Critical Race Theory (CRT) is one of the subdivisions of grievance ideologies within Identity Politics, which itself comes out of Postmodernism, set within neo-Marxism.
From neo-Marxism comes the concept of “privileged” vs. the “oppressed”. While the earlier forms of Marxism pitted the factory owners (privileged) vs. the factory workers (oppressed), Identity Politics re-casts the privileged/oppressed model onto cultural identity groups such as race, ethnicity, sex, gender, sexual preference, and religion.
Identity politics essentially belongs to the collectivist “grand narrative” based upon Marxism, and it is in opposition to the grand narrative of the West, which is based upon the individual. Psychology professor Jordan Peterson raises the question as to which narrative should be paramount:
In the west, we have reasonably functional, reasonably free, remarkedly productive, stable hierarchies that are open to consideration of the dispossessed that hierarchies generally create. Our societies are freer and functioning more effectively than any societies anywhere else in the world, and that any societies ever have,….because the fundamental low resolution grand narrative of the west is oriented about the sovereignty of the individual; that all things considered, the best way for me to interact with someone else is individual to individual, and to react to that person as if we’re both part of the process by which things we don’t understand can yet be explored, and by things that are not properly organized in our society can be yet set right.
Thus, Peterson clearly supports the narrative focused on the individual.
Alternative terms for identity politics include “collectivism” (focusing on ideology) and “tribalism” (focusing on behavior).
Peterson expresses deep concerns about the collectivist narrative (i.e., identity politics):
But the collectivist narrative that I regard as politically correct is a strange pastiche of Postmodernism and neo-Marxism, and its fundamental claim is that, no, you’re not essentially an individual, you’re essentially a member of a group. And that group might be your ethnicity, and it might be your sex, it might be your race, it might be any of the endless numbers of other potential groups that you belong to, because you belong to many of them. And that you should be essentially categorized along with those who are like you on the dimension in that group. That’s proposition #1.
Proposition #2 is that the proper way to view the world is as a battleground between groups of different power. So, you define the groups first, and then you assume that you view the individual from the group context; you view the battle between the groups from the group context, and you view history itself as a consequence of nothing but the power maneuvers between different groups. That eliminates any consideration of the individual at a very fundamental level. And also, any idea, for example, of free speech, because if you’re a collectivist at heart in this manner, there is no such thing as free speech.
The collectivist activists of identity politics thus justify shutting down conservative speakers because they don’t believe in dialogue. They believe that logic itself is a tool of the non-collectivist to obtain and retain power. There’s no objective truth, no value structures; just power.
Identity politics can also be viewed from the concept of tribalism. In reality, people move from infancy to first of all having a relationship with their parents, and then becoming socialized into a tribe (or tribes) as they mature. However, the responsible person then achieves individuality apart from the tribe(s). It doesn’t necessarily that they leave a tribe, but that they think for themselves, and yet know when and how to be a “team player.” And in a healthy situation, they as an individual may need to help modify the tribe, when the tribe’s direction becomes corrupted in some fashion.
Unfortunately, in the case of identity politics, many in a particular group or tribe never achieve individuality and are totally “under the spell” of the group. That means, sadly, that “responsibility” is not a factor for that person, because the tribe is in control, and not the person.
Identity Politics Presuppositions
Here are some of the presuppositions that Postmodern Identity Politics assumes to be “true”, with parenthetical comments providing critique:
- Objective truth does not exist (but aren’t the tenets of Postmodernism and Identity Politics proclaimed as comprehensively “true”?)
- All texts have an infinite number of interpretations (similar critique: when applying rules of Critical Theory, there is only one interpretation)
- Western Culture is Phallogocentric; that is, Male dominated, with logic, reason, and objective truth as weapons to maintain power: these “Tools of the Master” should be silenced (however, logic, reason and objective truth are valued when they are used in the adaptation of social media to filter out conservative content)
- Human life is characterized by people belonging to various Identity Groups which compete for power (note however that people within those groups who don’t buy-in to the grievances are demonized, marginalized, and rendered invisible)
- Identity Groups are divided into those which are privileged (essentially eternally evil) and those which are oppressed (essentially eternally innocent)
- Each Identity Group has its own epistemology and thus “truth” (however, those outside the Group are forbidden to question, criticize or falsify)
- Value hierarchies are inherently corrupt and forbidden (yet probably not when looking for a Brain surgeon), and always create victims: they should be eliminated (for example: “everybody gets a trophy”)
- Language may be used as a weapon to create narratives and tactics to empower the disadvantaged (regardless of the objective truth of the narratives, or the objective morality of the tactics)
Clearly the parenthetical comments above illustrate the illogic and thus danger in group-based ideology.
