Critical Race Theory and Schools

by Kevin Currie-Knight

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Ben Blaisdell, a colleague at East Carolina State, and I discuss critical race theory (CRT) and its applicability to K-12 education. Ben’s research and work in schools relies heavily on critical race frameworks, and at a time where people are so polarized about CRT, Ben explains what it is, what it’s not, what critics get wrong about it, and how it can respond to the criticisms being leveled against it.

3:12 – What is critical race theory and what is its significance for a field like K-12 education? 14:12 – Concrete ways racialization plays out in schools 26:26 – But aren’t we just lowering expectations for black and brown students? Aren’t we just devolving into racial stereotype? 31:06 – Are the people critics of CRT aim at (Kendi, DiAngelo) working within a CRT framework? 45:03 – If racism is unavoidable, how can teachers subvert it? If biases are unconscious, how can we become aware of ours? 54:30 – What are critics (especially legislators and pundits) getting wrong about CRT? 1:03:55 Can CRT and antiracism veer into a religious way of thinking?

64 comments

  1. Is this oversimplifying (based esp. around 51:00)? If you are a teacher who wants to use CRT to address racism in your class, you should not ask questions like, “Is my grading system racially biased or unfair?” Rather you should assume that your grading system — or more exactly, that any US grading system per se — must be unfair, and then use the language of CRT to describe how that is the case.

  2. So, the normative standards of academic success and public decorum are to be held hostage by a myriad of self proclaimed cultural “ways” of doing things and seeing reality? The normative, the customary consensus of behavior shared by all in business and public, born by historical chance and demographics of the founding of this nation by white Europeans is now to be identified by the corruption of the term White Supremacy. No doubt if I, a white, lived in China, I would be subjugated under the imposition of Yellow Sino Supremacy.

    CRT wishes to sensitize but is not sensitive in return. Is it any wonder that by the time Professor Blaisdell’s idealistic, well intentioned but ill conceived CRT curricula sifts it way down to the local yokel high and grade schools that parents are raising holy hell with the clueless school boards and the sacrificial teachers?

    The idea that whites of all ages are not seen as racists and should not feel guilty, has for some un- mysterious reason, been lost in translation.

    1. “No doubt if I, a white, lived in China, I would be subjugated under the imposition of Yellow Sino Supremacy. ” Yes you would.

      This problem is endemic to any country with a heterogeneous population. Here it results from a terrible legacy of injustice to people who never asked to be here.

      There are serious problems with Critical Race Theory. I’m an old Civil Rights liberal from the ’60s, and I believe race neutrality, especially before the law, is still worth working toward. But we do need to raise awareness that the African American experience still has to deal with issues European Americans find moot.

      1. Exactly. Awareness and sensitivity on all sides and the more problematic work of trying to make sense of vying perceptions.

  3. Ultimately, I gather, the purpose of CRT is to explain the academic achievement gap, why there are a lot more young black men in Walla Walla than Asians, why they are disciplined more in school, etc. And, according to CRT, these discrepancies and differences can be all traced back to the pernicious effects of a pervasive, and often unconscious, racism.

    Perhaps it’s because I am an old white fella, but a lot of this strikes me as pretty dubious. If there is a group that seems to be getting the edge on supremacy, it’s not whites – it’s Asians. Take a walk around UCLA, Stanford, Microsoft. And this clearly stems from a culture that puts great value on family and on education. As a theory, CRT is, I suppose, immune to refutation. If I point out that having 70% of kids born out of wedlock leads to poverty, they will assert that it’s racism that is behind this statistic and, perhaps, my view that this statistic is in any way problematic is itself racist.

    He even seems to hint at the idea that merit, itself, is a bit suspicious when seen through the lens of CRT. My view that the Vietnamese girl in the corner writes lucid and thoughtful essays, may, itself, stem from a misguided view about what’s more valuable and from a deep and unfounded cultural preference, but I am not sure how far he, and others, would go down that road.

    1. “Perhaps it’s because I am an old white fella, but a lot of this strikes me as pretty dubious. If there is a group that seems to be getting the edge on supremacy, it’s not whites – it’s Asians. Take a walk around UCLA, Stanford, Microsoft.”

      Are you suggesting that the better educational outcome for Asians means that they are not subject to racism? You give a reason for the better outcome: “And this clearly stems from a culture that puts great value on family and on education.”

      1. No, I would not want to imply that they are not subject to racism. The recent attacks in the news make that quite clear. It’s also clear, for example, that they are held to a very high standard when it comes to admission to Yale, for example. Higher than white or black students.

    2. The Devil is always in the details especially when he isn’t invited to the table.

      I’m not sure what you mean by Asians getting the edge on Supremacy? By all accounts, Asians are succeeding by playing by the current “white” paradigm. And, no one at this point thinks the wealth, culture and power of America is somehow shifting or even being influenced by Asians or what might be considered “Asian culture”.

