Critical Race Theory Examined and Analyzed
Several people have asked me to take up the subject of critical race theory here. I’m happy to do it. What is critical race theory?
According to Ian Haney López, interviewed by The Center for Public Integrity (September 30, 2020) (“What Is Critical Race Theory?”), “What critical race theory is saying is we need to take racism seriously. We’re all enmeshed in this system, and all of us have a capacity to change. All of us have the capacity to see our shared humanity, to connect and build bridges across racial differences, and to build a multiracial society in which every family is valued and has a place, whether they are people of color or white.”
López and other proponents of critical race theory make the point that racism is not just individual ignorance or bad attitudes; it is deeply rooted in the American system. It is systemic. African-Americans and other minorities of color have been consciously, willfully excluded from equal opportunity for centuries and education and laws have not really changed that exclusion.
So what is needed? There is where critical race theorists diverge. Some demand reparations for slavery—given to descendants of slavery by some means (similar perhaps to the payments given to members of recognized Native American tribes). Others demand public acknowledgment of the systemic oppression of African-Americans especially and perhaps quotas for African-Americans on boards of organizations that affect their lives.
*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*
I agree completely with critical race theory as expressed above by Ian Haney López.
Recently, according to news reports, the presidents of the six Southern Baptist Seminaries issued a statement against critical race theory and saying that it will not be taught in their schools. In response, several very influential African-American mega-church pastors have withdrawn from the SBC and its seminaries. They argue that, while it may be secular, critical race theory is not therefore automatically anti-Christians and that Christians can at least listen and learn from it while being discerning.
Critical race theory is nothing new to me. I’m not saying there’s nothing new in it or that I don’t have something new to learn from it. I’m only saying that I have been taught some versions of it and have believed in its basic ideas about race in America since high school.
That’s right. I attended a surprisingly progressive high school where I remember being taught what is now being called critical race theory—mainly through books we were required to read and that I read on my own by authors such as James Baldwin and Richard Wright and Dick Gregory and John Howard Griffin and others. And, over the years, I have taught something like critical race theory through Black Theology, requiring my students to read James Cone and introducing them via Youtube videos and other media to Cornel West and others.
One thing I would like to say about racism in America, however, is that I have come to believe it cannot be successfully defeated by education alone. Education alone helps, of course, but it also has a tendency to solidify racism in those who are already hard-core racists. And there are more of them than most of us thought. So what is the solution? Ultimately, of course, I believe the best solution would be for racists to get saved—really saved—transformed in their minds by the Holy Spirit to love everyone equally regardless of color or ethnicity or gender.
But, short of that happening, and alongside it (should it ever happen to masses of people), we need public policies that ensure that every American citizen has true equal opportunity to flourish. One big step in that direction would be for public and private schools to work harder to hire male and female teachers of color and for the state and federal governments to ensure that all public schools are equal in terms of facilities, equipment, teachers’ salaries, tutors for special needs students, etc.
I also think churches, including African-American and other churches, can do much to encourage their members and others to help children with homework and to participate in parent-school organizations and to tutor children and mentor young people. Fatherless children need men in their lives to mentor them and provide for them. Churches, white and every other kind, can do this more effectively than at present.
But voluntarism can only go so far. Ultimately, governments need to step up and pass laws and public policies that punish businesses and public agencies (such as police forces) and other organizations that exclude or marginalize or oppress people on the basis of their color, ethnicity, heritage, gender or religion. Many such laws and policies are already in place but not being enforced.
When, for example, a county or municipality practices racism, the state or federal government needs to step in and enforce civil rights laws and policies. A police force that is riddled with racism needs to be taken over by federal marshals and cleaned up, retrained, new police officers hired, including people of color, and brought under civilian control that reflects in its make up the diversity of the community.
Finally, white Christians and African-American Christians need to join together to work against the forces of racism—blatant and hidden. Even in many progressive Christian congregations there is still not sufficient awareness of the deeper roots of systemic racism in America that need to be called out, uprooted, and discarded.
*Note to commenters: This blog is not a discussion board; please respond with a question or comment only to me. If you do not share my evangelical Christian perspective (very broadly defined), feel free to ask a question for clarification, but know that this is not a space for debating incommensurate perspectives/worldviews. In any case, know that there is no guarantee that your question or comment will be posted by the moderator or answered by the writer. If you hope for your question or comment to appear here and be answered or responded to, make sure it is civil, respectful, and “on topic.” Do not comment if you have not read the entire post and do not misrepresent what it says. Keep any comment (including questions) to minimal length; do not post essays, sermons or testimonies here. Do not post links to internet sites here. This is a space for expressions of the blogger’s (or guest writers’) opinions and constructive dialogue among evangelical Christians (very broadly defined).