A historian looks at Critical Race Theory

President Bill Clinton said, “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”

Critical Race Theory (CRT) focuses on things wrong with America, both real and imagined, but seeks no cure in things right with America. Instead of a cure, CRT aims to tear down America and to replace it with a new and different America.

Rejecting CRT does not include ignoring all that has been wrong in the history of the United States. The nations that lived here more than five hundred years ago were harmed and cheated by European settlers and by the U.S. government. The slave trade brought millions of Africans, against their will, into the western hemisphere, treating them as property rather than as human beings. Immigrants have frequently been viewed with suspicion and forced to struggle to earn a place in the United States—including Irish and Italian and Polish and Russian immigrants as well as Jewish and Chinese and Hispanic immigrants. Civil rights were reluctantly granted to American citizens in the second half of the twentieth century, often against the will and the efforts of politicians and others in power, whether Republicans or Democrats or third-party citizens. All these facts cannot be ignored; they are part of our history. But these ills can be cured with what is right with America. What is right with America needs to be taught as clearly as all that is wrong with America.

CRT ignores the efforts of mainstream Americans to work decently with tribal peoples and to treat them properly. CRT ignores the efforts of mainstream Americans to end slavery and to provide equal opportunity to former slaves and to their children and grandchildren. CRT ignores the work of mainstream Americans to welcome immigrants, to embrace them into our common culture, and also to preserve and celebrate the contributions of every culture to the greatness of the United States of America. CRT pretends that mainstream America has always resisted civil rights for its minority citizens, that mainstream America did not outvote the leaders who opposed civil rights, replacing them democratically with leaders willing to support and enforce civil rights.

CRT suggests that racism and discrimination is systemic in the United States. Inasmuch as all people fall short of the glory of God and sin, selfish pride and hatred can be called systemic. But the United States has done more than most countries in the world to overcome selfish pride and hatred and to protect and defend the rights of all people. CRT suggests that some people are born into privilege and others are born into poverty and weakness, as if nothing can be done or is done to share privilege with the unfortunate. But the United States has done more than most countries in the world to relieve poverty, to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless, to provide healing for the sick, to educate all citizens, and to open job opportunities and leadership opportunities to those who were born among minority groups or who came legally to this country from other parts of the world.

CRT acts as though wealth and power are limited, as if the only way to help the poor is to take more money from the rich, as if they only way for minorities to gain power is for them to take power away from the majority. America has never functioned that way. Capitalists know that labor adds value to the world. A raw diamond is shaped by a jeweler. The finished product is smaller, but it is more valuable because of the knowledge and effort of the jeweler. In the same way, value increases through businesses and corporations that hire and train workers, providing goods and services to citizens and abroad, improving the world for all people—not merely for the few rich business leaders and investors. Punishing the leaders and investors for their success does not help the poor; punishing those with wealth for their success encourages them not to succeed, not to provide jobs and training and goods and services that enrich the lives of many. So also, American government provides opportunity for all citizens. The very fact that some members of Congress are permitted to speak about their scorn for America, for capitalism, and for our current system of government reveals that America flourishes with freedom and that America provides opportunity for all people.

CRT has existed for years in academic circles, where it belongs. College students and history professors need to be acquainted with CRT as they need to be acquainted with the ideas of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and other twentieth-century leaders whose bankrupt theories about history and economics have already been discredited by history. CRT can be a useful tool in the toolbox of any historian, but it must not be the only tool in the toolbox, nor the most-used tool or the first tool used. Some awareness of CRT might be helpful to junior and senior high history teachers as they prepare their lessons. But CRT is not an effective or useful tool for elementary students or high school students. Its procedures are faulty, and its findings are inadequate. Banning CRT from all institutes of learning would be inappropriate, unnecessary, and unAmerican. But asking school boards to ban CRT from elementary and high school classrooms is appropriate and American. Students need to know what is right with America so that, as they are also shown what is wrong with America, they can learn about the cure along with the ailment.

On this, reasonable people should be able to agree. J.

