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Sprinkles from the Left

The Left is generally supportive of the idea of critical race theory (CRT).

  • They argue CRT is often misrepresented, framing the ideology as taking a critical look at historical events – such as the genocide of Native Americans or the slave trade in the U.S. – and revealing their far-reaching and long-lasting impacts on society, some of which are still present day.
  • Some commentators contend that many of the state bills banning CRT often contain vague, ambiguous language that would effectively prevent any discussion about racism, citing legal scholars who say the measures violate the First Amendment.

The language of these bills [NH, AR, LA] is anodyne and fuzzy—compel, for instance, is never defined in the Idaho legislation—and that ambiguity appears to be deliberate. According to Ammon, “using taxpayer funds to promote ideas such as ‘one race is inherently superior to another race or sex’ … only exacerbates our differences.” But critics of these efforts warn that the bills would effectively prevent public schools and universities from holding discussions about racism; the New Hampshire measure in particular would ban companies that do business with government entities from conducting diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. “The vagueness of the language is really the point,” Leah Cohen, an organizer with Granite State Progress, a liberal nonprofit based in Concord, told me. “With this really broad brushstroke, we anticipate that that will be used more to censor conversations about race and equity.”

Most legal scholars say that these bills impinge on the right to free speech and will likely be dismissed in court. “Of the legislative language so far, none of the bills are fully constitutional,” Joe Cohn, the legislative and policy director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, told me, “and if it isn’t fully constitutional, there’s a word for that: It means it’s unconstitutional.” This does not appear to concern the bills’ sponsors, though. The larger purpose, it seems, is to rally the Republican base—to push back against the recent reexaminations of the role that slavery and segregation have played in American history and the attempts to redress those historical offenses.

Adam Harris, The Atlantic

Critical race theory is designed to focus attention on the realities of people of color by illuminating the pervasive elements of racism that permeate societal systems and structures today. It should not be surprising that historical events and institutions as damaging and dehumanizing as the genocide of First Americans and the slave trade in the U.S. from 1619 to 1865 have had far-reaching and long-lasting impacts on society.

Critical race theory asks that we consider these impacts and look for remnants of the norms established when only white men were granted citizenship and the right to vote and own property. That we evaluate how those norms still disadvantage people of color today. To be sure, these atrocities took place centuries ago, and most Americans view them as abhorrent. Many even argue that since the days of colonization and slavery, our country has fought for and achieved racial equality. But a wealth of data contradicts this conclusion. Considering these disparities in the context of our history, is it too much to ask white people to critically reflect on the past?…

Traditional curricula do not validate the historical and present-day realities they know to be true for people of color in the U.S. In fact, children — regardless of their own race — are arguably better equipped to learn about and discuss racism than are adults, who, having been socialized to a culture of silence on the topic of race, often feel psychological distress.

As professors committed to educational excellence for all students, we reject the misinformation and propaganda that capitalizes on the fear that white students will be demonized in discussions about racial injustice. We reject the neoliberal premise that teaching children to be kind, accepting and colorblind, while ignoring race and racism, fosters equity and equality. We call for critical race theory in our classrooms.

Esther Calzada & Cossy Hough | Calzada is associate dean for equity and inclusion in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at the University of Texas. Hough is assistant dean for undergraduate programs at the school.

Sprinkles from the Right

The Right is generally opposed to the idea of critical race theory (CRT).

  • They categorize it as a school of thought that ends up harming race relations by treating people differently based on the color of their skin. Many commentators call it an openly racist ideology.
  • They argue CRT’s promotion of racial “equity” instead of “equality of opportunity” is dangerous and misguided, and only serves to further divide America.

[Critical race theory] supporters deploy a series of euphemisms to describe critical race theory, including “equity,” “social justice,” “diversity and inclusion” and “culturally responsive teaching.”

Critical race theorists, masters of language construction, realize that “neo-Marxism” would be a hard sell. Equity, on the other hand, sounds nonthreatening and is easily confused with the American principle of equality. But the distinction is vast and important. Indeed, critical race theorists explicitly reject equality — the principle proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, defended in the Civil War and codified into law with the 14th and 15th Amendments, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. To them, equality represents “mere nondiscrimination” and provides “camouflage” for white supremacy, patriarchy and oppression…

No longer simply an academic matter, critical race theory has become a tool of political power. To borrow a phrase from the Marxist theoretician Antonio Gramsci, it is fast achieving cultural hegemony in America’s public institutions. It is driving the vast machinery of the state and society. If we want to succeed in opposing it, we must address it politically at every level.

Critical race theorists must be confronted with and forced to speak to the facts. Do they support public schools separating first-graders into groups of “oppressors” and “oppressed”? Do they support mandatory curricula teaching that “all white people play a part in perpetuating systemic racism”? Do they support public schools instructing white parents to become “white traitors” and advocate for “white abolition”? Do they want those who work in government to be required to undergo this kind of re-education? How about managers and workers in corporate America? How about the men and women in our military?

How about every one of us?

Christopher F. Rufo; senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

CRT would substitute “naming one’s own reality” for rational analysis. It teaches that civil rights legislation was passed more for Cold War propaganda purposes than to alleviate racial discrimination, that only members of a minority have the authority and ability to speak about racism, that the racial neutrality of law is false, and that our system can’t redress certain types of racial wrongs. It tears down without providing answers.

CRT writings advocate the view that separation and reparations should be a form of foreign aid for black nationalists. Some CRT writers even say that being white is a form of property that whites alone possess, that the white skin of some Americans is like owning a piece of property making achieving the American Dream more likely than white.

CRT’s call for “equity” doesn’t sound threatening because it sounds like “equality,” but there is a huge difference. Equality of opportunity is very different from “equity.” Equality of opportunity means that all have a chance to succeed. CRT “equity” means that everyone gets equal rewards. Note the Marxist tones. Equality to CRT theorists is “mere nondiscrimination” and provides cover for white supremacy, patriarchy and oppression…

CRT advocates ridicule “equal opportunity” that inspires much liberal political and economic thought. They say that there is no such thing and that “merit” is a racist construct to keep white people in control. Thus, students shouldn’t see their academic grades penalized for disrupting class or turning in tardy work or not at all. Traditional measures of merit such as grades or test scores are racist, too, because they don’t produce “equitable” outcomes.

Ultimately, CRT reinforces group stereotypes, shames meaningful dialogue, and worsens race relations… CRT has the opposite effect of achieving racial harmony. It leads us to worse race relations, not better.

Dr. Greg Ganske; retired surgeon and Republican member of Congress from Iowa from 1995 to 2002. (Published in the Des Moines Register)