Critical Race Theory

I was really hoping I could avoid ever posting about the asinine debate over Critical Race Theory–but the other day, I saw that our bootlicker-to-the-Right Attorney General had entered the fray, a clear sign that the racists and their enablers think they’ve found a winning formula for 2022.

So I guess I do need to weigh in, in a (probably useless) effort to clarify what all the noise is about.

I didn’t encounter Critical Legal Studies and its cousin, Critical Race Theory until I was a college professor. Both approaches were–and are–relatively arcane, primarily the preoccupation of a subset of legal scholars. As Heather Cox Richardson recently explained it,  Critical Race Theory was a theory conceived in the 1970s by legal scholars trying to understand why the civil rights legislation of the past twenty years had not eliminated racial inequality in America.

They argued that general racial biases were baked into American law so that efforts to protect individuals from discrimination did not really get at the heart of the issue. While this theory focused on the law, it echoed the arguments historians have made—and proved—since the 1940s: our economy, education, housing, medical care, and so on, have developed with racial biases. This is not actually controversial among scholars.

While CRT explicitly focuses on systems, not individuals, and while it is largely limited to legal theory classes rather than public schools, Republicans have turned this theory into the idea that it attacks white Americans and that history teachers are indoctrinating schoolchildren to hate America. In the past three and half months, the Fox News Channel has talked about CRT nearly 1300 times.

I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked to discover that people who couldn’t define either “socialism” or “capitalism” if their lives depended on it are having trouble distinguishing between their fear of being “replaced” by Jews and scary Black people and a graduate-level study of how and where racial stereotypes are reflected in the country’s legal system. (I guess they never heard of redlining…)

Assertions that CRT is being taught in America’s elementary and high schools is ludicrous–as I have been complaining pretty much forever, schools aren’t even teaching the most basic concepts required for civic literacy, let alone a theory that requires a familiarity not just with the Constitution and Bill of Rights, but with significant elements of America’s legal structures.

The GOP-hyped hysteria over Critical Race Theory is just another effort to mask garden-variety racism  by pretending that the fight is really about something else. It takes its place beside the party’s rejection of “political correctness” (i.e., I refuse to abide by your social expectation of basic civility) and “cancel culture” (i.e., I should be free to spew my venom but you shouldn’t be free to respond by signaling your disapproval).

 One of the biggest disappointments of my adult life has been my reluctant recognition of the extent and depth of American racism, and the degree to which it infects our politics. That said, despite the evidence of the past few years–the hysterical reaction to Obama’s election, the subsequent election of an ignorant blowhard willing to demonize the “other”– I  still refuse to believe that the majority of Americans are in thrall to hate and fear.

The problem is, the rabid racist minority–thanks to gerrymandering,  vote suppression (and let’s be honest, voter apathy) and the Electoral College– has seized outsized control of America’s government. And when it comes to turnout, rage is a great motivator. If dishonest and dishonorable politicians can drum up fear and anger by emphasizing culture-war issues like the “threat” of a mischaracterized CRT, they may yet overwhelm the majority.

We live in an incredibly dangerous time.


  1. Aww, don’t give all the credit to our dishonest, racist minority; there is plenty of dishonesty to spread around for the LONG continuation of racism in this country. Didn’t Marx and Weber have theories about colonialism and capitalism using slave labor for the capitalists to build wealth?

    The wealth accumulated from somewhere? 😉

    As MLK learned, racism is a distraction from classism. It serves the purpose of the oligarchy. Who do you think yanks the chains of both political parties with identity politics and racism?

    If only we had a free press to hold our political class accountable. If you didn’t get a chance to read the latest ruling by another American judge about our propaganda media, Glenn Greenwald breaks it down:

    The judges clearly see that both Tucker Carlson and Rachel Maddow are full of bullshite; I wonder why viewers still take them seriously?

    When Bernie Sanders was stomping the field of candidates in 2020, what did the DNC do?

    They used their media sources like Rachel to scare black people into believing that Bernie wouldn’t do well against Trump and they’d be subjected to four more years of racism under Trump. Warren pushed him under the bus with women, and then the whole flock quit and pledged allegiance to Biden, who was trailing the field.

