Soledad O’Brien took a second bite at the Critical Race Theory apple this morning, bringing on law professor Dorothy Brown to once again claim that Joel Pollak’s description of CRT was unfounded. Tommy Christopher at Mediaite seized on the video and attempted an end-zone dance:
The smear then depends on depicting Professor Bell, who is no longer able to speak in his own defense, as a “radical” and a “racialist,” neither of which is remotely true unless you’re the preacher from Footloose. It’s the same old “scary black man” trope that has dominated certain segments of the conservative blogosphere since President Obama got within spitting distance of winning the 2008 election, and which has been a feature of American politics for eons.
Christopher attempts the same failed attack O’Brien (and her guest) used against Joel Pollak last week: strip Derrick Bell’s Critical Race Theory of all specifics, and then claim there was nothing objectionable or “racialist” about it.
The problem with this rebuttal is that it’s just not true. Tommy Christopher should know it’s not true by now. Back to his piece:
O’Brien brought on Professor Dorothy Brown, author of Critical Race Theory: Cases, Materials and Problems, to explain Critical Race Theory, and to point out that, even though the theory isn’t actually “radical,” there is also nothing in President Obama’s record to suggest that he is an adherent of it.
“Critical Race Theory seeks to explain judicial decisions by asking the question ‘what does race have to do with it?'” Professor Brown said. “It’s that simple and that straightforward. There’s no hidden conspiracy theory behind it. It looks at race in America. We know through our history that race has had a lot to do with judicial decisions and statutes.”
To be fair, that is what Dorothy Brown said. The problem is that there are several good reasons for any reporter to take issue with that description, none of which are mentioned in Tommy’s piece. Again, I’ll refer you to the lecture notes of Elena Kagan (now Justice Kagan) who wrote that Bell was an “exemplar” [sic] of critical race theory (my emphasis):
Derrick Bell’s writing illustrates each of these four aspects of critical race theory. He believes that racism is a pervasive–and a permanent–aspect of American society…He believes that the legal system is a means of promoting a system of racial subordination–even, or perhaps especially, when it makes claims to objectivity and neutrality…He is deeply critical of the strategies and goals of the traditional civil rights movement–of which he used to be a part…
Simply put, Critical Race Theory is not an open ended exercise in Socratic questioning, i.e. “what does race have to do with it?” CRT posits specific ideas, starting with the proposition that “racial subordination” is a permanent feature of American life.
It’s fruitless to try and parse some difference between Kagan’s description (“racial subordination”) and Pollak’s characterization (“white supremacy”) since Dorothy Brown herself used them interchangeably in her writings on CRT [hat tip to the Right Sphere]:
Although CRT does not employ a single methodology, it seeks to highlight the ways in which the law is not neutral and objective, but designed to support White supremacy and the subordination of people of color. One of CRT’s central tenets is the pervasiveness of racism in American society. At its core, CRT accepts the notion that even in the twenty-first century, if you are a person of color in America, you are the victim of racial subordination.
There is no doubt what Dorothy Brown believes CRT is about. It’s a theory that posits permanent racial oppression of blacks by whites. Any description which omits this “core” fact (her word) is not dealing honestly with CRT.
Not long ago, Tommy Christopher defended Rick Santorum over a racial flap he believed was unfair even though CBS and the left were running wild with it. That’s not the only time I’ve seen him put the truth above politics in his column.
In this case, Christopher ought to turn that skeptical eye on Soledad O’Brien’s transparent attempt to rehabilitate her damaged reputation. The definition of Critical Race Theory is what it is. When both Justice Kagan and Dorothy Brown herself back up Pollak’s description, it’s time to admit that he was right and Soledad O’Brien was wrong.