Adding complexity to Identity Politics is the concept of Intersectionality, which posits that the privileged/oppressed relationship has multiple dimensions. Thus, Intersectionality states that a Black, female, Lesbian is triply oppressed by Whites, men, and “straights”. In the application of Intersectionality, this person is deemed more oppressed that a Black female who has a “straight” sexual orientation.
What of course is contradictory is that Postmodernism decries value hierarchies as corrupt, and yet Intersectionality is essentially a Grievance hierarchy scheme. The more Grievance “currency” you can accumulate, the more others must defer to you, and higher you are positioned in the hierarchy.
Note that if one takes Intersectionality to its “logical” extreme, then there are a large array of possible privileged/oppressed scenarios: not only the most commonly “approved” categories – biological sex, race, ethnicity, gender (supposedly many subcategories), and sexual orientation – but also body type, ableness, left- and right-handedness, age (many subcategories), geographic location availability, historical impact, to name a few.
If all categories and subcategories are taken into account, then each human being in the world is absolutely unique, belonging to an Intersectional Identity Group of exactly one person. Which is what Western Culture is built upon: the individual. However, this concept – perhaps it could be labeled “hyper-intersectionality” – comes from Judeo-Christianity rather than Postmodern neo-Marxism. The definers and maintainers (mostly in academia) of the Critical ideologies apparently decide the categories and level of subdivision that will result in the most power.
Consider these critiques from Jordan Peterson concerning Intersectionality:
“I think … those category systems are extraordinarily loose and indefinitely multipliable, because … there’s almost an infinite number of ways to categorize any given individual, so how … are you able to tell which group they belong to? And that’s a major problem. If you’re one-eighth Black, what does that make you, exactly? Are you Black? Are you White? Are you oppressed? Are you an oppressor? Are you ½ as oppressed as someone who is 1/4th Black? Does it work out arithmetically that way?”
So, as long as the Postmodernists have their way – which is largely the case in most Western countries these days – then there’s no solution. Peterson nails the illogic of it all:
“… And then, how do you multiply up your oppressed identities? And then again who gets to decide exactly which identity you should manifest? And how do you rank order those identities? How do we equate between them? What measurement techniques do we use to determine who’s oppressed and who isn’t? How do we assess equality and on what dimensions are we going to assess equality? And who’s going to enforce it? And who’s going to make the decisions? It’s like, “oh well, we’ll figure that out as we go along.” Yeah, we certainly will, and the results won’t be pretty, I can tell you that, because the problem is actually unsolvable.”
Critical Race Theory Concepts
With the definitions above in mind, then elements of Critical Race Theory include the following concepts:
- All Whites are irredeemably racist, and must spend their days on earth attempting to reduce their personal racism as well as those of others, and must fully support “radical” political measures to eliminate presumed systemic racism.
- Whatever non-Whites and other marginalized people say must be accepted as true by Whites, with no criticism or request for clarification permitted. The term used is Standpoint Epistemology, which applies only to oppressed groups. Supposedly each oppressed group has their own access to knowledge and their own methods of determining what is “true”. And all privileged groups must “shut up and believe”; no requests for clarification, and obviously no criticism allowed. According to the theory, oppressed people live in a culture dominated by the privileged, so they possess not only their own group knowledge, but also that of the dominant culture.
- Any backing away from full-time anti-racist activity by Whites is labeled “White Fragility”. Similarly, any questioning or criticisms of any of the tenets of Critical Race Theory are similarly labelled.
- Attempts by Whites to ask marginalized people to help them understand their grievances is prohibited; it is called Epistemic Exploitation. Consider this 2016 quote from Nora Berenstain: “Epistemic exploitation occurs when privileged persons compel marginalized persons to educate them about the nature of their oppression.”