    The American sheeple is easily manipulated by their masters. 😉

  2. “The problem is, the rabid racist minority–thanks to gerrymandering, vote suppression (and let’s be honest, voter apathy) and the Electoral College– has seized outsized control of America’s government.”

    But isn’t the crux of the problem the fact that race is not actually stated when gerrymandering, suppressing votes and the ruling party-appointed members of the Electoral College? Racism is deeply ingrained into the minds of those making the above decisions and enacting the laws, and in all of us to a degree. Police department training does not include written instructions to use police abuse of power when dealing with minorities. McConnell is still ruling the U.S. Senate without using racial or religious references in his stoppage of progress as he has consistently ignored his Oath of Office to uphold democracy, Rule of Law and support the Constitution of the United States of America. Why has no one stopped him since the Obama administration?

    Rokita will carry out the unspoken racism in Indiana as long as he sits in that seat of power. An excellent depiction of racism here is shown in Eunice Brewer-Trotter’s book, “Black In Indiana”. During the early 1800’s elected officials, including those who wrote and enacted state laws against slavery, held slaves themselves and “bought” freed slaves, keeping them in bondage as indentured servants.

    How do we stop unwritten laws from being upheld?

  3. JoAnne,

    They used to just shame people into upholding their oaths, but you can’t do that to those who have no shame. If you need consequences, you have to make laws.

  4. Glad you did post about it. Well done. Bloomington resident Steve Hinnefield, who writes and publishes a blog about Indiana public education called: “School Matters” wrote about AG RoQuita’s recent “parental rights” initiative:

    Below is my rewrite of the core of RoQuita’s narrative:

    “These teachings are widespread, and its principles not rooted in American history or deep historical fact,” it says. “Rather, fundamentalist white Christian nationalism, FWCN, and other similar ideologies attempt to create their own truths through historical concepts and biblical ideologies, seeking to abolish individual rights and redistribute wealth upward. As such FWCN’s teachings have a discriminatory effect against students who are inappropriately defined as having ‘intellectual curiosity” or being ‘open-minded’ based solely on their race.”

  5. Revisionist historical narrative controlled by state appointed text book committees >> whitesplaining at the barbershop off radar >> Sunday 11:00 am the most segregated hour in America >> the Klan cloak is no longer what you thought it was >> the burning cross went underground >> silent sabres in cyberspace >> the bridge over troubled waters may have been a mirage turned into aspiring song >> but for a glimmer of hope arising from the ashes of “didn’t know what we didn’t know” to be called The American Sheeple? Thank God It’s Friday!

  6. The more there is focus on some of “us” – whether White, Black, Gay, Latino, Native American – the less chance there will ever be a US that is “us” instead of “me and/or mine”. How democracy withers…

  7. It is sad that you felt you HAD to touch in CRT, and sadder that the country is in such a state of blind polarization…run by ignorance and fear.

  8. Let’s face it. Both Democrats and Republicans want a free country. Democrats want the freedom promised by the Constitution based on equality, democracy, and laws that prevent any of us from taking advantage of any others of us. Republicans want a free country meaning not costing them anything.

    Republicans have found that their “free” isn’t all that popular among we the people. Therefore democracy is in their way and must be removed. Lying frequently and lavishly, to them is a small transgression compared to long careers on the public dole.

  9. As I see it, “critical race theory” has evolved as a construct from attempts to describe the historical experiences of African-American people in the United States (such as the Tulsa massacre), much of which has been hidden. Republicans do not want these experiences talked or written about because they think only the more positive aspects of U.S. history should be showcased in textbooks and discussed in schools. CRT is actually just unvarnished history, not some plot against the U.S. Republicans are hysterical fearmongers using the CRT label to spread their hysteria. I remember Mitch Daniels railing against Howard Zinn’s book because Zinn focused on the seamy side of U.S. history, of which there is plenty. He actually wanted the book banned from schools and universities. Today’s Republicans want laws passed that prohibit the teaching of anything that reflects poorly on them, and they want history re-written to absolve them of any wrongdoing. We will never resolve our problems by denying them or sweeping them under the rug. So to the CRT hypocrites, I say acknowledge our shortcomings and let them take their place in our history. I come from a scientific background, and have continually had to re-evaluate my understanding of the available data. We can do the same with our history.

