Take a look at this meme that has been circulating on social media within certain political circles. While it is “just a meme,” it is indicative of the larger attitude towards some “sides” within the relevant debate. By implication, it is suggesting there are people opposed to, or uncomfortable with, learning about the history of racism, racial segregation in the United States, the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, etc. Where are these people? Point them out so they can be thoroughly denounced. But there aren’t many of these types of people anymore. A more honest assessment is the meme makers are referring to the growing number of people opposed to Critical Race Theory (CRT)-oriented lessons being taught in school. They want the masses to think that anyone opposed to CRT in schools is therefore opposed to discussion of racial injustice in America’s past and/or not interested in future progress. This is false. The debate is over how such lessons are framed.
CRT proponents often deflect by stating CRT is reserved for college-level courses and discussion. This presupposes that the participants are already familiar with the standard notions and positions about the topics of which they intend to be critical. This is appropriate. the main counterpoint to this is that for younger kids in school, they cannot be exposed to competing worldviews such as CRT at that stage. By incorporating CRT and other leftist-oriented critical doctrines into the lessons at that point, educators are denying them a strong, culturally traditional base for understanding. Parents rightfully ought to fight for a strong, traditionally American base, rooted in our Founding principles of classical liberalism, moral objectivism, Constitutional government and Western traditions. From here, any topic can be discussed. This is what opponents of CRT are fighting for, not to keep kids from learning about past injustice.
Since the meme highlights racial segregation, what does the CRT crowd generally think about the topic regarding Brown v. Board of Education? Let’s look into the basics from an oft-cited book, “Critical Race Theory, An Introduction,” by Delgado and Stefancic:
“(CRT) also incorporated the critique of triumphalist history, and the insight that favorable precedent, like Brown v. Board of Education, tends to deteriorate over time, cut back by narrow lower-court interpretation and administrative foot dragging and delay….”
“Interest convergence or material determinism, adds a further dimension. Because racism advances the interests of both white elites (materially) and working-class people (psychically), large segments of society have little incentive to eradicate it. Consider, for example, Derrick Bell’s shocking proposal that Brown v. Board of Education—considered a great triumph of civil rights litigation—may have resulted more from the self-interest of elite whites than a desire to help blacks…”
“In the early years of critical race theory, the realists were in a large majority. For example, scholars questioned whether the much-vaunted system of civil rights remedies ended up doing people of color much good. In a classic article in the Harvard Law Review, Derrick Bell argued that civil rights advances for blacks always coincided with changing economic conditions and the self-interest of elite whites. Sympathy, mercy, and evolving standards of social decency and conscience amounted to little, if anything. Audaciously, Bell selected Brown v. Board of Education, the crown jewel of U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence, and invited his readers to ask themselves why the American legal system suddenly, in 1954, opened up as it did. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund had been courageously and tenaciously litigating school desegregation cases for years, usually losing or, at best, winning narrow victories. In 1954, however, the Supreme Court unexpectedly gave them everything they wanted. Why just then? Bell hypothesized that world and domestic considerations—not moral qualms over blacks’ plight—precipitated the path-breaking decision….”
“Crits are also highly suspicious of another liberal main-stay, namely, rights. Particularly some of the older, more radical CRT scholars with roots in racial realism and an ecomomic view of history believe that moral and legal rights are apt to do the right holder much less good than many would like to think….Moreover, rights are said to be alienating. They separate people from each other—“stay away, I’ve got my rights”— rather than encouraging them to form close, respectful communities. And with civil rights, lower courts have found it easy to narrow or distinguish the broad, ringing landmark decision like Brown v. Board of Education. The group whom they supposedly benefit always greets cases like Brown with great celebration. But after the celebration dies down, the great victory is quietly cut back by narrow interpretation, administrative obstruction, or delay. In the end, the minority group is left little better than it was before, if not worse. Its friends, the liberals, believing the problem has been solved, go on to something else, such as saving the whales, while its adversaries, the conservatives, furious that the Supreme Court has given way once again to undeserving minorities, step up their resistance….”
This is all a fine discussion to have in sophisticated circles. But for kids that are not well-versed in such concepts, teachers infecting lessons with such race-based theories that undermine tried-and-true objective moral principles can be detrimental to understanding, moral agreement, and national unity.
We cannot teach Critical Race Theory (CRT) to our children, structure their lessons to reflect it, or tolerate teachers or school administrative staff that have been overly influenced by such rhetoric to a point they cannot be trusted to remain objective. Children need a foundation and in a society such as ours based on mutual respect for the rights of equal individuals, this can only be our traditional American principles. “Unlike traditional civil rights, which stresses 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,” a quote again from Delgado and Stefancic summarizing a basic component of the CRT worldview.
American principles, which include the above, were not being properly taught and bolstered in primary schools in the first place. The last thing we should do is further muddy the waters for young students with critical theories that are fundamentally opposite the base theory.
A positive alternative is to strengthen our curriculum to better reflect American principles, work to perfect the implementation of these principles in our institutions, and (this is the important part that CRT proponents misunderstand) simultaneously stress the importance of cultivating virtue in the individual while strengthening the bonds in the family and community that compliment and maintain the institutional and political gains towards a more just society.
Introducing the self-perpetuating divisive subjectivism inherent in CRT into the minds of children makes the latter difficult, as they will always be tempted to blame the “them” as opposed to improving the self and seeking unity. There isn’t a past injustice that has occurred in our society that cannot be honestly discussed and understood through the traditionally American worldview; how we failed to live up to our principles, how we denied their protection to certain groups presenting inherent contradictions, how we remedied certain situations, and how we still sometimes fail to apply them correctly.