Advocacy against the “critical theory of race”
Mackubin Owens, of Newport, monthly contributor, is a senior fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.
The final battleground of the American Cultural War is “Critical Race Theory,” a pernicious and reactionary theory that, until recently, was confined to academia. Not anymore. CRT now infects most US institutions, businesses, and government, including the military.
The CRT can be attributed to Karl Marx and his epigons, manifesting itself first as a “critical theory,” a Marxist philosophical framework that rejects the validity of concepts such as rationality and objective truth. He poses two categories: the oppressed and the oppressors. In Marx’s original formulations, the goal was economy class. The bourgeoisie was the class of the oppressors and the proletariat was the oppressed. CRT replaces the race for the class. According to the CRT, the entire system of a society is defined by those who have power (white people) and those who do not (people of color).
Several states have now sought to ban the teaching of CRT. In response, supporters of the CRT advance three arguments: first, the CRT is simply a benign academic theory supporting the final stage in the struggle for equal civil rights; second, prohibiting the teaching of CRT is an infringement of freedom of expression; and third, opposing the CRT is an attempt to whitewash American history.
On the first, the CRT fundamentally disagrees with the principles that underlie all advances in black American rights, from the Civil War constitutional amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964: that all Americans should be treated equally, regardless of race, color, creed or religion. These are philosophically related to the Declaration of Independence, which considers that human beings are equal in the possession of their natural rights and that, therefore, no one has the natural right to rule over another without the consent of this last.
But CRT attacks the American foundation. Defenders of the CRT do not want to keep the promises of the American Founding, which they see as racist. Instead, they want to replace the Foundation’s principles with something radically different, for example, replacing concepts like “equality” with “fairness” and overturning the meaning of “justice”.
Regarding freedom of expression, the CRT uses a rhetorical tool developed by the neo-Marxist philosopher Hebert Marcuse: “repressive tolerance”. According to Marcuse, tolerating all ideas – the essence of reasonable discourse that has traditionally defined the mission of education – is, in fact, repressive, since it does not “privilege” “correct” ideas. True tolerance, Marcuse argued, “would mean intolerance against movements of the right and tolerance of movements of the left.”
Adopting Marcuse’s “logic”, the CRT tolerates no dissent. Arguing against the CRT is inherently racist, evidence of the dissident’s “white fragility”, “unconscious bias” or “internalized white supremacy”. Rather offering a perspective that invites debate, CRT “education” is essentially ideological indoctrination.
Finally, opponents of the CRT do not want to whitewash American history. But perspective matters. Slavery is America’s original sin, but when the United States was founded in 1776, slavery was a worldwide phenomenon. America’s founding principles made the abolition of slavery a moral imperative. Jim Crow was indeed a terrible stain on America, especially since it was nationalized by progressives such as President Woodrow Wilson. The Tulsa massacre should never be forgotten.
But the CRT ignores what Frederick Douglass said about President Abraham Lincoln: Most Americans of all races have “risen above their prejudices,” striving to harmonize American practice with American principles of justice. .
The CRT demeans African Americans by stripping them of all power, simply treating them as inanimate objects, helpless victims of impersonal forces. It also essentially absolves politicians from bad politics.
But in the end, the CRT is nothing more than a throwback to the racism of the 1850s, as it was espoused by John Calhoun and Chief Justice Roger Taney in his infamous Dred Scott decision. It divides; it encourages racial hatred by trafficking in racial stereotypes, collective guilt, racial segregation and racial harassment. He rejects Martin Luther King’s hope that we are judged, not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.