Critical Race Theory and the Cult of Disingenuous
There is a new wave of cultural awareness blowback that is sweeping the nation faster than an ice bucket challenge. There are conservative / rightwing groups that are attempting to pour cold water on the concept of Critical Race Theory (CRT). They tout it as some conspiracy to erase white history and make white children feel bad about simply being white. One of the chilling refrains washing over them is “If you are white, you are racist.”. As many as 20 states have passed or are considering laws to ban the teaching of CRT. More than 100 school districts around the country have already done so.
This current tsunami, like so many others before it, is being driven by those who may know better, but are attempting to gain political or financial capital on people’s ignorance. There are also those who are just plain ignorant and are doing this to the same ends. Just another flame thrower looking for something to set ablaze.
Let’s be clear. If anyone is teaching CRT in the K – 12 system, they must have gotten lost on the way to their law school seminar. That is where the theory was born and lives to this day. Secondly, it is a theory. A set of ideas that help to explain the deep and tangled way that race has defined our countries systems and behaviors. Like any theory it’s open to debate, adjustment and evolution. Sadly, the current playing field where this is happening is altogether the wrong one.
Words like “indoctrination” have been used to tout the evils of such theories. Again, history is rife with examples of people raging against idea that they do not understand yet choose to defame and demonize. In every case, given enough time and unjustified outrage, they sway opinion. Not on facts and common sense but on fear of some perceived biblical flood that will destroy us all.
Is not the denial of access to ideas you don’t like indoctrination as well?
I guess you’d have to think a little critically to see that.
Marc Lamont Hill Ph. D. is the Steve Charles Professor of Media, Cities, and Solutions at Temple University, a television commentator, and all around pretty smart guy. Here are a few of his incredibly respectful attempts to have a fact-based conversation with opponents of CRT. As you may see, opponents cannot speak to the tenants and principles embodied in Critical Race Theory. They have a great deal to say about what they think it is doing.
These are glaring examples of how:
1. Far too much of these conversations that deal with these largest social/political dynamics are happening WAY above the average persons head (MLH even eludes to that in one of the below videos).
The idea that big terms (Anti-racism/ Intersectionality/ Critical Race Theory) are generally being advanced from spheres and people with thousands or hours of intellectual and academic rigor in those given fields can easily leave average folks in the dust. Myself included.
2. People with a limited understanding of the root of the ideas presented in these terms will underestimate, undervalue, or flat out misrepresent the terms and their meaning.
3. Opinion, on its own, is dangerous ground to try to defend when confronted with facts, evidence, and scholarship. Sadly, this is where far too many conflicts take place when it comes to our world perspectives.
Finding that middle ground between what you can prove and what others believe (or vice versa) is a true test of fostering civil discourse.
I urge you to examine these videos of Dr. Hill discussing with opponent of CRT.
MLH Interviews Christopher Ruffo (Productive. Intellectual. Respectful)
MLH Interviews Rep. Vernon Jones on CRT (Non-productive. Insulting. Combative)
Sometimes it is more important to see how much light people are trying to bring to a discussion rather than heat. Light is evidence supported facts. Light is data that is compiled and vetted by proven sources. Light rarely pops up out of nowhere.
· Can it tell a textured story with evidence points along the way?
· Can they quote credible sources and information for broadly accepted history and disciplines?
· Are conclusions complicated and not necessarily absolute?
Heat is feeling based opinion. Heat can rarely prove its conclusions. If it does, they are often an oversimplification. Think of these markers:
· Do they define their terms in absolutes?
· Do they assign other people’s intentions (I.E.: “The Left is…. Or The right just wants to…..Or “You people always………)?
· How much hyperbole is used to make up their points?
· Does questions get redirected to “talking points”?
· Does discussion devolve into name calling and recrimination in reference to unanswered questions?
Here are several examples (videos) of how CRT is characterized on right leaning news. Even the sub-header speaks of how you can win political points.
Here are a few different perspective on CRT from the opposite side of the spectrum.
What Critical Race Theory Is and Isn’t (The Conversation)
What is Critical Race Theory? (U.S. News & World Reports)
What Educators Have to Say about CRT
In all cases, there is a divide between facts and evidence, feelings and opinions. It is incumbent upon those who wish to detoxify dialogue to make sure you work from facts but acknowledge that there are people working from a feeling space, and vice versa. Sadly, the heavier weight of the onus falls on the facts side to bridge the gap.
When people are stuck in a feeling space it is hard for them to think themselves out of it. More importantly we run the risk of being dragged down into it. Then we are all caught in a downward cycle of feeling more than thinking.
Dr. James P. Kimmel Jr. from Yale University lays out how the cycle can become not just counterproductive, but addictive.
Daily Show interview with James Kimmel
It can be done though. How do you bridge the gaps that a high speed, low information society constantly throws at us? Literacy.
Historic literacy in the forms of deeper, more complex stories about who we are and have been.
Emotional Literacy in Receiving Information
Understand that history “is”. It is a tangled mess of good, bad, ugly, and complicated. It is not designed to make you feel anything. Feeling bad about history is the worst reason to not learn it. To make history about you is a dangerous slope that leads to more ignorance and fragility. Should we stop telling stories of the horrors of war because people will feel bad?
Emotional Literacy in Giving Information
Be more compassionate listening and responding. If you feel like you have the better ideas then you have to find the best ways to bring them to people. Be willing to change style. Listen for bridges both intellectual and emotional. Don’t telegraph outcomes. As I have said before, you don’t have to do this but we are all paying the price of it not being done enough.
It is the only way to fight against a world that is becoming more toxic and fragile.
Becoming “anti-fragile” is a process that anyone living on earth should be engaged in. Researcher Jonathan Haidt sums it up very well.
3 Great Untruth to stop telling kids and ourselves
These are three among several ideas/narratives that keep people trapped in cognitive boxes. They become trapped in feeling and believing that chaos is coming or that the unknown is against them. They can build themselves a kind of terror island. Surrounded by waters infested with sharks, mines, and all plastics.
Unless we find bridges to terror island.