Defending Privilege Against Critical Race Theory

“Our failure to listen is evidenced across our overindustrialized, overcongested planet. All over the world, the clash between modern and ancient cultures continues, and indigenous cultures, less well represented in government and policy, usually lose those conflicts. All around us is evidence of the need to ensure our students learn not to just tolerate but also to respect and learn from these cultures and their elders.”
— Jennifer D. Klein

The Cancer Institute · Unsplash

“Oceania was not after all at war with Eurasia. Oceania was at war with Eastasia.”

We’re in a culture war, and one of the sides isn’t clear about why they’re fighting.

I’ve come across dozens of posts about critical race theory in response to the conservative outrage over it.

But who’s reading them?

The problem of writing on critical race theory is that truthful representation of what it is and where it’s taught isn’t known to the people who would benefit the most from learning about it.

Two phantoms are haunting the debate on teaching critical race theory.

2020 saw a heated battle over CRT being taught in K-12 schools.

The concepts of critical race theory have haunted US education for centuries — now their influence has seeped into formative education.

In recent years, ethnic studies has made its way into a number of K-12 school districts, and continues to be debated across the country.

Ethnic studies is an outgrowth of critical race studies that focuses on “the four most historically aggrieved racialized groups in the United States: African-Americans, Native Americans, Latinas/os, and Asian Americans.”

Critical race theory is an academic framework that claims white supremacy is fundamental to American¹ mentality, social structures, and institutions.

It was developed in the mid-1970s by scholars Derek Bell, Alan Friedman, Richard Delgado, and other scholars influenced by critical theory and postmodernism. Their work drew on the writings of W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr, Karl Marx, Frederick Douglass, and Sojourner Truth.

It is an outgrowth of critical legal studies and mostly taught in law school.

The following quotes pulled from JohnLocke.org illustrate its core teachings:

  • Critical race theorists believe that racism is systemic and structural
  • White supremacy is an underlying structure at the heart of American institutions, social structures, and professed ideals
  • Dominant groups use racism systematically to maintain imbalanced power relationships with historically oppressed groups
  • White supremacy is so deeply embedded in the normal, day-to-day life of Americans that people seldom notice that it is operating to impart advantages or “privileges” to some at the expense of others
  • Critical race theory contends that white people are complicit in the production and reproduction of systemic racial injustice
  • White people express their racial biases through their interactions with people of color, even if they do not realize it
  • White people from all walks of life tolerate racism because they benefit from it materially or psychologically, while people of color accept it because they have found it that it is in their best interest to do so

Critical race theory asserts:

  • Race is a social construction
  • The nucleus of racism comes from institutions, cultural norms, laws, and regulations
  • Racism is common because of the imbalance of preferential or discriminatory treatment among races is sanctioned by our institutions, cultural norms, laws, and enforced by our regulations
  • Understanding the experiences of those who receive racist attitudes and actions is key to everyone knowing how racism hostilely affects the lives of those who have endured it
  • The health and well-being of everyone in our society can improve significantly by understanding the problem of racism

There is a high potential for healing that can come out of teaching critical race theory. Everyone stands to improve from knowing accurate history. Racism can only be defeated if we all know how it affects the people who have been targeted by its crimes and attitudes. However implausible it may seem for racism to go away due to human action — no matter our advancements — we are capable of unitedly walking over it rather than boxing with it in our society.

There isn’t a culture war against critical race theory — it just looks like there is.

They misunderestimated me

The ReidOut June 23, 2021 MSNBC · Google

The toxicity that Christopher Rufo set out to create with his tweet “to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think (sic) ‘critical race theory’” snowballed into a topic stoking irrational anger from people who don’t know what critical race theory is but are against it.

They don’t have to know what it means — their misunderstanding is a weapon. It’s fathomable that the manufacturers of this outcry are aware that critical race theory is not the antagonist of their passion — while those attending school board meetings worried over a Marxist trojan horse rolling through to scare the children are unaware.

In the same tweet, Rufo also said this:

“We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.”

So you’re changing the meaning of a thing to make it mean what you want it to mean. What’s the purpose? Who is this helping?

Several states have passed bills that make teaching critical race theory in public schools illegal.

These bans protect the first phantom: critical race theory is anti-white. That it teaches white children they are racists, leading them to feel bad about themselves for their whiteness.

This is a mind-blowingly ignorant thing to believe!

CRT maintains that racism is embedded in our society. Take a look at that second to last bullet point (in the first grouping of bullet points) of its core teachings.

Here it is again:

  • White people express their racial biases through their interactions with people of color, even if they do not realize it

If all white people are racist it’s because we’ve been taught to think as racists.

We always hear about people of color living in a white world. We see it in the work of stand-up comedians, movies, really everywhere. We don’t see or hear white people struggling in a world of people of color. That’s because our society was constructed by and for white people, and attempts of liberation for others have grown out of that construct. The country’s changed a lot throughout the centuries — but the hatred’s found a way to survive. There has to be a good reason for that. If white people are uncomfortable being called racist it’s because we feel more comfortable with what’s been established.

Have another look at the last bullet point from the second grouping:

  • The health and well-being of everyone in our society can improve significantly by understanding the problem of racism

In their book Critical Race Theory, An Introduction, Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic repeatedly ask their readers whether or not CRT is optimistic or pessimistic. They give classroom exercises for their readers to talk about what they’ve read. CRT is a theory — not a dictation. It’s a tool that can be used for us to grow into a free and equal society — where no one is burdened by the onset of a psychological disorder because of the words and actions of other citizens.