      In any case “supremacy” is being bandied about in such a cavalier manner, that it taints any constructive dialogue going forward.

      1. My use of “supremacy” was push back on the use of this term in CRT. And my point is that by virtue of having and perpetuating a certain set of values, they are able to excel in terms of education, income, social status. Conversely, they seem to escape the main indicators of social pathology. I don’t know the percentage of Asians currently sitting in San Quentin, but I am sure it’s quite small compared to whites and blacks.

      2. What do you mean by “Asian”? Southeast Asian Americans have one if not the highest rate of high school drop out than other groups. PBS did a documentary on it. When people talk about “Asians” they tend to talk about Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Americans whose parents immigrated here while they were wealthy and very intellectually achieved already. In fact, immigration laws in the 60s mostly allowed educated and accomplished Asians in. The US used these immigrants as scapegoats to undermine black people’s situation saying, “if these immigrants can make it, why not you.” The invention of model minority was created to discredit black people’s claims about anti-blackness.

        1. There is no such thing as “Asians”. Asia stretches from Afghanistan to freaking Japan. It’s a meaningless term, like “people of color.”

          1. I wouldn’t say it’s meaningless. Clearly, it is to a certain extent since it’s widely used today. In the US at least the term used to refer to black people, but now encompasses all non-white people. Insofar, as people of color means non-white people, it’s somewhat meaningful.

            The word “Asian” is still meaningful. At least amongst Asians themselves, they acknowledge West Asians and Central Asians. It is confusing partly because the term “Asian” also denotes geographical location while “white” and “black” refers purely to racial categories. That’s why it’s important to distinguish between East Asian and Southeast Asian. In fact, there are still many animosities amongst the two groups, not least because Japan invaded and imperialized Southeast Asia. Colorism is also a huge problem where East Asians look down on Southeast Asians for generally being darker skin.

            But overall, we should not allow the success of East Asians in the US to obscure the reality of *all* Asian people living in the US. East Asians have their own unique history in the US and so do other groups of Asians.

          2. Why wouldn’t “white” be useful? What alternative is useful then? And why?

        2. I guess that was a rhetorical question since you seem to have a pretty good handle on what is meant by Asian. I don’t imagine you would walk into the Golden Dragon and ask for meatballs and spaghetti. I think you are well meaning but a bit conspiratorial minded about yellow people with epicanthic folds and off white swamis in turbans reeking of curry, being used to beat the black people (you know what I mean by black people, right?) into relegated submission. Hell, them Asians can be put on a pedestal to keep us Whiteys in place too. They are shellacking our asses too.

          Listen to this short podcast and let me know what you think? https://quillette.com/2021/05/28/111049/
          It’s quite a different perspective than what you are offering, at least in some important respects.

  4. i enjoyed the interview a lot. It was very informative.

    I take issue with two things Blaisdell said. First, at 58:01-58:05, he says, “There’s never the saying, ‘white people are evil and should feel bad about this’, right?” While I agree that I–no expert in CRT–have heard that *saying*, I did find the following interesting remarks in Shannon Sullivan’s book, _White Privilege_.

    First, she discusses the Zimbardo prison experiment. She writes, “…after several days in an organized system that gave them [i.e., the student guards] a great deal of relatively unlimited power over people who were structurally vulnerable to them, the student-guards became twisted into awful people” (108-109). Immediately after writing that, she writes, “Likewise, white privilege and other forms of racial injustice tend to make white people awful. No analogy is perfect, of course, and the results of this particular experiment have not been replicated. But this experiment still works as a heuristic for thinking about white people–and I mean _all_ white people, including the “regular” or “good” ones, not just avowed white supremacists. … both white privilege and white supremacy warp white people” (109).

    She doesn’t seem to be saying here that white people should feel bad about this. (Though, how would she expert a person to feel after being told that they’re awful?) But she does seem to be fairly close to the “white people are evil” part of the saying.

    I don’t know that Sullivan is a Critical Race Theorist. That said, she does identify, as one of her areas of specialization, “critical philosophy of race”. See here: https://pages.uncc.edu/shannon-sullivan/.

    The second thing I take issue with happens at 58:50, where Blaisdell says, of white people who feel bad after hearing some of the themes of CRT: “They’re feeling bad on their own. They’re feeling some kind of way about what we’re saying, and that’s not our intent.” It’s interesting to me that intent matters so much to Blaisdell. I was under the impression that a lot of critical race theorists didn’t think intent mattered very much; what matters was the harm caused. That said, I don’t have chapter and verse where any critical race theorist says this, though there is this slide-show from a layperson who appears to be intending to use CRT, where she pretty much says it: https://ied.unt.edu/sites/default/files/But%20I%20Didn't%20Mean%20It%20Like%20That%20-%20Intent%20v%20Impact.pdf.

