Dissecting Critical Race Theory
Let me answer my own question at the start. America is not an inherently racist country but has followed racist policies in the past. America is not a racist country in part because it would be wrong to label all of society in that way. Most Americans are good people; not racist. It is the few who are not, and the racist policies that still exist in some ways (i.e., social injustice; police overreach with Black Americans; unequal rates of incarceration...). America is not a racist country any more than Germany is a Nazi country. Clearly, Germany has followed pro-Nazi policies in the past but, like America, has reformed its political system and social institutions to overcome its past history.
Critical Race Theory (CRT) essentially holds that America's legal and social institutions are inherently racist because they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites. What does this mean? Here are a few examples of those historically racist tendencies. I could go on.
· Unequal treatment under the law (e.g., penalties for crimes) of Blacks and Whites.
· Discrimination in housing policies (e.g., blocking Blacks from certain communities).
· Unequal access to education (e.g., schools in Black and other minority neighborhoods inferior and under-funded).
· Paucity of opportunities to move into top positions in companies (i.e., shut out of C-suite, representation on boards of directors).
· Police overreach in dealing with Black Americans versus Whites (i.e., George Floyd, etc.).
· Underrepresentation of Blacks in state legislatures and Congress.
I could go on but believe the case has been made that America has followed racist policies in the past. Are things changing? Yes, but not quickly enough.
It's been 57 years since Congress passed The Civil Rights Act. In 1964, Congress passed Public Law 88-352 (78 Stat. 241). The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It seems to me greater progress has been on sexual equality versus racial equality.
White Supremacy--White Privilege
There are some who go further and criticize America for structural racism: the historical and contemporary policies, practices, and norms that create and maintain white supremacy. They claim structural racism continues to disproportionately segregate communities of color from access to opportunity and upward mobility by making it more difficult for people of color to secure quality education, jobs, housing, healthcare, and equal treatment in the criminal justice system.
The concept of White Supremacy is anathema to me. It is the belief that white people constitute a superior race and should therefore dominate society, typically to the exclusion or detriment of other racial and ethnic groups, in particular black or Jewish people. This is the kind of thinking that led to the insurrection on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. It is wrong and should be denounced by all people of conscience.
We hear a lot about "white privilege" today. But just what is it? White Privilege is the notion that there are inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in society characterized by racial inequality and injustice. This is a concept easier for me to accept than CRT. I believe white Americans have, historically, been the beneficiary of favorable treatment in many areas of society. I have witnessed it first-hand in the hiring of coworkers by organizations that I have worked for.
Summing it Up
I’m worried about the teaching of CRT in our schools, particularly K-12. I can understand it in college where a diversity of views should be examined and a new understanding developed. However, to teach impressionable youngsters that America is a racist country is a bridge too far. Almost one-half of the states in the United States have proposed legislation or passed laws prohibiting the teaching of CRT in K-12.
If America is to overcome the allegations of racial injustice that still persist, there needs to be a coming together of all segments of society to critically examine policies of the past and how they still persist in the current period. We need to understand all sides of the issue. This will require leadership. Unfortunately, America is so divided that any kind of collegiality is unlikely to occur. Perhaps someone will step forward to pick up the mantel of equality in all aspects of life. We can always hope.
Posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, The Ethics Sage, on June 22, 2021. You can sign up for his newsletter and learn more about his activities at: https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/. Follow him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/StevenMintzEthics and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ethicssage.