I see right through you, conservatives

I thought this was a good overview of critical race theory:

Critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that racism is a social construct, and that it is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.

Except for this part:

All these different ideas grow out of longstanding, tenacious intellectual debates. Critical race theory emerged out of postmodernist thought, which tends to be skeptical of the idea of universal values, objective knowledge, individual merit, Enlightenment rationalism, and liberalism—tenets that conservatives tend to hold dear.

I’ve never known a conservative to hold that kind of principled perspective. I’m guessing the author was trying to be charitable, but mainly what I’ve encountered is conservatives trying to rationalize their beliefs, which they acquired by tradition and upbringing rather than by actual reason. Claiming to be a “classical liberal” or that they hold “Enlightenment values” is just an excuse that sounds good…unless, of course, the values they are endorsing are imperialism, colonialism, and the inherent superiority of Western European culture. I can believe they sincerely agree with those aspects of the Enlightenment.

What we’ve got is a set of feel-good labels that obscure the complexity of what the phenomena named actually mean. It’s like saying “I like Thai food” without any further specification.


  1. kome says

    Strange that the author goes to great lengths to explain that Critical Race Theory as an academic topic is far more narrow in focus and scope than it is being caricatured by people outside of academia – even going on to parallel it to Common Core – but then just drops terms like “individual merit” or “Enlightenment rationalism” out there as if there’s agreement in the populace as to what those terms mean.

    What, exactly, is it about “individual merit” that conservatives hold dear, when they see nothing wrong with nepotism or legacy admissions to Ivy League schools? It’s only valued by conservatives as a means to victim blame poors and blacks for not being riches and whites.
    What objective knowledge do conservatives hold dear? Evolution? Climate change? The nuanced nature of biological sex not fitting a neat binary? What things do conservatives consider to be objective knowledge?

    Yea, the author is maybe being charitable, but if he is being charitable than he’s had to engage in a lot of rhetorical deception in order to do so. Which, I acknowledge, is all too common. If you don’t bend over backwards in the media to paint conservatives as having some at least equal moral value to society you get tarred and feathered and lose your job when they inevitably whine that you’re being unfair to them by accurately depicting who they are and what they believe.

  2. PaulBC says

    The Trump administration should be enough to expose the hoax of “individual merit.” Granted, George W. Bush should have too, but Trump didn’t even hide the fact that he was handing out jobs purely based on loyalty and nepotism. He reveled in it. Jared Kushner is the poster boy for being born rich and marrying your way into power.

    I have no idea what postmodernism has to do with any of this. To a large extent, mainstream Democrats took over the messages of “personality responsibility” yadda yadda that were a big deal during the 80s. The mistake was taking Republicans at their word, leaving someone like Hillary Clinton wondering why all her hard work never paid off in appreciation from conservatives.

    Republicans have never been about merit, responsibility, objectivity, or whatever else it is they claim. It’s white grievance all the way down. They just cloak it in whatever proxy they can use. When there was still a functioning social safety net, grievance could be expressed as “those people”: free riders who didn’t deserve it. In our current more racially diverse nation, it is a lot harder to pretend that white people all got that way out of individual merit.

  3. stroppy says

    It’s hard problem. If you think of it as rhetorical warfare, you want to open an easy way for them out of the destructive mindset they inhabit and appeal to their forgotten, better angels (if they actually exist).

    Or lance the boil and let the pus drain. Obviously it’s not going to work in every situation, like when the infection has congealed, is a very much a hardened target, and is aggressively growing.

    (How do you like them mixed metaphors?)

    Sometimes things get to the point where they are just going to end badly.

  4. chrislawson says

    Jeez, when was the last time a prominent conservative self-identified as liberal? Thirty, forty years ago? It’s a thought-blocking perjorative in the conservative movement now.

  5. specialffrog says

    @chrislawson: It depends on whether or not you consider the IDW to be “prominent conservatives”.

  6. beholder says


    Jeez, when was the last time a prominent conservative self-identified as liberal?

    They call it Libertarianism here in the U.S., and conservatives self-identify as Libertarians often enough.

    More rarely they’ll use the term “classical Liberal”.

  7. says

    Not just Americans! Sargon of Akkad and Count Dankula (you shall know them by their stupid pseudonyms) have called themselves “classical liberals”.

  8. unclefrogy says

    I hear that “argument” and others like it as in the voice of W.C.Fields big words in one of his more disreputable characters big words and all and when I do the lie is completely exposed.

  9. johnniefurious says

    You only need to change one word: Change “tend” to “pre-tend”.

  10. says

    Sargon of Akkad and Count Dankula

    Both have stood for election as members of the dumpster fire called UKIP. That kind of tells you enough about them.

  11. birgerjohansson says

    rsmith @ 10
    While the vicious corruption and hatred of the poor that is the current iteration of the conservative party has greater staying power than ukip, the latter is one of the few groups to have “aggressive stupidity” as ideology.
    In the tory party, that aspect is diluted by ordinary corruption.