Mulhall column: Karl didn’t want more capitalism
I’ve been hearing a lot lately about Critical Race Theory (CRT), mainly as the topic relates to highly charged school board meetings. Some say CRT is a movement to recast American history as a tale of oppression rather than of liberty and hope.
I looked into it. This is some of what I found.
Some claim CRT is Marxist. Karl Marx’s “critical theory” stems from his analysis in Das Kapital of how capitalism oppressed the poor, and that by getting rid of capitalism, different economic practices would free all people, or something like that.
There really isn’t a substantive correlation between Marxism and CRT. It’s more academic.
Some CRT proponents, mostly academicians, think that by examining a culture’s socio-economic history the way Marx analyzed capitalism, you can see which groups, or classes, benefited and which didn’t. You can also identify regulations and public policies designed to sustain benefits to one class but not others.
Is it a leap to equate an economic practice (capitalism) to history, laws and policy? Probably. If so, CRT is at most obliquely Marxist.
Does CRT scrutinize American socio-economic history to justify an oppression narrative? Yes, it does, and that makes it worse than Marxism.
To take a step further, some think that if you know which laws oppress, dissembling those laws liberates. As examples, CRT proponents point to segregation and voting laws passed by southern Democrats during America’s post-slavery era.
Those same CRT proponents don’t mention the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Voting Rights Act of 1968. Presumably, however, regulation and policy stemming from white culture, no matter when written, warrants thorough examination, revision or outright repeal.
The movement to recast American history as an oppression narrative is not new, but the CRT moniker is.
What’s in the name?
The word “theory,” for one thing. The word has at least two common definitions:
1. A scientific explanation of an aspect of the world that can be repeatedly proven using the scientific method; and
2. A system of ideas intended to explain something, particularly an idea system based on general principles independent of the thing being explained.
If the word “theory” connotes the former, CRT is not a theory.
If it connotes the latter, CRT is a supposition, or an uncertain belief. To convey the latter meaning, you could also use words like hypothesis (a precursor of the first meaning), thesis, conjecture and speculation. To be sure, the word “theory” in CRT has nothing to do with science.
So what is CRT?
According to Roy L. Brooks’ 1994 article, “Critical Race Theory: A Proposed Structure and Application to Federal Pleading,” CRT is “a collection of critical stances against the existing legal order from a race-based point of view.”
A more recent 2017 definition by Richard Delgado describes CRT as, “a collection of activists and scholars interested in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism and power.” This supports Brooks’ earlier definition.
On a recent episode of Freshair, NBC reporter Tyler Kingkade defined CRT as a “legal academic concept” developed in the ‘70s and ‘80s as a way of studying systemic racism, its impact on society and how race permeates all aspects of society.
A better name for CRT might be “Adverse Race Speculation,” for in truth, speculation about whether some event in American history amounts to oppression is what’s meant.
So who speaks for CRT, and what does he or she say?
Among the most influential CRT advocates in America today is Ibram X. Kendi, an author, historian and director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. Last year, Time Magazine listed Mr. Kendi among the 100 most influential people of 2020, and his writings are now widely assigned in schools.
Mr. Kendi recently stated, “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”
If a question remains whether CRT is Marxist, that probably settles it: Marx didn’t call for more capitalism.
Mitch Mulhall is a husband, father and longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com.
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