Critical Race Theory and its Discontents.
The optics debate is dead. Long live the optics debate.
Lies, damned lies, and hyperbole
I do not know Claire Lehmann. I am familiar with her; We’re mutuals on Twitter, a TL that’s often insightful, sometimes hilarious (protip: search ‘@WokeCapital’ ‘@clairlemon’ threads). I’ve enjoyed several Clubhouse rooms where she spoke. In general, I find her writing and that of featured authors in Quillette to be mostly ‘aligned’; they are typically ‘Liberals mugged by reality’, like many opponents of so called ‘Woke-ism’, those who’ve grown tired and suspicious of shouted pieties from the human resources department. She is by every account smart and funny, both wizened mother and sassy Elder Millennial. But I can’t claim to know the innermost of Mrs. Lehmann.
“Now.” We are not amused.
And, if not dispossession by violence, you happen to notice birthrates…
This is old wine in a new bottle. It’s perfectly understandable, because, frankly, ‘White Genocide’ is obviously poorly fit with the popular understanding of genocide as a violent, bloody, wartime affair. Despite the exceedingly amusingly named, possibly Federally law enforcement originated NFAC, we’ve had nothing like the Nyarubuye massacre happening, nor will we any time soon. Population numbers alone see to it. Despite provocative diagnoses of Very Online militants on either side of the White Question, in America, ‘Simba’ strictly refers to a copyrighted, lovable Lion King, and not one who hunts down people of pallor, cuts their hearts out, roasts, and then eats them.
So, sure, James Lindsay is being a little bit silly by using a stale meme from White Nationalism 1.5.2 to observe an important reality, a rhetorical device that impotently tries to abscond with the urgency of Liberalism’s own voice regarding immense human catastrophe, to describe racial discord in the US:
We can be thankful he has not emulated Bob Whitaker’s STYLE of capitalizing WORDS as in “the Mantra”. But—he is observing an important reality. And that reality is not ambiguous; it really is fundamentally anti-White in conception and deed. Yes, CRT also says mean things about the sorts of Asians (East and South) with whom fashionable white people are friends, and has no mercy at all for Normal Black Americans, but these are only its reactionary tendencies when questioned by sensible persons who aren’t white. It’s Whitey—whites as such—on the menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Critical Race Theory, forming the intellectual ballast of anti-White opinion, flows from the very same Dr. Hyde whose meditations on Liberalism’s critique of hierarchy gave us Mister Jekyll's ‘Intersectionality’. See for yourself;
CRT is not a diversity and inclusion “training” but a practice of interrogating the role of race and racism in society that emerged in the legal academy and spread to other fields of scholarship. Crenshaw—who coined the term “CRT”—notes that CRT is not a noun, but a verb.
Have you read Kimberlé Crenshaw’s original paper on intersectionality? Here you go, enjoy: Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics. Stunning paper. It is pure, distilled, screeching.
Long before Britt Caldwell thought she would end the reign of her fellow grown-up White Women In Tech out of spite for her colleagues failing to appreciate some very mentally draining 1-on-1 meetings and status updates, long before Rachel Cargle began sharpening the knives for Toxic White Feminism, Crenshaw was getting ready to light up our era’s “weak, cosseted and naive” privileged white bitches and the traitorous, successful Black men stolen by them. (Crenshaw, herself a product of institutions where such white people, women included, become highly credentialed, seems to have enjoyed career success but does not appear to be a married woman or mother.)
From her 1989 paper comes this summary of what ‘intersectionality’ entails:
With Black women as the starting point, it becomes more apparent how dominant conceptions of discrimination condition us to think about subordination as disadvantage occurring along a single categorical axis. I want to suggest further that this single-axis framework erases Black women in the conceptualization, identification and remediation of race and sex discrimination by limiting inquiry to the experiences of otherwise-privileged members of the group. In other words, in race discrimination cases, discrimination tends to be viewed in terms of sex- or class-privileged Blacks; in sex discrimination cases, the focus is on race- and class-privileged women.