- A related phenomenon apparently occurs when Whites think they are being helpful in their anti-racism efforts, but are not deferential enough to the marginalized person. This is explained in the 2010 Barbara Applebaum book “Being White, Being Good: White Complicity, White Moral Responsibility, and Social Justice Pedagogy”
- Attempts by Whites to achieve anti-racist status are essentially impossible to achieve, in part because of Interest Convergence Theory, whereby a White person is accused of taking on the task of anti-racism in the pursuit of self-interest. In other words, their motives are suspect.
In this scheme, racism is essentially the “original sin” of Whites, but the parallel with Christian “original sin” breaks down, because in Critical Race Theory, there is no redemption. One of the pathetic examples of this ideology is when White students confess before their peers their hatred of their “whiteness”. The advantage for the ideologues is that they have a permanent class of “oppressors” that can fuel their “oppressed” believers with resentment and passion essentially indefinitely.
The point is, it is a losing proposition for the White person, according to this ideology: the anti-racism process never ends. Hence Critical Race Theory is actually a scheme to obtain and retain power, and not to solve problems.
The implication of the word “Critical” is that the perceived problems being addressed – in the case of CRT it is racism – can only be solved by radical political change; there is an anarchic implication, as can be seen in the 2017 Evergreen State meltdown.
The word “Theory” essentially ties CRT to its Postmodern and neo-Marxist roots, as well as to other Critical Theories.
What the Critical Theory Ideologies Get Wrong
The tragic feature of all the Critical Theory sub-ideologies (Race, Feminism, Queer, etc.) is that by looking at the privilege/oppression construct as comprehensive and absolute, the perspective of reality is hopelessly insufficient. After all, reality is not univariant. Privilege and oppression are merely one of many factors in a person’s life.
Further, if there are no value hierarchies (which Critical Theory disallows), then what is there to strive for? No concept of “better” or “worse”? By contrast, consider the view of Black Conservatives such as Thomas Sowell, Walter E. Williams, Shelby Steele, Larry Elder, Candace Owens, Star Parker, and a host of others: “Don’t be a victim. Be a victor.” In other words, individual people are capable of growth and success, and can transcend a demoralizing victim mentality.
Issues of responsibility, solid 2-parent family structure, and personal growth potential are promoted by the Black Conservative sub-category of people. It should be noted that there is a kind of perverse intersection of multiple Critical Theory curses upon marginalized people, perhaps most damaging being the Critical Feminist demonization of men and maleness, further weakening family structure.
And there is also the Pareto distribution which is a fact of existence, both with humans and in the natural world. This states that 80% of the output of any endeavor is produced from 20% of the actions.
Here’s a sample list from a Wikipedia posting of diverse processes that follow the Pareto Distribution:
- The sizes of human settlements (few cities, many hamlets/villages)
- Hard disk drive error rates
- Clusters of Bose–Einstein condensate near absolute zero
- The standardized price returns on individual stocks
- Sizes of sand particles on a beach
It should also be noted that Pareto distribution relative to human behavior produces similar results, regardless of cultural or political processes in place: a few people are insanely successful, some are moderately successful, and the vast majority are at or near the bottom. See stone sizes on the shore.
Thus, the explanation for the preponderance of people at the bottom of hierarchies is NOT related to Capitalism or Racism or any other “ism”; it is a fundamental law of existence. Even the Bible talks about it: “..the poor you always have with you…” (Matt. 26:11) and “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (Matt. 13:12).
Clearly this unequal distribution of abundance is important to be dealt with, regardless of political/cultural ideology. But it is incorrect to assign these results solely to oppression by the privileged. Other factors such as individual responsibility are much more important. Jordan Peterson comments on the Pareto distribution issues here.
How Critical Race Theory Harms People of Color
“Victimology, separatism, and anti-intellectualism underlie the general black community’s response to all race-related issues.… Today, these three thought patterns impede black advancement much more than racism; and dysfunctional inner cities, corporate glass ceilings, and black educational underachievement will persist until such thinking disappears. In my experience, trying to show many African-Americans how mistaken and counterproductive these ideas are is like trying to convince a religious person that God does not exist: the sentiments are beyond the reach of rational, civil discourse.”
Note that McWhorter wrote this before Critical Race Theory had taken the hold on society that it has approximately 20 years later.
