By Rudy Barnes, Jr.
Critical race theory is not so much a theory as it is a field of study. Roy L. Brooks defined it as "a collection of critical stances against the existing legal order from a race-based point of view"; and Richard Delgado defined it as "a collection of activists and scholars interested in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power".
The 1619 Project was initiated in 2019 by Nikole Hannah-Jones to “reframe the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States' national narrative." Perhaps her most contentious assertion was that “the American Revolution was fought to preserve slavery.”
Many in the field of critical race theory differ with Hannah-Jones on the pervasive effect of slavery on racism. No one denies racism in American history, but there is debate over whether Hannah-Jones’ views on slavery should revise history taught in public schools, and whether current “systemic” racism justifies remedies that include reparations for slavery.
There are three ways Americans have addressed racism in the past: First, with civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination. Second, with political and economic preferences for Blacks; and third, by promoting racial reconciliation through better race relations. The first two can be addressed by law, while the third is voluntary and cannot be mandated by law.
Civil rights laws that prohibit racial discrimination are based on equal justice under the law and don’t favor one race over others, while racial preferences like affirmative action and reparations for slavery favor Blacks and can undermine race relations. If better race relations are a priority, civil rights remedies should be emphasized and racial preferences avoided.
Racial attitudes are moral issues beyond the reach of the civil rights laws. They should have a high priority in the church where the greatest commandment to love God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves is a moral imperative that applies to those of other races and religions. But in America’s racially segregated churches racial issues are rarely discussed.
That’s true in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and in my own United Methodist Church (UMC). There are cultural reasons why Black and White congregations are segregated, but until Black and White Christians find a way to get together and share the moral imperatives of their faith on racism, it will be a neglected topic in our segregated churches.
Racism is avoided in churches since popularity is a measure of their success. Jesus taught: Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many follow it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13, 14) The church expanded the narrow way taught by Jesus to a wide road of exclusivist beliefs that made Jesus Christ the alter ego of God; but Jesus never taught that.
Critical race theory and the 1619 Project are based on contentious moral and political concepts that have not yet been accepted as historical fact and don’t belong in public school textbooks. Their proper venue is in higher education and in churches that consider racial reconciliation a moral and political priority--even if they remain racially segregated.
On critical race theory, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_race_theory.
On The 1619 Project, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_1619_Project#:~:text.
In a fight for the heart of the Southern Baptist convention (SBC) Eliza Griswold has written on how the SBC confronts critical race theory (CRT). The tensions came to a head over teaching CRT, a loose set of academic tools used to identify systemic racism. CRT emerged in legal scholarship in the seventies as a method of examining how the law perpetuates racial injustice. Recently, though, it has become a kind of bogeyman for the right. Last year, Trump tweeted that critical race theory was “a sickness that cannot be allowed to continue. Please report any sightings so we can quickly extinguish!” His Administration also issued a memo ordering federal anti-racism training programs to stop using the theory.
For the past few years, prominent members of the SBC have demonized CRT, calling it, among other things, Marxist and anti-Biblical. Critics have frightened SBC members with the prospect that the theory could soon be used in public schools to indoctrinate children against conservative values. During the organization’s yearly conference in 2019, the resolutions committee attempted to address the tensions over CRT, putting forth a statement that acknowledged incompatibilities between Biblical teachings and the academic theory, yet upheld the reality of structural racism. Within a week, hard-line conservatives within the SBC seized upon the resolution and cast it as a threat from the left. Throughout 2020, state chapters passed resolutions rejecting critical race theory. Then, last November, on the heels of the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, the presidents of SBC’s six seminaries issued an incendiary statement calling CRT “incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message.” This outraged many pastors of color; none had suggested applying the teachings of CRT to the church, but they felt that its blanket rejection was being used by white leaders to dismiss the realities of racism. See https://www.newyorker.com/news/on-religion/the-fight-for-the-heart-of-the-southern-baptist-convention?utm_source=nl&utm_.
For a “piratical” hard right position on CRT from White SBC Conservatives Who Aim to Commandeer Southern Baptists, see https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/12/us/southern-baptists-conservatives.html?referringSource=articleShare.
In a defeat of the hard right, Southern Baptists elected Ed Litton as their president. CRT appeared to be the biggest concern among the majority of Southern Baptists, some of whom wore red stickers on their convention badges that read “Stop CRT” and “Beat the Biden Baptists.” Before they voted on resolutions, President J.D. Greear told the convention that it “looks like an SBC that expends more energy decrying things like CRT than they have done lamenting the devastating consequences of years of racial bigotry and discrimination.” In the end, the convention adopted a resolution on race that did not address CRT specifically. Instead, it stated, “we reject any theory or worldview that finds the ultimate identity of human beings in ethnicity or in any other group dynamic.” In a news conference after his election, Litton praised the racial diversity of the convention, a predominantly White denomination that has grown in its predominantly Black, Hispanic and Asian churches in recent decades.
“Our mission is reconciliation,” Litton said, calling those churches a vital part of the SBC. See ”https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2021/06/15/southern-baptists-elect-president/?utm_campaign
United Metodists like Southern Baptists are split over controversial moral issues like homosexuality and same sex marriage. It’s ironic that most Baptist and Methodist pastors ignore the moral teachings of Jesus as standards of Christian discipleship in politics. See Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Cost of Discipleship for Pastors at http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/09/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-cost.html.
