Systemic Racism: Clarifications on Provenance, Definitions, and Relation to CRT

A discussion developed online the other day surrounding Neil Shenvi’s blog post, “Does ‘Systemic Racism’ Exist?” I don’t intend to directly address the piece as I don’t think it fruitfully interacts with the subject matter. But the discussion did point up the need for clarification on the history of the concept, its definition(s), and its current presence, or lack thereof, in Critical Race Theory (CRT) scholarship. I intend to be brief, but will be sharing many quotes. 

Systemic “Race Prejudice” in Traditional Abolitionist and Civil Rights Discourse 

To begin with, I think it’s clear that racism, or “race prejudice” as it was called prior to the 1940s, was understood to be intimately related to systems for as long as there have been abolitionists and civil rights activists. This is primarily because racism has always been understood by activists to be a symptom of social, political, and economic exploitation. Frederick Douglass spelled this out 140 years ago (1881): 

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From Becoming Bridge Builders, with Keith Haney: “A Deep Dive Into Critical Race Theory, Part 2″

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My Lutheran brother Keith Haney was kind enough to invite me back on the show, and we had a great discussion on CRT. As before, he asks the questions and poses the objections that are in the forefront of many people’s minds regarding CRT, and I do my level best to answer!

Let us know what you think!

Link to audio: “A Deep Dive Into Critical Race Theory, Part 2

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From Southside Rabbi: “CRT Series Part Four: Masterclass: Dr. Nathan Cartagena and Bradly Mason”

Masterclass

In case you haven’t already seen it, I had the pleasure to return to Southside Rabbi along with CRT scholar Dr. Nathan Cartagena. In this episode, we each define CRT, discuss where our definitions differ on emphasis, together respond to the culture war on CRT and antiracism, and discuss the impact of colonialism on the Church. Also, are Kendi and DiAngelo CRT scholars? Such a good time!

Please have a listen and let me know what you think!

Link to audio: “CRT Series Part Four: Masterclass: Dr. Nathan Cartagena and Bradly Mason

Link to YouTube video: “CRT Series Part Four: Masterclass: Dr. Nathan Cartagena and Bradly Mason

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Critical Race Theory: A Tool or Threat for Christians?

The “World”: Sin as Both Individual and Systemic

As Christians, we should be very aware of the pathological nature of both individual and social ills. That is, social ills are not just easily individualized and conceptually isolatable bad actions, ideas, practices, policies, or stereotypes. Rather, just as a pathological liar habitually lies without even taking note of it, or just as a disease can infect a whole body with looming death yet appear perfectly healthy, so economic exploitation, racism, sexism, and the like can be embedded within whole social systems, producing symptoms that may even seem quite normal and ineradicable, though we feel the existential burdens of their bitter fruit.

We call it sin, and we recognize its far-reaching effects. Not only has sin brought about spiritual and physical death, but sin has broken man’s community with God (Gen. 3:24-25), broken his community with neighbor (Gen. 3:16; 4:1-8; Gal. 5:14-15), corrupted his economic activity (Gen. 3:17; Isa. 3:5; Mic. 2:2), corrupted his habitation and environment (Rom. 8:19-21), and has even distorted his very mind and reason (Matt. 15:19; Rom. 1:28; Eph. 2:1-3; 4:18). In fact, the Scripture declares that our minds must be “renewed” in order to escape conformity “to this world” (Rom. 12:2).

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From Faith, Philosophy & Politics: Social Doctrines, CRT & the Culture Wars: A Conversation with Bradly Mason

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I had a fantastic conversation with Scott M. Coley on his Faith, Philosophy & Politics podcast a ways back. We discussed the relation of Christian traditions to colonialism, Marxism at length, our blindness to our own social philosophies, all the recent shenanigans surrounding CRT and “systemic racism,” and more!

Please have a listen and let us know what you think!

