to understand the world but to change it. It is, to quote a recent Slate article, not only to “turn the page on the past” but to “[learn] to live together in a more perfect union.” Whites have been and still are in a position of power and racial “equity” is both achievable and desirable. Of course, achieving this may mean dismantling the white race itself, though we are assured this is meant only as a social construct.
There are mainstream conservative critiques of CRT. First, it prevents real debate. Because of the assumption that whites are automatically in a position of power, debating a person of color isn’t a “debate” — it’s is a way of inflicting trauma. That’s why there are speech codes. That’s why it’s impossible to be racist against whites because “racism is prejudice plus power,” and non-whites, by definition, have no power.
This is, of course, the end of the so-called “marketplace of ideas.” We can’t discuss ideas if every discussion is a contest with a “victim” who, paradoxically, gets to decide what can be said. Conservatives and “classical liberals” are right to say this is the end of self-government. It means state orthodoxy, and a way to enforce it and punish dissent. The more “victimized” a person is, the greater his moral right. This means people have an interest in inventing new categories of victims, and hierarchies can change. Yesterday’s “oppressed” white homosexuals become today’s white “oppressors” who owe “reparations.”
Ordinary Americans can understand this critique, but it has weaknesses. Language and social relationships do reflect power. For decades, conservatives have been reacting to each new social innovation with exasperated sighs about “political correctness” or “wokeness.” The implicit assumption is that people will eventually fight back, but they never do. Without a positive defense of existing identities, traditions, and hierarchies, the only thing on your side is inertia. Thus, we end up with the tiresome spectacle of conservatism as liberalism “within the speed limit,” ratifying each new leftist advance after a decent interval.
“Normal” Americans grumble about how crazy things are getting, but because they are abandoned by their political, cultural, and religious leaders, they think they don’t have a moral right to fight back. Besides, who wants to face violent antifa, negative media coverage, or, perhaps worst of all, job loss? Principles are a luxury when you have a family, children, and mortgage.
A second conservative rebuttal is more powerful. This is what Christopher Rufo and countless parents working against Critical Race Theory in School have said. CRT is inherently divisive. CRT supporters may claim that this process will somehow lead to social peace. It’s the same claim President Joe Biden made when he said that promoting the Tulsa race libel would lead to greater healing. There is no evidence this works.
CRT rewards grievances and complaints. In the 1960s, well-meaning, naïve whites thought legal equality would bring racial peace. Instead, it brought riots, crime, and a subculture of anti-white contempt. Since the “Great Awokening” of the late Obama Administration, whites have moved left on a host of racial issues. This didn’t lead to peace, either. It fueled more demands. Where does this process end? Even reparations — whatever their scope — would not make blacks happy or bring equality. CRT promotes eternal conflict.
There is the possibility of a common civic American nationalism, and that is what Mr. Rufo and many well-meaning Americans of all races want. However, why should non-whites go along with this? It is an unalterable historic fact that this country was founded by men who understood it to be a white nation “for ourselves and our posterity.” You can’t defend the Founders with today’s racial dogma. You can’t defend any American hero or leader unless he is from the last few decades.
You can’t even claim American leaders were forgivable because the result was the egalitarian, democratic society we “enjoy” today. American leaders were myopic at best. They unleashed historical processes that they would have never supported if they had foreseen the consequences. Those of us who defended Confederate heroes and the battle flag understood this and were mocked by conservatives. Today, conservatives moan about the desecration of Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and others. I have a question for them: Are you willing to lose everything you claim to love rather than understand why we were right and you were wrong?
Do you really think the emerging non-white American majority will honor your heroes and heritage? Why should they? Non-white media figures and academics have careers and identities that depend on promoting grievances against the historic American nation. If whites keep making concessions, non-whites would be idiots to stop accepting them. Non-whites who refuse to think of themselves as victims, who love this country, or who want whites to stop acting like fools are a noble minority. If they were more of them, I might reconsider some of my own assumptions. But there aren’t.
The final argument of anti-CRT activists is very weak but has become increasingly prominent: CRT must be opposed because it might lead to white identity politics. This is similar to Charles Murray’s argument that we must discuss race honestly because if we don’t, white identity politics will rise and this is somehow bad. CRT is bad because it is like “white Identitarianism.” Consider this exchange from two leading activists against CRT:
I can imagine them using this argument to prove they are not racist and are taking a noble stand against the hated “white nationalists.” And most white Americans don’t want to mobilize as whites. They want simply to think they are individuals and that we can all get along.
That doesn’t change the fact that they are wrong, and that this attitude leads to oblivion. Christopher Rufo argues that interracial marriage is a sign of progress and will lead to greater unity.
What’s the evidence for that? The products of mixed-race relationships, from “Ida Bae Wells,” to Colin Kaepernick, to Sean King are not happily assuming a common American identity. They are working to dismantle it. Did Barack Obama get America “past” race, the way many Americans hoped he would? Besides, a café au lait America would not be free of “racial” tension. “Colorism” has always been a problem for blacks. Happy-go-lucky interracial marriages are more common in “stock photos” than in real life.
