Saturday, June 26, 2021

Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project

   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


On The 1619 Project, see

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   

For a “piratical” hard right position on CRT from White SBC Conservatives Who Aim to Commandeer Southern Baptists, see

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 ”

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

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  

On Why critical race theory is a culture war flashpoint, and SC teachers see that as an opportunity, at

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

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

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

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

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

Critical race theory is the hottest topic on Fox News.  And it’s only getting hotter.  See


Saturday, June 19, 2021

Musings on the Future of Democracy After the Biden-Putin Summit

        By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

Trump’s America First foreign policy gave Putin an advantage in discrediting American democracy.  Putin had nothing to lose at the summit.  It made him a winner before it began by putting Putin at the center of the world’s attention; but Biden made the best of a bad situation by restoring confidence in European and NATO leaders on the way to the BIden-Putin summit.

Biden left the American economy in limbo after proposing trillions of dollars in new domestic spending on top of an astronomical $28.3 trillion national debt.  That doesn’t bode well for the future of American democracy, but Biden has now refuted Trump’s foreign policy and opened the door for a reset.  Even so, Biden has a long way to go to clean up Trump’s mess.

Biden’s foreign policy is a study in contrast with that of Trump, who favors demagogues like Putin over America’s traditional allies and praises supporters while condemning his critics.  Trump remains unfit to be president by putting personal loyalty over loyalty to his country; and he has corrupted the Republican Party by demanding the same loyalty test of all Republicans.

Cyber War has superseded the Cold War.  America seems weak against cyber threats, with hacking a major threat to critical infrastructure, essential  services and large American corporations.  Ransoms are paid in untraceable cyber-currencies rather than dollars, and there are inadequate defenses and no effective countermeasures against cyber threats.

Until America develops adequate defenses and countermeasures against cyber threats, it’s too soon to make accusations against putative sponsors like Russia or China.  America must produce reliable evidence identifying perpetrators of such threats before it can respond to them from a position of strength, and the jury remains out on those defense capabilities.

Since World War II American exceptionalism in foreign policy has declined, and Putin has used the many deficiencies in America’s democracy to promote Russia’s interests.  If America expects its democracy to regain the global respect it once had, it will have to control its national debt to provide a stable global dollar, and clean up its many other domestic problems.

Among America’s other domestic problems that reflect poorly on its democracy are the January 6 insurrection prompted by Trump’s polemic rhetoric, hopelessly polarized partisan politics, increasing hatred and violence, and an uncertain political future with Trump’s continuing support of most Republicans.  It’s not a pretty picture of what was once a shining city on a hill.

Biden’s performance at the summit was lackluster, but it was a welcome departure from the flawed performance of Trump at the 2018 summit.  Most importantly, it revealed an uncertain future for America’s democracy.  Will it remain the world’s ideal form of government, or lose ground in its global contest with powerful authoritarian regimes like those of Russia and China?


The media offered a mix bag of impressions on the Biden-Putin summit:

The editorial board of The Washington Post opined that Biden offered Putin the benefit of the doubt and should have known better.  See

Frida Ghitis at CNN concluded it was a big loss for Putin.  See

Tom Nichols at USA Today concluded “it was a success for both sides” and US moral clarity is back.  “Biden reminded Putin – and the world – what was really at stake in Geneva. The democracies are facing a dedicated offensive from autocracies in Russia, China, Iran and other nations. For too long, the democratic coalition has been without a leader; worse, the most powerful state among them was led by a man who himself was openly hostile to democracy. That time is over. Biden told Putin that ‘no president of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values,” and that human rights are “always going to be on the table.’ 

