CORDI: 'Critical Race Theory' is incompatible with freedom of speech or equal treatment

If treating people equally regardless of their race is the desired outcome in all of this, then Critical Race Theory as a framework for viewing and judging people is entirely moot for that objective.

The phrase “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) has become a loaded buzzword; for some, it means convincing children that they’re racist or oppressed on the basis of their skin color, and for others, it means teaching about America’s history of racial injustice. 

CRT is a hot-button issue in the 2022 midterm elections, and Supreme Court Justice nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s apparent support for it proved to be controversial in her confirmation hearings. Yet, when the population speaks about the subject, they often mean very different things. 

Critical Race Theory started as a legal theory half a century ago, building on the critical legal studies and radical feminism movements, but has since influenced the fields of education, cultural studies, English, sociology, comparative literature, political science, history, and anthropology. 

Critical Race Theory: An Introduction by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic defines the framework as a “leftist political theory” that “questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.” 

The third edition of the book, published in 2017, lays out a number of everyday choices, such as whether to smile and make small talk with a cashier, acknowledge a jogger passing by, or call on a student in class. “Race seems to play a part” in these decisions according to the authors, labeling perceived slights in these interactions as “microaggressions,” which assumes racial motivation for negative or indifferent interactions.

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The authors further denounce colorblindness, which they define as the “belief that one should treat all persons equally, without regard to their race.” 

They explain that critical race theorists, or “Crits,” posit that colorblindness can only redress extreme examples of racism, but “if racism is embedded in our thought processes and social structures as deeply as many crits believe,” then what they call the “ordinary business” of society will “keep minorities in subordinate positions.” 

As opposed to colorblindness, Stefanic and Delgado propose “aggressive, color-conscious” solutions such as affirmative action and reparations.

The authors explain that Crits are “suspicious” of the concept of rights, which they describe as “alienating” and contributing to “separat[ing] people from each other.” 

The opposition to individual rights goes hand in hand with Crits’ support for hate speech codes on campus, as “one writer suggested criminalization as an answer; others urged that colleges and universities adopt student conduct rules designed to deter hate speech on campus.” 

The idea that people have the right to free speech is incompatible with Critical Race Theory, as Crits would like to choose what kind of speech can be criminalized or regulated.

On the improvement of race relations over the years including constitutional amendments, numerous Civil Rights Acts, and advances through Supreme Court decisions, the authors write, “civil rights gains for communities of color coincide with the dictates of white self-interest. Little happens out of altruism alone.” In saying this, the authors strip White champions for Civil Rights of the merit in their actions, attributing their motivations to selfishness, opportunism, and convenience.

A tool used by Crits is storytelling and counterstorytelling, both in and out of the courtroom. 

The writers do not deny the charge that “CRT teaches unmitigated manipulation of emotions and playing the race card,” further noting that when OJ Simpson was acquitted of murder, Jeffrey Rosen for the New Republic called Johnny Cochran’s successful defense of Simpson “applied critical race theory.” 

Rosen described CRT storytelling as “counternarratives of black empowerment” that may be accepted “even though they are factually untrue.” The idea of personal anecdotes taking favor over objective and empirical reality is a common theme among critical race theorists, with some going as far as calling objectivity and objective measures “racist.”

The writers defend affirmative action policies against the idea that they “discriminat[e] against whites,” asserting that in order to argue for discrimination against White people, one must assume “innocence on the part of the white person displaced by affirmative action,” and further assume that Black individuals, by comparison, are “guilty” of taking “things that others have worked hard for.” 

However, according to the writers, when one takes the perspective that racism is pervasive, systemic, and deeply ingrained, “no white member of society seems quite so innocent.” 

What the writers get wrong here is that both White and Black people are innocent in affirmative action. The only party taking things that others have worked hard for is the institution that chooses to implement such policies. 

Delgado and Stefancic later address the criticism that CRT is allegedly “anti-Semitic and anti-Asian” because Asians and Jews have succeeded in the system Crits paint as “rigged against minorities.” 

In response, the writers claim that critics “confused criticism of a standard with criticism of individuals who performed well under that standard.” 

However, this defense does not apply to their criticism of White individuals. The scholars not only criticize standards such as the SAT, but they also criticize white people as being guilty of and benefiting from racism. 

Delgado and Stefancic further acknowledge that critics point to CRT’s lack of “respect for traditional notions of truth and merit,” but do not address these fundamental criticisms directly.

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Critical Race Theory: An Introduction presents the controversial ideology in an easily-digestible package, from its history to the way various and differing proposals made by critical race scholars. 

Nonetheless, the arguments contained in the book rely on the aforementioned tool of storytelling more than objective fact and context.

In many cases, the authors do not hold all races to the same standards, such as their assertion that White people believe they see the world as the truth, not from a “white” point of view.

The practical application of Critical Race Theory requires that race is at the center of all human interaction and legal decisions. Negative or indifferent experiences can be blamed on “microaggressions” or “unconscious racism.” 

If treating people equally regardless of their race is the desired outcome in all of this, then Critical Race Theory as a framework for viewing and judging people is entirely moot for that objective. 

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