Answering the Basic Tenets of Critical Race Theory
October 13, 2020 · C.E. Carter
There are essentially two classes of worldviews in the United States, denoted by “the Right” and “the Left”. The Right takes the tenets of its worldview from, roughly, Christianity, although the Right is more and more resembling what the Left was a few decades ago. Up until very recently, we didn’t know what the epistemological and moral underpinnings of the Left were. We knew it was something do to with Socialist and Marxist ideas, but the heavy emphasis on race and racial inequality didn’t quite fit the bill for either of those. Critical Race Theory fits the shoe.
In the interest of knowing this peculiar worldview which is sweeping the nation, Richard Delgado (a CRT professor at University of Alabama School of Law) has wonderfully distilled the basics for us in his book Critical Race Theory: An Introduction. You’ll have to bear with some jargon; philosophers (especially leftist philosophers) have a habit of word-salading what are otherwise simple yet radical ideas.
Interest Convergence, Material Determinism, and Racial Realism
Interest Convergence is (funny enough) the convergence of the interests of the oppressing and oppressed classes for the sake of the oppressing class. The example given is in 1954 when the Supreme Court established that segregation in schools was unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. CRT argues that this was done to ease racial tensions and quell the threat of widespread domestic unrest following the Korean War and WW2 and in order to present a more united front for the Cold War, not out of a societal desire for racial equality. Racial Realism is another term, which argues that racism arises as “a means by which society allocates privilege and status”, as opposed to matters of thinking, discourse, and perception. It’s a far more subtle kind of racism. CRT argues this by means of Material Determinism, the concept that racism is a tool to demonize conquered nations in order to acquire material gains, such as land or slaves, with the application today being made to things like police violence, wealth inequality, healthcare inequality, et cetera. Racial Realism is the “what” of racism, and Material Determinism is the “why” of it.
Material Determinism is one of the few Biblically consistent points that CRT makes: we ought not to treat those of other races as less human, especially for the sake of material or economic gain. The Word of God says clearly, for the sake of Christ, that there are no such divisions within the body of Christ:
Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Colossians 3:11)
We know that in the past, it has been explicit that people of different races were treated differently. Enslaving a conquered nation of a people of another race has been something which human beings have done all throughout history, and its effects have always been explicitly sectarian and explicitly unequal. Why does Critical Race Theory focus only on the United States? And why is the problem that it seeks to resolve admittedly and definitionally implicit? Though sin lurks beneath our visible exterior, the manifestations of sin in a sinners life are always immediately recognizable and plain to see in the sight of all. This is why it is written,
Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” (Matthew 15:10-11)
meaning that what makes someone sinful are the things that they say, and again,
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. (James 2:18)
meaning that you can tell by someone’s works the nature of their heart. When we speak Biblically of a sin like racism (the sin of partiality, more accurately), there is always evidence of this sin; there is nothing “implicit” about it.
CRT strongly advocates for a reexamination of America’s history by “replacing comforting majoritarian interpretations of events with ones that square more accurately with minorities’ experiences”. This implicitly assumes that history must be interpreted through a lens at all; that there can be no objective “layout out of the facts” in the teaching of history. A postmodern perspective on what it means to be “objective” would almost certainly bolster this claim, since postmodernists are fond of throwing away absolute truth in exchange for an overstretched perspectivism.
Christians are people of the truth. We are not afraid to be people of the truth, since we fear God alone and we know that all truth is God’s truth. We are not afraid to teach the truth of history without a political spin on it for fear of losing our political seat of power and dismantling our well-constructed propaganda campaign. We have neither. The Gospel is our platform, the Holy Spirit is our strength, and our King is already on the throne forever. Nobody likes what we have to say anyway, so we teach history as best we know.
I’ll also ask this; why must we adopt a minority perspective with respect to history? Why not a Christian one? Or an Islamic one? Or a Whig one? Or a Martian one? Why the particular perspective of American minorities? After all, they are the majority perspective somewhere else in the world; would my perspective as a minority in their home nation be more important than theirs?