  10. I feel like you’ve overgeneralized, just like you claim others are doing. CRT can be used to let students know that there is a history of racial injustice that got baked into our cultural and legal systems from the get-go. That’s fine. And we can discuss ways to make the systems more equitable and even how to repair the damage done. I think students need to think about that. But don’t treat it like it’s innocuous rather than inflammatory. Even done right, CRT has the possibility of creating new rifts next to old wounds it necessarily breaks open. The focus shouldn’t be, “Should we talk about the role of racism in our past?” Of course we should. But there has been surprisingly little talk about HOW it should be addressed. And that makes some parents nervous. To combat that, education boards need to let parents know what to expect. Helicopter and bulldozer parenting is still in full force many places, and those parents are prone to hysterics when their kid might get made uncomfortable. The unknown is much more frightening to them than anything else. Let’s define things and move on. Also, I feel your “summaries” of political correctness and cancel culture are wildly reductionist. Those two things have been weaponized in our society, and the backlash is presumably because they stifle communication in the name of some breach of propriety that hurts somebody’s feelings on the internet. It’s good to want to be civil and appropriate with our fellow humans. But let’s have this be two-way traffic. If someone used the wrong term or pronoun or did something stupid in their teens, we need to educate, not denigrate. We need to reconcile, not exile. And there are too many in the mob who want someone who erred to never find work again. This country claims to be about second chances. It should be. For everyone. Any who hasn’t burned the bridge back to civility should be allowed another try at coming over and being a part of polite society, if there is such a thing.

  11. Rage-filled parents at school board meetings remind me of chimps flinging s— at their rival tribes.

    We need more Darwin. Far more Darwin.

  12. Humbly suggest that critical thinking replace CRT in classrooms. Teach “how to think” instead of “what to think”. Unfortunately, CRT can lead to the opposite of ignoring racism; instead, waving it in front of our eyes every moment screaming “look at this”. That is NOT how change happens.

  13. I have lived as a member of a minority for eight years (I’m white) in a brown society and found the majority to be more liberal in matters racial than my majority peers back here in the USA. It seems that the freedoms our politicians spout are followed by others in the real world while our politicians were just kidding, their pontifications made for political effect. One man-one vote (Baker v . Carr, 1962) and persistent redlining by real estate brokers irrespective of statutory standards are examples of such pretense.

    It is to be noted that in the 1920s the headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan were not in Montgomery, Atlanta, or Jackson. The headquarters were in Indianapolis. ‘Nuff said.

  14. It is not just the rabid racists that are the problem but also the silent majority who sit comfortably indifferent in their homes.

    I have decided that for my own education re CRT that I will have to read a text about it to gain a deeper understanding about systems of racism i.e. banking, red lining. Of course as a retired nurse, I wonder about the inequities in health care. I heard a story on NPR about a doctor who ran a walk-in health clinic. He did not make appointments because most of his medicaid clients had problems with transportation. Many of his clients were immigrants from 3rd world countries. People simply got in line and waited their turn.

    Human systems are created by people. Humans are not perfect. I’ve noticed that our innovations usually create new problems for us to solve. i.e. Artificial intelligence displaces hundreds of workers leaving them unemployed.

    If we are going to put an end to system racism, then people who create these systems will have to consider all the ramifications of how it will affect different groups of people. Both the private and public sector will have to do that. In a capitalist society based on profit, marketers move toward attracting customers with money not disenfrancised minorities. They will need to adapt their systems to ensure that everyone in the surrounding community has equal access. All of these systems that humans create are interdependent i.e. if we want everyone to have equal access to health care where are the health clinics located and what about transportation to the clinics? I wonder when St. Vincent’s moved to 86th st. about the patients they abandoned in their original location. Did they move from a place where the majority were African-American to one where the majority of the neighborhoods were largely white?

    Time for me to read CRT. I doubt though that they put any focus on solutions, only the problems with our systems that deny equal access and opportunity to people of color. Of course, identifying the problem is only the first step in creating change.

  15. Affirmative action!

    You can look at affirmative action as a microcosm to this whole critical race issue!