CRT isn’t an anti-white people it’s anti-white supremacy, anti-systemic racism. Don’t let these overused phrases distract you from CRT’s purpose: everyone in our society significantly improving by understanding the problem of racism.

Who’s against everyone in society improving significantly?

Learning about other people’s experiences leads to compassion, love, and showing respect. When we understand the framework we live in is designed to suppress part of the population, we have the opportunity of removing it. Imagine tensions lifted, impatience giving way to patience, liberation giving way to peace.

The state bans against teaching critical race theory in public schools exist with the common goal to keep the public ignorant of United States history and the systemic racism woven into its framework. They’re thinking long-term — after all, children grow up to be the public, and ignorance begets ignorance.

That brings us to the second phantom. The conservative agenda is not to destroy something they hate — but to uphold something vital to their thinking.

The belief that schools are teaching critical race theory in K-12 lacks common sense and documented proof — but it does not lack value — their claim has substantial value.

Conservatives have coyly asserted their position despite their misunderstanding — by obfuscating the fact that this discussion is about upholding white supremacy.

The negative value of false claims is not to be underestimated.

George Orwell presaged this negative value in his novel 1984 by Minitrue’s changing the national armed conflict status between Oceania and Eurasia to being between Oceania and Eastasia.

In the novel, Winston Smith learns through propaganda that Oceania is at war with Eastasia — that it has always been in a war with Eastasia — though he remembers when five years ago, Oceania was at war with Eurasia. The Ministry of Truth changed history and changed the present by doing it. The goal of the Ministry of Truth (or Minitrue in Newspeak) is to tell lies. It is not an oxymoron to spread the truth by telling lies — it is an example of doublethink. The goal of the Ministry of Truth was to propagate truth — manufacturer it — so that their own devisings were believed to be a reality by the manipulated population.

Doublethink is a noun and means the acceptance of or mental capacity to accept contrary opinions or beliefs simultaneously, especially as a result of political indoctrination (Oxford Languages). Orwell coined the term with his novel.

Doublethink is a process of indoctrination.

  • War is Peace
  • Freedom is Slavery
  • Ignorance is Strength
  • 2 + 2 = 5

This is doublethink.

Christopher Rufo used doublethink to manipulate the minds of his audience.

I witnessed an example of doublethink in the fall of 2020 when someone I know living in Connecticut told me East Hartford police officers were complaining about being defunded and that workers in other sectors had corroborated their plight.

That is, during the Trump presidency, police officers were being defunded through a process that has never become law. Hm.

This person did not realize that they were exhibiting doublethink. They believed something that contradicted what they knew was true. And when challenged, they defended two conflicting beliefs against reason and intuition. Their statement is untenable because their claim is false — but the power potential to do damage is high.

This is their problem — it is also our problem.

We are not arguing crazy people or idiots — we are arguing brainwashed people — educated, well-funded, brainwashed people who hate what you think and believe that your views threaten their comforts and children.

This is the kind of polarity that leads to civil war. It doesn’t have to be carried out with guns and bombs when it can be done through legislation and courtrooms.

We need only defend this story from those that would threaten it

The Nation Nov 2, 2021 · Elaine Thompson / AP

Reactionaryism is a significant problem. We see that conservative fear over critical race theory is a politician’s tool to leverage a very heinous agenda — keep white-washed history in our history books and defend white supremacy.

The white agenda is immoral because it doesn’t consider what’s good for everybody. It specifically seeks to keep people of color, specific sexual orientations, income brackets, and women out of power and keep white men in control. The white agenda doesn’t need to defend our grade schools from critical race theory — it’s just using it now to stop power from being shared equally.

The problem is brainwashed people. Dangerous symptoms they exhibit are racism and the ability to tell lies without realizing they’re telling lies. The power potential is in the belief of their lies.

Where there is group identification, there is conflict

The Times Of Israel 8 June 2021

In an article published in November, The Nation put it like this:

“When your ancestors were enslaved or dispossessed, your relationship to those facts is much more complicated — and that dissonance isn’t so easily solved by American exceptionalism or a patriotic curriculum.”

Educators are advancing a teaching component called social-emotional learning (SEL) in K-12 curriculum. The five areas of SEL are teaching self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

A majority of parents (87%) in the US believe that SEL should be a part of critical instruction in the classroom.

The concept of SEL can be traced to ancient Greece. In The Republic, Plato advocated for formal instruction to include math, science, the arts, physical activity, character, and moral judgment:

“By maintaining a sound system of education and upbringing, you produce citizens of good character.”

Yale in the 1960s was the home to the modern origin of SEL. Founded by James Comer, The Comer School Development Program drew students from two predominantly Black New Haven elementary schools with the city’s worst attendance and academic scores. By the early 1980s, academic achievement at the Comer School was higher than the national average, and students stayed in the classroom to learn.

Historically SEL is not politically polarized.

After mass school shootings in Parkland, Florida, Santa Fe, and Texas, The Federal Commission on School Safety under Donald Trump recommended that social-emotional learning be taught in the K-12 curriculum.

The then US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos stated:

“Most importantly, recent research suggests that the development of social and emotional skills can lead to improved outcomes for educational attainment, employment, and earnings.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it this way in Why We Can’t Wait:

“Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to work to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”

We’re not going to win over conservative misapprehension by proving the truth to them because we’ve seen that they won’t believe truths that threaten the foundations of their livelihoods or privilege. We’ll win history for the classrooms by teaching the history of this country and how that history has lead us to where we find ourselves today. Education is one form of productivity where we cannot be in error.

Wallpaper Flare · Google

¹ Fitting, as “American” is an imperialist term.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Matt Peterson

Matt Peterson

I write at the intersection of interest and pressing need.