There is plenty more work to be done in mending the damage to American foreign policy, but whatever else might come from this first meeting in Geneva, the return of moral clarity about America’s role in the world is something for Americans and their allies to celebrate.”  See

Masha Gessen of The New Yorker questioned the moral clarity of the summit.  Recognizing Putin as a deceiver and illusionist, Gessen concluded, ”The world is probably a slightly safer place following the summit. The Presidents agreed to return ambassadors to their respective postings. It’s likely that Alexey Navalny is a little safer now, too. But President Biden and this country paid a high moral price for it.”  See

Perhaps Fareed Zakaria best summarized the summit: Under Biden, American diplomacy is back. But America isn’t.  “The biggest news out of the Biden-Putin meeting involves cyberspace. The problem of cyberattacks, cybercrime and ransomware has grown exponentially. And yet governments have appeared either unable or unwilling to do much about it. Biden has moved policy in this realm significantly forward, for the first time signaling that the United States would be willing to use its considerable cyber capacities to retaliate against a Russian attack. Biden gave Putin a list of 16 critical systems that should be considered off limits, hinted that the retaliation could take the form of crippling Russia’s oil pipelines, and agreed to have U.S. and Russian experts begin discussing these issues to define some rules of the road. This a policy shift that is likely to last.

One aspect of the United States’ power remains substantially diminished: its role as a beacon of democracy. Among countries surveyed, 57 percent of people said the United States is no longer the model for democracy it used to be. Young people worldwide are even more skeptical about America’s democratic institutions. After Watergate, many looked up to the United States for facing and fixing its democratic failures. It was a sign of the country’s capacity to course-correct. But imagine if after that scandal, the Republican Party, instead of condemning Nixon, had embraced him slavishly, insisted that he did absolutely nothing wrong, settled into denial and obstructionism and proposed new laws to endorse Nixon’s most egregious conduct? Imagine if the only people purged by the party had been those who criticized Nixon?

The decay of American democracy is real. It’s not a messaging or image problem. Until we can repair that, I’m not sure we can truly say America is back.”  See

The image of America as a city on a hill was born in a 1630 sermon by John Winthrop. “Beginning in the 1970s, Ronald Reagan placed that the center of his political career. Tracing the story of America from John Winthrop forward, Reagan built a powerful articulation of American exceptionalism—the idea, as he explained, ‘that there was some divine plan that placed this great continent between two oceans to be sought out by those who were possessed of an abiding love of freedom and a special kind of courage.’ In 2012, American exceptionalism—as summarized by the phrase ‘city on a hill’—became an official plank in the platform of the Republican party.”

What happened to America’s image as a shining city on a hill?  

“John Jessup, a prominent journalist, wrote, “Is there not a connection between the rise of nations and great purpose, between the loss of purpose and their decline?” The problem, it seemed, was complacency. Wealth had made Americans weak. ‘Part of our problem,’ John W. Gardner declared, ‘is how to stay awake on a full stomach.’ Nothing was being asked of the American people. Having achieved material success and world power, the United States seemed content to let citizens go about spending and consuming, little caring about a higher cause. The historian Henry May once summarized the extensive works of Perry Miller on Winthrop’s city on a hill as ‘illustrating the slogan that nothing fails like success.’ Wherever Miller turned, he saw the same laws of history replayed, and, in his mind’s eye, the beginning of demise could be read in the modern riches of America’s rise.” In tracing the evolution of American culture from 1630 to the 20th century, Miller omitted a major factor. “At the opening of Miller’s career, W. E. B. Du Bois published Black Reconstruction in America (1935).  The next year, 1936, Langston Hughes wrote “Let America Be America Again”—a plea that the promises of America extend themselves to African Americans at last. In 1941, the same year that Henry Luce published “The American Century” in Life magazine, Richard Wright documented the diverse lives and hopes of 12 Million Black Voices in the Great Depression. A decade later, the civil rights movement erupted. “The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line,” Du Bois prophesied in 1903. Yet the problem of the color line appears nowhere in all the mighty works of Perry Miller. Miller explicitly set himself the task of explaining the “meaning of America,” and that meaning never touched on one of the most vital issues engulfing the nation. If he felt that he had failed—if he felt that his story of America was increasingly hard to hold together and decreasingly important to the American people—he was right. The irony of history—one that Miller might well have appreciated—is that in promoting Winthrop’s sermon, he caused it to become the key statement of all that he most feared and lamented. In the years to come, Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” sermon would become “the shining city on a hill” of President Reagan: a celebration of individual freedom, material prosperity, and American power—above all, a call for Americans to renew their optimism and believe in themselves again. Nothing breeds failure like success. And no one was more successful than Perry Miller in making Winthrop’s sermon the cornerstone of American culture.”  See  



Saturday, June 12, 2021

From Hammond and Tillman to Trump: A Legacy of Shame for South Carolina

    By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

The title of  Heather Cox Richardson’s book, How the South Won the Civil War, was too tempting for me to resist.  Reading it helped me understand why Trump is so popular in America’s red states.  Trump tapped into a legacy of white supremacy in the old South and West that exploited free and cheap labor to gain wealth and power.