  5. The ending of the discussion did not dissuade me from a position I have about the similarities between people on the far left and the far right. Of all the religious philosophies the one CRT most reminds me of is Calvinism. Not simply the unfalsifiability of the position, but why it can’t be falsified. Both seem to postulate inherent epistemic limitations on non-believers tied to their identities. That the only way one can have understanding of the paradigm is from within the paradigm. Any evaluation that leads to finding contradictions can be dismissed as someone who simply doesn’t have the capacity to derive truth in this area, and the fact that they are outside the paradigm is sufficient to attribute this limitation to them.

  6. Although Blaisdell tries to distinguish CRT from the popular works of Ibram Kendi, they share a similar dogmatism. It’s unfortunate that his attempt to correct straw men about CRT towards the end only served to erect straw men of his critics. The best interpretations of critics of CRT target the academic (epistemological in particular) foundations of the theory–such as the idea that intelligence is mostly subjective or that systemic racism is as widespread as CRT proponents claim. I enjoyed the interview overall but I wish there had been more pushback on the academic merits of CRT.

    One more similarity is that both Kendi and Blaisdell talk a big game about listening to multiple voices, but then more or less ignore scholars of color with different views on the topic of race. So even though CRT proponents claim to want people of color to share their perspectives to find commonalities, the perspectives listened to most (and perhaps at all) are those people of color who already view the world through a CRT-related lens.

  7. I think one of the points of contension I have with CRT is the same I have had with feminism. That even if one believes in their root contention about society being based in power dynamics, I am not sure they have the right primary one identified. I think history as a whole makes a lot more sense if you look at is as a pyramid where the economic and political haves sit on top, and all others progressively larger going down, rather than as a block with a single group on top, and the rest on the bottom. Economic stratification seems much more universal than racial or sexual stratification to me.

    1. I thought in America the pinnacle of the economic and political power pyramid is dominated by white males and not always by dint of competence but also by an ossified unequal and self perpetuating playing field.

      1. Azin

        Traditionally yes, although that doesn’t preclude the vast majority of white males from being in the lower levels of the pyramid, or that outside of America there are males of different hues on top of other pyramids.

        1. Whether one buys into the negative white male hierarchy meme or not the fact remains that the wealth and power of America rests in the hands of white males. Good ole’ boys like good ole’ boys and tend to associate like any other social group. Once ensconced becomes monolithic, inherited and self perpetuating without some outside shaking up.

          Things are changing slowly, considering the conservative nature of most businesses, but diversity is finding its place if it benefits the bottom line, even if cosmetically.

          1. There is a difference though between saying that white males are the power elite in this society, and this societies power elite are all white males. In the latter case to say “Bob is a white male, therefore he is in societies power elite”, is not only fallacious, but highly likely to be untrue. So I would say that maleness and whiteness are not the primary qualifications to be in the power elite. At one time they were certainly necessary conditions to be in that group, but never sufficient in and of themselves.

          2. I hope I didn’t imply something as foolish as ALL white males are among the power elite or that the power elite are only white males. But, most power elites in America are white males in every practical and true sense.

            What this means or how it is interpreted has become one of the major social piñatas of our time. Obviously, it is the symbol to many on the left of what is wrong and must be remedied to correct the social ills of inequality among groups and the sexes.

  8. I am refraining from commenting on this, as it would require — and probably instigate me to produce — an essay of my own. Suffice it to say that I spend the entire 1990’s fighting people like this and views like this, within higher education. [I even was part of creating a group of professors devoted to opposing this sort of ideology, within CUNY.]

    In my view, such attitudes and practices neither improve the educational outcomes of underperforming minority students nor fairly represent the current state of affairs in the US.

    1. There really should be an FDA for academic disciplines.
      If one of them wants to escape the Ivory Tower, it should submit a few thousand pages, proving that it’s safe for the general public, doesn’t have detrimental side-effects etc.
      It also should come with instructions for use and warnings: “only to be administered by certified professionals”, “if you start to See the Light, go immediately to a doctor”, “not certified for use in K12 education” etc.

      If you buy a kitchen knife nowadays, it comes with a manual that explains you should be careful using it. But when some educational reformer has an idea … Go ahead! Try it on millions of children and teachers! Our Intentions Are Good!

    2. I apologize if I am violating the protocol of this site by responding to a reply of yours addressed to me that did not in turn allow a response back. If that is a purposeful feature and not a bug, you needn’t explain why, I can readily imagine the necessity. I did take some offense at my explanation to Rageforthemachine being characterized as useless. It was a simple statement of fact and, perception of many minorities and extreme liberals, which Rage doesn’t seem to get, and my response should have been read in that limited context and not as a stand alone great and comprehensive revelation.

      Rageforthemachine: “Traditionally yes, although that doesn’t preclude the vast majority of white males from being in the lower levels of the pyramid, or that outside of America there are males of different hues on top of other pyramids.”