Got that? Intersectionality isn’t just one set of people screaming at you for wronging them. It’s two sets of people screaming at you, yt pipo. Maybe three, maybe everybody, because there’s no constraint placed on which slights, real or perceived, won’t count as genuine grievances, and there’s no constraint placed on how many layers of intersectionality you can have. You can be a woman of color, a mom, a cisgender Millennial who's been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, and work at CIA. But you can’t be a Straight White Man unless you like walking on eggshells. In fact, from CIA to Yale to Morgan Stanley, if you aren’t the right sort, you aren’t getting in today:
This doesn’t mean there aren’t people at CIA or Morgan Stanley or Yale who materially are heterosexual, whose ancestry comes in the main from geographic Europe before the modern era of travel and intermarriage, and who have XY chromosomes and fully developed male genitalia. It means that if they do not worship those who are not, it’s assumed they’ve committed the sin of esteem in themselves as such, and they’ll be forced out or never invited.
In light of this repeatedly observed phenomenon, recall Claire’s tweet again: James Lindsay, talking about ‘White Genocide’, is dangerous because even though clear racial abuse being hurled at white people (by whom? why? important questions to ask and answer later) might itself be somewhere between picayune and damaging to the wallet and social cachet, talking about it in the Wrong Way could lead to lone-wolf mass shootings and other crimes.
You must have a particularly nasty view of proletariat whites, or much more forgivably, an Australian’s mistaken view of American gun culture and the frequency & distribution of violent offenders (I'd bet it’s this in Mrs. Lehmann’s case) to think this. But notice the disjoint with reality, and the peacekeeping response to it. This is the very heart of the problem.
The quote tweets are very funny check them out.
America does have a massive problem with gun violence, for instance. But who does it? A tale as old as the FBI UCR in the Second Amendment community is noticing, then being cancelled for noticing, that despite masses of contemporary and military surplus, and even some weaponry exceeding the sophistication of government issue small arms available to the American public, most of the gun violence that plagues American cities is committed with cheap handguns, not the rifles with which make-believe militiamen play a (entertaining, physically exercising, highly recommended) game of pretend. So who’s doing it? Somebody’s got to be doing all the shooting.
Turn the brightness on your laptop down, shift in your seat so no one can see the page, and practice “Indian Bronson? No idea, never heard of him!” I won’t take it personally if you must unfollow, block, or pretend we’ve never spoken.
But I will take it personally if you don’t subscribe and share my POC substack:
To a great degree the gun violence is committed by: [redacted] and [redacted]. Less frequently, [redacted], and almost never, [redacted]. Relative to their population sizes, the rates of all violent crimes but firearms crimes especially, like SAT scores, play out in a familiar pattern. (When people from the latter groups do commit acts of criminality with weapons, results ranging from the Las Vegas to Virginia Tech shooting; from the Boston Marathon bombing to Columbine Massacre, are spectacularly bloody and high casualty count. Perhaps this is the underlying worry, but I suspect not.)
Acknowledging this reality is nearly always lethal, instant social poison. Basically what it sounds like you’re saying—interlocutors looking to distance themselves from you and journalists alike will helpfully explain what you mean when you do—is that you think some races are better than others. Which is silly. But you can bet ultra-progressive whites with money aren't living in a ‘good school district’ by accident. Trulia & Zillow’s search options for LGBTQ+ friendly communities? Yeah, there’s a reason straight people turn that on, too.
I didn’t even need to write out explicitly who and what, and you already knew. Search your feelings. It’s reflected in your friend groups and social circles, it’s reflected in which dinners and weddings you go to, which business partners you have, it’s reflected in the neighborhood you live in, it’s reflected in what music you listen to, what pastimes or hobbies you have. Especially if you’re a POC.
