Saturday, July 10, 2021

Yes to Teaching History, No to Teaching Critical Race Theory

In The Misguided Argument Against Bans on Teaching Critical Race Theory, Max Eden declares, "A good rule of thumb for evaluating political debates: If the strongest argument from the sharpest writers in the most prestigious newspaper op-ed page is predicated on a claim that takes 30 seconds to fact-check as false, then that side probably has the weaker case." Eden then proves his assertion by pointing out how a New York Times Op-Ed misquoted the language from a Tennessee bill to buttress their pro-Critical Race Theory beliefs:

The Tennessee bill simply does not say what they claim: that schools may not teach lessons that make students feel uncomfortable. It says that schools may not teach lessons that include or promote the concept that students should feel uncomfortable simply due to their race. It would not prohibit teaching about Jim Crow just because some white kids might feel bad after learning undisputed facts. It would prohibit teaching Robin DiAngelo, or similar authors, who make the racist and demoralizing argument that "white identity is inherently racist."

These four co-authors make their living, in large part, through the written word. Why direct the central argument of a New York Times op-ed against a transparent straw man of their own construction?

Perhaps because it is so difficult to oppose "CRT bans" forthrightly. Most of the common clauses in these laws prohibit the kind of state-sponsored racism that parents instinctively know has no place in schools: teaching students that "one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex," that "an individual, by virtue of the individual's race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously," or "ascribing character traits, values, moral or ethical codes, privileges or beliefs to a race or sex or to an individual because of the individual's race or sex."

These laws would prohibit schools from emulating Illinois' Evanston/Skokie school district, which taught that "whiteness is a bad deal," that white students should consider "what it means to be white but not [be] a part of whiteness" and where CRT-inspired educators routinely insist that it is their mission to disrupt and dismantle "whiteness."

Here's a thought experiment: Imagine that in rural areas of blue states, public schools started teaching that "blackness is a bad deal," that black students should consider "what it means to be black but not [be] a part of blackness" and educators started to insist that it is their mission to disrupt and dismantle "blackness."

If you are not familiar with Critical Race Theory, it is not difficult to find the source material and understand its Marxist, anti-democracy, anti-freedom, and anti-American underpinnings. Here is a good summary from Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, a 2001 book from Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic: "Unlike traditional civil rights, which embraces incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism and neutral principles of constitutional law." 

I graduated from law school and passed the Ohio bar exam, which means that I am quite familiar with both the strengths and limitations of our justice system. I know from firsthand experience that our system is flawed, but that it is also the best such system in the world. I do not want to replace it with a system based on a Marxist theory that seeks to undermine "the liberal reasoning...and neutral principles of constitutional law." Those sound principles that Critical Race Theory seeks to subvert and destroy are what separates this country from such failed and failing states as the Soviet Union, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Cuba. 

Proponents of Critical Race Theory recklessly assert that without Critical Race Theory we cannot have a fair and honest reckoning with our past. That is false, but very much in keeping with the narrow, binary thinking of the proponents of Critical Race Theory: according to them, everything is either racist or antiracist, so if you oppose Critical Race Theory then you must be a racist who refuses to acknowledge evil acts and suffering that are woven into U.S. history. I reject such binary, simplistic, and incorrect thinking.

I fully support teaching about--among other things--the horrors of slavery, lynching, and Jim Crow laws, plus the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement to overcome those horrors. What I don't support is the dissolution of the rule of law (abandoning "legal reasoning" is the first step in that direction) or reverse racism that asserts that White people are inherently racist while Black people are eternally victims of racism, nor do I support distorting the arc of U.S. history: no sensible person would deny that American history includes some horrific actions and events that must be carefully studied, but the notion that America is founded on racism and/or is irredeemably racist is demonstrably false, which can be proven by simply taking an honest look back in time. Go back to 1864, and slavery was legal in many states; go back to 1964, and Black people were still fighting for basic civil rights--but fast forward from 1964 to 2008, and this country elected a Black President, something that would have seemed unimaginable not too long ago. The point is that tremendous progress has been made precisely because America is not an inherently evil country. Equating America with totalitarian states, or even having the gall to falsely assert that those states are better than America, is an inversion and perversion of historical truth. 

Informed people already know the Marxist and antisemitic underpinnings of Critical Race Theory. There is a reason that proponents of Critical Race Theory do not want to speak now about Derrick Bell, the founding father of Critical Race Theory; it does not take much research to get to the heart of what he believed (among other things, Bell was a Louis Farrakhan admirer who declared that there is a "context" explaining why Black antisemitism is OK), and to realize why Critical Race Theory proponents decided that he cannot be the face of a movement that seeks to transform (destroy) America. 

Bell was blunt and honest about what he believed, but today's Critical Race Theory proponents are savvy enough to understand that most Americans would disagree with a blunt and honest statement of Critical Race Theory principles.

No, Critical Race Theory proponents have figured out how to elevate to popularity individuals who are more adept at couching their radical goals in language that is superficially less threatening and offensive--but the Marxist and antisemitic underpinnings are still there. There are other negative elements to Critical Race Theory as well, as Asian Americans have found out to their dismay both in terms of being attacked on the street and also in terms of facing quotas at institutions of higher learning reminiscent of the quotas that used to be held against Jews in the early part of the 20th century. Many of the same people who stir up Black antisemitism also stir up anti-Asian racism based on the notion that Asian-Americans are not really a minority deserving protection but in fact participants in White oppression of Black people.

Informed people also know where Critical Race Theory leads if we permit it to become a dominant ideology: just read Orwell's 1984, Koestler's Darkness at Noon, and Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago--or study how the revolutionaries in Russia, Cuba, and other countries who claimed that their goal was to promote freedom and equality ended up creating brutally oppressive totalitarian regimes. Put more simply for those who do not have the time, inclination, or ability to process all of the reading material mentioned above: there is a reason that some countries build walls to keep people in, while America has to patrol her borders because so many people from around the world will risk their lives to try to experience the freedom that too many of us who were born here take for granted. Self-proclaimed "progressives" intoxicated by Critical Race Theory and other flawed conceptions of society have confused themselves to such an extent that when they march to promote gay rights they shout antisemitic slurs demonizing Israel, the only country in the Mideast where gay people have any rights.  When the people who claim that they support freedom and equality for all are marching in the streets chanting antisemitic slogans, our country is teetering dangerously close to the calamity that befell Russia prior to the creation of the Soviet Union.

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