Now, if McWhorter is correct in his assessment that the three most important factors impeding Black advancement are victimology, separatism and anti-intellectualism, then it is suggested that Critical Race Theory is uniquely crafted to maximize that lack of advancement.
Concerning victimology, by casting Race into the Marxist oppressor/oppressed model as the sole causation of disadvantage, the perception of victimization by Whites is irresistible; when life is difficult, blame the enemy. And the confession of Racism by the ideologically indoctrinated Whites as well as the ideological overlords adds credence to that perception.
In terms of separatism, the move on college campuses to safe spaces and segregated dormitories seems to be increasing as CRT more firmly takes control. It is likely that the separatism in 2001 was less ideological that what is happening with the current segregation initiatives, but two aspects seem very likely: (1) the current separatism initiatives are completely ideological, and (2) they are equally damaging to both the people they purport to be helping, as well as society at large in the encouragement of tribalism.
In the case of McWhorter’s 3rd factor – anti-intellectualism – in 2001, it may well have taken the form of peer pressure against youth who might take studying or other responsibilities to overtly as “acting White”. Now, when the Postmodern aspect of CRT is considered, the anti-intellectualism is explicit: logic, reason, and objective truth are “Tools of the Master”, and are demonized. Thus, feelings rule, and false narratives abound, pejoratively labeled “poetic truth” by Black Conservative writer Shelby Steele.
Fast forward to 2015, and McWhorter posits that anti-Racism has become a new secular religion in America, complete with clergy, creed, and a conception of original sin. CRT, of course. In in 2019, McWhorter stated that, ”America has never been less racist.”
Finally, also in 2019, Black Conservative activist Candace Owens, testifying at a House hearing on White Supremacy and White Nationalism, stated that the top priorities to deal with for Black America are: fatherlessness, illiteracy, illegal immigration, and abortion. She placed White Supremacy and White Nationalism as “not in the top 100.” Not only does CRT not address her top four, but Critical Feminist Theory is an important culprit in the fatherlessness issue with its demonization of maleness.
John McWhorter on White Fragility
In 2020, in part of the aftermath to the tumult while followed he death of George Floyd, Professor McWhorter published an extensive review and essentially a takedown of Robin DiAngelo’s 2018 book “White Fragility“; the review is entitled, “The Dehumanizing Condescension of While Fragility“. While the entire review is well-worth the read, some concluding remarks provide an indictment of not only the book, but the entire ideological concept within Critical Race Theory:
In 2020 – as opposed to 1920 – I neither need nor want anyone to muse on how whiteness privileges them over me. Nor do I need wider society to undergo teachings in how to be exquisitely sensitive about my feelings. I see no connection between DiAngelo’s brand of reeducation and vigorous, constructive activism in the real world on issues of import to the Black community. And I cannot imagine that any Black readers could willingly submit themselves to DiAngelo’s ideas while considering themselves adults of ordinary self-regard and strength. Few books about race have more openly infantilized Black people than this supposedly authoritative tome.
Also, McWhorter’s closing paragraph:
“White Fragility” is, in the end, a book about how to make certain educated white readers feel better about themselves. DiAngelo’s outlook rests upon a depiction of Black people as endlessly delicate poster children within this self-gratifying fantasy about how white America needs to think—or, better, stop thinking. Her answer to white fragility, in other words, entails an elaborate and pitilessly dehumanizing condescension toward Black people. The sad truth is that anyone falling under the sway of this blinkered, self-satisfied, punitive stunt of a primer has been taught, by a well-intentioned but tragically misguided pastor, how to be racist in a whole new way.
A Few Thoughts About Privilege
In the case of “White Privilege”, there is a kernel of objective truth here, but that truth can best be understood by (a) removing the loaded label “White”, (b) separating it from the Marxist oppressor/oppressed model, and (c) removing the emotion-laden word “privilege” and replacing it with a more generic term such as “advantage”. Thus, a better phrase for analysis might be “majority advantage”.
In a diverse group, whether it’s in a country or a country club, the majority sometimes has an advantage, especially if that majority dictates the overall culture of the geographic or other entity such as a country club. And if that advantage is intentionally used to discriminate against minority members, then that should rightfully be condemned and opposed.
However, whether or not discrimination is present, there are many factors that lead an individual to success or failure, and “minority disadvantage” can be overcome by diligence, conscientiousness, and responsibility. Further, often “minority disadvantage” brings something novel and refreshing to bear on whatever endeavor is being pursued, actually being transformed into “minority advantage.”