Does it require you to be cruel? Does it require you to overlook human potential, or live in an evil way? Are you an evil person, dearest reader? If the answer is no, congratulations, you’ve passed the simplest possible test; not being a piece of shit. It’s a really low bar to not be a piece of shit, but this character trait (and its converse; kindness) is not only present uniformly in all high quality people, it’s actually one of the most noticeable things about them.
But this isn’t good enough for Liberalism. If everyone’s nice, or at least fair to one another and disputes are easily resolved, there’s not much employment to be had in the dispute resolution gigs. Without injustices, you cannot be a justiciar. Humans, who are often very bad at being especially useful or attractive to others (to get food and mates) look out for their existence to some degree by obtaining coercive power over others (also in service of mates and food, though now the attraction to power has a little bit of fear mixed in.)
Liberalism, of the kind practiced by so many who thought Trump’s election was the biggest possible catastrophe after Obama right up until the Summer of Fun, doesn’t sit still. If everyone is cosmically equal, axiomatically, no matter what, there is one explanation and one explanation alone for instances where people are not equal — evil behavior by evil people oppressing others.
Critical Race Theory? In my public school? It’s more likely than you think.
Consider the greatest of Liberalism’s achievements, summoned by giants like Horace Mann and John Dewey; the American public school system. It’s looking pretty sickly these days, coronavirus aside, no one can deny, but the Industrialization of the US and its subsequent ownership of the 20th century was baked in the 19th; as early as 1870 every State of these United States had free, public, elementary education at a minimum and the fledgling nation had one of the highest literacy rates in the entire world. Yes, it was racially mediated. Yes, it had immense discrimination against newly freed slaves. But the United States entered the new century with a people that, unlike many in Europe, could almost entirely read, write, and do basic arithmetic on top of very common rudimentary farm labor and mechanical aptitude. Progressives, often attacked by the modern right as eugenicists once pushing ‘Fitter Families’ as code for sterilization campaigns, now abortion (they did, but) also created a nation, surrounded by immense natural resource reserves, of ever more uniformly well-fed (at least via the ‘school lunch’), uniformly educated-enough young, ambitious Americans. When the US marched off to into the World Wars, it did so as a people who already thought of horsepower as an abstract metric for how hard their motorvehicles could pull. The Germans, capable of Teutonic brilliance in Werner von Braunns and Hans von Ohains, moved about eighty percent of their artillery and troops via literal horses.
Dr. Ibram Kendi writes: “To believe in the existence of any sort of racial hierarchy is actually to believe in a racist idea. The achievement gap between the races–with Whites and Asians at the top and Blacks and Latinos at the bottom–is a racial hierarchy.”
Just sit with this for a bit. The very idea that someone—even a very Liberally minded someone—could look at something (a very quaint and outmoded something now, by the way) like Ivy League schools or other selective institutions being dominated by WASP-y elites, not reflecting the racial diversity of the United States and conclude what’s needed is more preparation, equal education, and rectification of historical racial imbalances in the public school system…that is RACIST. I’ll work on nailing “[Your Name]? Who’s that? I have no idea, I don’t endorse them!” in the mirror.
And it’s not like Dr. Ibram Kendi is alone in the matter:
Back in 2005 your line about ‘not seeing color, just people’ was a conscious goal to make differences in SAT scores appear to be an emanation of the Nature of different students, which it, of course, couldn’t ever possibly be.
By 2014, your White Liberal notion that schools need more funding is rooted in racial fantasies of Black youth as problematic others. You support more education money? Well, maybe you daydream about the whole basketball team cornering the yearbook committee head in a hallway after hours, sicko!
We can update our understanding of Liberalism at this point, to more accurately reflect where the progressive wing of the movement is going in a Maoist takeover of already Stalinist institutions from the Academy, to the Press, to the Government, to the Military;
The very suggestion of difference is itself unacceptable to Liberalism.