As Christians we know that God’s word is sufficient for all of life and godliness. It is a razor sharp scalpel which is able to dissect any historical event and provide a perspective which is exactly correct.
Critique of Liberalism
CRT has lost faith that Liberalism (Classical Liberalism, not the Leftist flavor of it) as an effective engine of social change, and places strong criticism against Liberal notions of equality and justice, such as color blindness, role modeling, the merit principle, and other “neutral principles of constitutional law”. They believe these things are ineffective for bringing about true equality, and merely gloss over the real issues. CRT is also incredibly skeptical of the Liberal notion of rights, their quarrel being that most “rights” are merely rights to a procedure (e.g. right to start a business, right to freedom of speech) rather than rights to a certain outcome (e.g. right to a salary, right not to hear hate speech). Liberalism puts a heavy emphasis on personal responsibility and equality of opportunity for the sake of economic flourishing, while CRT upholds that systems must emphasize equality of outcome in order to be just.
It is clear from the text of Scripture that God intended for man to live a certain way. Man is a steward of God’s resources, a worker of God’s will to fill the Earth and subdue it, and a governor of the family household which God has given to each of them individually. Fulfilling these tasks requires a certain level of autonomy; there must be freedom to labor, to marry, to bear children, and to acquire resources for the sake of using them in the world. Liberal society guarantees such an economy. The Bible says things like,
Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)
For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied. (Proverbs 13:4)
The Bible commands us to work, and promises increases in wealth if we do. Equality of outcome is not a Biblical concept. Are we to give to the poor and be generous to the needy? Absolutely: not by means of socialism, but out of our own wealth, as Christ gave to us,
John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Luke 3:11)
CRT argues that the structure of language and thought itself can be a system of oppression. Structural Determinism is “the idea that our system, by reason of its structure and vocabulary, cannot redress certain types of wrong”. Language and thought, under CRT, are fundamentally limited, like a color palette which is artificially limited to paint a picture of reality, and thus play a big role in determining important social outcomes without any conscious effort.
The Bible is clear that Scripture, which is written in English Bibles, is sufficient for us to be equipped to recognize and handle every injustice,
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Essentialism and Intersectional Theory
CRT also upholds a judicial calculus based on Essentialism and Intersectional Theory, which assign varying levels of oppressor/oppressed status to people groups based on gender, race, sexuality, and other categories. If you are black, you are oppressed, if you are a black woman you are more oppressed, if you are a black transgender woman you are even more oppressed, et cetera. In a similar manner, if you are white, you are an oppressor, if you are a white male you are more of an oppressor, if you are a white male slaveowner descendant you are even more of an oppressor, et cetera.
Scripture teaches us that Christ was sent from Heaven as a perfect and innocent man to suffer the oppression of a criminal’s death on the cross for the sake of the sins of the world. Nowhere in history has there been a greater injustice against a human being, or any category of human beings. Let’s just get that in the ring, if we are going to talk about oppressed people. Philosophy majors who like to quibble with Christians about the problem of theodicy (the problem of evil) aren’t reminded often enough that God died to rid the world of evil. God died; that’s my theodicy.
Anyway, that’s a tangent point (tangent line?). I should wrap this up.
Scripture also teaches that sin is not dealt with in a partial manner. People are not punished for the sins of their nation if they do not participate in those sins; Rahab the Prostitute demonstrated faith by sheltering Israelite spies in the promised land, and when her city was overrun, she and her family were spared and found a home in Israel (Joshua 2). Lot was delivered from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra for his righteousness (Genesis 19). We are not punished for our racial or familial association to sinners, period. CRT demands that we are punished for our sins or vindicated of our sins based on our ancestral heritage and the color of our skin. The Bible calls that the sin of partiality, and declares as a matter of first principles in God’s Law that each individual person will be accountable for their own sin, as it is written,
Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin. (Deuteronomy 24:16)