37 thoughts on “A historian looks at Critical Race Theory

  1. If I want to understand our beginnings, all I need do is real about American history, but more accurately, what was written prior to recent decades, then through time, research, and ponderings, separate propaganda from the real, fact from fiction, and this takes time, but we’ve done it, continuing to learn. Read our founding fathers’ own words, the Federalist papers, and the great things we’ve accomplished as a nation. With time, read about the former Soviet Union, life in WWII Germany, and seriously do the homework, loving your country, and you will know.

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  2. @Tom

    Hey. if the guy is guilty of something then he should face trial and so be it. Otherwise, anything else is just speculation and conjecture. There’s some investigation been going on since 2018… long time. I think the Bidens are generally ok as political families go in D.C. They are/were nothing like the Kennedys and not even close to the Trump aristocracy no matter how you cut it. I tend to think Hunter has some mental health struggles, certainly that past drug problem indicates that. Whether it’s due to some level of trauma following his mother’s death or questionable parenting given Joe Biden’s attentions to politics… I sense something in “there” maybe having to do with identity in living up to his brother’s image with his dad. A kind of attention deficit thing going on for decades. Given all that, I might surmise Hunter is prone to making some ill-advised decisions. I see no one in that family getting Kennedy-rich or Trump-rich, or Rockefeller-rich.. and I certainly see no one in that entire family getting rich over some perceived international political political influence. If the name tends to give family offspring a little advantage in life cause daddy or mommy became president so be it as long as the “profit” was not ill-gotten, not some pay-for-play influence peddling, or a threat to the safety and security of the country.

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  3. Excellent observation my friend! Throwing the baby out with the bath water and replacing both with a destructive Marxist agenda…
    And so you gotta know that if I’m agreeing with something Bill Clinton said, then I get it—I get that we’ve made mistakes, we’ve not always been that shining beacon on a hill, but we have learned, we have grown from the dark parts of our past and we know how to shine we it is most needed…
    May we fight this latest scourge on our land and remain that hopeful nation we have always been!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I am not yet to the point of standing at street corners shouting, “America–love it or leave it!” But we must start with confidence that America is founded on something that is good and true and worthwhile; from there, we have room to make it better, to find ways of helping those bearing scars from the past, and to do so without forcing equivalent scars on those living in the present. J.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Ok.. well.. since you’ve gone through all that to attempt to define it.. or rather define what’s wrong with it,, yeah… I’m pretty confused about the entire CRT debate at all. I consider myself about one inch “better” advised on history than typical street folks; college, and all that. I have done considerable research on my own about this and I have found it all can be separated into sub-issues of sorts. There’s the historical to address the theory going back a century and a half.. with NOTHING to do about Marx, Hitler… blah, blah. In fact, the early years said little, if anything, about race. Back then it was “critical theory”. The next category… is some early application to elements of it in various social and very early political leanings of the post-war years. Still being called “critical theory”. Then there’s our current application to further define our national divide.. someone.. I understand a journalist somewhere… decided to toss the word “race” into the “CR theory” mix, that already was philosophically confusing as hell before adding the word. So now it means everything imaginable regarding our current racial turmoil depending on what side of the usual politically defined side of the fence one leans on. If you’re a Trumpian white Conservative who wants to make America great again (never sure what time period in history that “again” point is.. or was) the CRT has taken on all the symbolism of assigning the crimes of our ancestors onto the here and now.. and imposing guilt on white exceptionalism and entitlement and of course, present day white folks are never racist.. and I am sure even some are good people, too. Now.. if you are on the other side of this.. one presumes that means you are black and/or brown in skin tone, and you might want a little of that white entitlement tossed your way.. maybe kick in some slave reparations (likely cause we all got used to getting free money during the pandemic) because your ancestors were victims of our white ancestors.. then extend that guilt into present day with the idea of systemic racism. To make sure all this takes hold we teach this CRT thing in our schools to somehow “even out” the presentation of American history. The result of both these sides essentially pushing, or rejecting, guilt.. is that parents at school board meetings are in rage about what is planning on being taught to their kids thinking it’s nothing but history spin.. and yep.. assigning guilt.
    So now you have the knee-jerk GOP controlled state governments, already experienced from knee-jerking legislation to address the Big Election Lie, trying to pass “just-in-case-some-school-district-goes-CRTnuts laws. Now.. I can’t be the only one confused as hell… and from what I am seeing in these school board meetings is neither side knows what they are doing.,, or what the actual philosophical application of the CT theory has anything to do with CRT theory. It’s been turned completely into emotionalism as each side defines in their own way how CRT will either define future racial equality… or bring about the end of America.