Not even factual (crime stats? Test scores? Stats are racist, don’t bother.) differences matter. Wanted to rectify them? Easy there, White Savior. Maybe you could do the work? You could share your favorite POC’s substack:
Of course, it’s not like the egregore of Wokeness (we all know the Lord by different names) is stupid. It’s capable of silencing itself appropriately:
For months, Twitterverse and beyond has been treated to #StopAAPIHate:
This author is an AAPI, by the way, so if you try to cancel me or don’t subscribe, you’re an inveterate racist white supremacist Klansman Nazi, bub.
You know how this goes: COVID-19 fears mean Asians are being assaulted for being Asian, the specter of White Supremacy looms large over American cities, and Asians are under siege by masked assailants and random violence. Do I even need to link the arrest photos? Will we even be able to link them? When one of these precious AAPIs whom white people must learn to never hate is murdered by two black teenagers, the prevailing narrative is (thank you, Ann Coulter) “Conservatives POUNCE!”
Am I out of touch?
No, it’s the children who are wrong.
What’s underlying this tremendous sleight of hand Norm notices, where the backlash, even the presumed potential backlash (perhaps ‘frontlash’) is the primary phenomenon to which the politics responds? Is it an unspoken fear of what comes when every count shall be proved, ere the Saxon Begins to Hate? Why is the indomitable, take-no-prisoners, presumably eye-rolling-at-Woke-losers Claire suddenly adopting such a fraught pose about Lindsay’s trespass?
For the same reason we went from just demanding more equality of the sexes, and more equality of sexual orientations, to being told we’ll be fired if we don’t participate in pronoun Olympic games (the regular ones are only for now, not transgender friendly. Cornfed, well-built, 6’4’’ Midwest American Chadettes leaping, bounding, knocking over the spindly Han sissy-cis heteronormative waifs of the People’s Republic of China, we may yet behold in our lifetimes).
Liberalism of the kind people like Lindsay and Lehmann, before them Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins, before them John Cleese, all knew and loved had a very simple set of rules growing out of the Enlightenment, reflected in the foundational laws of the US polity, purveyed to the masses by Rawls:
We are all individuals whose lives as single human beings, are each to be accorded maximum dignity and freedom. Liberating individuals from oppressive systems good, more freedom more better, everyone equal, mkay?
When Tipper Gore freaked out about that damn hippity-hop degenerating da youf, Bill Maher and 90s Liberals were there to say “if you don’t like it, change the channel!”. Cleese made millions lampooning Christianity, contributing to changing family, sexual, social, and civic mores of a Britain whose unfamiliarity would later shock him—even with Dawkins, the worm turned.
All of these sorts, Weinstein, Peterson, Lindsay, Lehmann, Maher, Sullivan, Hoff Sommers, Paul Graham, etc. are all fundamentally decent, obviously smart ‘Liberals mugged by reality’. They thought they’d gotten to the promised land. Why wouldn’t they? Many came to the height of their powers during or some time shortly after the Clinton Era. If you weren’t Serbian it was nice. The afterglow lasted a lot longer than it did for Ms. Lewinsky. The young’uns among them had normal, successful lives before they Damore’d themselves. Some even made their bones going after it. Only now; “Cancel Culture” this and “Woke” that, emerging around the distant past of 2014.
But recall the new formulation of Liberalism:
The very suggestion of difference is itself unacceptable to Liberalism.
Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, never stood a snowball’s chance in Hell. Also, all of these people, at least by visual observation are pretty huwhite.
“Bro, quit wrongly opposing CRT, ur scaring the hoes”
So what’s the difference between legitimate, family friendly, acceptable efforts to combat CRT the Right Way and dangerous, self-sabotaging Wrong Ways? The two most prominent are led almost single-handedly by Christopher Rufo and Ryan Girdusky. You can follow these gentlemen and donate to them here:
Both will be called ‘racist’ for the rest of their lives by mainstream consensus. That is to say, they will be called evil, possibly violently attacked, and will never be able to enjoy social entrée into places like Harvard or the Oxford Union unless very powerful things happen. Both obviously care deeply about the détente and healing that was pursued with gusto in the Civil Rights era.
