I doubt this post will be popular. But I have a unique perspective on a topic of fierce debate and I think my readers just want me to tell it like it is. So here goes.
For the next 10 minutes I’m asking you to suspend judgement and forget everything that you think you believe about critical race theory (which is all secondhand anyway, as filtered through the news media). Instead I’m asking you to go with me on a journey that might reframe how we think about this topic. And then we can compare notes at the end.
Critical race theory is based on two interrelated but somewhat contradictory principles.
1. The law itself can be an instrument of racial oppression.
2. Even once formal racist laws are repealed, that doesn’t necessarily get rid of racism (deeply engrained patterns, such as residential segregation, often remain).
Neither of those principles is controversial. Of course the law can be an instrument of racial oppression (slavery, the Dred Scott decision, Jim Crow…). Furthermore, to take one example, we know that even when laws around redlining are repealed that does not necessarily lead to racially integrated neighborhoods (at least not in the short term, social change takes generations).
So hats off to whichever Republican political operative figured out how to turn critical race theory into a wedge issue. What’s hilarious is that almost no one on the left even knew what critical race theory was until Republicans made it a campaign theme. I’ll explain.
First off, there is no left in the United States. I come from the left, this is my tribe (or it was), I know the terrain here. Republicans going off on Marxism today crack me up because the left gave up on Marxism in 1968 when the tanks crushed the Prague Spring. Then for a brief period in the 1970s the left pivoted to a human rights framework. And then toward the end of the 1970s the left fell in love with Foucault and postmodernism. Today the left is this weird combination of postmodern cultural theory + Pharma fascism. But there is nothing particularly “left” about that, it’s just odd and incredibly self-destructive.
Critical race theory was dead, forgotten, and not taught in universities prior to Republicans making it an issue. I know because I looked for it. I actually like critical theories of all different flavors. I like critical legal theory, critical race theory, critical gender theory, critical environmental theory, critical public health theory, and critical sociology.
This thing that all of us are doing in the movement for medical freedom could easily be considered critical public health theory — the state is an agent of Pharma, even if we could repeal bad laws (like vaccine mandates) lots of people would still sacrifice their kids to Pharma because those are the engrained patterns that they are familiar with. See the parallels to critical race theory above?
Critical theories of all kinds are just a method for seeing the world and analyzing formal and social structures that cause suffering and limit human flourishing. This is what the left, when they are on their game, actually does best. This is what the left should be doing, but does not do anymore because they are so busy worshipping Pfizer.
But all of these critical approaches died out years ago. Almost no one teaches them anymore. How do I know this?
I went to Swarthmore College — about as (bougie) left as you can get. Critical race theory was not mentioned once in 4 years (granted this was a long time ago but this is when critical race theory should have been at its zenith).
I got a masters degree from UC Berkeley — about as “left” as you can get. No professor ever mentioned critical race theory in two years. I only discovered critical race theory because a fellow graduate student mentioned it once and forwarded to me a couple articles at my request.
Prior to going to get a Ph.D. in political economy I actually wanted to study critical legal theory. It’s genius. But no law school teaches it anymore. From Wikipedia:
The critical legal studies movement emerged in the mid-1970s as a network of leftist law professors in the United States. According to Roberto Unger, the movement "continued as an organizing force only until the late 1980s. Its life as a movement lasted for barely more than a decade."
Yes there is a critical legal conference most every year in the U.K. But at this point it’s heavily postmodern (Foucault not Marx).
So here’s what’s actually happening right now. Republican operatives were looking for a bogeyman that they could use to rally the base this year. They landed on critical race theory and launched a campaign to oppose it. At the time the left had no idea what critical race theory was, having abandoned such theories decades before in order to worship Pharma, solicit billionaires, and play god at Davos and in their local public health department.
But nearly all Democrats are afflicted with Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS). So when they saw that Republicans opposed critical race theory they decided that critical race theory must be pretty great so they went out and learned about it for the first time. Literally CA Dems had no idea what CRT was (too busy banning single use shampoo bottles in hotels and setting up Pharma fascism) until this year. Now they are mandating it in the public school curriculum. So Republicans lured Dems into a trap, Dems took the bait (because of TDS) and now we have two sides that have never actually read any critical race theory (or any other critical theory for that matter) warring over this idea that neither side really understands.
Because neither side has actually read any critical race theory, the issue is just a blank screen upon which people project their fears of the other.
I will say this though in defense of the Republican position… those two straightforward principles above: 1. The law itself can be an instrument of racial oppression and 2. Even once formal racist laws are repealed, that doesn’t get rid of racism… are fine. But what Republicans are really afraid of is the unknown of step 3. ‘Okay so repealing racist laws doesn’t end racism, what does?’ And the fact that there is so clear answer to step 3 — reparations? Okay, who pays? On what basis? Abolish the police? Really? Get rid of prisons? What!? — THAT’S what the Republican base is concerned about.
Democrats, because they are playing catch up and don’t really know much about this new theory that they just re-adopted (after it sat idle in a closet for decades), have not filled in any details on step 3. And given that the Democrats are busy setting up Pharma Jim Crow, Pharma Apartheid, and Pharma Fascism nationwide, they cannot actually be trusted with anything at this point. So even though the hit on critical race theory is problematic on many levels, anything that knocks Democrats out of office right now is probably a good thing (until they sober up and put down the Pharma Kool Aid).
Okay those are my thoughts for now. I imagine many of you will see this differently and that’s fine, we can have those difficult conversations. I just find this drama to be a fascinating case study in modern American politics.
Update: Okay that was painful but I learned a lot from the comments and I’m grateful that you all are showing that it is possible to have difficult conversations in a respectful manner. Growth is exhausting and uncomfortable but I have a much broader and deeper picture after reading the comments, so thank you!!! 🙏