      This clearly doesn’t address what is on the mind of the American radical left, Third Wave Fems, BLM or advocates of CRT. It was only this misapprehension that I meant to correct.

      As an aside, it’s my humble opinion that if you are going to criticize someone here, on your fledgling enterprise, it might be more cricket to give them a chance to explain, old man:)

        1. I’ll be dipped. I thought it might be a way for the “in house “ philosophers not to get bogged down. Thanks for the info.

      1. Azin

        Yes I would agree because I believe those groups are operating from an incorrect analysis. Viewing the current problems of police shooting as a racial problem in my opinion is again making a generalization you can only come to by omitting a lot from your analysis. Still the most egregious example of police killing a citizen to me is the Daniel Shaver incident. If we really want to end the problem there are more important things to look at such as police unions, drug laws, probable cause issues, and the entire idea of what we think the relationship of the police to the average citizen is. The very name Black Lives Matter seems to suggest they are looking at it through a prism that isn’t seeing the problem for what it is.

        1. I don’t disagree at all with your and others data driven analysis of fatal interactions with police as being non racially motivated.

          My impression is that BLM represents much more than police misconduct directed at people of color. It’s a collective rallying symbol of long held grievances of real and perceived ( emphasis on perceived) injustices, witnessed and handed down. The video optics of black people, some obviously needlessly killed by bad policing only inflames and abets the group perceptions and affirms their sense of rightness.

        2. CRTs are also worried about the of police shootings on white victims vs. black victims. Focus on the justice. You gotta ask yourself, “Do black and white people in America on average receive the same/similar amount of justice for the same crime and harm?”

          1. And contrary to Eh’s claim, I don’t thing CRTheorists are much consumed with whites being similarly abused. Eh doesn’t seem to get it, eh?

          2. Getting one extra year in the slammer because you’re black may keep you in the “average” of a similarly convicted white but, that’s a a significant chunk of ones life wasted. Check the stats. Of course things are improving but quite not equal yet.

          3. Eh

            I don’t disagree with you, but I don’t see how that is germane to my point since you seem to be referencing the legal justice system and I am talking about the police. I am fine with the idea that black people are receiving harsher sentences for the same crime and that racial, if not necessarily racist, factors come into play. I believe the problem with the police though is because we are not dealing with the power dynamic that police in our society have towards all non-police, not just certain segments.

            I am not sure I can respond to the comment about CRT because it was very general, but I would actually definitely say that BLM and other activists do not care about white police shootings as much. Not because they are indifferent, they may care a great deal at a personal level, but simply because doing so would contradict their message.The approach they take is that black men are being selectively targeted because people want to believe that systemic racism is a thing of the past when in fact it is as great as it has ever been. They believe the problem fundamentally IS one of racism. To spend a great deal of time on white people dying at the hands of police would simply undercut their entire raison d’ etre, that systemic racism and white supremacy are still at the core of our society.

  9. it is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him,” ” wrote George Bernard Shaw.

    I listened to this debate with a conflicted spirit It was right in some ways and yet it seemed so wrong, What was wrong, I wondered? Racism is of course, a serious problem, that deserves our earnest attention. And yet the very seriousness of the problem has created a tunnel vision with excessive focus on narrow aspects of the problem, on the way it presents, to such a degree that it has become blinded to the essential nature of the problem.

    This is a bold claim. I will begin with a simple, non-racial, illustrative anecdote. I belong to our small, local mountain club. For most members this is a matter of pride. It is an important part of their identity. There are also local hiking clubs and their members also pride themsleves on their identity. But our members regard them with thinly veiled scorn. They are merely hikers, not mountaineers. But it gets worse. Within our club are the hardcore rock climbers who take even more pride in their identity and who regard the rest of us also with thinly disguised scorn, as being merely mountain hikers. (mountain climbing needs both skills)

    Or another example. We, ‘run’ of the mill endurance runners, who make up the bulk of the pack, are referred to, sneeringly, by the elite runners, as mere joggers. And so it goes on

    Now look around and you will see this is generally true and repeated everywhere in a multitude of guises. We all desire to belong to groups that reflect our aspirant identities and give us pride in belonging. And by doing so, we feel set aside, special and better in some sense. Wherever you look you see groups that give their members a special sense of belonging and pride in both their identity and membership of the group. All that varies are the symbols that identify the groups. The symbols can be the ones we adopt or they can be the natural ones of language, culture, geography or skin colour.

    But it doesn’t matter, it always has the same result, which is what George Bernard Shaw was getting at. That is because a feeling of specialness and pride in your identity has an inevitable corollary. That is you must necessarily feel that other groups are somehow deficient, inferior or lacking with respect to your own groups. Why and how else would you feel special?