You can hear Rufo on Bari Weiss’ excellent podcast discussing the threats to the standing Liberal order with David French here. More pointedly, you can see the robustness of Rufo’s defense of liberalism against the ‘illiberal Left’ and the on-brand incoherence of David French by thinking about this question which French refused to answer:
Materially, the most important thing is to get rid of it from schools. If you have any loyalty to the system created by Western Liberalism, and lived through the 90s in America, you basically have to be anti-CRT at all costs. Ban this shit now, let’s figure out how to make a more equitable and fair world later. Right?
Ibram Kendi, excuse me, DOCTOR Ibram Kendi is living in the future. Everyone else, from CRT’s most liberally minded opponents who just want ‘fairness’ no matter someone’s race, to the ones who get scared if you say stuff that ‘looks bad’ (and looking bad to esteemed fellow Liberals, through the lens of sensitive Western Liberal sensitivities, no less) are living in the past.
They are living in a world where what matters most is to be fair, what is best is to treat every individual with dignity no matter the broader shape of circumstances, and to always try to be kind if someone needs help.
You’ve got to hand it to Liberals, particularly libertarians, they have an immensely romantic doomed cause and they’re sticking to it, I guess.
Again they are forgetting the latest axiom of the Western religion:
The very suggestion of difference is itself unacceptable to Liberalism.
If there was ever hope to redeem ‘Cultural Marxism’ from Boomerconservatives’ habit of running verbal trains on new terms for Liberalism, now is the time. Sloppy hundredths, I guess. As Anatole France whose brain was literally only two thirds the normal volume still poetically observed; “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”
Low-key plagiarizing him (or perhaps great minds think alike!) comes Angela Davis: “The idea of freedom is inspiring. But what does it mean? If you are free in a political sense but have no food, what’s that? The freedom to starve?”
If you really get what ‘equality’ and ‘freedom’ mean to the Liberal project, the transmutation of the freedom to be Gay Married, against clearly stupid, not nearly ‘clean or articulate’-as-Obama-folks like Senate candidate Alan Keyes:
into various demands:
, shouldn’t surprise you one bit.
If you are committed to radical egalitarianism, could you ever have truly opposed Critical Race Theory? The test scores in America aren’t equal, and they are used to determine university placement and employment options. Job performance and professional skills in America aren’t equal. In a capitalist system, those determine the wealth ownership and social prestige of a society. And in America, wealth ownership and social prestige aren’t equal. And aren’t you committed to equality? There’s only one option; tear down the barriers of inequality—rectify the inequality at its source. The US Govt gets it:
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack will tell you without hesitation the color of your skin, your racial identity, and your historical inheritance matters to the USDA.
I mean just look at the strategy of opponents of racial monetary payments:
The America First lawsuit says U.S. history is filled with discrimination against white immigrants based on their countries of origin or religious beliefs, so white farmers should qualify for debt relief, too. Attempts to remedy past discrimination are themselves discriminatory, said the group.
“The Irish and Italians suffered too!”
But Anglo-Twitter notwithstanding, Irish and Italians aren’t Black Americans and were never enslaved, and are White people, and all White people benefit from structural systemic racism and historic inequities that can only be resolved by blahblahblahblah—I mean how did they expect that to go?
It doesn’t matter no one engages in slavery. What does as the article says is:
Over the years, farming has become a 95% white occupation.
It could be anything at all; quilting bees, hockey, the number of people who own their own homes, the make up of firefighters in New Haven; 95% white.
The basis of James Lindsay’s, Claire Lehmann’s and everyone else’s critiques of Critical Race Theory, despite varying levels of niceties or rhetorical caution is that this CRT stuff contradicts our ‘everyone should be treated the same and left alone to do what they want’ thesis. But why should everyone be treated the same and left alone to do what they want? Because they’re all equal?