Finally, in the case of the US, there is a clearly an “American Privilege” that applies to all residents. Immigration – legal or illegal – is exclusively one-way. In what country of the world is the phrase “American immigrants” applicable? Even though there is ample room for improvement, the advantages based on the ideology of the Founders and the preponderance of Judeo-Christian morality and spirituality among the residents has created and maintain this “city on a hill”. “American Advantage” is directly under assault by Postmodern neo-Marxism, and should the ideologs prevail, it will disappear.
What is Objectively True?
There has been racism in the past as well as in the present, although in the US, the extent of overt racism by Whites against non-Whites has immensely declined since WWII. However, marginalized people do have different experiences that should be carefully and respectfully listened to. However, logic, reason and objective truth must be highly prized, and NOTHING must be forbidden to be expressed, other than outright calls to violence, or the proverbial yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre.
No one from any culture should be above criticism. Society works best with mutual respect, and wherever possible, kindness and generosity. Dialogue among people in the culture – with sometimes strenuous disagreement, but no threat of violence – must have at its center freedom of speech. Speech codes must be eliminated. If they are not, then pathological thinking goes underground, and can grow undetected, and unopposed.
Additionally, hierarchies of value should be promoted and not eliminated, with free speech an important component in defining and applying those hierarchies.
Finally, the entire concept of Identity Politics and the companion ideological manifestations of “Diversity”, “Inclusivity” and “Equity” (DIE) should be eliminated. A brief, 15-minute summary of the pathology of DIE can be found in this 2017 Jordan Peterson clip, with a posted article by Peterson on the same topic found here.
Critical Theories as Religion
As discussed in this interview of several “Grievance” Scholars, all of the “Critical” theories – Legal, Race, Feminist, Queer, Fat, and others – deal in what the interviewees call “Radical Subjectivity”, which is closely tied to people’s emotions. In many respects, this array of ideologies has the underlying psychology of ancient religions, except no deities. The focus is on experience, and the aggregation of that experience becomes a kind of mythology, which is protected at all costs from any attempt at imposing an overall objective perspective, such as is found in science, or from revealed truth such as that found in Judeo-Christianity.
How Critical Race Theory is Used in Diversity Training
During the Summer of 2020, writer and filmmaker Christopher Rufo focused on the application of Critical Race Theory to segregated diversity training in Seattle, and published several articles on the problem, and soon was receiving messages from around the country from others undergoing similar CRT-based “training”. This page provides details. Ultimately, President Trump issued an executive order banning such training in the Federal government.
The statement of Antonio Gramsci from 100 years ago comes to mind:
“Socialism is precisely the religion that must overwhelm Christianity; [Socialism is] religion in the sense that it too is a faith with its mystics and rituals; religion because it has substituted for the consciousness of the transcendental God of the Catholics, the faith in man and in his great strength as a unique spiritual reality.”
Both Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality should be considered synonyms for “Socialism” in the above. In the case of the Evangelical movement, combining two competing “religions” seems a recipe for disaster.
It is admitted that some of the issues being dealt with by this ideology are important, and even some of the observations valid. But all of that in the past as well in the current setting can be addressed from a purely Biblical basis, with no need for Postmodern or Marxist thinking.
An example of correct dealing with these issues using scripture can be found with the views expressed by Black Theologian Voddie Baucham in his video on Ethnic Gnosticism.
He is essentially dealing from a sound Biblical perspective with what the Critical Race Theorists call “Viewpoint Epistemology”. Note that in his teaching, he has instructive – even corrective – words for all ethnicities, without ignoring historical and contemporary realities. It is suggested that identical thoughts could be delivered by a non-Black speaker, with just as much truth and authority, because what Dr. Baucham states is both universally true and universally applicable.
All areas where Critical Theory and Social Justice does its damage can and must instead be dealt at the depths with sound Biblical teaching, including empathetic understanding of the detailed personal and cultural issues at play.
A major issue to be dealt with is to find ways of breaking through the current hegemony of Progressive ideologies filled with false narratives and sophisticated propaganda not only within the Evangelical movement but in the culture at large, to reveal the illogic and insanity, along with the catastrophic destruction they are causing.