By Rob Meyne
- Feb. 2, 2022
- 4-min read
Critical Race Theory (CRT) may be the most contentious issue in America today. Worst case it is probably second just behind abortion. People who hadn’t heard of CRT five years ago now attend school board meetings to make sure it isn’t taught to their children. Nearly every day, we learn about another venue where it is being promoted, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and corporations.
People who oppose racism in all forms – often constitutional conservatives – object to CRT because its ideas are astonishingly racist and controversial. CRT holds that all white Americans are oppressors, all blacks are victims, and that racism is built into our society, government, and institutions. CRT adherents maintain the worst effects of racism come from that which is embedded into our social structure, rather than from individuals.
Supporters of CRT claim its critics misrepresent it. They claim the real goal of its opponents is to prevent discussion of race and slavery. But even a cursory look at the actual tenets of CRT reveals it to be, unquestionably, despicable, hateful, and racist. It is intended to divide us and promote racist policies with the excuse that they “right previous wrongs.”
The origins of CRT in Marxist Critical Theory have been scrubbed from many social media platforms and search engines. You have to look a little harder to find the connection today than you once did. For more, look at this discussion of the left’s attempts to push back on criticisms of CRT.
If your education in public schools was anything like mine, we learned about slavery, the civil war, and the battle for civil rights. It is possible all of that has been excised from the applicable curricula since my own matriculation in Vigo County, Indiana. But no discussion of our history can avoid the Civil War and slavery, nor should it.
It is understandable leftists are defensive about CRT. It is more appropriate for a Marxist society than for ours. In fact, Marxism is where you find the roots of CRT. Also unsurprisingly, CRT’s proponents get offended when you point that out. It is likely there are CRT advocates who aren’t even aware of its origin.
In Virginia, local school districts have promoted CRT concepts. It has been promoted on the website for their Department of Education. That didn’t stop Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe from claiming (also known as lying) that CRT was not taught in Virginia. McAuliffe went further by saying, in a televised debate, that parents should not determine what is taught in schools. That is one reason Republican Glenn Youngkin was elected governor. On the day of his inauguration, Youngkin issued an executive order prohibiting teaching of CRT. He kept his promise, and good for him.
What is Critical Race Theory? We’ll get into this in more detail in the next few days. For now, let’s think about where it came from. It is not comforting.
CRT is an outgrowth of Critical Theory, a school of thought within Marxist traditions that originated a couple of centuries ago. It was part of the Frankfurt School and strongly impacted by conditions in 1700s Western Europe.
At the time, the region, and especially England, operated under a pervasive class system. People who tried to move from one class to another usually failed and were ostracized, marginalized, and criticized. They were criticized as “uppity,” which is the origin of the term.
It is understandable that class and the struggles of the average person were factors in the economic discussions of the time. That is the environment in which Marxist thought was first developed. When you read Marxist works the similarities between it and CRT are obvious. Critical Theory, maintains the dominant economic and societal forces were all about class.
Today, fans of CRT believe the same thing, except instead of focusing on economic and social classes the focus exclusively on race. If you are white, you are an inherently racist oppressor. If you are black, you are a helpless victim.
CRT is designed to be a tool for advocacy and social change, a way to analyze and reject traditional societal structures, and eliminate capitalism.
CRT, in spite of what you may have heard, doesn’t involve questions of whether we should teach about racism or slavery. It isn’t about civil rights. It is about accepting a set of opinions or conclusions about our nation and using them to fundamentally change it. Importantly, people who teach CRT aren’t conveying facts.
CRT teaches that America is structured by class based on race; that white people oppress black people, and other minorities; and that racism is intentionally built into our form of government, organizations, and traditions at the national, states, and local levels.
A key focus of Critical Theory was that it is not a body of knowledge as much as a tool for change, as discussed at length here. It had goals of eliminating Christianity, the family, nations, and oppression of laborers. Is it a coincidence many of the same goals have been advocated by groups like Black Lives Matter?
CRT is complex and has been applied in many different ways, so no two examples of the role it plays in contemporary life will be exactly the same. We should also add there may be parts of CRT that have merit and make a contribution to the public debate. Everyone should judge that for themselves. But understanding the origin of Critical Race Theory is a start.
Next, we’ll look more deeply at what CRT teachings really mean in contemporary America.