Let's Deconstruct Critical Race Theory

            Rhetorical choices define our options in life. What you see conceptually is, in a sense, what you can aim at in terms of strategic behavioral choices. And so, in this era of so-called “Critical Race Theory,” I say we lay bare the choices the theorists are making. It’s time to “deconstruct,” or be critical of, critical race theory.

           But first, what is critical race theory?

           It’s much in the news of late, especially here in Connecticut, where local school board officials in Guilford have become the focal point of a roiling debate about what to teach school children about our nation’s past and present.

           There’s no single definition of the movement. But there are some basic tenets: racism is endemic in American life, and has been since long before the founding. It’s deeper than intentional acts of discrimination. It pervades the very structure of our lives, hence the term “structural racism.” Put simply: the life chances of people of color are diminished as compared to white folk. Hence the term “white privilege.” And no class of persons is quite so privileged as the white male.

           Social justice requires leveling the playing field. That starts with learning about structural privilege, and, if you are white, “checking” your privilege. The most prevalent form privilege checking, or virtue signaling, is seen among member of the white middle class chanting “Black Lives Matter.” Your neighbor’s lawn sign spouting that mantra singles their social consciousness.

           All this talk of structural racism and white privilege leads in one direction, and one direction only: social and political change designed to promote a vision of equality defined not so much as equal opportunity, but as equality of position.  Critical race theory is foreplay to the consummation known as reparations. The only way to right history’s wrongs is to dismantle the structure that promotes racism, and that means to redistribute resources.

           Just beneath the surface of the critical race theory discussion is the demand for race-based transfer payments. The brave new world we are invited to inhabit is one in which social justice scoring will determine how much you pay for goods and services, or what life chances you enjoy. An example: Because people of color disproportionately fail the bar examination – a necessary prelude to becoming a practicing lawyer – there are calls to dismantle the bar examination as “racist.” That will level the playing field, in a manner of speaking, by lowering the standards for admission to the bar. Would we consider the same thing for licensure examinations for physicians? I hope not.

           It’s a noxious form of Orwellian gibberish.

           Thirteen percent of the American population is African-American. Some significant percentage of them are middle class or better. Are they entitled to transfer payments from their less affluent white, or recent immigrant, working class fellow citizens? I am a first generation American on my father’s side. When he came here from Crete, sneaking into the country as an illegal immigrant, he got nothing but scorn for the color of his skin. Am I to pay for the sins and omissions of previous generations? My father came here looking for equality and opportunity, not a new form of servitude.

           I smell a shakedown coming. Hence, my desire to deconstruct critical race theory.

           One of the principal exponents of their stuff is Ibram X. Kendi. I picked up a new book of his the other day to try to understand the tsunami of racial rhetoric descending upon the land, Four Hundred Souls, A Community History of African America 1619-2019. It’s a collection of essays by black scholars and intellectuals, each author focusing on a five-year period.

           I stumbled across the following sentence early on, this written by a woman named Ijeoma Oluo, a woman whose mother is white and whose father, apparently, is black: “I am Black because in 1630 a Virginia colonial court ordered the whipping of Hugh Davis, a white man, as punishment for sleeping with a Black woman.” (Note her use of capitalization, black is capitalized, white is not.)

           As a piece of creative writing in an undergraduate English course, the essay is well crafted. She researched, selected, chose and then identified with a character she never met, and to whom she has, most likely, only the most tenuous relationship, if any relationship at all. But what she did with rhetorical choice was to recast her identity in terms defined by this distant marker. She ends by saying: “Until the systemic functions of whiteness that began with the whipping of Hugh Davis are dismantled, I cannot claim whiteness.” She’s re-imagined her life, and her place in the world, in light of events not almost 400 years old.
            That’s her right.

           But consider how tenuous the claim would look were I to say something similar: “I am Greek because in the seventeenth century Ottoman Turks enslaved my people. My father came here to escape the crippling legacy of ethnic and religious bigotry.” It’s sort of a non-sequitur in terms of whether I should be given a tax credit, preferential treatment in admission to a college program, or preferred treatment to federal benefits.

           We each have histories that we inherit and histories that we make. Using what we’ve inherited from the distance past to make a new identity is specious form of grave-robbing. And it’s dangerous. Does Ms. Oluo really expect me to forge a new golden link into the chains she imagines binding her?

           Equality before the law is part of the American creed. That we’ve never fully lived up to that creed and that it remains an aspiration to be achieved is a sign of something like sin. The original sin in American history is not slavery. That’s a form of special solicitude, a rhetorical device, that creates a sense of present-day entitlement. The original sin in American history is the same sin that pervades all history: every time the pot complains to the potter and says “Why makest me thus” a new form of idolatry takes rook.