    And it is this essential element that results in discrimination of all kinds, and not just racism. This discrimination could be something mild, like my sneering reference to hikers, or more discriminatory, like preferring to employ someone with my own upper class accent, or deeply hurtful racial discrimination such as awarding black people with only half the usual merit increases. These are all different aspects of the same problem, though incurring different levels of hurt.

    How then should the problem be addressed? Since the essential nature and cause of the problem is pride of group membership, this is what should be addressed. Now we cannot avoid being members of groups since that is how society functions. But we can learn to behave with humility and meekness while exercsing our role as a group member. A humble, meek disposition recognises the inherent worth and value of the other person. Thus behaving with humility creates no offence and results in the treatment of the other as a full equal. Once we drain pride from group membership, replacing it with humility, we solve the problem of discrimination of all kinds.

    Now inculcating a sincere spirit of humility is no mean task, but it is a necessary one, failing which pride will flourish and its concomitant, discrimination, will flourish.

    This is why Jesus Christ said
    blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Mat 5:5)
    and St. Paul said
    Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Phil 2:3-4)
    and
    Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Eph 4:2)

    Or, to put it another way, for a secular audience, we need to return to the practice of virtue ethics.

  10. Continuing with my comment.

    I know perfectly well that the country will not embrace a Christian ethic of humility and nor will it ever return to a semplance of virtue ethics. So, while I believe in my idealistic prescription I also know it is wholly impractical.

    What then can be done? The answer, I think, is very simple and it lies with earning respect. Groups and pride in group membership will never go away, but groups can learn to respect each other and respect will nullify the harmful consequences of pride.

    But respect cannot be prescribed, it can only be earned. A sterling example of this is the respect that East Asians have earned through their educational and professional accomplishments. That is not to say they don’t suffer from discrimination but they feel it far less than Blacks do and it is likely that in time it will fade away.

    In the same way Blacks will end racist discrimination only by excelling educationally and professionally such that they earn the high respect we now accord to East Asians.

    This is a tough call that puts the onus on them, but East Asians have demonstrated that it can be done. The role of the State, and we, the privileged Whites, is to put in place the enabling mechanisms so that they can excel and earn respect.

    But mollycoddling them to avoid hurt feelings does not prepare them and enable them to earn respect through exceptional performance. It simply confirms racism.

    1. You are probably aware that the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial and remembrance has been in news lately. Yet another community of black Americans who played by the rules in exemplary fashion to only be extirpated from the landscape. So there is that, and the group memory and psychology of exactly who is owed respect and who is to earn it.

      This doesn’t mean I disagree with your prescription, only that it may prove to be a hard pill to swallow.

      1. The hard pills are preferable to the superficial nostrums and snake oil on offer.

  11. I’m not sure you guys are even sure what you are talking about. At 35:40 KCK says I don’t think Nicole Hannah Jones associates herself with CRT and she believes racism is central to our system. Then the guest says yes that is exactly what CRT is! Then KCK starts talking about Kendi almost as if he was talking about him before. Ok lets assume he knew he dropped Nicole Hannnah Jones like a hot potatoe on purpose and moved on intentionally. Why move on? Has it not been confirmed Nicole Hanna Jones was misrepresenting facts of history?

    Why keep asserting color blindness is a value of white supremacy?

    No one is saying racism wasn’t bad in the past or now. The vast majority people think it is bad anywhere and always. Why strawman? Why not address some of the real issues:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jo1wRg38pB4

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mS5WYp5xmvI&t=62s

    Why is the left constantly pretending no one is showing their fundamental premises are wrong?

  12. There is so much children should learn in k-12 it should be only the best most important Ideas that make it into the curriculum. Nicole Hannah Jones lies about history then gets caught and instead of apologizing instead tries to gaslight us thanks to the NYT to try to say she never lied. Can’t we agree this should not make the cut of what every American should be taught?

    https://reason.com/2020/09/23/1619-project-nikole-hannah-jones-1776-founding-race-new-york-times/

    What next, having students learn about the red famine by reading Walter Duranty?

      1. I don’t see what’s “right of center” about objecting to demonstrably bad history and what strikes me as pretty toxic motivation.

        1. I was primarily inferring that Joe may be “right leaning” if not more right wing by primarily this in his post: “Why is the left constantly pretending no one is showing their fundamental premises are wrong?”

          Now, my inferring this aspect of Joe could be very wrong. Particularly since I am left of center and I do not think the 1619 project is totally wrong or totally “bad history”. Why? Well, that is why I placed the link to the Keith Harris Ph.D article. Here is a useful part to give you some idea of where Harris is coming from (and I agree with him although I am not a historian).

          “But if you’re open-minded then stick around. You might come away with a few useful insights. Here’s the story: I am in fact and deed fairly critical of the 1619 Project – an ambitious but worthwhile effort styled as a reframing of the historical narrative in which the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans take center stage.”

