July/August 2021 Issue
Until about a year ago, very few people had ever even heard of “Critical Race Theory,” but today it is hard to find anyone who doesn’t have an opinion about it. Another indication of its influence is that it also now has its own acronym: “CRT.”
There are two debates that go on about Critical Race Theory: the first is the obvious question about whether what it claims is true; the second is whether, even if it were true, it should be taught in schools.
What do critical race theorists claim?
The explanations of Critical Race Theory by its advocates are often confusing, perhaps the people trying to explain it are themselves confused. But if you sift through the stew of ideas that get set forth as Critical Race Theory, you can identify a common characteristic—a change in the way we view sin.
Although critical race theorists do not state their belief in theological terms, they believe that the locus of moral responsibility does not lie in individuals (the Christian view) but rather in institutions (the post modern liberal view). This is the assumption behind so-called “institutional racism.” It is another rendition of the modern tendency on the political left to deny original sin.
From a Christian viewpoint, there are only three things “institutional racism” could mean: 1) there are racist people within the institution; 2) there are policies that have a racist purpose or consequence; and 3) the history of the institution makes it racist.
If there are racists or racist policies, address them. This is not controversial. Everyone agrees with it and there is no debate. The remedy is simple, even if not always easy.
But when it comes to an institution’s history, those talking about institutional racism don’t really want to go there. They would have to close down the institutions they now run—all the elite educational institutions, numerous media organizations, and at least one of our major political parties. And, of course, that’s not happening.
But none of these are part of “institutional racism” because critical race theorists have changed the very definition of racism.
Because Critical Race Theory asserts that sin resides in institutions rather than in individuals, advocates of Critical Race Theory believe that social improvement occurs through the reform of institutions rather than individuals. Instead of simply teaching the Golden Rule—that we should treat others the way we want to be treated—they now want to promote political ideologies in our schools that teach our institution, including our very system of government, are themselves evil.
It is not that I or you are evil, now the police are evil or America itself is evil. Racism exists, according to critical race theory, even if no actual racist person or policy exists.
Critical Race Theory, in fact, has little to do with actual racism, but is rather a purely political belief designed to revolutionize society along Marxist lines. It is not that everyone should be treated equally, but that everyone must be equal in every respect – an equality of outcomes not opportunity. It is a romanticist view of society and politics that has its origins in the French Revolution, where radicals inspired by atheist thinkers such as Voltaire and Rousseau (proto-critical theorists) attempted to force equality on a national scale; only to bring about social upheaval and violence.
This is now what some want to teach in our schools. Efforts like the 1619 Project, directed by Nicole Hannah Jones (an activist journalist), and sponsored by the liberal New York Times, would teach America’s students that our country is fundamentally racist.
In order to make their case, they largely ignore the great American examples of heroic self-sacrifice for the cause of human dignity and human rights, and focus instead on America’s failings.
Have we, as Americans, failed in living up to our lofty ideals? Sure we have. But, as President Reagan said, our ideals make us “the last best hope of man on earth”—they convict us of our shortcomings; challenge us to make things right; and inspire us to do better.
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