Critical Race Theory for Dummies

Critical Race Theory for Dummies

A primer for the uninitiated

Critical race theory (CRT) is a term you've seen thrown around quite a bit recently:

  • Gov. Lee has taken steps to ban it from public school curricula
  • Tennessee Lookout, the Tennessean, and WPLN have all published their defense of critical race theory
  • The Memphis City Council adopted a resolution opposing the state ban
  • To those on the left, banning CRT is just the latest example of conservative moral panic.
  • To those on the right, it is an existential threat to the foundation of American Democracy.

In essence, critical race theory falls under the intellectual heading of "intersectionality studies" which support the idea that the more grievance groups you can claim membership of (ethnic, racial, sexual, etc.), the more compensation you deserve to make up for your marginalization. White, heterosexual men are the lowest on the totem pole in the intersectionality hierarchy. For example, a white man gets 0 points. A white woman gets 5 points. But, a non-binary, half-Indian, half-Guatemalan, sapiosexual woman with they/them pronouns gets 100 points. There is not an actual score, but there might as well be.

Critical race theory is one branch of intersectionality studies that deals with race in America. It's primary concern is deconstructing society through the lens of race, particularly with regards to the law. Once the preoccupation of an obscure group of academics, the ideas have broadened their reach beyond the confines of academia as political activists realized how effective a tool they were in climbing the rungs of power in liberal America. When you have priestly, post-modern academics backing your claims, there's a lot you can get away with.

To the critical race theorist, white supremacy colors everything. It bequeaths foods as benign as milk with supernatural characteristics which signal white supremacy [1] and demonizes white people purely for being white [2]. We owe headlines like "'White supremacy' to blame for Black-on-Asian hate crimes, Colorado professor claims" to critical race theory. When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and CRT is a hammer.

The discussion at hand involves a debate over whether critical race theory should be taught in schools. When it comes to education about the horrors of slavery and the holocaust and the gains of the Civil Rights movement, schools are not found wanting. The much discussed bill bans teaching ideas that claim one race is superior to another, that one should feel distress because of one's race, and that the country is irredeemably racist, among others [3]. We can all agree that rhetoric promoting or demoting students based on racial characteristics alone is not a good idea [4].

What is strikingly absent from school curricula is education about the negative consequences of Communism. For example, the Bolsheviks—the party founded by Vladimir Lenin—deliberately fomented racial and ethnic division in their rise to power. It's a tactic borrowed by proponents of intersectionality studies such as critical race theory. The French Revolution—the birth of liberalism—would prove valuable for students, but is also absent.

Teaching ideas associated with critical race theory encourages the interrogation of every aspect of American culture and emphasizes how it is "coded" with white supremacy. It strikes at the foundation of Western Civilization by calling it racist; the proverbial "race card" writ large [5]. As educators demonize classical texts and lower schooling standards, it's easy to see why America's education system ranks near the bottom among first world countries. Princeton's recent announcement that proficiency in Greek and Latin will no longer be the basis of a Classics education shows how deep the rot goes. Critical race theory has no place in our schools. All attempts to fend off its advance are praiseworthy.


[1] If you spend enough time engaging with these ideas, you begin to wonder if the whole movement is about elevating oppressed groups or simply adulating white people. What other "race" can imbue inanimate objects with their essence?
[2] The designation "white" is a crude, low-resolution rendering of a complicated group of people with their own factions and disputes. Are Jews white? Are Latin American's white? What of the Irish? What is the barometer by which we measure whiteness?
[3] The entirety of the list can be found here in Section 51.
[4] If you're looking for an example of what CRT education looks like in practice, look at Christopher Rufo's reporting of a program that Lockheed-Martin, of all places, put its executives through educating them on their "whiteness" wherein qualities such as "timliness," "leadership," and "self-reliance" were described as qualities of white supremacy.
[5] The civilization responsible for pioneering the concept of "equality under the law," "universal human rights," and the creator of the academic institutions that enabled and funded the development of these ideas.