Why are you afraid of critical race theory?

I don’t get it. As a white man, I love critical race theory — it explains so much, helps me understand my failings, and yet also provides a framework for comprehending my role in American racism that doesn’t condemn me (I know, it’s a selfish way to think about it, but that’s what’s great — it should appeal to people who only think of themselves). Yet, somehow, it gives Republicans the heebie-jeebies.

Schools across the country are working to address systemic racism and inject an anti-racist mind-set into campus life. But where advocates see racial progress, opponents see an effort to shame White teachers and sometimes students for being part of an oppressive system.

In particular, conservatives have seized on the idea that schools are promoting critical race theory, a decades-old academic framework that examines how policies and the law perpetuate systemic racism. It holds in part that racism is woven into the fabric of the nation’s history and life — a product of the system and not just individual bad actors.

Critics say this approach injects race into what should be, in their view, a colorblind system. Proponents counter that U.S. schools have never been colorblind and insist they aren’t pushing critical race theory anyway. The equity work is critical, they say, to address systemic barriers holding back students of color and to create schools that are truly inclusive.

Look at the peculiar twist in there. Conservatives see it as a tool to “shame white teachers”, but CRT teaches that racism is “a product of the system and not just individual bad actors”. I have benefited from historical biases in education and employment, but that doesn’t mean I have to be ashamed of who I am — it means I have a responsibility to work to change the system, so that everyone has the same opportunities I did.

What’s so terrible about that? Other than the generations of people denied those opportunities, of course.

That conservatives oppose CRT tells me something: that they oppose any change to a pattern of systemic oppression, because they benefit from the system. Breaking that pattern might liberate millions of people, but it hurts the profits of an extraordinarily wealthy minority. So the rich are hurling money and propaganda at the idea because they don’t want you to know you are living under an oppressive system. It’s their system, you know.

And that’s why Tucker Carlson exists. He is an openly racist white supremacist who peddles flagrant misinformation, and he’s not going to be fired. He feeds fear to build a base, and has the money from rich media owners to thrive.

“He’s a good example of how much you can get away with at Fox if your ratings are high,” one current network staffer told The Daily Beast. “Aside from that, he just perpetuates the right’s catastrophe platform. They cannot win with their supposed limited government, fiscal conservatism, because not even they really believe in it. So all they do is fear monger.”

To this point, Carlson has seemingly delighted in his ability to see just how far he can push the envelope, bouncing from one controversy to the next only to see his status and influence grow at Fox News and among the right-wing mediaverse at large.

That’s systemic racism at work. You also won’t fix it by firing Carlson, because he’s a cheap, low-talent goon who would just be replaced by a different cheap, low-talent goon…Jesse Watters, for instance, or some Republican congress-slime, like Kelly Loeffler. They’re fungible. CRT is telling you to stop looking at the tips of the tentacles and instead target the whole dang supra-esophageal mass up there in the head, and that makes the perpetrators of the system afraid.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call out the tentacles, though, especially when they’re so ripe for ridicule. Watch Joy Reid (you know, “the race lady” in Carlson’s parlance) tear into his schtick.

Next, though, we have to tear into Rupert Murdoch and the other wealthy assholes who continue to enable Carlson, no matter how stupid he is.


  1. says

    It’s interesting that “critical race theory” is coming up here. For complicated reasons, I receive the “Impris” newsletter from Hillsdale College, which is apparently a nest of right-wing intelligentsia, and this month’s editorial was about exactly that: https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/critical-race-theory-fight/

    It’s almost like there’s some central Haute Conservoid* panel which regularly decides what’s going to be the subject for the next round of attacks and demonization…

    I try to avoid calling the Right “conservative” because they’re actually horribly wasteful.

    P.S. Firefox doesn’t know the word “demonization”; I guess it’s a Fake Word. :D

  2. Stuart Smith says

    Conservatives get super mad whenever people describe them and their beliefs, and even madder if they use terms of art designed specifically for the purpose. Like, probably around 1/3rd of all conservative outrage is over the fact that someone accurately described them.

