Earlier this week, an article appeared in the Daily Local News about Critical Race Theory (CRT) titled “Mistaken Identity.” The general point was that parents are unnecessarily concerned and misinformed about this benign ideology which is primarily confined to the “high academic” world and not impacting their children.
In our polarized age, conversations about race and social justice tend to generate more heat than light. But you can’t have justice without truth. Since the author failed to provide any differing opinion on the issue, at the risk of raising the temperature, I would like to shed some light on this article.
First, CRT dates much earlier than the 1970’s. It originated in Italy in the 1920’s through the work of Antonio Gramsci. He was an avowed Marxist who shifted the emphasis from economic to cultural oppression. He was followed by the Frankford School which brought this ideology to the United States. Once there it successfully made the “long march through the institutions,” the cultural gatekeepers in the universities, secondary schools, media, and the world of entertainment.
From there it converged with postmodernism with its rejection of metanarratives and objective truth, and its commitment to “deconstruction.” Under the broader term “Critical Theory” (CT) or simply “Theory” it has been the driving ideological force of the progressive left.
Second, CT/CRT is in our public schools as a quick search of our school district websites demonstrates. You will rarely find the term CRT used. CT/CRT has redefined and added new vocabulary to promote its creed and this is the language utilized. Among these are racism, anti-racism, equity, diversity, inclusion, white privilege, whiteness, white fragility, white supremacy, colorism, and more.
Third, CT/CRT does rewrite history. The 1619 Project, launched by the New York Times in 2019, states that America was not founded in 1776, but in 1619 when the first slaves came to America. We are also asked to believe that the Revolutionary War was fought not to escape British tyranny but to preserve the institution of slavery. Although professional historians and modern academics have refuted these claims, the curriculum has found its way into public schools.
Fourth, CT/CRT does insist that structural racism exists, that whites are inherently racist and privileged, and that they should feel guilty. The foremost proponents of CRT, Ibram X. Kendi and Robin Diangelo make this abundantly clear in their writing, including How to Be an Antiracist and White Fragility. Not surprisingly, these authors are recommended reading in many of our public schools in Chester County.
The ideology of CT/CRT sees the world through the lens which finds power dynamics in every statement, interaction, and institution, even when not obvious or real. While nominally pursuing justice, the goal is to identify “victims” and then weaponize the oppressed party as a means toward liberation and revolution against the oppressors.
The emphasis is on might over right with power the new god. Following the Roman dictum “Divide and conquer” CT/CRT sets groups against one another, race against race, sex against sex, generation against generation, in ways that not only create disharmony but ensure harmony is beyond reach. Its goal is not to provide remedies but exploit wrongs to gain power.
CT/CRT is one of the least tolerant and most authoritarian ideologies we have ever faced. Any well-intentioned person who questions it is “canceled” in what is often a vindictive form of bullying. In the name of liberation, freedom of expression, civil debate, respect for differences, and independent thinking are being silenced.
While CT/CRT has added new terms, others are conspicuously absent. These include forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation. Egregious wrongs have been done and they have and must be righted. But the proponents of CT/CRT, while rebuking those who have “sinned,” leave no room for mercy and forgiveness, only appeasement, abasement, or annihilation. This approach to righting wrongs is lethal for freedom. Martin Luther King Jr. said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that…To be free you have to let go of hate.”
Humans are fallible creatures. We are all equally in need of forgiveness and grace. There is no system of government that is so perfect that we will not make it go wrong. The sins of slavery and racism are not the ultimate expression of America’s founding, as the proponents of CT/CRT would have you believe. They are the ultimate contradiction to its founding and ideals, its “original sin.” To this we must acknowledge, repent, and correct ongoing wrongs.
Real change begins in the human heart. The question is how will we look at ourselves and one another. If we see ourselves primarily as victims, our lives will be characterized by resentment, bitterness, grievance, entitlement, and conflict. That is a “mistaken identity.” But if we see ourselves as image bearers of God, though imperfect, our lives will be marked by humility, gratitude and mutual respect and love.
If an ideology is going to be taught in our children’s schools, perhaps there is a better one to choose from. The Royal Law might be a good start: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”