408 times on Fox News

Judd Legum on that critical theory that everyone’s talking about.

Between now and November 2022, you will be hearing a lot about Critical Race Theory (CRT). On Saturday night, former President Trump bashed CRT during his first rally since leaving the White House. Last week, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced the “END CRT Act.” In the first two weeks of June, CRT was mentioned 408 times on Fox News

Andrew Sullivan is obsessed with it.

It’s all because Republicans see it (see their distortions of it) as election magic.

Trump, Cruz, Bannon, and many other Republicans say that CRT is an insidious force that is being imposed in schools, corporations, and the government. This is how Cruz describes CRT in his new bill. 

By teaching that certain individuals, by virtue of inherent characteristics, are inherently flawed, critical race theory contradicts the basic principle upon which the United States was founded that all men and women are created equal.

This is a false description of CRT. (It is also an inaccurate historical description of the Declaration of Independence, which states “all men are created equal.” And it was referring only to white men.) 

So what’s a not-false description?

Critical Race Theory emerged from a group of legal scholars trying to answer a question: Why, after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 created formal legal equality between racial groups, does substantive racial inequality persist?

Let’s explore how this works with a concrete example. The United States has the largest prison population in the world. But Black Americans are incarcerated at far greater rates than whites. As of 2018, the latest data available, Blacks represented 12% of the general population and 33% of the prison population. Conversely, whites represent 63% of the general population and 30% of the prison population. 

I bet we can think of reasons before reading further. There’s more surveillance of black people, more stop and frisk, more arresting. There are different sentencing patterns. There are differences in who can get better lawyers. Stuff like that.

One explanation could be that Black Americans commit more crime. The data, however, does not fully support such a conclusion. About a quarter of the prison population is serving time for drug crimes and “[b]lack and white Americans sell and use drugs at similar rates.” Nevertheless, Blacks are 2.7 times more likely to be arrested, and more than 6 times more likely to be incarcerated, for drug-related offenses than whites. 

CRT scholars look at these statistics as evidence of structural racism. Specifically, they seek to identify “laws, policies, and procedures that function to produce racial inequality.”

And that’s not a wicked thing to do.

I think that’s pretty clear, isn’t it? Law should be more impartial than that, yeah?

The purpose of CRT is to understand the structural causes of racial inequality — large and small — in order to dismantle them and create a fairer society. CRT scholars use similar analysis to explain how the law creates racial inequality in health, education, and other areas. 

Is there a good reason we shouldn’t do that?

It’s not being taught in schools.

Anyone with a basic understanding of CRT understands that it is not being taught in K-12 schools. The reason is simple: The concepts underlying CRT are generally beyond the scope of undergraduate education, much less elementary school students. A website set up by CRT critics to document “the negative impact Critical Race Training has on education” does not even cover K-12 curriculum because it’s “more difficult to track.”

And then there’s the “downstream” claim.

Some critics of CRT acknowledge that CRT itself is not being taught in schools but students are being taught concepts derived from CRT. Pundit Andrew Sullivan, for example, says that students are being taught “a whole new epistemology that is directly downstream of academic critical theory.” For example, Sullivan claims, schools are teaching “white kids to internalize their complicity in evil.” 

Oh “downstream of”…but that could mean anything. Go far enough downstream and you can end up in a different country altogether. Go downstream on the Mississippi and the landscape changes a lot.

CRT, by contrast, is about how structures — not individuals — create racial inequality and injustice.

This is what I keep saying. It’s not about individual psychology, and it’s not the same as the annoying HR “trainings” a lot of people are exposed to.

CRT scholars reject the idea that inequalities between races can be explained through genetics…But CRT scholars also reject the idea that you can fix these inequalities by ignoring race. 

Too nuanced for the Andrew Sullivans of the world, I guess.

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