  3. JoeBuddha says

    Because they literally live in a fantasy world and have no desire to see reality. If you point it out to them, they’ll just shout you down. Basically a bunch of cowardly idiots who have to have their beliefs validated at every turn because deep down they know the beliefs are crap. Same as RWNJ Evangelicals.

  4. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    tangent: like the elected officials changing methods to vote to keep themselves from getting voted out. Like Florida restricting the ability to mail in votes and reducing the number of dropboxes for early voting. Because they think ONlY democrats and people of color use them, so the best way to stay in office is to make it difficult for the opposition to vote. Like Rachel Maddow noticed last night, this migh be a big oops, in that most of the Republican voters in Florida, the elderly and Disabled Veterans, mostly use those methods to vote. Gov. DeSanto, promising to sign it ASAP, may well be shooting themselves in the (____ e r r r r ___ ) gut.
    rrrrrr I’m rambling rrrrrr
    another thought: similar to opposition to raising minimum wage uses the argument about how making it easier for the poor to spend is stealing money from the rich, even though it grows the economy and the poor are buying goods from the rich, who own the shops, etc.
    It is always reframing things to focus on how it might possibly affect the established order badly rather than how it more likely benefits it.
    gee I better stop before I go off the rails completely BRB
    focusing of possible negative consequences instead of the overwhelming benefit, is like hesitancy of the vaccine focusing on the 1 in a million chance of blood clots, instead of the >90% chance of protection from the virus

  5. PaulBC says

    Critics say this approach injects race into what should be, in their view, a colorblind system.

    Have advocates of “colorblindness” ever explained how it’s supposed to work. In effect, it amounts to saying:

    I’ll give you serious consideration as long as you’re indistinguishable from white people I know. And just to keep it fair, I will ignore the obvious evidence of your genetic heritage by sheer force of will.

    To be clear, this is an advance beyond blatant racism, but it is impossible due to implicit bias, which it is better to identify address than attempt to suppress. The more serious problem is that it almost certainly sets up dominant “white” culture as the standard to measure against. It’s great if you can judge someone by the “content of their character” but what does that mean exactly?

  6. says

    I once saw an older white man stand up during the Q&A of a talk to proudly announce that he was “colorblind” and didn’t see black people or white people.

    It was a talk by Sikuvu Hutchinson.

    That was awesome.

  7. says

    “Did he say Whitey?” made me burst out laughing.

    But where advocates see racial progress, opponents see an effort to shame White teachers and sometimes students for being part of an oppressive system.

    So much of rightwing and Evangelical culture revolves around unhealthy shame. It’s really an odd emotion to connect to this, but rightwing demagogues and propagandists know that they can stoke people’s fear and anxiety by invoking shame in this context.

  8. lakitha tolbert says

    Something a lot of people who are against affirmative action seem to forget, is that you cannot simply swan into Harvard and Yale, as a poc, based entirely on your skin tone. That’s just one of several factors considered, and you do actually have to have good grades. Schools like Harvard mine high schools for the “smartest” students. You know the kind. The ones who have successfully passed tests.

    The only mediocres getting into Ivy league schools appear to be Legacy students.

  9. PaulBC says

    Joy Reid’s takedown is hilarious. I think she’s nailed it that much of his schtick is driven by personal resentment and feelings of inadequacy. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how much focused attention I can give Carlson without getting nauseous. That’s surely enough for a long while.

  10. stroppy says

    shame, white guilt, cognitive dissonance

    Trying to come up with a translation for what I take to be authoritarian-speak. Something like:

    “Those uppity people are trying to make us feel bad for their personal irresponsibility and inability to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. And after all we’ve done for them! They’re just bad people, jealous of our hard-earned superiority, trying smear our dear, beautiful minds and ruin our God given right to the American dream by endlessly screaming 10 bazillion dB in our oh-so-delicate ears. No wonder we are filled righteous anger [agitated with fascist propaganda and over-the-top, petty outrage] and fear the inevitable slippery slope to having our cities burnt to the ground.”