South Carolina Governor McMaster, State Superintendent Molly Spearman, state lawmakers, and South Carolina members of Congress have all spoken out against critical race theory (CRT) since the legislation was introduced in early May. A few days before the formal end of the legislative term, Republican state lawmakers introduced a bill that would ban the “tenets of CRT” from being taught in South Carolina public institutions. The legislation, H. 4325, has 19 sponsors and defines CRT as tenets teaching, “any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior.” The bill goes on to define it as teachings saying that, “individuals, by virtue of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin, are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin.”
In a Facebook post Spearman wrote, “The CRT ideology has no place in South Carolina schools and classrooms. The South Carolina Department of Education has no current or proposed standards that include CRT concepts and will not be adopting any CRT standards nor applying for or accepting any funding that requires or incentivizes the adoption of these concepts in our classrooms,” Spearman continued, “We will not provide professional development opportunities or training that seeks to promote CRT amongst South Carolina educators.” When asked about CRT after a news conference, McMaster told reporters it has no place in South Carolina. “It’s certainly not necessary for the education of young people 4-years-old all the way up through high school. When you get to college you get to take a course on almost anything you want and that’s up to you, but I don’t think it has a place in South Carolina and I don’t think it’s helpful and could be harmful,” said McMaster.
Lowcountry U.S. Congresswoman Nancy Mace also opposes the curriculum and wrote on Facebook, “Indoctrinating our kids with a curriculum based in Marxist ideology has no place in American institutions. Not a single taxpayer dime should support Critical Race Theory.” See https://www.wistv.com/2021/06/09/governor-state-superintendent-lawmakers-strongly-oppose-critical-race-theory-sc/.
On Why critical race theory is a culture war flashpoint, and SC teachers see that as an opportunity, at https://www.thestate.com/news/local/education/article251948128.html.
Vincent Jungkunz is a professor at Ohio University who has asked, Who’s afraid of critical race theory? He has used critical race theory in his political science course. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/06/23/space-traders-critical-race-theory-teaching/?utm_campaign=wp_opinions_pm&utm_medium=email&utm_.
SC members of Congress seem to be at odds with Governor McMaster on teaching CRT in SC universities and have called on USC and Clemson to stop teaching CRT. See https://www.thestate.com/news/local/education/article252267533.html?ac_cid=DM476519&ac_bid=855194687.
A few states including Idaho and Florida have already passed or are considering laws banning CRT from being taught. At the same time activist teachers consider traditional history harmful to Blacks as pervasive and corrupting in American life, and promote teaching CRT and systemic racism. See Teachers across the country protest laws restricting lessons on racism at https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2021/06/12/teachers-protest-laws-restricting-antiracism-lessons-in-school/?utm_https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2021/06/12/teachers-protest-laws-restricting-antiracism-lessons-in-school/?utm_.
Theodore H. Johnson has argued that The Black experience of racial solidarity shows the way for American solidarity, but racial solidarity obviously conflicts with racial reconciliation. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/black-america-race-relations-national-identity/2021/06/11/4b2f9bf8-c930-11eb-81b1-34796c7393af_story.html?utm_.
Dana Milbank has asserted that Republicans just proved Critical race theory correct, citing Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo) who demonized critical race theory (CRT) and the Biden administration, saying “CRT is, in fact, very real,” Sen. Hawley, the man who pumped his fist in solidarity with the people who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, declared on the Senate floor on Tuesday. “It is very influential. And it appears to have become the animating ideology of this administration.” In short, Hawley explained, the Biden administration hates America. “President Biden is nominating for federal office individuals who do not share a view of America as a good and decent place,” Hawley announced. His nominees instead “believe that this is a country founded in racism and shot through with corruption.”
So what is this “animating ideology” of the Biden administration, pray tell?
It holds that “the United States is rotten to its core,” Hawley alleged. “In our American flag, they see propaganda, and in our family businesses, they see white supremacy.” Those adhering to this animating ideology of the Biden administration, he elaborated, “allow no room for merit, for experience, or for grace in our life together. They pit Whiteness and Blackness against each other in a manner that reduces every American, no matter their character or creed, to their racial identity alone.” And that’s not all! The Biden administration’s animating ideology holds “that subjects like mathematics are inherently racist, that the Christian faith is oppressive” and “that the nuclear family perpetuates racism.” Looking straight into the TV camera above the Senate floor, Hawley said that Biden’s animating ideology tells children that “your dreams” are “unjust” and that “your family” are “oppressors.”
Milbank explained that CRT (at its core, the belief that racism in America is systemic) had been around for decades in academic circles without attracting much attention — until Fox News took it up last summer. As The Post’s Laura Meckler and Josh Dawsey report, a Fox News guest, Christopher Rufo, declared that critical race theory had “pervaded every institution in the federal government” — and Trump and his allies took it from there. They’ve redefined the obscure theory to include, as Rufo put it, “all of the various cultural insanities” and they’ve made it their latest front in the culture wars.”
Hawley’s partisan rantings are typical of the partisan hostility to CRT. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/06/22/republicans-just-proved-critical-race-theory-correct/?utm_campaign=wp_todays_headlines&utm_.
Critical race theory is the hottest topic on Fox News. And it’s only getting hotter. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/media/2021/06/24/critical-race-theory-fox-news/?utm_campaign=wp_todays_headlines&utm_medium=email&utm_.