Updated: Nov 23
Illustrations included from Oregon Department of Education;
As unlikely as it seems, a highly obscure academic theory known as Critical Race Theory has completely mainstreamed in society, and now everyone is discussing it. While Critical Race Theory has the noble goal of pointing out problems that can be hard to see and that maintain or constitute racism, it turns out to be a remarkably bad way of going about this. A little familiarity with the basic principles of Critical Race Theory and how they go wrong can help with this.
Before I begin, I offer my apologies to the reader. Critical Race Theory has been growing for over 40 years, and it has many deep problems. Therefore, this is long, and still it is not nearly complete. Here, I document just eight of the biggest problems with the entire Critical Race Theory approach. Treat them as eight short essays on specific topics in Critical Race Theory and digest them one at a time. I offer them in the hopes of helping people understand it better so they can decide for themselves if Critical Race Theory is the way we should be dealing with race issues and racism in our society, or if we can genuinely do better.
Since this is so long: here’s the ‘too long; didn’t read’ bullet-point summary:
Critical Race Theory…
believes racism is present in every aspect of life, every relationship, and every interaction and therefore has its advocates look for it everywhere
relies upon “interest convergence” (white people only give black people opportunities and freedoms when it is also in their own interests) and therefore doesn’t trust any attempt to make racism better
is against free societies and wants to dismantle them and replace them with something its advocates control
only treats race issues as “socially constructed groups,” so there are no individuals in Critical Race Theory
believes science, reason, and evidence are a “white” way of knowing and that storytelling and lived experience are a “black” alternative (opposing objectivity)
rejects all potential alternatives, like colorblindness, as forms of racism, making itself the only allowable game in town (which is totalitarian)
acts like anyone who disagrees with it must do so for racist and white supremacist reasons, even if those people are black (which is also totalitarian)
cannot be satisfied, so it becomes a kind of activist black hole that threatens to destroy everything it is introduced into
1) Critical Race Theory believes racism is present in every aspect of life, every relationship, and every interaction.
Critical Race Theory begins from the assumption that racism is an ordinary part of every aspect of life in our societies. Foundational Critical Race Theory scholars Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic write, “First, that racism is ordinary, not aberrational—‘normal science,’ the usual way society does business, the common, everyday experience of most people of color in this country,” on page 7 of the standard introductory textbook on the subject, titled Critical Race Theory: An Introduction.
Notice that these scholars list this assumption first among the “basic tenets of Critical Race Theory” in the introduction of their book. Understand also that what they mean by “racism” isn’t even what most people think racism means. It is not prejudice based upon race or believing some races to be superior or inferior to others that they mean by “racism.” It is, instead, the “system” of everything that happens in the social world and beyond that results in any disparity that works in the favor of “racially privileged” groups (on average) or any “racially oppressed” person claiming they experience racial oppression.
These assumptions lead people who take up Critical Race Theory to look for racism in everything until they find it. That is, after all, the job of a “critical” theorist or activist: to look for the hidden problems that they assume must be present in whatever they scrutinize.
In the workplace that adopts Critical Race Theory, this means that it’s only a matter of time until someone with that worldview finds out how your entire company and its culture is “racist.” At that point, they will cause a meltdown that forces everyone to take sides and demand a reorganization of the entire (now divided) office culture and management.
In schools, it will mean teaching our children to think this way and always be looking for racism in every situation and interaction. In our personal relationships, it means that friends and even family members—especially our kids who have already been educated with Critical Race Theory ideas that have been incorporated in our schools—will eventually call each other out and reject one another, because tolerating racism is also considered a form of racism that would have to be discovered and stopped.
2) “Interest convergence”: White people only give black people opportunities and freedoms when it is also in their own interests.
One of the founders of Critical Race Theory, a (now deceased) scholar at Harvard Law named Derrick Bell, made his “Interest-Convergence Thesis” central to the Theory. Turning to Delgado and Stefancic again,