Thursday, May 20, 2021
I’m Jane Coaston. I have some critiques of critical race theory. But I think what we’re really arguing about isn’t even critical race theory, especially when we’re talking about the use of CRT in schools. It’s a proxy war, not a genuine disagreement. An academic theory has become a weaponized catchall term for Republicans to rail against whatever they think “wokeness” is and retain the status quo. And for liberals, CRT is a chance to argue over Twitter about whether it’s a prerequisite for being an anti-racist, whatever that is, or an easy distraction from the real work of fighting inequality. My guests today agree that critical race theory has its merits. But John McWhorter is known for his regular critiques of its misuse often by fellow liberals. And Michelle Goldberg thinks the real problem is on the right. Earlier this month, she wrote a piece on “Why the Right Loves Public School Culture Wars.”
So first and foremost, John, would you give a definition of critical race theory?
Well, critical race theory starts as very interesting and, I think, wise work by certain legal scholars several decades ago who basically wanted to argue that we need to reconceive our notion of how power works and how power harms people in our society. And it also proposed an interesting idea that we need to think of certain subordinated groups narratives as more important than telling individual stories, especially individual stories about initiative, or luck, or unusual ability.