It’s tempting to mock Critical Race Theory and its incoherent wokeness expressed in a highly caricaturable language.
But we’d better take it seriously. It may very well be one of the great challenges of our time.
Christopher Rufo, who has discussed CRT extensively in City Journal (here and here, for starters), recently granted an interview to the U.K.’s Spiked Online. In it, Rufo explains why this ideology, which has “gone from an obscure corner of academia to the mainstream,” is becoming even more widespread and influential.
President Trump banned CRT, which is built on the notion that American institutions are founded on racism and patriarchy, in federal diversity training programs, but it has other friends in high places on whom to depend, according to Rufo. In response to a question as to how CRT manifests itself, Rufo replies:
It’s visible in three major ways. One is within the political class – even Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have adopted the terminology of CRT, whether it’s systemic racism, oppression or equity instead of equality.
Another is that, to the surprise of many people in the field, it’s been adopted essentially as a human-resources programme – there is a massive, multi-billion-dollar diversity and inclusion industry, where people are training government agencies and corporations in CRT translated into HR-speak.
And third, the street-level activism and unrest that has been going on for months in the US is also driven by CRT. This has been tragically underreported. The language is really a distilled-down street vernacular based on the key categorisations from the CRT literature of the 1990s.
As for equity instead of equality: In the eleventh hour of the presidential campaign, veep candidate Harris tweeted out a cartoon headlined “Equality vs. Equity” and which embraced the idea that equal opportunity is not enough. There must be equitable outcomes, regardless of factors such as hard work and virtuous behavior.
Although CRT accuses everybody else of being racist, Rufo maintains that CRT training is itself racist:
[T]hese courses are teaching race essentialism. They teach employees that they can be reduced to a metaphysical essence of their skin colour, and that you can create a moral hierarchy based on that. Race essentialism was known as scientific racism 100 years ago – it was wrong then and it’s wrong now.
The second thing is actual racial segregation. I have documented a number of agencies where they were segregating employees on the basis of race, even having separate rooms for training people of different races. Racial segregation is, unfortunately, part of American history. But we stopped it through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and it’s really astonishing that it would be revived as a form of social justice. The dissonance in that is really remarkable.
Third, it’s really a form of race-based harassment. There are many examples where white employees have been segregated and essentially forced to deconstruct their identity. They were forced in many cases to denounce themselves publicly – even in one case to write letters of apology for their white privilege, or their male privilege, or their heterosexual privilege.
Critical Race Theory, according to Rufo, has become embedded in the government bureaucracy. But it has also spread into the operation of corporations:
It’s popular among US corporations because of a political calculation. Major corporations have secured their economic fortunes. They essentially take the economic right for granted now, because they have achieved what they want from it.
The corporations now feel they need to pacify the cultural left. We see companies mouthing the slogans of the Black Lives Matter movement, of CRT, of progressive social ideology, because they don’t want to get bad PR or be caught crosswise in local government or among local activists. They do this in the hope that the cultural left doesn’t turn into the economic left.
CRT is also the enemy of hard work and upward mobility:
The great moral crime of CRT is that it serves to reinforce the social status of elites, while doing nothing in a practical way for the poor and the vulnerable. In fact, the Critical Race Theorists have created an ideology that undermines and would eventually destroy the institutions that are actually so essential for life in poor communities.
For example, they reject the notion of entry-level work. They say that it is a kind of capitalist oppression and is white supremacist in nature. Obviously, for people who are seeking to move up in the world, employment is the only way to become economically self-sufficient, and to have the dignity of working for a living and supporting a family.
With election results that indicate, contrary to the predictions of the far left, that the U.S. is still a centrist country, we have a chance to combat the growing influence of CRT, which is essentially an attack on our institutions and values (most prominently the values of work and self-reliance). But it won’t be easy.
I urge you to read the entire Rufo interview, and may I suggest that Helen Pluckrose, the U.K.s delightful public intellectual, is perhaps the other best guide to what is at stake with regard to CRT’s expanding sphere of operation. Here is IWF’s recent profile of Pluckrose.