  11. M'thew says

    Much as it is joyous to see Joy Reid tell Tucker Carlson where to take his manufactured outrage, my satisfaction is dampened by the knowledge that nothing she says will change his mind (or whatever passes for a “mind” in him) or the minds of the people who willingly watch him and the rest of the BS Factory.

    But still, Joy rocks.

  12. hillaryrettig1 says

    Tucker Carlson and the right wing media swamp exists in their present form largely because Reagan revoked the Fairness Doctrine, which mandated equal time given to opposing viewpoints.

    I think he was able to do that unilaterally, so why can’t Biden reinstate it unilaterally?

  13. hemidactylus says

    Imprimis (associated with Hillsdale College) will follow you wherever you move and into the pits of Hell itself.

    And because Florida:


    And our governor (former Navy JAG) who frames stuff the way he wants it:


    He also declared MISSION ACCOMPLISHED on COVID and is framing that in lawyering moves too. Fait accompli.

    Oh you know who else hates Critical Race Theory? Jerry Coyne.

  14. PaulBC says

    When I see “Hillsdale” the first thing that comes to my mind is the mall in nearby San Mateo.

    But Hillsdale College now confuses me by sending ads to my gmail. It’s usually pretty clear from the subject like what they’re shilling, and I don’t click.

  15. says

    I feel like we are taking it too much for granted that conservatives are using the “critical race theory” label correctly. It’s a whole academic field, even for experts it’s a lot to wrap their mind around such things. I once read a critical race theory paper, I’m betting that’s one more paper than most people here, but I wouldn’t dare to think this was enough to get an accurate assessment of the whole field.

    The conservatives believe that activists are acting on the influence of the academic theory, but I’m not so sure. In my experience as a queer activist, the influence goes in both directions, and academics frequently lag behind activists. I think what conservatives are trying to get at, is that anti-racism is such a foreign concept to them, that they think it must come from some extrinsic “other”, i.e. academics. But really, anti-racism can come from anywhere.

  16. William George says

    Yet, somehow, it gives Republicans the heebie-jeebies.

    This is also how the murderers acted when Columbo closed in on them.

  17. stroppy says

    @ 19

    Apparently from a site founded by a libertarian who voted for Trump. I don’t want that in my browser history. I’ll wait for a synopsis, thank you.

  18. says

    No. Do not ever link to New Discourses here. That’s the Lindsay/Boghossian/Pluckrose pseudoacademic site they use to promote bullshit. It’s like linking to Quillette — totally unacceptable in real, informed discourse.

  19. PaulBC says


    I feel like we are taking it too much for granted that conservatives are using the “critical race theory” label correctly.

    Sure. I mean, I would be at a loss to define it myself. But what conservatives object to is any suggestion at all that racism continues to be a serious problem in the US.

    The conservatives believe that activists are acting on the influence of the academic theory

    Do they, or do they just think this sounds more dignified than saying “You are calling me a bad person and I resent that.”

  20. jimjamjim0 says

    I’m in the Tucker Carlson is a scumbag and CRT is highly suspect camp myself.

  21. stroppy says

    I doubt that Carlson, et al., know what critical race theory is, but it has ‘race’ in it and it sounds lefty, so just one more thing in their murky collection of liberal things to hate. Depending on the situation, I’m sure they’ll invent myriad explanations for why they hate it as time goes by. Bottom line, it has ‘race’ in it and it sounds lefty, and that’s probably sufficient explanation for all the teutonic sturm und drang.

  22. Scott Petrovits says

    So the people who complain about trigger warnings, assuming they mean liberals are too sensitive to talk about certain topics, when the warnings are provided because they are in the process of talking about those topics, are too sensitive to hear about systemic racism? That’s rich. I’d suggest a trigger warning for CRT, but, well…

  23. raven says

    Idaho Governor Signs Bill To Ban Critical Race Theory In Schools
    May 1, 20215:13 PM ET JAMES DAWSON NPR

    The governor in Idaho has signed a law to ban the teaching of critical race theory in public schools. Some educators in the state are calling it unnecessary and a potential violation of free speech.