Richardson cited James Henry Hammond as a powerful racist politician in South Carolina (Governor 1842-1844; U.S. Senator 1857-1860), who not only promoted slavery but also sexually abused his teen-aged nieces.  Hammond was followed by a more vulgar and racist tyrant, “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman (Governor 1890-1894, U.S. Senator 1895-1918).

South Carolina was a one-party (Democratic) state from before the Civil War until after the 1950s.  Partisan divisions have since reversed, but politics remain polarized by race and party.  Most White voters now vote Republican and support individual rights and oppose social welfare; most Black voters now vote Democratic and emphasize social welfare priorities.  

The end of slavery did not end exploitation by America’s oligarchy.   Today an oligarchy of crony capitalists controls the means of production in America and promotes politics that further their wealth and control of the economy.  They condemn any regulations of big business, even though they are necessary to keep capitalism compatible with freedom and democracy.

Religion has always played a part in the strategy of American oligarchies.  Slavery was considered the will of God before the Civil War; and except during the Great Depression, white supremacy continued to provide political and economic dynasties of white men who considered economic regulations an attack by the evils of socialism on the holy grail of capitalism.

Richardson’s account of the evolution of America’s political culture describes how a demagogue like Donald Trump can gain the support of red state voters in the South and the West; but it’s no excuse for their misguided politics.  If American voters don’t support more altruistic politics that provide for the common good, American democracy will fail.

Richardson has stereotyped an oligarchy of wealthy racist White men like Hammond and Tillman who left a legacy of shame in South Carolina during the 19th century.  Donald Trump’s immorality may make him seem like a 21st century reincarnation of Hammond and Tillman, even though America’s political culture today is far more diverse than it was 200 years ago.

Minorities and women have assumed leadership roles in America’s political oligarchies.  The greatest threat to freedom and democracy today is from economic oligarchies on Wall Street and Silicon Valley that have created dangerous disparities in wealth with the support of the Federal Reserve.  Congress must end crony capitalism and regulate megacorporations and their monopolistic practices to provide economic justice and restore healthy competition.



For a book review on How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America by Heather Cox Richardson, see


James Henry Hammond (November 15, 1807-November 13, 1856) was an attorney, politician, and planter from South Carolina. He served as a United States Representative from 1835–36, the 60th Governor of South Carolina from 1842–44, and United States Senator from 1857 to 1860. He was considered one of the major spokesmen in favor of slavery in the years before the American Civil War. Acquiring property through marriage, he ultimately owned 22 square miles, several plantations and houses, and more than 300 slaves.[1] Through his wife's family, he was a brother-in-law of Wade Hampton II and uncle to his children, including Wade Hampton III. When the senior Hampton learned that Hammond had raped his four Hampton nieces as teenagers, he made the scandal public. It initially was thought to have derailed Hammond's career,[1] but he later was elected as a U.S. senator.  A Democrat, Hammond was perhaps best known during his lifetime as an outspoken defender of slavery and states' rights.[2] He popularized the phrase that "Cotton is King" in his March 4, 1858, speech to the US Senate.  In his writings, he consistently compared the South's "well compensated" slaves to the free labor of the North, describing the latter as "scantily compensated" slaves (as he termed the hired skilled laborers and operatives).[2   ]  See

Benjamin Ryan “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman (August 11, 1847 – July 3, 1918) was a Democratic Governor of South Carolina from 1890 to 1894, and served as a United States Senator from 1895 until his death in 1918. A white supremacist who opposed civil rights for black Americans, Tillman led a paramilitary group of Red Shirts during South Carolina's violent 1876 election. On the floor of the U.S. Senate, he defended lynching, and frequently ridiculed black Americans in his speeches, boasting of having helped kill them during that campaign.[1] 

For more information on Tillman, see

Max Boot has described how too many people still underestimate the Trump threat.  See


On crony capitalism, see Exposing the Corruption of Crony Capitalism (May 9, 2020), posted at