    So.. I’ve read what you’ve written and I have absolutely no idea if you are correct or not… and I have serious doubts that the way you explained it here is not more the result of having a white MAGA bias. I’ve never accused the average Trump Conservative of being racist anymore than I might be a racist, given my ancestors came from Ireland after the Civil War. Hell, Ancestry.com tells me my ancestors were Vikings so I suppose I have a lot of inherited guilt for my ancestors looting, pillaging, and raping half of Europe. On top of that, I’m male.. which means I have zero understanding of female sensitivities, hence I’m defined as some predator if my grammar slips in public. But hey.. what do I know, right?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Well, Doug, I can tell that you are confused. The connection to Critical Theory from twentieth century Europe still includes Marxist assumptions about wealth and power, including the assumption that one group can gain only by causing the other group to lose. (You can easily verify that statement with your own research.) I prefer the Clinton quote about America, which is not quite Trumpian MAGA-ism, if I know my Clinton history. Ireland was definitely part of the Viking world back in the day, so you probably have Viking ancestors. If you want to apologize to the Germans and French and British and Irish and Spanish and Italian and Russian and Canadian world for Viking sins, I guess that’s your business. I much prefer starting where we are today and seeing how we can bring in more water and raise all the boats in the harbor, if you catch my drift. J.

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      • To your last sentence… I could be partial to that direction, which in itself implies a win-win end result vrs the “i-win-you-lose-cause-you-are-wrong” conflict. So tell me.. how would you go about doing that?

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      • Allow the creative entrepreneurs–the Carnegies, Rockefellers, Waltons, Gateses, Bezoses–to profit from their work; tax them fairly but not excessively; give them tax incentives to keep on producing jobs and other benefits for the greater population. Keep on providing education and job training in places where incomes are low and unemployment is high. Stop trying to redress the wrongs of the past on the backs of people alive today and focus on making a better future for all people. J.

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    • @Doug

      If you want to get into the origins of CRT, within the circle of blogs I frequent, Mel Wild has probably done the most research (https://melwild.wordpress.com/). The Heritage Foundation has also studied the matter.

      Personally, while I find the origins of CRT interesting, I am more concerned with what is being taught, and Salvageable attacks that head-on. It makes no sense to study the past just so we can point fingers at and condemn each other. Where are we going to find anyone without a sinner among his or her ancestors. Who is fit to cast the first stone?

      Think about this. When the slavers went to Africa to acquire slaves to bring to the New World, they bought their cargo from blacks. Are you going to get blacks in Africa to send reparations to blacks America, or, considering the miserable state of Africa, are the blacks in America suppose to send the blacks in Africa thank you letters?

      Seriously, the purpose of studying history is to figure out what works. The problem with CRT is the finger-pointing has never worked.

      We don’t know enough to both identify and correct the sins of the past, but the supposed dogooders promoting CRT would have us believe they can. That is pure, unadulterated arrogance. Because all it does is serve as an excuse for envy, social justice nonsense like CRT is injustice.

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      • So Tom.. from what you are saying is that others have been just as confused and had to “study” someone else’s interpretation of history, theoretical philosophy, and if there’s any relationship between CT, CRT, racism… and the class room. Since it seems no one has a complete grasp on this we keep this stuff out of elementary school and keep complex concepts limited to the last two years of high school.. through college (that’s now going to be free soon enough for at least the first couple years). I am sure of this much.. those screaming parents at your school board meeting there likely didn’t understand a blame thing about what they were screaming about.. and those board members likely had no idea why they thought teaching that would be of value. Put the loaded gun down until another day, No one is going anywhere (just getting older) and research the complicated theory further to determine if it should be piecemeal re-packaged at another time with an idea toward the classroom.

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      • @Doug

        I said what I said. Why pretend I said something else? I favor school choice.

        Nobody trusts politicians. You trust Trump? You want him in charge of the education of children? Yet Conservatives are irrational and stupid if they don’t let the politicians you favor waste their money and foul their children’s minds with all sorts of perversity?