    I know little about Critical Race Theory or even why it is called Critical Race Theory. Google to the rescue.

    Or so I thought.
    Four days ago, Idaho banned Critical Race Theory in public schools.

    .1. Hmmm, aren’t the right wingnuts the ones always complaining about “cancel culture”. They just you know, canceled critical race theory.
    Oh well, hypocrisy is one of the three main sacraments of fundie xianity.
    .2. Aren’t right wingnuts always complaining about deplatforming and being censored?
    More hypocrisy.

    .3. We all know who the real snowflakes are.

  24. Rob Grigjanis says

    jimjamjim0 @25:

    CRT is highly suspect

    How so? My limited reading suggests it’s (among other things) about looking at the effectiveness of civil rights movements, affirmative action, etc, with widely varying opinions among the practitioners. It’s a field of study, not a prescription.

  25. PaulBC says

    I thought CRT had been entirely supplanted by flat screens.

    (Ba dum. Sorry, not just a dumb pun, but maybe a sign of my age that when I first saw it on this thread, I interpreted it as something about TVs, since Carlson and Reid are both TV personalities, though it made very little sense, and it really took a few times for me to figure out, oh duh, “critical race theory.” I suppose there are people entering college now who have never seen a tube television and would never read CRT as “cathode ray tube.”)

  26. says

    @#1, Woozle

    It’s almost like there’s some central Haute Conservoid* panel which regularly decides what’s going to be the subject for the next round of attacks and demonization…

    It’s not clear from the context whether you’re being sarcastic or not, so… that’s exactly what the Republican Party has been doing since the 1990s. It was a major component of Newt Gingrich’s culture war, to make sure that all right-leaning media outlets were talking about the same thing using the same words. It’s where the phrase “Talking Points Memo” comes from. It’s highly effective. Anybody who’s on the fence and seeks a second opinion will usually end up trying to find the same terminology elsewhere, and will find the same opinions being expressed, thus “validating” them.

  27. Snarki, child of Loki says

    “I thought CRT had been entirely supplanted by flat screens.”

    Some important organizations are so underfunded that they still have CRT. The BLM, for example.

    Bureau of Land Managment.

    I crack myself up.

  28. PaulBC says

    Snarki, child of Loki@33 Funny! (I like puns, and very occasionally “BLM” can result in a confusing news story.)

    Also, I find myself in complete agreement with Vicar@31. It happens. I wonder if talking points aren’t a lot older, but they definitely got going full blast with Newt and the “Contract with America.”

  29. says

    @#34, PaulBC:

    As I recall — it’s years since I read the history of it, but it has been studied — it had occasionally happened on a smaller scale before Newt Gingrich, but the 90s were the first time a political side consciously decided to do it continuously on a regular basis, and they’ve been keeping it up ever since. It’s why everyone on the right has the same terminology, and also why really bizarre “culture war” things like the Mr. Potato Head and Dr. Seuss “controversies” come out of nowhere and are suddenly everywhere. There is literally a regular newsletter on the right telling them what to talk about and how, and occasionally what to deliberately avoid talking about as well.

  30. captainjack says

    christoph @ #10

    It was fun watching Joy Reid rip Tucker a new one.

    And that’s really hard to do, considering that Tuckie is entirely asshole to begin with.

  31. hemidactylus says

    Ahem…it was a “Contract on America”.

    @35- The Vicar
    David Brock used to be in the belly of the beast of right wing echo chamber media. He wrote a few books about it including The Republican Noise Machine.

    Tucker Carlson is just a later installment in a long line of conservative propagandists. He’s more paleo- than neo- I think (akin to Pat Buchanan). Some of the neos such as Kristol and Dubya have blanched over Trumpism.

  32. consciousness razor says

    Ahem…it was a “Contract on America”.

    No, it was definitely Contract with America.

    It was one they desired to make “with” us, since technically speaking, as reptilian shape-shifters, they considered themselves a separate group.