    Since affirmative action had become the law, the pummeling against it was endless.

    Constant lawsuits brought by privileged white folks claiming that they were being discriminated against because people of color from poorer areas with less opportunities and because of the school systems they belong to, were able to get into college and even vocational programs using a prorated grade scale that took the aforementioned into account!

    Now, y’all can look at my avatar, and say that guy looks like a scrub from somewhere in Texas or Arizona! But even that didn’t prevent those who wanted to be abusive because of my racial makeup. It didn’t help me get better grades, the teachers in my particular grade school locked me in the janitors closet for two years with my books and a lightbulb to read by. The shame made it difficult for me to speak to my parents about what was happening, although when they found out, there was hell to pay for a lot of individuals. And yes, because of that and other things, I internalized a lot of hatred until I got older and was able to dish out worse than I had ever gotten. Believe it or not, it was my African wife who really helped me more than any counselor could!

    If you’ve had to live in the revisionist history of the school systems, we weren’t taught about civil rights for the most part. Heck, Martin Luther King was still marching! I found out from my great uncles and great-grandfather about the bigotry, and what to do or how to handle it! They are the ones that told me about Juneteenth, they are the ones that told me about Tulsa Oklahoma, Rosewood Florida, Red Summer in Knoxville Tennessee, this wasn’t taught in school!

    The wholesale lynchings, where songs were written about purple fruit hanging from the trees! On my computer I keep pictures of postcards given away as souvenirs from Oklahoma! Postcards of a neatly dressed woman and a long flowered dress wearing fairly smart shoes, and a bright shiny wedding band, hanging by her broken neck from a bridge! Or people cutting off pieces of a burnt hanging black man for souvenirs! That’s the critical race theory that needs to be addressed, and, the mentality that still exists today!

    Because, conscience is a terrible thing, so people try to alleviate their conscience by inventing reasons for their conduct! And every single piece of that reasoning is despicable! And not just despicable, absolutely fraudulent! But, here we are today! The big lies, everybody is shocked? Why be shocked? Because, all the folks that should’ve known better, fiddle farted around and twiddled their thumbs because it probably didn’t affect them personally!

    I say again, the founders of this country allowed people to be considered 3/5 human! Is that supposed to just vanish? That is ingrained in this country’s so-called justice system! And, whoever comes along to try and change it, ends up to be demonized, ostracized, and picked to pieces to be an insignificant part of history and in the long run, a part of history that can be eliminated from the books after a continuous nonstop campaign to revise the decrepit facts of this country’s history!

    The history is out there, and, right now it’s still not hard to find, although I will say, it’s harder to bring up than it used to be 30 years ago. That being said, the so-called discrimination of these poor white students from wealthy families that couldn’t get admitted into their school of choice because of affirmative action, claims to show how evil affirmative action was, and, how white people were discriminated against to their detriment! That’s our history! At least the history from the bizarro world or as JoAnn would say the twilight zone!

  16. Gerald,

    Indianapolis was not the “headquarters” of the Klan. The Klan in the 1920’s was a bunch of fiefdoms across the country, with only a loose national organization. The Indiana fiefdom, led by the D.C. Stephenson, was the largest Klan organization in the north. At it’s height, 30% of the white men in Indiana were in the Klan. Excluding the Catholics which were a top target of the Indiana Klan, that equates to about 1 in every 2 Protestant Hoosier males.

    In 1923, DC Stephenson broke ties with the national Klan to form his own Klan.

    Indiana and Indianapolis’ government was friendly to the Klan. The Legislature in 1922 even passed a law establishing Klan Day at the State Fair.

    D.C. Stephenson was a prominent Klan leader who did live in Irvington. But saying Indianapolis was the “headquarters” of the Klan is not accurate.

  17. Robin,

    (Matthew 5:3-11) talks about fruitage of the spirit, and how your conduct affects not only you but those in your orbit!

    Love, moves others to love you in return.
    Joy, gives you the strength to cope with challenges.
    Peace, helps you to keep your relationships free of strife.
    Long-suffering, enables you to stay happy even when you are under trial.
    Kindness, draws others to you.
    Goodness, on your part makes others respond when you need help.
    Faith, will assure you of God’s loving direction.
    Mildness, will bring you calmness of heart, mind, and body.
    Self-control, means that your mistakes will be fewer.