        You don’t like screaming parents? Parents are not supposed to be upset when elected officials promote racism and sexual deviance? How about the rioting, burning, violence, and murder last summer? What was that about? A policeman accidentally kills a drug crazed convict who has given himself a fatal dose of fentanyl, and that’s excuses a summer of riots? That’s the sor of priorities you favor?

        What is wrong with letting parents decide who teaches their children and what they are taught? When are you going to figure it out? An open and free society will produce better results than any solution “you” or “I” could supposedly dedicate through government,

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      • I never once said parents shouldn’t be in control of education. I do say parents AS A WHOLE pretty much are apathetic in taking a role in their children’s education because the vast majority think school is just day care so that they can go “have a job”… when in fact their apathy likely comes from many parents being too moderately educated and feel intimidated in the system and incapable of dealing with the subject matter… and/or…. parents are first generation immigrants and are totally unaware of education beyond the first couple grades in a foreign school in another language who simply want their kids to get a free American public education. In order to take responsibility you have to BE responsible. Anyway.. I was talking about CRT and parents and administrator who don’t know what it is.. just the emotion around the fear of what it might be.

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      • @Doug

        @Doug

        So, instead of letting apathetic parents take charge of the education of their children, you want apathetic voters in charge.

        Just because we elect politicians who make wonderful promises about how they are going to spend our money and other people’s money does not mean we have solved any problems. It just means we have elected politicians who will spend a bunch of money.

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      • Well.. we have a Constitution and you summed it all up with “We have elected a bunch of politicians…” So, based on that one remark, what’s your problem.. people not voting the way YOU want them to vote?

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      • Thank you, Tom. I could have gone far deeper into the sins of black slave traders in Africa, wrongdoing among Native Americans (who accepted bribes and made bad deals on the part of their tribes when they didn’t even have authority to represent those tribes), immigrants who have broken the law, and so on. Pointing fingers and finding fault is not helpful. Finding what is good with America and building upon that to make America better will help many more people. J.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Doug–I’ll stick with what I said at the beginning–CRT has a place in the professional historian’s toolkit. It does not belong in the elementary or junior high classroom. Teachers can mention the wrong things that have been done in the name of America (and in the name of Christianity, and in the name of any other group you care to add to the list) while still affirming the basic goodness of America (or Christianity or what have you). J.

        Liked by 1 person

      • A part of me would prefer the young reach their own conclusions on how “good” America is by the way they have been taught the history of America…. rather than being taught just plain… “America is good”. The problem with that is teachers teach differently and are only human and subject to the infinite variety that is mankind. I say po-ta-toe and you say po-tah-toe.

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      • Doug–we are close to agreeing on these points, closer than may be comfortable for you. We agree that teaching cannot be unbiased. Even trying to teach a list of facts requires the teacher to select which facts to teach from an enormous list of facts. CRT chooses to focus on negative facts–what is wrong with America–whereas I prefer a tilt toward positive facts–what is right with America, that which can cure what is wrong with America. Consider this: what do you want your young soldiers and police officers believing? What do you want your young carpenters and plumbers and car repairers believing? What do you want your young doctors and nurses and therapists believing? What do you want your young lawyers and future government leaders believing? Do you prefer that they hate America, that they want to burn it down and build something different, that for now they think they best they can do is grab all they can for themselves now before the revolution? Or do you prefer that they believe that America is based on some pretty good ideas of freedom and equality, that where it has fallen short it can be improved, and that the future is bright if we all work together for the common good? Your choice. J.

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      • Keep in mind that those “ideas” presented by the Founders were in fact.. just that on paper. Nicely packaged, it was/is a monument to our future dreams of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Yet the moment it was signed, ratified, and placed into motion… its meaning at the time only pertained to white males. So at the start “we” couldn’t adhere to what was just penned and agreed on. Of course… over time and much national debate… we tried fixing all that down the road. But all that explains our intended form of government and how its applied, NOT the actual implementation of social justice or social mores, trends, bias, etc. in our daily lives through the decades. You could say that our “appeal” as Americans is our persistent moral impetus to try and LIVE UP to what the Founders penned and signed as a higher goal to aspire to if we stick to the plan. Seems to me we might want to teach students to THINK that our human “perfections”, imperfections, and God-given diversity, tends to get in the way of ourselves. We truly need to teach our kids critical thinking skills in order to reach perspectives on their own and not the lazy way of just accepting what others say. To what you just replied about teach the “good” of America.. well, then we have the problems.. who’s “good” do we teach?

