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Critical Race Theory: Salon Gives Credit, But Do They Get It?

Critical Race Theory: Salon Gives Credit, But Do They Get It?

Salon.com has given credit to Andrew Breitbart for drawing national attention to Critical Race Theory (CRT) after Breitbart.com released video of Barack Obama embracing CRT pioneer Derrick Bell at a Harvard Law School protest in 1990.

Curiously, Salon links CRT to an Arizona law regulating ethnic studies. (The New York Times did the same earlier this week.) The goal, apparently, is to spin conservative criticism of CRT as opposition to multiculturalism and “diversity” — i.e. as racist, xenophobic, fill-in-the-bigotry-blank, et cetera:

But critical race theory was virtually unknown outside of universities until Arizona and Breitbart made it famous, as Google Trends show. Breitbart’s crew took a page from Horne’s book, using similar mischaracterizations of CRT to portray it as a “a deeply disturbing theory.” Breitbart.com went all in. A search of the site for “critical race theory” returns an astonishing 871 results, over 680 from the past month alone.  Other conservative blogs and pundits, including Fox News’ biggest guns, took up the baton and soon CRT was everywhere.

It is Salon and the Times that are guilty of “mischaracterization” (not to mention Bill Maher and CNN). The conservative critique of Critical Race Theory not only targets CRT’s racial obsessions but also worries that CRT suggests our entire constitutional and legal order — including, and especially, the civil rights movement — is fatally flawed. That is a fundamental challenge to American democracy as we know it, left or right — which is precisely why Bell, and former community organizer Obama, found CRT so compelling, and worth teaching.

As Breitbart.com Editor-at-Large Ben Shapiro has pointed out, Critical Race Theory links race and Marxism. Bell and other CRT theorists argue that the Constitution’s original sin was to enshrine property rights, including property rights in slaves. The amendments that abolished slavery, and the laws that prohibited segregation, did not change much about race or property itself; instead, CRT suggests, those reforms reinforced a property interest in “whiteness.”

CRT argues for constant racial struggle, for revolutionary change, for radical constitutional reform–at the very least. The fact that  Bell “had a mild and gentle personal style” does not make his ideas any less radical. Did it matter, for the bloody future of communism, that Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital in the British Museum?

Diversity is something that Critical Race Theory actually rejects, at least in the intellectual sense, because it suggests that any black person who does not consider herself a victim of systemic racism is a dupe or a traitor. Bell may have been a nonconformist at Harvard, but Critical Race Theory advocates racial conformity as a version of class solidarity. It is a nasty, anti-intellectual doctrine, masquerading as enlightenment but encouraging cynicism about freedom itself — a cynicism that the mainstream media evidently shares. 

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