Since I was implicated in Dr. Levinson and Dr. Shenvi’s recent exchange published on the Aquila Report, I thought I might offer some final thoughts in response. If you have not read either of the pieces, it might be helpful to start there. (“Does Critical Theory Matter for the Evangelical Church to Act for Social Justice?: A Response to Neil Shenvi” and “A Response to Dr. Levinson On Critical Theory“)
When Dr. Neil Shenvi originally published his review of Dr. Bradley Levinson’s text, Beyond Critique, he wrote the following:
Hands-down, this book is the best source I’ve found for those interested in a systematic explanation of critical theory from the pen of critical theorists themselves. (“A Short Review of Levinson’s Beyond Critique” [emphasis original])
One would think, then, that Dr. Levinson’s critique of Dr. Shenvi’s own characterization of “critical theory” would be received with all due weight; but instead, Dr. Shenvi has chosen to rely on his own perceived expertise in the field to sidestep Dr. Levinson’s correctives. I wonder if Dr. Shenvi believes his review of “dozens of books” and collection of “thousands of words of quotations from primary sources” is an advantage over Dr. Levinson’s twenty five page CV, including several books, dozens of peer reviewed articles, and thirty years of teaching in the field?
Having shown in the last post that color-blindness is not in fact a Biblical ethic, we now move on to the concept of “color-blind racism.”
If one is willing and able to believe the research outlining the great racial disparities in American society today—in terms of wealth, home ownership, employment, education, health, criminalization, incarceration, etc.—as well as the persistent de facto neighborhood and church segregation, one is compelled to seek an explanation. In broad terms, Americans are either inclined to interpret this data as the modern manifestation and continuation of 450 years of slavery and oppression leading to racism, discrimination, and attempted dehumanization of the “black race” at the hands of the white, or they are inclined to look for explanations in the very nature and behavior of the victims themselves. Those who find the former explanation persuasive are likely committed to the essential and fundamental equality of the races; any explanation that regards or implies the superiority or inferiority of any racial group is in fact a false, racist, mythology.
On the other hand, those who would adopt the latter explanation, that black Americans are themselves either wholly or largely responsible for their own plight, have proven the majority throughout American history, even in the midst of antebellum slavery and Jim Crow. Continue reading