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    • @Doug

      Not going to answer my question about Hunter Biden’s artwork?
      😆

      Keep in mind that those “ideas” presented by the Founders were in fact.. just that on paper. Nicely packaged, it was/is a monument to our future dreams of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Yet the moment it was signed, ratified, and placed into motion… its meaning at the time only pertained to white males. So at the start “we” couldn’t adhere to what was just penned and agreed on. Of course… over time and much national debate… we tried fixing all that down the road. …….

      The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution represent different kinds of documents.

      The Declaration of Independence justified a rebellion. It pointed to King George III’s and the UK’s abuses of authority, and pointed to why government exists. Its simple and elegant statement on God-given rights is what made that document the founding document of our nation. Can we live up to the principles embodied in the Declaration — have we ever? No, but the document said in 1776 what it says to us today. Even in 1776 outstanding men of the time were abolitionists. Even during the American Revolution black men served in as soldiers in the Continental Army. We have changed less than you think..

      The Constitution is Law. It defines rules and processes. It is a covenant between those who rule and those who are ruled. Do we do a good job of keeping covenants? No. That is why free peoples are so rare. Only a relatively moral people can make a constitutional republic work. Before any man can enslave us, we must become slaves to sin. Tyrants rule us because we cannot rule our own passions and deceits. Tyrants rule us because we even lie to ourselves. Hence, when we go looking for excuses to make our laws say what they do not say, or when we go looking for excuses to say our laws do not say what they do say, we cannot hold would-be tyrants accountable to the Constitution. Then would-be tyrants become actual tyrants.

      How did the founders of our nation try to solve the problem of tyranny? Limited government. Checks and balances, By dispersing power over as many officials as possible. ……

      The founders acknowledged the sinfulness of mankind. The leaders of the Democratic Party and some in the Republican Party do no such thing. Perhaps the majority of Americans now think mankind is basically good, but the people who set up our government knew better.

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      • What do Biden’s paintings have to do with anything other than add another layer of conspiracy nonsense for the Trump Right to blather about? If the kid sells one or all paintings and it’s for more money than YOU feel is “reasonable”, and therefore the only conclusion is for YOU to presume that the reason the paintings sold for so much is some level of money-grabbing corruption for someone to achieve personal gain for their public power and position.. or the person(s) making the purchase are somehow wanting their own power and influence inside government, well, then.,……. take ’em to court. If someone ends up guilty then send ’em to jail! Problem solved.. and hail to the Constitution for having a remedy for your conspiracy theory. Otherwise… who cares!

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      • Hey. if the guy is guilty of something then he should face trial and so be it. Otherwise, anything else is just speculation and conjecture. There’s some investigation been going on since 2018… long time. I think the Bidens are generally ok as political families go in D.C. They are/were nothing like the Kennedys and not even close to the Trump aristocracy no matter how you cut it. I tend to think Hunter has some mental health struggles, certainly that past drug problem indicates that. Whether it’s due to some level of trauma following his mother’s death or questionable parenting given Joe Biden’s attentions to politics… I sense something in “there” maybe having to do with identity in living up to his brother’s image with his dad. A kind of attention deficit thing going on for decades. Given all that, I might surmise Hunter is prone to making some ill-advised decisions. I see no one in that family getting Kennedy-rich or Trump-rich, or Rockefeller-rich.. and I certainly see no one in that entire family getting rich over some perceived international political political influence. If the name tends to give family offspring a little advantage in life cause daddy or mommy became president so be it as long as the “profit” was not ill-gotten, not some pay-for-play influence peddling, or a threat to the safety and security of the country.

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      • Did I not convey that in the beginning of my reply with “I think”? Did you and your family ever get the vaccine or you listening to FOX?

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      • @Doug

        I think the world is flat. Why? Because Doug told me it is okay to say whatever I think.

        If you don’t have a good reason for thinking something is true, what is the point in talking about it as if it is true?

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      • You know.. you are right. If we just turn off the Internet then all this speculation will stop. Where’s that switch located?

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