The Far Right’s Manufactured Meaning of Critical Race Theory

Christopher Rufo...has repeatedly admitted that he deliberately bastardized the term to use as a political weapon

Photos: YouTube

In an opinion piece for the Federalist (6/22/21), contributor Nathanael Blake argued that “Yes, Critical Race Critics Know What It Is”—while simultaneously failing to offer up a definition himself. Nor did he quote any proponents of critical race theory (CRT) describing what it is or explaining their ideas.

Instead, Blake hyperlinked to an article by Bruce Ashford (Public Discourse, 6/6/21) of the conservative Witherspoon Institute. Ashford offered Evangelical, biblical literalist doctrine to rebut CRT, interpreting the concept of equity as an “idol,” and the idea of overthrowing systems of power as un-Christian (because when God parted the Red Sea, he was seeking to reform the Egyptian slaveholders?).

In the Federalist article, Blake argued that critics of CRT need not know its academic ins and outs to “recognize it as poisonous.”

That is, because the far-right has created its own version of what CRT means. Christopher Rufo, the right-wing activist who kicked off the crusade against CRT with an appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight (9/2/20), has repeatedly admitted that he deliberately bastardized the term to use as a political weapon (New Yorker, 6/18/21; Twitter, 6/15/21).

Right-wing commentators claim to know what CRT is, while showing no interest in engaging with its ideas, and only very rarely quote the words of its proponents. Instead, they’ve deliberately manufactured a set of caricatures to make the public—mainly the white public—feel threatened.

CRT’s actual beginnings

CRT’s roots are in legal scholarship. The concept was spearheaded in the mid-1970s by Harvard Law School professor Derrick Bell, who observed that the civil rights cases and Supreme Court rulings of the previous two decades ultimately did little to improve the lives of people of color in the US.

In their 1995 book Critical Race Theory, legal scholars Kimberlé Crenshaw, Neil Gotanda, Gary Peller and Kendall Thomas advanced Bell’s ideas. In the foreword, the authors explain that CRT is rooted in understanding how laws in the US centralize whiteness and are complicit in upholding white supremacy.

Read more of this article on the website of FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting).

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