Some things in this world go so beyond the pale that it becomes absurd to weigh and measure them upon the cool, dispassionate scales of reason. Critical race theory (CRT) is one.
There are different definitions of CRT, most of which contain cute elisions. Sharif El-Mekki, CEO at the Center for Black Educator Development, offers a typical one. ‘Critical race theory is a legal framework,’ he says. ‘It’s a lens for people to be able to apply to law and see how racial injustice and how racism has been baked in many laws in the history of America’. That is partly true about some of CRT’s applications. But the political activist Susan Sontag, not known for mincing words, provided a fuller picture.
‘The white race is the cancer of human history,’ Sontag wrote in Partisan Review; ‘it is the white race and it alone — its ideologies and inventions — which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself’.
The purpose of CRT is to ‘prove’ why this is and how it affects nonwhites, not only as applied to law but every aspect of life. Healthcare, classical music, climate change, dating markets, the great outdoors, botanical nomenclature and math class — all are touched by the stain of racial bigotry. In a world where everything is racist, CRT is the cipher disk that reveals the how, why, and who.
The real reason CRT is intolerable, then, is also the one many people have trouble saying aloud: it is explicitly anti-white. For people like me, this is not merely a game of semantics. My wife is white; my son may as well be. CRT is a threat to my family because it declares their genetics to be ‘the cancer of human history’. Whether something so evil ought to permeate society is not a matter of bloodless democratic debate when blood is at stake. On at least a subconscious level, most white people seem to understand this. But why do so many of them appear incapable of articulating a defense of themselves? Stigma is certainly a factor; the fear of social and professional reprisal is powerful. That can’t be it, however.
This, anyway, was my impression on Clubhouse. Clubhouse is a social-media app that offers virtual ‘rooms’ for the pursuit of digital conversation. As this is modern America, the conversations frequently lead to the smashing of virtual furniture and the closing of rooms in the way that the police will close a bar after a fight.
After stumbling into a room where the topic of discussion was CRT, I noticed that the ethnics outspokenly favored extirpating it because it is anti-white. The whites, meanwhile, were either indifferent or less radical with their proposals. The pro-white minorities, myself included, advocated legislative bans, schoolboard takeovers, firing educators, financial warfare, civil disobedience, and ignoring court rulings such as Loewen v. Turnipseed — approaches like those taken by the civil-rights activists of yore.
One of the most ardent speakers was a Pakistani woman living in the United States who formerly worked in media. When a white interlocutor called CRT bans bad for a free society, she gently breathed a disappointed sigh and remarked that some whites seem to have a kind of civilizational death wish. I asked her afterward why she cared so much about the issue. She spoke to me but asked to remain anonymous.
CRT, she said, once seemed harmless and well-intentioned. But she recognized the danger ‘once it became clear that the theory ‘brazenly posits one group, white people, as innately irredeemable and predisposed to stealing land and claiming innocent lives and the other, nonwhite people, as inherent victims incapable of transgressions and infractions, while also writing off legal reasoning, advanced math, merit-based achievement, disciplines dedicated to studying history and civilizations like Rome as white-supremacist’.
I asked her about the ‘suicide of the West’ comment. I mentioned that France considers CRT a national security risk: a hostile American export, threatening to destabilize French society and delegitimize the government. If the French view CRT as a poison, why doesn’t, for example, a self-identified conservative like David French?
CRT is fundamentally opposed, she said, to the things that sustain a civilization: ‘conquest, innovation, collaboration and a healthy sense of pride in its ancestors’. To her, pro-CRT liberal whites have ’a civilizational death wish, the kind that [Michel] Houellebecq hints at in works like Submission. This ‘inclination to self-flay for woke points is a natural product of deracinated filial piety, a disregard for family, hedonism masquerading as self-fulfillment, and a self-imposed rejection of one’s heritage’.
Indeed, CRT often comes wrapped in the crimson bow of Christian theology and ethics — but the devil can cite Scripture, too, as Isaac knows. He is a Palestinian union worker and Orthodox Christian living in Montana. I asked him what was behind his outspokenness about eradicating CRT. ‘I believe it is a threat because it ultimately destroys the cultural cohesion and national identity of this nation,’ he told me. ‘America isn’t an “idea,” it’s a nation founded by a people, from a particular culture, specifically, Anglo-culture.’ He said America is a good place, and there is nothing ‘inherently evil’ about it or white people.
The funny thing is that many nonwhites actually agree with one premise in CRT: white people ‘built’ America, by which they mean that the Europeans who settled this country laid the institutional groundwork for its government and basic culture. Writing in National Review, Rong Xiaoqing recalls an illustrative conversation with Chinese Trump supporters in 2019. When she mentioned the Chinese Exclusion Act to them at a meeting in Queens, New York, they countered that it was created partly because Chinese laborers were used as strikebreakers. ‘American culture is white men’s culture. We came to this country because we like this culture,’ said Lucy Tan, a Chinese Trump supporter. CRT proceeds from the first claim but concludes that this is precisely why America is evil.
Thus, CRT works to discredit, discard and replace the holidays, public anniversaries, songs, statues, symbols, customs, practices, and heroes of a nation that represents a ‘self’ with which people like David French no longer identify. French and his ilk and the coalition of the aggrieved to whom they acquiesce naturally do not see CRT as an existential threat because they identify with the emerging nation that is being built on the foundation of CRT more than they do with the ideas, laws, and people that are in the process of being abolished and replaced. This kind of white collaboration is not merely self-loathing; it is a signifier of status. French is the token ‘good white,’ an emasculated kapo hoping to be remembered for slithering on his belly before the new masters.
But a question remains: why do nonwhites seem acutely attuned to the perils of CRT? One explanation is that unlike many whites—especially college-educated whites—they are more likely to think in terms of groups, something considered atavistic in much of the high-brow West. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence for this all around us, and data also bears it out.
The University of Chicago’s GenForward Survey records the views of 1750 young adults ages 18 to 34 on how race and ethnicity shape the way they experience and think about the world. It is the first nationally representative survey of its kind. Among other things, it measures respondents’ feelings about identity by assessing to what degree an individual feels their fate is linked to others in their racial or ethnic group.
At 55 percent, African Americans report the highest level of linked fate, followed by 42 percent of Asian Americans, 34 percent of Latinos, and 26 percent of whites who feel they have ’a lot’ of linked fate with their racial group. The survey found whites are the most likely to say they have no linked fate, with 29 percent saying they have none compared to 25 percent of Latinos, 20 percent of African Americans, and 17 percent of Asian Americans.
Simply put, nonwhites are acutely aware that CRT targets whites as a group because they are more likely than whites to consciously connect their individual well-being to that of their respective group. The implications, however, extend beyond the fate of whites themselves. History shows that diverse empires tend to devolve into authoritarian regimes, and CRT provides the implicit and explicit justification for that process in our time. As CRT scholar Ibram X. Kendi put it: ‘The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination’.
The idea that it should be a matter of reasoned debate whether my wife and perhaps my children are to be discriminated against on the basis of race is not only absurd but infuriating. I imagine that agreement lurks in the subconscious of many whites.