Since the killing of George Floyd last year in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department, critical race theory and its key concepts of white supremacy, white fragility and systemic racism have been much discussed in America, see here and here. CRT maintains that America is an inherently racist nation and that the constitutional principles of freedom and equality are mere camouflages for white supremacy.
So what is critical race theory and what does it say? The Brookings Institute scholar, William Galston, has recently given an excellent overview. He points out that:
- Critical race theory denies the possibility of objectivity. “Scholarship is inevitably political.”
- The theory moves race to the center of our focus. It aims to “recover and revitalize the radical tradition of race-consciousness.”
- The theory strongly criticizes the civil rights movement. It is argued that the civil rights movement scored some symbolic gains for black Americans but left their material conditions mostly unchanged. According to CRT, civil-rights law can mitigate the consequences of illegal and unjust acts, but it can do nothing to redress the continuing impact of past oppression.
- Critical race theory rejects the principle of equality of opportunity. Equality of opportunity is a myth, not a reality, in today’s America, and those who pursue it are misguided. The real goal is equality of results, measured by black share of income, wealth and social standing. The metric of merit is unacceptable because merit serves as a repository of hidden race-specific preferences for those in power.
- Race-conscious policies such as affirmative action are diversionary. The aim of affirmative action is to “create enough exceptions to white privilege to make the mythology of equal opportunity seem at least plausible.” Such policies are an inadequate response to the persistence of white supremacy.
- The anti-racist Ibram Kendi says that “the only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”
Conclusion. Critical race theory is a dangerous ideology that would take the nation into racial retrograde. It is one thing to present an honest view of American history in public schools but quite another to focus on the “1619 Project.” Hiring practices and workplaces should be fair and welcoming to all, but mandatory diversity training, premised on the ubiquity of unconscious racism, is coercive and insulting. Americans should have no hesitation in opposing CRT and its offshoots.