If they’re all spiritually equal, what about when they materially aren’t?
It doesn’t matter; there could be any number of explanations as to why but the what is intolerable to Liberalism’s telos; that all people are equal (and if not must be made equal). Old school Liberals are pining for a world which Liberalism itself cannot tolerate. They want freedom for all, but freedom for all allows difference. Dynamical systems with many degrees of freedom change. There is difference. Humanity, in its kaleidoscopic diversity of talents and inclinations, its repeated expansions and contractions, did differentiate.
Nature knows difference. It does not assert fundamental, static, enduring equality; life is not defined by stillness, but motion and change. Humans seem to want that which is all encompassing, stable, isolating them from change. Our early consciousness in the womb probably does inform desire for God.
To oppose CRT—materially at least, is a noble task. A moral task. I hope you donate to Rufo and Girdusky. But it is impossible to defeat Liberalism on its own terms; it can always offer more brotherly love and violence:
"Die Freiheit, die Sie meinen, das ist die Willkür für Sie, der Terrorismus für andere. Und willst du nicht mein Bruder sein, So schlag' ich dir den Schädel ein."
Loved your post.
Holy crap, that Alan Keyes vid was insanely good. But it shows that some types of rhetoric are futile against power brokers and their promises of crumbs of power to their subscribers. Since grievance theory is at it's heart, emotional, it can't be overcome with pure reason. Perhaps the best talisman against the Boggart of Woke Propaganda is humor. Could one take a leaf out of Keye's book (“To act as concepts are laughable it means that you want to be irrational”) and treat the American Cultural Revolution good-natured but unapologetic ridicule?
I understand where Claire is coming from and I have so much respect for her and what she has created. I want to defend James for a moment. James has a deep philosophical understanding of CRT and critical theories in general. One thing I have found so illuminating in this philosophical journey is how collectivist ideologies always tend more radical. In contrast to Enlightenment liberalism, where human fallibility and self-correction are the point, these narrative driven ideologies have no limit on themselves. They really puts the author into authoritarian. While perhaps the narrative can move by Hegelian dialectic, the core of it does not. The core is always correct. Fundamentally being fully insulated from reality, completely unscientific, the ideology always fails and this failure is reinvested into the ideology. This is like losing money and reinvesting the loss into what is creating the loss. It sounds crazy but I think we can all relate to banging our heads against the wall. If you play golf, its like swinging more to the left to correct the slice to the right, which is in fact what is causing the slice in the first place. Anyway, further, the ideology cannot co-exist with other ideas and the ideologues tend to edit out the other knowledge, especially that which is powerful knowledge. This is a lighter version comparable to the Bolsheviks actually gaining power coming to find out that they have killed all the people that know how to produce food. Starvation ensues. Those edits may not be so easily available when the time comes. Christ, look at CA's drug and crime policies based on fisher-price imitation-science. All of this leads a funneling into deeper ideological depths eventually to totalitarianism. When James talks about white genocide, what he is saying is that CRT and its thoroughly designed family of critical theories and narratives, is built like Marxism or Nazism, with the tendency to only become more extreme unless it is stopped. White genocide is not something he worries about but it is where the algorithm theoretically leads left unopposed. Thankfully the American system is strong and even the radicals have the ability to stop if they so choose it important enough. People do seem not to appreciate that this moment is a long time coming, perhaps from the moment the Allies decided not to go on to Moscow after defeating fascist socialism. This thing isn't a tidal wave but a tsunami - the wave is only 10 feet but the water behind it goes for miles. What we need is teaching of Enlightenment values, which could include the Philosophy of Science. This isn't a left/right issue, it's liberalism vs collectivism. Perhaps that will be my new approach, explaining liberalism and liberal science. Teach them to understand what freedom actually is and the tools to investigate on their own.
For the record, I'm not concerned about genocide, but I am concerned about being attacked/mugged. I am concerned about going to work everyday walking on eggshells thanks to DEI. I will not live that way.