          I certainly would not try to “cancel/ban/censor” the 1619 Project assertions from being taught in schools by passing laws against including it in teaching American History. Probably the same for the 1776 curriculum either although I have not looked deeply into that curriculum. Dr. Harris gives some good reasons for why he includes the 1619 Project in his teaching and finds it of value. This article would give Joe some idea of why “the left” continues (I would not say “pretending”) to think the 1619 Project has value. I would also want Joe to understand that even Hannah-Jones has been “walking back” her view of how slavery was the central motivating factor for those involved in the American Revolution.

          Trust this sheds some light on where I was coming from.

          1. I have a history degree in addition to my philosophy degree, and I have been much more persuaded by the academic criticism of 1619 than by the academic arguments in favor of it. It is not wholly worthless, but not by much.

          2. I didn’t read most of the 1619 project but I did listen to the absolutely marvelous 6 hour audio presentation. I don’t know how much the two medium presentations coincide but the audio gave factual accounts and perspectives of black history and culture that can only enlighten and enrich any listener. Truly an outstanding technical production of writing and voice.

            If you haven’t read Harlowe’s link, it is worth the short time to appreciate that there is value in much of the 1619 project as a learning aid and source of valuable perspective of the American story even if it’s heralded raison d’etre is off base and is too eager to lay more than it should at the foot of slavery and its legacy. Because the CRTheorists use it as a blunt weapon is no reason to give it only begrudging lip service.

          3. I used to be a card carrying member of the ACLU but times have changed. I don’t agree with anyone 100% of the time but I do agree with Ben Shapiro and Jonah Goldberg on quite a bit so I guess I am to the right in todays environment. I don’t think many of my own views have changed. But suddenly thinking MLK’s dream of judging people on the content of their character instead of the color of their skin is associated with the right. Ok I still hold that view.

            “I would also want Joe to understand that even Hannah-Jones has been “walking back” her view of how slavery was the central motivating factor for those involved in the American Revolution.”

            That she made was an obvious misrepresentation and a large part of her support for her claim “The 1619 project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American Slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding”

            She is not “walking back” as in accepting with humility that she was teaching falsehoods. Rather she is trying to call people like Ben Shapiro liars when they accurately state what she claimed. Notice in the twitter exchange with Ben Shapiro she presents him as a liar and then literally links a NYT webpage that edited out what she said at first and changed it to her new position:

            https://twitchy.com/sarahd-313035/2020/09/25/1619-projects-nikole-hannah-jones-tries-punishing-atlantic-journo-who-called-out-her-gaslighting-and-steps-into-a-minefield/

            This is called slander and gaslighting not “walking back.” The journalist calling her out is a staff writer at the Atlantic. Hardly a bastion of right wing propaganda.

          4. I guess I should walk back my statement about my views not really changing. I would say one view has changed as I have gotten older and that is I tend to trust government less and be much more skeptical of government solutions. I also tend to prefer local government try things as opposed to having centralized government power do everything. That way people can simply move if they don’t like how their state or city is being run. If you asked me how important federalism was 25 years ago my answer would be much different then than now.

            I started seeing the value of our federalist system long before I read this book but I think David French makes a good case for it in this book:
            https://www.amazon.com/Great-American-Divorce-Country-Apart-ebook/dp/B07P8H7V6T

            Does my desire for government (especially a centralized government) having less power over individuals put me on the right?
            This isn’t a position that everyone on the right promotes. But I am not sure of any people on the left that I think want reduced federal power. So it is sort of a de-facto push to the right.

      2. Again my point is that there is much information and many ideas that are important to teach our children. Not only are Americans in k-12 not learning very much world history – history that really happened. They understand very little about the various religions or cultures of the world. They are not taught critical reasoning, or very much regarding the history of ideas. I can go on.

        So the question is why would Nicole Hannah Jones’s project beat out instruction on these topics? Nicole Hannah Jones is not a historian and these are basically opinion pieces from a newspaper. So what is his explanation for taking these precious and few moments for this?

        The quotes are from the article you link:

        “Of course, practitioners of historical memory, such as those who erect monuments, lets say…cast a “history” that tends to be shaped by contemporary predilections rather than historical reality. Such efforts can reveal shortcomings, but I am not necessarily mad about it – for what they do in practice is amplify a voice or worldview that is quite real to the practitioner, yet peripheral (at best) to the traditional historical narrative.”

        “….shaped by contemporary predilections rather than historical reality.”

        In other words they try to warp reality to fit their political narrative.

        Ok he is not concerned that our children are being taught history that is warped by contemporary predilections. But I do. He talks about how the south tried to argue the civil war didn’t have anything to do with slavery. I wouldn’t want that taught either.

        He specifically says:
        “To reiterate…is this a work of history? Nah, and it should not be treated as such.”

        So what is the class that he uses this in?

