As fears of Critical Race Theory (CRT) spread across the United States—including within US churches—many of us find the common descriptions of CRT unrecognizable. What is CRT, really? Dr. Nathan Luis Cartagena and I, Bradly Mason, have developed this series of dialogs, or “chop sessions,” to answer this and related questions.
Our goal is fourfold: (1) Accurately present CRT, situating it in the movement’s historical context; (2) relate CRT to our shared faith; (3) explore CRT’s impact on our own lives within our own differing social locations; and (4) help other brothers and sisters interact honestly and redemptively in our deeply racialized and stratified culture. ¡Bendiciones en Cristo!
Explanation about Chop Sessions Two and Three
Conjunto: We ended our last post promising to discuss some of our favorite CRT works in the next chop session. But since publishing that post, many have voiced their surprise about our not mentioning Ibram X. Kendi or Robin DiAngelo in a session answering the question “What is CRT?” Because this series es para el pueblo—“for the people”—we’ve decided to change course and use the next two chop sessions to explain why Kendi and DiAngelo did not appear in our first post, and why, apart from those sessions, they’re unlikely to appear in the rest of the series.
This chop session will focus on Kendi. The next one will focus on DiAngelo. Enjoy!
In our last post, we assessed Trueman’s claim that the “basic claims” of CRT are self-certifying, unargued axioms, concluding that he either is misconstruing the nature of social theory or lacks familiarity with CRT’s many thousands of pages of peer reviewed argumentation. Today we move onto his third claim. (I will note that these posts are intended to be read in order; please see Part 1 for the general introduction to the series.)
3. CRT “relies on the concept of false consciousness—the notion that the oppressors control society so completely that the oppressed believe their own interests are served by the status quo.”
Here I presume Dr. Carl Trueman is referring to Antonio Gramsci’s concept of “hegemony,” as taken up by the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. Gramsci’s notion of hegemony is “the social, cultural, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group over other groups.”
This influence stems from the perception of legitimacy afforded the dominant group by the subordinate groups. Hegemony is an active process whereby legitimacy is sought and maintained by the dominant group through the balancing of consent (that is, tacit support for the dominant group) and coercion (that is, the threat or use of forms of force). (Beyond Critique, pp. 52-53; emphasis mine)
Carl Trueman’s recent article, “Evangelicals and Race Theory,” purports to be about Critical Race Theory (CRT)—I think. He offers no definitions, no citations, and doesn’t even mention a single CRT scholar. He does, however, make a series of unargued claims which might constitute a characterization for our purposes. From what I can gather, Dr. Trueman believes the following:
(1) CRT contains a set of “basic claims,” among them are “racism is systemic” and “being non-racist is impossible.” (2) the “basic claims” of CRT are “self-certifying,” they are “axioms,” and are “not conclusions drawn from argument.” (3) CRT “relies on the concept of false consciousness—the notion that the oppressors control society so completely that the oppressed believe their own interests are served by the status quo.” (4) “Critical race theory is the Marxist horse, ridden by the jockey of identity politics rather than the jockey of class warfare”; that is, CRT simply replaced the role of “class” in Marxism with “race.” (5) “Critical race theory rests on simple, therapeutic premises,” including that life is a “zero-sum game”: “Some people do not have power. They struggle and do not flourish. This happens because somebody else has seized power from them and oppresses them in an ongoing and unrelenting way.” And, last, (6) CRT claims to offer a “comprehensive explanation for all the evils we suffer.”
Presuming the article is supposed to be about CRT, I plan to take a look at each of these claims in turn over the next several days, rather than cram it all into one article. As someone said to me recently, it takes one paragraph to spread bad information and a dozen to correct it. And while I don’t think Trueman’s article merits these full responses, especially on CRT, I do think it useful to leverage its warm reception as an opportunity to answer some quite common, though quite misguided, claims. For a broader reaction to Truman’s article, I commend Valerie Hobbs‘s article, “Is Critical Race Theory a Religion? Responding to Carl Trueman.” I intend only to address his characterization of CRT in these posts, but will assuredly draw some more general conclusions in the end.
The fifth post in my series, The Christian and Critical Race Theory, is now up on The Front Porch!
Like every other ideology—as I hope we are coming to see in this series—the ideology of integrationism was forged in the furnace of history, not found in the pages of the Bible, the imprint of nature, conscience, common sense, or what have you. It needn’t have been so; there were other analytics available. No, the ideology of integrationism, which had become the standard view of proper “race relations” in America by the mid 1970’s, was an historically contingent product of two powerful convergences: (1) the mainstream absorption of the CRM discourse into the prevailing ideology of abstract liberalism and (2) an unstated compromise between White progressives and the Black middle class to reject the discourse of “Black Power” and the Black nationalist movement.
Please take a look and let me know what you think!
The fourth post in my series, The Christian and Critical Race Theory, is now up on The Front Porch!
… [A]s the law has outlawed racial discrimination, it has affirmed that Black Americans can be without jobs, have their children in all black, poorly funded schools, have no opportunities for decent housing, and have very little political power, without any violation of antidiscrimination law. …
Please take a look and let me know what you think!
[A]s surely as the law has outlawed racial discrimination, it has affirmed that Black Americans can be without jobs, have their children in all black, poorly funded schools, have no opportunities for decent housing, and have very little political power, without any violation of antidiscrimination law. (Alan Freeman, “Legitimizing Racial Discrimination Through Antidiscrimination Law,” p. 1050)
Following 200 years of slavery, the Civil War, the abandonment of Reconstruction, and 100 years of both legal and de facto nationwide Jim Crow, it should be no wonder that in the 21st century, the average “White” child is born into a family with ten to twenty times the wealth of a “Black” peer…
The third post in my series, The Christian and Critical Race Theory, is now up on The Front Porch!
… Bell’s work signaled a return to the more ‘radical’ elements of W.E.B. Du Bois, Oliver C. Cox, Stokely Carmichael, and even Dr. King, with a renewed emphasis on race-consciousness, power dynamics, economic explanations, and substantive equality over symbolic equality …
Please take a look and let me know what you think.
Though I’ve covered Critical Theory generally, I’ve begun a new series on Critical RACE Theory proper, over on The Front Porch! I’m attempting to approach the subject in a more historical manner that I hope will facilitate greater understanding of the subject.
As a layman, I find that learning a subject through its actual historical milieu helps me not only remember the right words, phrases, and concepts, but, more importantly, helps me understand them. And it is understanding which seems most lacking in evangelicalism when it comes to Critical Race Theory (CRT). As such, I hope over the next few posts, in the most conversational manner possible, to not only provide the nuts and bolts of this broad ideology as presented by its chief advocates, but to also, as it were, tell the story of CRT, before moving into any critical assessment.
So grateful they were kind enough to publish it! Please take a look and let me know your thoughts!
Since the topic is now Shenvi’s fourfold construction, clarification is first in order:
T1: I don’t think anyone’s position is that, a priori, societies are divided into oppressor/oppressed, or that, a priori, “white” or “male” are dominant classes. The argument is that given a society structured to distribute advantages/disadvantages according to socially constructed group membership, dominant groups are in a structurally oppressive relation to subordinate groups, by virtue of said distribution. No one can doubt this was true of “white” and “male” throughout American history; and all should recognize that this is not true of societies structured along different lines. Whether one lives in such a society is an empirical, a posteriori, question, not a subject of armchair theorizing nor biblical exegesis.