           Forgive me if I am not worshipping new black idols. That’s just the same old boss in a different colored coat.

Comments: (12)

  • CRT
    Thanks for your brave opinion. So true. Hope you dont get removed by google, etc.
    Posted on July 13, 2021 at 3:16 pm by Dee
  • Good Point About Reparations
    Excellent point that you make that the Critical Race Theory lays the groundwork for reparations.
    Posted on July 13, 2021 at 5:32 pm by Jonathan Maclay
  • CRT
    Thank you for offering some compelling thoughts, although your ancestors were not slaves in America. The vision of equality in America is foundational but plagued by racial and economic exclusion. I predict that reparations, in whatever form it appears, will be a failed social experiment, like affirmative action. We’ll get stuck looking back, instead of looking forward towards criminal justice reform and education.
    Posted on July 13, 2021 at 9:24 pm by Ray
  • CRT
    I’m troubled by CRT. Hoping more people read your thoughtful post.
    Posted on July 14, 2021 at 7:33 am by CFolk
  • White Men Need to Listen
    I am sick of hearing the opinions of entitled old white men. It's always entitled old white men. Try listening! The black folks in this country have had enough. If something doesn't change soon, this country is headed for trouble. The only way we can make meaningful change is to make Critical Race Theory a cornerstone of the public education system. It may be too late for old white racists, but the children can still grow up knowing the truth about this country and its past.
    Posted on July 14, 2021 at 10:35 am by Eunice
  • CRT
    Thank you. CRT is nothing but a tool to tear society apart. A White friend who was married to a Black man and has a daughter made the excellent point that mixed-heritage kids being indoctrinated with this garbage are being told that one parent is "better" than the other, based on a color chart. "Pitting one parent against the other". As for the W and B, I could not agree more. I recently looked through my neighbor's Yankee magazine of all things and was sickened to see a long article by a Black (capital B ) woman who had been adopted by white (lower case w) parents. Not very subtle, what's taking place, at least for those of us who are awake.
    Posted on July 31, 2021 at 11:12 am by New fan
  • @Eunice
    No one is denying the history of this country and the blatantly racist practices and laws of the past. But can you please tell us specifically what needs to be changed today? It seems to me that the US has made tremendous progress since the civil rights era. As Norman says, "Equality before the law is part of the American creed.". What specifically would you change and how would you change it? Do you really think children benefit by type casting them as oppressors or victimizers based on the color of their skin? Because that is what CRT is doing in our schools. It creates resentment and divisiveness that serves no one.
    Posted on August 8, 2021 at 7:59 am by Jake
  • CRT
    I think you misrepresent/ distort the issue with the bar exam, by cherry picking quotes. The actual argument is that black colleges are underfunded based on a system of result based funding( graduation rates, achievements, patronage, etc. that combined with segregation/ inequality in better colleges, results in a self fulfilling lose/lose situation. A student at Yale has a better chance of passing the bar than a student at an underfunded, mostly black college. What percentage of students at Yale are black? Wait, you say, they have opportunities to attend, (not racial quotas!) Smart , directed solutions are needed to address 300+ years of systemic racism and the cultural psychology that ensues. It cannot be legislated, only assisted.
    Posted on August 16, 2021 at 6:22 pm by John Eatom
  • CRT
    You are obviously white and privileged.I know your type. You love to hear yourself talk. You are your favorite person. You are why people hate lawyers and Yankee white guys.You know not of what you speak.
    Posted on October 1, 2021 at 5:54 am by Patrick Cooley
  • Your Sociopathic Tendencies
    I understand now why you'd defend a man who definitely murdered his wife and deposited her severed body parts in trash cans along Albany Avenue in Hartford, CT.
    Posted on October 2, 2021 at 4:55 pm by Tim Lister
  • what a load of crap
    "Just beneath the surface of the critical race theory discussion is the demand for race-based transfer payments." LOL and Yawn. Just because you say so doesn't make that true. Go ahead and embrace that victimhood of the angry wingnut, though.
    Posted on October 31, 2021 at 2:29 pm by Linda Collins
  • In response to Eunice
    "I am sick of hearing the opinions of entitled old white men. It's always entitled old white men. Try listening!" Dear Eunice, if you only knew the irony of your words. Sadly you don't, and for that very reason us old white men will not trust you.
    Posted on December 18, 2021 at 12:55 am by UnEunice

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