        I guess you could teach it as a way of showing how people try to warp history to fit their propaganda views. But I am not really a fan of history teachers taking big political positions either way. I don’t want history teachers going out of their way to show how current republicans or dems misrepresent reality unless they are very careful to make sure they choose strong cases in both directions. Why not teach the actual history as best we can tell from the objective data.

        He says historical memory is different than history. Of course that is true. But why would we teach the memory of someone writing a NYT editorial over a century later tells us is almost useless. She is just one person, admits she doesn’t know history and doesn’t speak for anyone but herself. By highlighting her views you misrepresent what our countries historical memory is by giving her anecdotal one too much time.

        If you want to teach history then teach history. I am not against teaching actual historians that may have views that support many of the views expressed in the 1619 project. But I don’t see why a NYT editorial project that we know distorts history is making the cut in front of so many other subjects that Americans are not learning.

        “Look friends, you don’t have to necessarily embrace ideas in their entirety to take them seriously. And the inability of many to take the Project seriously is precisely what has happened here. The reframing, as undertaken by Hannah-Jones and the other contributors to the Project, offers valuable contributions to the discourse on slavery and its legacy – contributions that indeed merit our attention. To think otherwise is to necessarily close oneself off to a long-overlooked layer of the American experience.”

        I think the problem is people did take it seriously and now Hannah-Jones is in effect trying to say well it wasn’t meant to be serious history. I mean that is fine but students already are extremely ignorant of serious history. I spoke with a college student who wasn’t sure what world war 2 was. I started to explain and she did say oh yeah “the Hitler war.”

        He says “Agenda aside, Hannah-Jones, to her credit, has revised a point or two in the face of criticism (a smart move if one does not wish to appear as a mindless ideologue).”

        Talk about warped history. Hannah Jones called political opponents liars when they accurately stated what she was claiming in her piece. Don’t believe me, you can see the video and twitter posts with your own eyes.

        https://twitchy.com/sarahd-313035/2020/09/25/1619-projects-nikole-hannah-jones-tries-punishing-atlantic-journo-who-called-out-her-gaslighting-and-steps-into-a-minefield/

        https://quillette.com/2020/09/19/down-the-1619-projects-memory-hole/

        She said she never said what they claimed. The NYT stealth edited the articles she wrote. This behavior is to her credit? What is interesting this history professor seems to want to praise Jones who said Shapiro was lying and as proof of his lie linked the stealth edited NYT website. But he is critical of people like Ben Shapiro who she attacked as a liar for telling the truth.

        People can hate Ben Shapiro if you want but people are constantly misrepresenting him:

        “dismissals by conservative critics ranging from political commentator Ben Shapiro to historian Allen Guelzo, (a historian whose work I generally admire) who wrote a particularly scathing hit piece, focus almost entirely on the lead essay and do not take on the broader scope of the Project, which I believe is a missed opportunity to engage a number of salient issues that the various author underscore.”

        I actually listened to Ben Shapiro on this topic and he did quite the opposite. He said several of the pieces in the 1619 project raise some good points but others including the main theories distort history.

        And just because I don’t think the 1619 project makes the cut to a k-12 curriculum that does not mean I think every article in it should be dismissed.

        I’m in favor of all sorts of discussions. I think the NYT is fine publishing this information. Maybe in a college class people can focus in on the pros and cons of what they are doing. But for regular k-12 where our students already seem rather ignorant of actual history that did not take place even that long ago, I don’t see why we are diving into newspaper editorials.

        1. Well said. The only critique I would offer is your under-appreciation of the usefulness of “historical memory” as a valuable tool in the teaching of history and its psychological place in the minds of people who lived it , study it and how it is passed down which in turn effects history in the making. I don’t think it was presented as being on par or equal with the discipline of history but as a valuable adjunct to understanding the milieu and zeitgeist of the flow of history that has real world effects and consequences . That it can be cynically or ignorantly applied to political agendas or social policy makes it even more indispensable to learn about. History will never be free of perceptions and appreciating the relevance of historic memory in fleshing out the historical narrative with unique insight and perspective can only enrich the discipline and keep it honest by forcing further research to prove or disprove the validity of claimed memory.

          This is the first I’ve heard of such a thing and I can understand why someone might have their hackles up abut the subjectivity or group imagination imposed upon a rigorous discipline as history. Almost like injecting ID into a biology class. Yet, it gives the larger picture and reinforces the truth.

          Funny, like you I am now in my second iteration of pulling support from the ACLU. There is unpopular causes, no problem, but the stupid misguided advocacy of some of these woke assholes, I find unbearable.

          1. Thanks for the considerate response.

            BTW I have no issue with teaching historical memory generally. I just think common sense would dictate you teach it on a topic that is not such an emotional one. Highly emotional subjects where people are quick to call others racists for disagreement is just not a good way to learn concepts. It is one reason why I tend not to talk about abortion when I am talking about meta-ethics. Emotions about the first order questions get in the way of understanding the second order concepts.

