Critical Race Theory: Convenient and Guilt Free
CRT, Critical Race Theory, is all the rage. Simplified, it’s the theory that racism in the United States is systemic, deeply-rooted, pervasive, and long-standing. Which raises the question: Why is it so popular?
It’s popularity is due to its redemptive qualities. That is, if I embrace CRT and advocate teaching it, then I am no longer embracing racism. It’s a way of saying, at exactly the same time, that I am racist and I am not a racist. Like a magic act, I both acknowledge my racism and erase it in the same act. The thought is, apparently, that by acknowledging “the system’s” racism, I am no longer a racist. So CRT is both convenient and guilt free.
This is weird. Suppose I were to say that savagery in the United States in systemic. That is, suppose I were to say that US elites engage in or manage savagery both at home and abroad. And this is true across the political spectrum and is pervasive and deeply-rooted. Let’s call this “Critical Savagery Theory,” or “CST.”
Ask yourself: What would the response be to CST and the idea it should be advocated and taught throughout the United States? That is, we are to assert and teach that US elites, across the board, are engaged in savagery. Seems doubtful that CST would be as popular as CRT, right? Of course it would not.
What does this mean for CRT? It means that the racism CRT refers to has been tamed or domesticated, has been made abstract, has even been made to disappear when we say the magic words, “Critical Race Theory,” or “systemic racism.” That is, the racism that CRT refers to wasn’t and isn’t savagery, because no one would take kindly to being called a savage or with being held complicit in savagery, no matter how “systemic” that savagery might be. And very few indeed are those who would or do advocate that the US is a savage nation. And those who do are marginalized, at best.
In other words, CRT fits quite nicely into the conventional wisdom that the United States, despite some flaws, is a decent, freedom-loving, egalitarian, compassionate, and peace-loving society. It is popular precisely because, even while claiming to recognize that we are vicious, that our elites and even we the people have behaved like savages, it confirms our virtues. But those virtues seem elusive while the savagery is crystal clear, at least for those who look for it.