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Critical Race ‘Theory’

March 8, 2012
Derrick Bell

Derrick Bell

What with all the talk about Andrew Breitbart and Derrick Bell, I decided to look up ‘critical race theory.’ According to Wikipedia,

Critical Race Theory is an academic discipline focused upon the intersection of race, law and power.

Well, that’s no good. First, a theory cannot be a discipline: that is a category error. Second (to channel Socrates), “the intersection of race, law, and power” is not a coherent field.

This kind of lazy nonsense is far too common in academia. But I especially liked this description of a “key theoretical element” of critical race theory:

• Storytelling/counterstorytelling and “naming one’s own reality”—using narrative to illuminate and explore experiences of racial oppression.

That’s clearly incompatible with the whole notion of theory.

It feels silly to try to address this seriously so I’ll just stop.

(And yes, this is just a Wikipedia entry, but does it really matter?)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Gunn permalink
    March 11, 2012 11:19 am

    You may want to read the talk page; following the infamous CNN interview / discussion, the page was hit by a large number of edits that changed it to reflect what Soledad O’Brien claimed.

    As I understand it, the page has been partially reverted so that it once again mentions white supremacy as being a central plank of the theory, but it demonstrates the unreliability of wikipedia.

    • March 12, 2012 2:23 pm

      The white supremacy thing was actually there when I visited. To me it seems kind of unremarkable, really. The view seems to be, effectively, that there is such a thing as institutional racism, which is a pretty popular idea.

  2. Gunn permalink
    March 18, 2012 12:20 pm

    I think the problem is that if you accept that white supremacy is baked into jurisprudence that is based on the principle of equality before the law, then (according to CRT) you have to give special privileges to blacks (note that CRT considers only blacks, not other minorities, to suffer such institutional discrimination).

    In other words, different (i.e. less stringent) laws are to be applied to black people, particularly where crimes are ‘racial’ in nature, than would be applied to whites or other minorities.

    Finally, if that wasn’t enough on its own, the implication being put forward is that Obama is fully aware of what CRT says, and he believes it to the extent that he is, within the power he has as president, changing the de facto set up to provide some of the privileges proposed by CRT. One example of this in practice is the nominations for Supreme Court judges.

    [JH: Seems to me this is right, and also exactly what we see. Think of university admissions as well. Companies also often have formal policies and bureaucracies to overcome supposed institutional racism/sexism.]

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