According to information obtained from a Buffalo Public Schools district whistleblower instead of working on practical measures to improve the district’s dismally low academic performance, administrators have implemented “equity based instructional strategies.” The centerpiece of this view is that “America is built on racism,” a view propagated by district diversity czar Fatima Morrell. She has also proclaimed that “America’s sickness” leads some to believe that blacks are “not human,” making it easier to “shoot someone in the back seven times if you feel like it.”
The view that education should be shaped through a framework that claims to resolve racial disparities is an appeal to an emerging scholarship known as critical race theory (CRT). This story is an all too common one in which American public institutions are being plagued by this ahistorical anti-American ideology. It is a negativist theory that relies on the ability to find racism in every facet of society and is propped up daily by divisive media talking heads who push discordant content for views and clicks.
Not only has critical race theory regressed the national conversation on race, but it’s regressed the national conversation in general. Consider for a moment how, just last week, a member of the White House press corps asked Press Secretary Jen Psaki to respond to the profoundly stupid criticism that vaccinating teachers first is “anti-equity” because most teachers are white. The question was inspired by criticism from infectious disease specialist Dr. Celine Gounder, a health “equity” activist who spends quite a bit of time on the media circuit. Gounder is a critical race theorist who hosts a podcast called American Diagnosis, which claims to expose how health is influenced by institutional racism. “Poor health? It isn’t random,” the show’s blurb claims. “[W]e’re talking about the divide between the people who’ll live long and healthy lives and those who won’t.
Racism in medicine is very real today: https://t.co/sozcBhEBe1
— Céline Gounder, MD, ScM, FIDSA (@celinegounder) March 6, 2021
Like most critical theory, critical race theory is a spawn of Marxist thought, and its influence in American education continues to be somewhat furtive. Yet, as critical race theory spreads, firm and sustained opposition to it from conservatives is absent, even as tribulations like the ones plaguing the Buffalo Public School district become commonplace. In fact, the American Conservative Union actually platformed conservatives who espouse a “lite” version of the dogma at its annual CPAC conference last month.
CPAC’s only panel dedicated to race, titled “Doubt, Dysfunction, and the Price of Missed Opportunities,” failed to mention critical race theory at all. In fact, the program criticized conservative messaging at-large for sticking to “talking points”, while tacitly pleading conservatives to embrace the “growing pains” that come with embracing a new dialogue on race. The panelists, moderated by Black Guns Matter founder Maj Toure, regurgitated leftist depictions of how conservatives view race and even associated traditional Black conservative ideology with the character “Carlton Banks” from the Fresh-Prince of Bel-Air. (One, talk show radio host Sonnie Johnson, once notably disagreed with former President Trump’s assessment that his administration had made things easier on the black community.)
The temptation to embrace critical race views, it seems, is almost too irresistible for a conservative movement desperate to maintain the steam former President Donald Trump gained by building a historic alliance with the black community. But what these “conscious black conservatives” fail to realize is that, by the time of the November 2020 election, that alliance was in tatters—as a direct consequence of critical race theory.
Bullied by the allegation that popular conservatism is a racist movement, Republicans have continued to make small but significant concessions to this way of thinking. During the George Floyd riots, some GOP senators actually marched alongside Black Lives Matter—the physical and organizational manifestation of the belief that America is institutionally racist. (Okay, only Mitt Romney did that, but still, the influence of critical race theory among conservatives is still hard to deny.
[S]ome on the right are legitimizing critical race theory to capitalize on the fashionable nature of wokeness.
Take for example Republican presidential-hopeful, Nikki Haley, who notably spread the conspiracy theory that former President Donald Trump voiced support for the KKK during the Charlottesville incident, writing in her 2019 memoir that she was “deeply disturbed.” Haley also famously embraced the notion that America is racist while attempting to dispel it during her speech at the RNC in August, noting the discrimination and hate her family faced while immigrating to the U.S. calling, herself a “brown girl,” and adding that “America is a story that’s a work in progress.” Haley’s slide toward racial wokeness is surprising considering that she experienced a racial controversy of her own when it was revealed that she listed herself as “white” on a 2001 voter registration card.
Similarly alarming, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey gave a speech about racial reforms last year against the backdrop of George Floyd protestors. During the address, Ducey failed to refute claims made by racial activists that he doesn’t understand systemic racism and “suffers from white privilege,” adding that he’s committed to “learning.” “I’m learning along the way,” Ducey said, giving full grace to critical race proponents. “I’m continuing to learn. I’m committed to that.”
Similarly ‘taking a knee’ to BLM protesters, the Indiana Republican Party declared “Black Lives Matter” at the Indiana Republican convention. Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan went even further, openly criticizing former President Trump’s condemnation of violent looting in the wake of George Floyd’s death. “It’s sort of continuing to escalate the rhetoric and I think it’s just the opposite of the message that should have been coming out of the White House,” Hogan chided. Republican Senator Mike Braun of Indiana, meanwhile, appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight to defend his support of Black Lives Matter and his Reforming Qualified Immunity Act. Braun’s reasoning was straightforward: to win, Republicans need to act more like Democrats. “If we are not in the discussion,” he argued, “we are going to be on the sidelines like we are on so many issues as conservatives because we failed to engage and [the Democrats] run circles around us in the end.”
