Note: I wrote these thoughts last week with the intention of publishing them days ago, but life got away… it’s not intended to be (no pun intended) critical of, or a response to David Thornton’s solid piece published Wednesday. Both take a unique view on…
The latest bumper sticker enemy: “critical race theory.”
Candidates are running on it, Congress is fighting over it, and radio hosts are losing their minds over it. Joe Pags has even resorted to flat-out lying to generate hysteria and clicks. So in typical fashion, white people are being whipped into a frothy mix of fear and anger about something that isn’t really threatening anyone.
Common core curricula was real. It was a misguided, tangible policy we could and did fight against or reform. This is not.
Basically, the threat from CRT isn’t really a thing. It’s just nationalist conservatives’ best play against the racial justice movement we’ve witnessed the last 18 mos.
They couldn’t beat it in the news, or prove it in the courtroom, and they lost at the ballot box, and embarrassed themselves in the insurrection, so now they’re shoving this fake academic threat down our mind holes with a faithful indignation that would’ve made Joe McCarthy proud.
But I’m sick of it.
THIS ISN’T NEW, OR EVEN JUST ABOUT RACE
Critical race theory (CRT) is nothing new. It’s been around for maybe 50 years, and it means slightly different things to different people depending on where they live and how they approach racial justice. Activists are naturally more vocal about the history of relations between minorities and ruling classes, while academics spend equal time discussing the application of those things as it pertains to social expectations and legal structures.
There’s nothing inherently wrong about either of those.
CRT originated in the early 70s and counts racial, gender, and even anti-war protests of the time as its foundation. Over the decades a branch of this community evolved into legal studies, and eventually a larger argument about how mere attitudes of those in power can unwittingly perpetuate imbalance in an otherwise equitable legal framework.
One could say CRT is less about an idea that pushes “this is how it is,” than an approach that says “it isn’t what you think.” It challenges assumptions, and asks someone to be critical about everything before accepting it.
Those that take this critical approach too far should called out. But for every Louis Farrakhan out there, we seem to find our George Wallaces; their defensive attitudes, if not their hatred for other races, often become mainstream arguments among liberals and conservatives. They’re both populist fools, but as conservatives, we can’t be responsible for what the Left does. So why complain about them every day? Why can’t we answer CRT with our own “Corrective Racial Empowerment,” or something else catchy, but still historically sensitive to how our ancestors lived? Own it rather than fight it?
We can maintain the accurate context of quiet abolitionists like Alexander Hamilton while also staying true to the facts, despite their discomfort. And that discomfort too often precludes accepting the reality that those in power write the laws. It takes a concerted effort to balance those concerns with those of others. That’s just good governance.
Far-left thinkers felt the legal framework could find balance by codifying changes through force, like affirmative action, and loosening enforcement of laws and sentencing. Conservative thinkers, even black and brown, approach this with speculation because they say government is already self-perpetuating and difficult to corral, so fixing one legal shortcoming with another in the name of “balance” is silly - it’ll become its own imbalance. It’s better, they say, to continue pushing equal application of the law and gradual, or “conservative” change.
But activists are naturally impatient, and one can reasonably understand frustration with a society that battles over racial politics in 2021 like it’s still the 1970’s.
But that is changing, thanks to technology, and society provides many intersections of persons and thought like never before.
People can change, and it usually takes a concerted effort to overcome the natural distancing we employ with people we don’t know, can’t relate to, or don’t like. Whether you realize it or not, these attitudes seep into the laws we write, pass, and enforce. Being open-minded, and listening to the concerns of other groups isn’t a radical idea, or it shouldn’t be. It’s not threatening.
Only 15 years ago, states were passing constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage. But through very subtle gestures of communication and social awareness, conservatives today have (mostly) come to accept the idea that government-imposed rules on the marriage contract are as intellectually inconsistent as they are. The same goes for legalization of pot, a wedge issue once intended to Get Out the Vote (GOTV) for liberals in off-year elections. In 2018, local WI conservative bastions like Waukesha and Washington County voted overwhelmingly to legalize marijuana.
WHY CAN’T WE BE CONSISTENT?
Somehow in the midst of 2020s mainstreaming of critical race theory, many conservatives found the audacity to prove the arguments of CRT in their demonization of it, and they don’t even see the irony.
But as a lifelong conservative, I am sick of contradictions. It’s no longer enough to just not embrace them, The intellectually offensive have become far too mainstream in the Republican Party for my patience to continue.
It is absolutely possible, and I argue a logical obligation, to support efficient, legal immigration while enforcing safety measures.
The same goes for reforming the criminal justice system from the bottom up. It’s not enough to simply change the laws governing the system, the system itself is self-perpetuating, seeking out the easiest fuel to maintain its roar, and that is usually the poor and racially marginalized.
We can also accept that objectivity in our academic approach, by acknowledging historical biases while maintaining proper context. But too often to maintain that context we reduce ourselves to “yeah but“ arguments, which sound awfully defensive more than honest.
I believe we can listen to acts of injustice, racist behavior, and systemic inequity WITHOUT qualifying our acceptance with imbecilic “duh” statements like “but we don’t support riots or burning building.”
No $#!+ Sherlock.
It astounds me how intellectually inconsistent conservatives today can be when our foundation is supposed to be a natural suspicion of government and emphasis on individual liberty.
If this simple, two-prong belief system permeated conservative politics, we’d LEAD THE WAY in conservative justice reform, reducing bad policing, eliminating legal barriers to other non-gun constitutional rights like voting, embracing foreign immigration as a natural blessing, and seeing intellect as a tool to empower individuals to live their best life. In contrast, today’s conservatives are too often auto-receptive of authority but suspicious of intellectuals. We lambaste teacher unions with abandon for their bureaucratic approach to teaching our kids but ignore police and fire unions who actually influence life and death.
Too many conservatives today sound like that high school bully who is all bark but no bite, a pansy who is afraid of everything but acts like the king of the hill. He’ll steal your school lunch while begging mom for next week’s allowance and laugh at your family while secretly going home to a hellish one.
SINCE WHEN DID CRITICAL THOUGHT BECOME THE DEVIL?
So back to the issue of the day (practically the number one topic of talk radio today, and the most common headline on Fox News.com) - “ critical race theory“ is not a threat; it’s not even “wrong,” let alone evil. It’s a process to critically examine the ways social and legal constructs influence each other to perpetuate racial imbalance. It does not “basically“ claim “whites are racist,” nor does it seek to build a system to lift up the underprivileged. Many proponents of CRT simply want you to listen, and if necessary, change.
You’re only helping the cause of the extremists by treating the mainliners like the “Red Scare.”
White men ruled the world for thousands of years. Before them, those of another color did the same. And yes, black power brokers started the African slave trade, and the Mongols had their own slavery economy. But we (Caucasian, western culture) globalized it. Then we tried to correct it.
All of those statements are true. And it’s not a threat to admit failure, even if it’s not your direct fault.
Instead of fighting GOTV ghosts, and swatting non-existent flies, we should be leading the way in embracing the concerns of marginalized groups, and proposing conservative solutions to them. Imagine what could happen if the Republican Party became one of healthy immigration, universal school choice, equal protection AND respect under the law, while empowering free-market tools to improve the quality of and access to healthcare, education options, and solid paying jobs?
The Democrats would be smaller, out of power, and sounding like a party that once had momentum but alienated everyone they claimed to represent.
They’d be just like us today.
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