    (Galatians 5:22, 23)
    Paul wrote this to the congregations in Galatia, which is now part of present-day Turkey, the same things in Christ referred to in fruitage of the spirit listed above. Earlier in ‘Galatians 5:19, 21, it talks about the complete opposite of fruitage of the spirit.

    In Romans 2:14, 15 we read: “For whenever people of the nations that do not have law do by nature the things of the law, these people, although not having law, are a law to themselves. They are the very ones who demonstrate the matter of the law to be written in their hearts, while their conscience is bearing witness with them and, between their own thoughts, they are being accused or even excused.”

    So, is it any wonder why there needs to be revisionist history? Mankind’s conscience is strained to the limit, anything to alleviate that conscience is acceptable! And, is there any question as to how deeply and historically man’s inhumanity to man runs? How far back it goes?

    This will take something much larger than a simple reeducation, because, part of the problem is those who are doing the reeducating and the amount of despicable and spiteful faux information has only increased exponentially over the millennia!

    There is no unifying structure to humanity anymore! Because, fruitage of the spirit is considered ridiculous by so many, so the only alternative is what the apostle Paul wrote to the congregation in Galatia concerning the opposite of the fruitage of the spirit. And, this is what humanity has lived under, once again, for millennia.

  18. Here’s the REAL reason why Republicans and Trumpsters are promoting Critical Race Theory: because they’re losing support among American voters overall, but especially among educated women and suburbanites, who find Trump, his lies and his enablers repulsive. They have to have something to whip up the faithful to be upset about, so they’ll turn out at the polls and vote Republican. So, they not only claim that Democrats are REQUIRING Critical Race Theory to be taught in schools (a lie), but that Critical Race Theory teaches white children to be ashamed of their race because they are oppressing minorities, another lie. Recently, there was a school board meeting in Hamilton County that was stormed by a group of alt-right news disciples who followed the advice of the media personalities they watch and demanded that Critical Race Theory no longer be taught in Hamilton County. They ended up looking like fools when they discovered that Critical Race Theory is NOT being taught in ANY grade schools, including Hamilton County. But….it got suburbanites fired up, which is what Republicans wanted, so they keep on lying. A couple of days ago, Matt Gaetz went after General Milley about teaching Critical Race Theory at the service academies, and he got put down quite nicely. The bottom line is that Republicans are desperate to turn around their falling support, and are becoming more like Trump–willing to tell any lie it takes to get and hold onto power. I just wish I could believe that rural Republicans in Indiana are smart enough to see through this crap, but they did vote for Trump, so I don’t have much hope.

  19. CRT points uses the group theory approach to Show oppression of whites over the black community. The book Setting the Record Straight, American History in Black and White shows how politicians used their power to control the black population. Politicians continue to use the black community to wield power and in reviewing CRTs theory of white oppression there most certainly are a group of politicians that have effectively shown and continue to show their oppressive behavior. The effects of governments policies on the black community in many instances has not been well regulated on how it may uplift the community.
    The problem with using it in our schools is that it should be researched in its effectiveness to point out systemic racism vs other methodologies. This is critical thinking. Public school systems need the support of the public and their resources. CRTs introduction into the public school systems is actually removing that support as its being politically inserted and is not receiving bipartisan support.

  20. Kudos for the descriptive term: “bootlicker-to-the-Right Attorney General.” Although perhaps “Turmp-booklicker insurrectionist Attorney General” might be a tad more accurate.

  21. Lester, I think you’ve misunderstood what CRT is. Your suggestion to replace CRT with “critical thinking” doesn’t make sense. It’s equivalent to suggesting we replace evolutionary theory (or some other educational theory/subject) with meditation (or some other nebulous skill). Basically, you can’t replace a subject with a skill; they’re not equivalent.

    That said, teaching skills like critical thinking is a great idea. The real problem to overcome here is that many people _believe_ they are thinking critically about a topic when they definitely aren’t. As examples, a couple key aspects of critical thinking involve tracking sources and understanding (and reducing or accounting for) bias. Bias is a killer; it’s absolutely blinding for many people.

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