It’s become clear that some on the right are legitimizing critical race theory to capitalize on the fashionable nature of wokeness. That leaves the rest of us to take a stand.
“CONSCIOUS BLACK CONSERVATIVES”
According to the American Bar Association, critical race theory is a way of “interrogating race and racism in society that emerged in the legal academy and spread to other fields of scholarship.” It originated from a workshop at Harvard in the 1970s, and as you can tell from the definition, is often expressed by its proponents as a verb. That is because it is supposed to be an ever-evolving practice of finding racism throughout society (even where there isn’t any).
This once-obscure way of thinking about race has become one of the most popular ways of thinking in America and it’s taking over the public school system.
Critical race theorists like Eduardo Bonilla-Silva believe that racism is “structurally embedded in society” and as a result, we must challenge mainstream liberal approaches to civil rights. Unlike civil rights activists like Martin Luther King and Medgar Evers, critical race theorists view the law and western legal procedure as insufficient vehicles to achieve the changes they seek. Popular race scholar Tommy Curry, a philosophy professor at Texas A&M University, rejects legal reasoning in its entirety when he says critical race theory begins with “the view that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist.”
This once-obscure way of thinking about race has become one of the most popular ways of thinking in America and it’s taking over the public school system. Critical race pedagogies have been implemented in school systems in Virginia Beach, California, Maryland, and countless other places. In fact, the threat of critical race theory has become so prevalent among institutions of learning that a Cornell Law School professor launched a website to track it’s spread.
This thinking has expanded not just into mainstream conservative circles as noted earlier, but into the realm of black conservatism as well.
Notable conservatives like Uncle Tom co-stars Candace Owens and Larry Elder routinely blast critical race theory, but other black conservatives, like CPAC panelist Sonnie Johnson and author/Twitter personality Felicia Killings, claim that there is room for those who believe that America is systemically racist through “conscious conservativism.” The definition of conscious conservatism comes from Killings, who called Trump’s decision to ban critical race theory training at the federal level “an appeal to the alt-right.” Killings explains in her 2020 monograph that:
“Conscious Conservatism is based on the belief that spiritual laws and principles guide our human behavior and interaction. As humans, we conserve these truths and implement these values in culture, society, and politics.
Conscious Conservatives use our words to tear down godless ideologies that rise up against our spiritual, conservative values; and then we seek to build and plant again in our communities so people thrive.
Conscious Conservatives empower. Even when we point out problems in our communities, we immediately present viable solutions WITH the people so we each prosper. We do so because we understand spiritual laws, which is higher-level thinking.
Simply put: Conscious Conservatism is an ideology based on moral conservative principles that focus on empowerment and progress in politics, culture, and society.”
The confusion created through this clash between traditional black conservatives and “conscious conservatives” has erroneously caused some to wonder if there is room for critical race principles in the big tent of conservatism. But to even ask such a question is to misunderstand the tenets of critical race theory.
Proponents of critical race pedagogies find racism throughout society among every institution. They believe two criminal justice systems exist: one for everyone else, and one that punishes black-Americans harder. They believe that colonial slavery was such an atrocity that reparations are still owed as starting point for equity. Expanding the tent of conservatism to accommodate this kind of thinking goes beyond simply encouraging a broad range of support for the movement, it creates a clear clashing of values.
But conscious black conservatives like Killings and Charisse Lane, a Twitter personality who has criticized the resoluteness in which Candace Owens speaks of critical race theory, agree that the calls for reparations are legitimate, and frequently argue that conservatives ought to adopt these beliefs or forfeit hopes of black votes engagement.
This so-called conscious black conservatism is conservatism without convictions. Nothing more than critical race theory light, espoused by egoists seeking Romney-type praise from the left for being one of the good ones.
THE MYTHS (AND LIES) OF CRITICAL RACE THEORY
The way proponents of CRT mischaracterize slavery functions as the nucleus of the big critical race lie. They continuously advance the notion that contemporary white Americans are inherently racist due to a psychological relationship with slavery. CRT proponents do this while asserting that the impacts of slavery manifest as a “historical trauma” that directly affects the lives of black people daily.
It isn’t that critical race theorists don’t know history; they simply reject it along with everything else we consider a pillar of modern civilization—even math.
Consider the infamous tweets from Colin Kaepernick in support of the oppressive Iranian regime in the aftermath of a tactical military strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. “There is nothing new about American terrorist attacks against Black and Brown people for the expansion of American imperialism,” Kaepernick wrote in a pair of tweets. “America has always sanctioned and besieged Black and Brown bodies both at home and abroad. American militarism is the weapon wielded by American imperialism, to enforce its policing and plundering of the non-white world,” he continued.
