“The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture.”
Critical Race Theory has been in the news since the release of video footage last week of Barack Obama introducing Professor Derrick Bell during his (Obama’s) days as a Harvard Law student. Professor Bell, a Harvard Law professor, was one of the leading proponents of the theory. Using language more suited to a big tent revival than the halls of education, the young Obama asks the audience to “open their hearts and minds” to the words of Professor Bell.
I’ll be honest with you: I’d never heard of Critical Race Theory before Breitbart released the video in question, so my knowledge is limited to what I can read about it online. God knows, it’s not something we discussed in my high school Civics class…mainly because I was years out of high school before Professor Bell conceived of this – dare I say radical? – concept.
Reading up about it has been fascinating, with articles ranging from plain vanilla, palatable for the masses, to those discussing the more controversial components of the theory.
Even bland vanilla, possibly inadvertently, can shed some light on the underlying assumptions of CRT.
“Learning to look critically at race relations is a key part of critical race theory. Examining everyday interactions, and finding the racial component in them…” (emphasis added)
Applying common rules of English usage, we learn from the above passage that a racial component is assumed for every interaction between people with minority status and, presumably, white people (although if you continue reading, the example given mentions several combinations of white and minority people; I’m not sure if CRT would actually consider all of them or if they’re included merely to add to the yummy vanilla flavor of the article).
Moving on to the even more controversial aspects of the theory, we learn:
“CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color. CRT also rejects the traditions of liberalism and meritocracy. Legal discourse says that the law is neutral and colorblind, however, CRT challenges this legal “truth” by examining liberalism and meritocracy as a vehicle for self-interest, power, and privilege. CRT also recognizes that liberalism and meritocracy are often stories heard from those with wealth, power, and privilege. These stories paint a false picture of meritocracy; everyone who works hard can attain wealth, power, and privilege while ignoring the systemic inequalities that institutional racism provides.” (emphasis added)
For those of us who have spent the last three years wondering how in the absence of any real evidence, the race industry has felt justified in calling the Tea Party racist, we now have an answer. Yes, I understand that many of those doing the name-calling were doing so solely for purposes of political expediency, but others were motivated by sincerely-held beliefs, shaped by Critical Race Theory, about the nature of our culture.
CRT tells us that whether or not there are any actual racists involved with the Tea Party is irrelevant, because the Tea Party is defending a dominant and inherently racist culture. Tea Partiers look at the Constitution and see an enduring document intended to preserve and protect the rights of all citizens, and CRT sees a document that serves only to protect white privilege. Tea Partiers look at the Supreme Court and believe Justices should be selected based on their willingness to operate within the bounds of the Constitution as written and CRT believes they should be selected based on racial status, because miniorities have unique experiences that will lead to greater overall “justice.” Tea Partiers embrace Martin Luther King’s ideal that we should judge people not “by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” and CRT tells us that a meritocracy is not and can never be colorblind.
It sounds absurd to me to say that racism can exist in the absence of any actual racists, but that’s obviously because I’m an ignorant, white yokel, incapable of understanding the more nuanced approach of Critical Race Theory. As I once wrote, “God save me from a nuanced approach. Nuance is the mantle intellectuals like to don when espousing ideas that slap common sense in the face.” I believe common sense is reeling from the blow.