According to current projections, whites will be a minority in almost every Western country, even in our indigenous European homelands. Do whites have the right to resist this? If not, our fate depends on convincing non-whites and mixed-race people to stop exploiting a system that rewards them for being anti-white. The result will probably be not just white dispossession, but white elimination. This may sound extreme, but do conservatives who bemoan the plight of Chinese Uighurs really believe a different fate awaits us? Many Chinese policies use the same language being used against us. And they have the same objective: dispossession followed by erasure. If white conservatives want us to care about the plight of Chinese Muslims, I don’t think it’s too much to ask them to care about us.
This brings us to the real question. Why are we in this position? Why are we in the pathetic dilemma of hiding behind non-white spokespeople to advocate our interests, or appealing to universal “classical liberal” norms that few non-whites accept. Why the wishful thinking that non-white migrants will “assimilate” to a culture that is bent on self-destruction?
We are not deracinated “individuals” who “invent” ourselves. We are the product of a biological and cultural line that began hundreds of thousands of years ago. Our identity is largely unchosen. We live in systems that are not, have never been, and never will be equal. Groups rise and fall, and an individual’s fate is tied to that of his group. He may betray or defect from his group and perhaps individually prosper, but he will not be honored for doing so.
Like F.W. de Klerk, or one-time liberal icons such as Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson, non-whites will throw away white renegades when they are no longer needed. Do Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi secretly dream that a grateful, non-white America will build monuments to them in gratitude for trying to be priests in cult of George Floyd and for promising to “root out systemic racism”? If so, they are fools. It is a core tenet of white privilege that you will always, always be racist.
Many of us don’t want to admit that we are not autonomous individuals. Many believe we can be liberated from history, tradition, and even from nature. Modern Americans seek “liberation” from the past, the power to begin the world anew. This seems like a triumphal quest, but where does it lead?
We see the answers around us everywhere. It leads to nihilistic mobs destroying beauty, accomplishment, and order. It leads to a society “led” by those who despise the accomplishments of those who came before. This includes conservatives or “classical liberals” who defend America and the West, not because it is ours and an inseparable part of us, or because of its inherent greatness, but because it produced “liberal democracy.” What good is such a system if it is fulfilling Enoch Powell’s prophecy, and is heaping up its own funeral pyre?
I take heart from the resistance against Critical Race Theory. It may lead to a tactical success. Yet I know that even in success, it will fail if it ends there. It will fail for the same reason American conservatism always fails. You can’t “conserve” liberalism. More specifically, you can’t conservative a system that truly is racist, structurally unequal, and spiritually destructive — against us.
Ultimately, that is the question that those who oppose CRT must confront, the spiritual Rubicon they must cross if we are to avoid the Death of the West. Because Critical Race Theory is right about the way society functions; it’s just wrong about who is in power.
The very fact that professors get fat salaries to teach whites shame in their history, that journalists hound white advocates while protecting the powerful, that major corporations subsidize anti-white political movements like Black Lives Matter while denying white advocates basic financial services, and that the government see whites as something close to an enemy show us the obvious truth. It’s so obvious that we often overlook it, like fish swimming in water.
Those who control the most powerful governmental, military, and financial institutions in the world are opposed to white people. The fact that well paid functionaries justify this oppression by claiming victimhood does not change anything. We are a stateless people, without power, representation, or political consciousness. Until that changes, things will only get worse.
CRT shows us the way to examine the messages in movies, newspaper articles, television programs, and government pronouncements. It lets us deconstruct the music, fashion, literature, and “art” that ruling the class promotes. It lets us identify why institutions developed the way they did and how we can change them. Most of all, it lets us dismiss this dangerous fantasy that we are “free,” and makes us understand that we are ruled. That we have a despicable and dishonest ruling class that claims to be victims does not change the structural realities of power.
Even though I don’t know them personally, I am speaking to parents who are appalled when their children come home from school crying because they’ve been told they are racists by teachers who seem to revel in their pain. I’m speaking to ambitious young men who are treated by those with power as dangerous threats. I’m speaking to Christians betrayed by their pastors, seekers robbed of tradition, youth robbed of purpose. I’m speaking to the children of broken families and the young adults who have given up hope of ever being able to start their own families. And I’m speaking to those who, enslaved by debt, shame, and lies, turn to our supposed leaders — who then blame them for the situation our rulers brought about.
It’s not enough to say that Critical Race Theory is hurting America. We need to understand that we are the people subjugated by power, ruled by a system far more sinister than anything George III could have dreamed of. The “liberation” we seek can be found only in racial solidarity, because the pain we suffer is being imposed on us because of our race. Critical Race Theory, as practiced today, is anti-white. We must be pro-white. That begins by using the tools our foes have given us to break out of the mental prison they built.
Something important is happening. It may have begun with something as simple as a parent who finally sees what those in power want to do to his children and who understands that it’s wrong. However, it must end with the recognition that this is more than one battle. We need to stand together, as people of good will, as Americans, and as whites, if we are to live in a world that we know is right. If we don’t, we will continue to be ruled by deceivers, suffer more humiliations, and see our already horrifying situation grow worse. All the while, we will be told by our rulers that we are “free,” indeed “privileged” — and that there is always something more for which we must repent.
The only thing for which we must repent is to have let things get so bad. When we run the schools, we will teach Critical Race Theory as it should be taught: as a warning from the past that we should never forget and as a reminder to our children that they should never forgive what was done to our people for the crime of being white.