Link to audio: “Social Doctrines, CRT & the Culture Wars: A Conversation with Bradly Mason

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From Southside Rabbi: “CRT Series Part Two: ‘Fault Lines’ and Social Holiness with Bradly Mason”

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I had the tremendous honor of joining Ameen and KB on the Southside Rabbi podcast! We discussed Critical Race Theory, Voddie Baucham’s book Fault Lines, racist policing, social doctrine and social responsibility, and so much more! It couldn’t have been more fun.

Please have a listen and let me know what you think!

Link to audio: “CRT Series Part Two: ‘Fault Lines’ and Social Holiness with Bradly Mason

Link to YouTube video: “CRT Series Part Two: ‘Fault Lines’ and Social Holiness with Bradly Mason

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The Spirituality of the Church vs. the Prophetic Mission of the Church in the American Reformed and Presbyterian Tradition

Examples of systemic racism abound. Beginning in Colonial America, laws were passed explicitly to benefit the newly created category “white” at the expense of the newly created “negro and mulatto,” and such laws were carried on into the new republic. The ensuing Antebellum system of race-based chattel slavery is an obvious example of systemic or institutionalized racism—I would hope this is immediately clear. But we could go on from there to provide hundreds of examples from the abandonment of post-emancipation Reconstruction, to share cropping and penal slavery, Jim Crow laws, “ghettoizing” in the North, race-steering, redlining by the Federal Housing Administration, the racialized application of the GI Bill, the “legal” theft of land from Black farmers, the post-Civil Rights criminalization campaign, the “Southern Strategy,” the “Law and Order” movement, the war on drugs, mass incarceration, employment and wage discrimination, the ongoing retrenchment of civil rights legal reforms, and on and on and on. To find these examples simply requires us to care enough to look.

So, how about the Church?

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From Becoming Bridge Builders, with Keith Haney: “A Deep Dive Into Critical Race Theory”

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I had a great conversation with Keith Haney on his Becoming Bridge Builders podcast! We discussed Critical Race Theory, what it is and is not, whether it is “Marxist,” how it differs from popular conceptions, and how we can engage against the perennial public distortions of culture warriors. Please have a listen and let us know what you think!

Link to audio: “A Deep Dive Into Critical Race Theory

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From Story Power Podcast, With Jen Kinney: “Demystifying Critical Race Theory with Brad Mason”

Podcast My Face

I had the great pleasure of discussing Critical Race Theory, its historical development, our current period of racial retrenchment, the ongoing anti-CRT “culture war,” and much more with Jen Kinney over at the Story Power Podcast!

Please have a listen and let us know what you think!

Link: “Demystifying Critical Race Theory with Brad Mason

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Is Critical Race Theory Racist?

John Carlos and Tommie Smith

Is Critical Race Theory (CRT) itself racist?

I’ve heard this about CRT often lately. But quite clearly, visibly, and overtly, CRT scholars reject the “myth of inferior peoples” (Dr. King’s description of racism); that is, CRT rejects the claim that races can relate as superior or inferior, whether according to body, mind, morals, culture, or behaviors, and therefore even current social and economic maldistributions are not primarily attributable to supposed racial difference. According to CRT founders Mari Matsuda, Charles Lawrence, Richard Delgado, and Kimberlé Crenshaw,

as critical race theorists we adopt a stance that presumes that racism has contributed to all contemporary manifestations of group advantage and disadvantage along racial lines, including differences in income, imprisonment, health, housing, education, political representation, and military service. Our history calls for this presumption. (Words That Wound, p. 2)

And, according to CRT scholars, every group is capable of sharing in and participating in this racism, though certainly not in the same way or to the same degree:

Americans share a common historical and cultural heritage in which racism has played and still plays a dominant role. Because of this shared experience, we also inevitably share many ideas, attitudes, and beliefs that attach significance to an individual’s race and induce negative feelings and opinions about nonwhites. To the extent that this cultural belief system has influenced all of us, we are all racists. At the same time, most of us are unaware of our racism. We do not recognize the ways in which our cultural experience has influenced our beliefs about race or the occasions on which those beliefs affect our actions. (Charles Lawrence III, “The Id, the Ego, and Equal Protection,” p. 322)

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