  33. PaulBC says

    I’m basically repeating Joy Reid’s point, but shouldn’t Tucker Carson be “Race Guy” by whatever reasoning makes her “Race Lady”? Carlson is the one giving a media soapbox to “replacement theory.” I mean, you could call him “Racist Guy.” That is accurate but a little too obvious, and he’d say it was just the usual liberal accusation.

    But why not Tucker “Race Guy” Carlson? No offense, he just seems to spend an awful lot of time on that issue, so he ought to be totally cool with that nickname.

    (And yes, I know, it’s because white people obsessed with their whiteness aren’t talking about “race.” Whiteness is just a default. Only non-whites have a race.)

  34. says

    @#37, hemidactylus:

    I don’t give a sh*t about whether they blanch over Trumpism as long as they still act in lockstep with the others when it comes to voting, whenever there’s anything that is even remotely a close call. I don’t care if they declare themselves shocked and act all fastidious in public if they vote for the same stuff — and they inevitably do. In fact, the whole reason Republicans are reduced to talking about whether people like Meagan McCain or Liz Cheney have the wrong attitiude is because in practice the number of votes where there’s any difference between Liz Cheney and Lindsay Graham is shockingly small. We live in the same legal world regardless of whether the Republicans are led by Donald Trump or Mitt Romney.

    (Similarly, I don’t give a sh*t whether Democrats are “reluctant” when they vote in favor of Republican measures like the Iraq War. If you voted for the most obvious, largest foreign policy blunder in at least the last half-century, which an overwhelming majority of the party was against, it doesn’t matter what your motivations were, you are still an idiot and might as well be a Republican, even if you try to lie that you’re somehow a “progressive who gets things done”.)

  35. stroppy says

    play on words
    Contract on America
    as in put a hit out on America
    which is what it seems like in actuality

  36. PaulBC says

    stroppy@41 I’m familiar with the play on words from that 1994. No need to gild the lily, though (or this case the carrion flower). It’s bad enough using Newt’s own phrasing.

  37. unclefrogy says

    Newt a hypocrite of the first order. a race guy who was better at sounding “acceptable ” and not too much like David Duke but effectively was. Who illustrates the ability of the conservative to have two different standards one for themselves and one for everyone else. an asshole with a better education and vocabulary.
    uncle frogy

  38. stroppy says

    re: neocons blanching

    Trump jumped the gun on the Republican programmatic march toward fascism. They don’t like it, but even so, they’d rather salvage it than give it up.

  39. birgerjohansson says

    They are certainly critical about some other races, wether that qualifies as “theory” is another matter.

  40. fatpie42 says

    Enough smart ethnic minority figures have dismissed critical race theory (and often been called hideous racist epithets for doing so) to make me seriously doubt it. Also we have a white woman charging through the nose to speak about it (Robin DiAngelo). Tucker Carlson seems like a bit of an idiot, but he seems like more of a closet racist than a white supremacist. I mean perhaps you have information you’re not sharing, but his anti-immigration nonsense isn’t quite the same as being a member of the KKK. But just because Tucker Carlson doesn’t like CRT should not mean the rest of us have to embrace it. Ethnic minorities, whether black, native American, Asian, Latin American, or even minority white groups (where I am in the UK, Poles are a significant minority group), should all be given an equal opportunity and no pseudo scientific discourse about oppressors and victims is required for this. CRT is an ideology that seeks to divide and which sets itself as unfalsifiable and worst of all it emphasises race difference at the expense of the much required discussion about class difference. Poverty and a lack of a supportive family structure will disadvantage someone a lot more than race ever could. CRT has no space for that discussion in its blinkered ideology.

  41. J R says

    “Conservatives see it as a tool to “shame white teachers”, but CRT teaches that racism is “a product of the system and not just individual bad actors”.”

    I see their trouble with CRT as something worse than racism, a serious inability to understand objective truth. It tells me that they use their words to shame people, not even understanding the value of truth and connection. If you ever had the misfortune to deal with a big-time liar, you learn that they don’t even understand truth; they think everyone else uses their words to lie & manipulate, just like they do.