            For this reason I would not be in favor of a critic of the 1619 project teaching it in k-12 in order to teach historical memory either. Even if they have all the views I would hold about the merits and flaws of the 1619 project. It is just a bad idea. The emotions of some students will make it harder for them to learn the concepts.

            Now this may seem to go completely in the other direction but I wouldn’t mind a course where teachers of different persuasions help students learn the differences between fact and opinion and what source documents are etc. Such a course would be deliberately attacking the various views to some extent and I think students would have an easier time understanding the points. For some reason I think such a course would lead to less tension because it wouldn’t be presented as though the teacher’s views on these hot button topics is supposed to be the unbiased opinion.

          2. You have an interesting way of presenting your thoughts. You seem to start out making a premise that I’m ready to disagree with but you eventually come around to my way of thinking by the time you conclude. I think you make reasonable caveats here. But, it seems that in this day and age even at the college level, the maturity of the students to separate their emotions from factual inquiry is, if I may borrow the word from DiAngelo , fragile. Probably especially so with a white professor non gratta.

    1. Excellent essay. It says a lot about the eternal human condition to avoid the many aspects of “truth” and free inquiry when not presented in an a priori desirable package.
      You don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

  13. Charles Krauthammer, Let’s Shackle the Slavery Apology Idea, NEWSDAY, June 29, 1997.

    The sociological truths are that America, while still flawed in its race relations, is now the least racist white-majority society in the world; has a better record of legal protection of minorities than any other society, white or black; offers more opportunities to a greater number of black persons than any other society, including all those of Africa.

    Here it is worth remembering that most black African countries are uniformly corrupt, criminal oligarchies with almost no redeeming features. I know, I live in the midst of one of the most criminal, corrupt, incompetent and inefficient oligarchies.

    Quite understandably every racial group wants to feel pride in its origins, whether Irish, German, English, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Jewish, or whatever. They preserve and celebrate their customs with pride. This gives them roots and imparts a feeling of worth and specialness so that they can integrate with self-assuredness confidence. But black Americans are denied this experience because their land of origin has become synonymous with systemic corruption, incompetence and national failure. And by now the colonialism excuse has become threadbare.

    And thus, Black Americans are cut adrift from their roots because their origins are symbolic of failure and inadequacy. This forms their expectations of themselves and the expectations of others towards them, with the results we see today. It is a cruel dilemma that they did not create.

    But even so, as Charles Krauthamer, has observed, there has been huge progress. Is the self-pitying narrative of victimization the way forward to further progress. I doubt it.

    How many ways can I take offence? Let me count the ways.

    A robust, hardy, self reliance that willingly shoulders the burdens of inequality is more likely to overcome inequality, especially if is is married to an innate desire to excel. And here we must point to leadership. Leadership forms, shapes and directs the aspirations of a community, and if done properly, it is energizing and motivating. What we see in the US, instead, is a colossal failure of black leadership and nowhere is this more apparent than in Barack Obama. He was gifted with a once in a lifetime opportunity to do this. He could have been the Winston Churchill of the black people, instead he failed the black people.

    1. With all due respect and admiration; you’ve said nothing new, only much better than most.

      Poor, equal opportunity punching bag Obama. What could he or should he have said or done that wouldn’t have brought half or even the whole house down upon his head? Sometimes the best form of messaging is to be an example of what is possible.

      We have to be appreciative of the unique precedent Obama found himself in with the unstable nitroglycerin of race relations in his lap. One wrong move in either direction of hinting at blaming or criticizing one faction or another could result in the instant delegitimization of a president who is supposed to be a neutral representative of all Americans and not King Solomon or give even the slightest appearance of favoritism on the most combustible of all societal subjects.

      Saying he failed the black people of America is way to harsh and unfair an epitaph and one I cannot support.

      1. Obama was not the President of “black people;” he was President of the United States; and despite flagrant obstructionism by Republicans, he was a hell of a lot more competent at it than his orange-skinned successor.

        Great politicians can be flawed (as can great philosophers, as we’ve discussed recently). Winston Churchill for instance was an open racist and an avowed advocate of colonial imperialist ideology. Still he did important work as Prime Minister, not only of “white people,” but of England – which is now drifting into the gutters of contemporary Europe (as will perhaps at last be recognizable if the Scots get their act together and declare independence). Obama may not have been a great President, but he was a good and able President who at least attempted to govern in the interests of the American people – all American people – and not just that segment that could be conned into fattening a Florida-based bank account.

        Well, at least now we have concrete evidence that, however flawed CRT is, we certainly need some reflective re-assessment on the ways the legacy of the genocidal practices of colonialism in Africa and of slavery in the US have corrupted our thinking about race.

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