Kaepernick’s stance, committed to depicting all actions by the United States as racially motivated, absolves Iran (Persia) of centuries of imperialism where the empire gruesomely trafficked white slaves from Russia and black slaves from Africa. It isn’t that critical race theorists don’t know history; they simply reject it along with everything else we consider a pillar of modern civilization—even math. Ponder for a moment that the Oregon Department of Education published a directive aimed at “dismantling racism in mathematics instruction.” The directive states “the concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false, and teaching it is even much less so.”
Such a philosophy, one that rejects legal reasoning and math, is not worth embracing in the name of fashionable politics. CRT rejects faith in the same legal institutions that progressed western society through suffrage, abolition, and labor rights. No one sums up this position better than Jeffrey Pyle of the Boston College Law Review when he writes, “Critical race theorists attack the very foundations of the liberal legal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, enlightenment rationalism and neutral principles of constitutional law. These liberal values, they allege, have no enduring basis in principle, but are mere social constructs calculated to legitimate white supremacy.”
Once you concede two criminal justice systems exist, the policy implications are disastrous. Lenient penalties for Black-Americans? Yes, critical race theorists actually endorse the idea of incorporating race among legal frameworks. The American Bar Association published an essay about racial disparities in the justice system which advocated for all state and federal jurisdictions to adopt racial impact statements and “assess racial impacts of criminal justice decision making” In order to wash away such a textbook embracement of inequality, they simply revert back to postmodernism and distorted history.
CRT is what led masses of Americans to believe that typically isolated incidents, like the murder of Ahmad Arbery and death of George Floyd, were justification to burn and loot businesses. The Harvard Political Review’s Ria Modak rationalizes the destruction when she wrote that “looting has long remained an act of resistance in movements for racial justice in America.” Critical race theory isn’t deadly in an abstract way; its lethality is what took the life of David Dorn during protests and violence deemed the “summer of unrest” that led to the deaths of at least twenty-five Americans.
Everyone must stand in complete and total opposition to this way of thinking, but it starts with conservatives.
INDOCTRINATING OUR YOUTH WITH POISON
Donald Trump knew the answer for minority inclusion in the Republican Party didn’t require sacrificing western ideals. That’s why, despite his aggressive black engagement, he drew the line at critical race theory, going as far as to try to ban its influence at the federal level through an executive order back in September. The ambitious move prevented federal funds from being used to implement critical race training while also prohibiting the federal government from contracting to companies who subscribe to and teach the theory. Even a man like Trump, who was almost willing to do anything to restore the affection the black community once had for him, grasped that critical race theory was antithetical to the civil rights philosophy of someone like Martin Luther King.
[T]he folly of not understanding critical race theory is confusing it for history, harmless alternative instances of political correctness, or benign racial sensitivity teachings.
Still, during the presidential debate in September, I cringed listening to then-President Trump’s murky critique of critical race theory. “I ended it because a lot of people were complaining that they were asked to do things that were absolutely insane, that it was a radical revolution that was taking place in our military, in our schools all over the place,” Trump said, before repeating the word “unAmerican” a number of times. A moment to levy a blow to critical race theory in front of a national audience was squandered.
But there will be more opportunities to unmask the sheer absurdity of critical race theory in the future. Such a moment will require both courage, as well as a James Lindsay-style understanding of the great critical race delusion. Lindsay, a political commentator and author, has essentially dedicated his platform to expose the perils of critical race studies. (His eloquence in dismissing the tenets of critical racism is such a threat to academia that The Harvard Club was pressured into canceling an event that set to feature him.)
Instead of digging in with Lindsay and Trump in the fight against critical race theory, some on the right actually criticized Trump’s executive order aimed at removing the influence of critical race frameworks in government thinking. They argued he was poking the bear or creating more federal overreach. Some, not recognizing the fundamentally anti-democratic nature of this ideology, make the mistake of equating critical race theory to “teaching the children the truth about all the ugliness in American history,” as Reason Magazine’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown opined.
But the folly of not understanding critical race theory is confusing it for history, harmless alternative instances of political correctness, or benign racial sensitivity teachings. Critical race theorists believe that simple diversity training isn’t enough.” They want infinite symbolic actions, funding of critical race theory programs and research, disciplinary measures for offenders of inclusion policies, new curriculum requirements, and a new criminal justice system.
What’s happening at the Buffalo Public School district isn’t some mixed bag of ethnic name pronunciation training mixed in with culture group discussions. So-called diversity czar Dr. Fatima Morrell, who obtained her Ed.D. from the University of Buffalo, cited Marxist thinker Paolo Freire in public school trainings that were intended to be kept confidential, stating that “students must be trained to identify and eventually overthrow their oppressors.”
This is not an appropriate solution to a school district with low test schools, and it’s certainly not the conservative solution. Conservatism is a big tent; depending on who you ask they might offer performance checks on teachers, charter schools, school vouchers, or structural fixes like early access programs or focus on improving family life to remedy the plight of Buffalo public schools students.
Regardless of what “conscious black conservatives” or Mitt Romney tries to tell you, indoctrinating our youth into thinking that America is fundamentally racist is not the solution. It’s not even a band-aid, it’s simply poison.