Douglas Andrews / December 10, 2020

The Virus of Critical Race Theory

It started out in academia, but this dangerous and destructive infection keeps spreading.

“The greatest black problem in America today is freedom.”

So said distinguished race relations scholar and Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Shelby Steele in his groundbreaking 2006 book White Guilt. “All underdeveloped, formerly oppressed groups,” he continued, “first experience new freedom as a shock and a humiliation because freedom shows them their underdevelopment and their inability to compete as equals. … No group that has been oppressed to the point of inferiority is going to face the realities of new freedom without flinching. Almost always, oppressed groups enter freedom by denying that they are in fact free, this as a way of avoiding the daunting level of responsibility that freedom imposes.”

If anything explains the fertile ground on which Critical Race Theory (CRT) has taken root in our country, it’s this denial of freedom and its enablement by those on the Left. In a country as wracked with white guilt as ours, the appeal of CRT is powerful indeed.

And why wouldn’t it be? If, as the theory suggests, our nation’s laws and legal institutions are inherently racist, and if race itself — instead of being biologically based and natural — is a concept created by whites to further their interests at the expense of non-whites, then black and brown people must be excused for any achievement gap that exists between whites and non-whites. That achievement gap, after all, is a byproduct of white racism.

This, then, is the debilitating virus called Critical Race Theory — a virus that years ago escaped the academy and has since infected our schools, our politics, and our popular culture.

On Monday, The Heritage Foundation released a 15,000-word report titled “Critical Race Theory, the New Intolerance, and Its Grip on America.” Within it, authors Jonathan Butcher and Mike Gonzalez argue that CRT makes race the prism through which every aspect of American life is viewed. “CRT,” they write, “underpins identity politics, an ongoing effort to reimagine the United States as a nation riven by groups, each with specific claims on victimization. In entertainment, as well as the education and workforce sectors of society, CRT is well-established, driving decision-making according to skin color — not individual value and talent.”

As its assertions of systemic racism become normalized across American society, so too does the inherent anti-white and anti-Western intolerance of CRT. The result, the authors say, is a “weakening [of] public and private bonds that create trust and allow for civic engagement.”

Among the ways that CRT is encroaching on the lives of average Americans: identity politics and the pitting of certain groups against other groups; the Black Lives Matter insurgency; school discipline, or the lack thereof due to disparate impact; free speech on college campuses and in the workplace; widespread CRT training; and race-based decision-making in media and entertainment.

Who do we have to thank for this epidemic? As Marlo Safi writes in The Daily Caller, “The movement has its roots in the Frankfurt School, where a manifesto was created in 1937 that drew influence from Friedrich Nietzsche, Georg Friedrich Hegel, and Karl Marx. One of the core tenets of the school of thought was to tear down Western institutions, and it claimed that ‘traditional theory fetishized knowledge, seeing truth as empirical and universal.’” (Whenever someone starts saying that knowledge is overrated, and that the truth isn’t really the truth, tell them you have a plane to catch.)

Closer to home, we can blame Harvard. More specifically, we can blame Professor Derrick Bell, whom Butcher and Gonzalez call “the recognized godfather of the CRT movement.” Bell, who died in 2011 at age 80, was a lawyer, a civil rights activist, and Harvard’s first tenured black professor of law. And when it came to the goals of CRT, he was blunt: “As I see it, critical race theory recognizes that revolutionizing a culture begins with the radical assessment of it.”

Were he alive today, we wonder what Bell would make of his revolutionary theory, which sees behaviors such as individualism, hard work, objectivity, delayed gratification, respect for authority, and affinity for the nuclear family as sure signs of whiteness.

And what would he make of the rank monetization of his theory by opportunistic white leftist race hustlers such as Howard Ross and Robin DiAngelo?

As for policy recommendations, Butcher and Gonzalez warn against letting CRT influence the government’s ability to count by race using the Census and other surveys. Nor, they say, should the federal government support so-called diversity trainings that embrace the CRT platform, nor micromanage local schools’ student discipline policies. They encourage parents to know what their children are being taught, and they call on state policymakers to protect free speech on public college campuses.

“Racism and intolerance should have no place in America,” the authors say, “but CRT is more than just a philosophical objection to discrimination. When followed to its logical conclusion, CRT is destructive and rejects the fundamental ideas on which our constitutional republic is based.”

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