Editor's Note: This article was originally published under the name "John David," the former pseudonym of NAS Communications & Research Associate David Acevedo. To learn more about why David no longer writes under this name, click here.
CounterCurrent: Week of 9/27
You’ve heard of racism. And you’re probably familiar with its “systemic,” “institutional,” and/or “structural” forms which, many allege, pervade every aspect of American society and history. Maybe you’re also privy to critical theory, the Marxism-derived philosophy that “provides the descriptive and normative bases for social inquiry aimed at decreasing domination and increasing freedom in all their forms [freedom used loosely here].”
How about critical theory’s many ideological children, including, queer theory, women’s and gender studies, postcolonialism, structuralism, post-scructuralism, deconstruction, reconstructivism, or intersectionality? Like an onion, all of these modern disciplines can be peeled back to reveal an embedded core of social Marxism. Marx and Engels couldn’t have dreamed that the fruits of their labor would hold such sway in 21st-century American academia.
But these ideologies are not limited to the walls of the ivory tower—one key offshoot of critical theory made national headlines last week, namely critical race theory (CRT). Russell Vought, Director of the Office of Management and Budget for the Trump administration issued a memorandum which relays President Trump’s orders to
… identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on ‘critical race theory,’ ‘white privilege,’ or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil. In addition, all agencies should ... cancel any such contracts and/or to divert Federal dollars away from these un-American propaganda training sessions.”
But what exactly is critical race theory, and how did it become so mainstream that it even pervades federal trainings? Does it deserve the label of “un-American propaganda” that President Trump and others have given it? Is it indeed so dangerous as to warrant the revocation of Federal funding?
Here to help is Ray Sanchez, writing for Minding the Campus, who in this week’s featured article provides a concise yet robust definition of CRT and its constituent parts. Sanchez wrote this essay both for those unfamiliar with CRT and for those “knee-deep in personal research about Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity who are in need of a simple and concise description that binds the D.I.E. trinity together.”
Sanchez also dissects what he calls the “essential ingredient” of critical race theory: New Racism. He writes that “New Racism is ubiquitous and baked-in to all of society, and CRT provides the philosophical underpinning, as well as the job description, to get the ‘anti-racist’ work done to deconstruct every American institution.” After all, that is the logical endpoint of these newfangled ideologies, despite their proponents’ claims to pursue “freedom,” “equality/equity,” and/or “liberation.”
Any and all interested in gaining a greater understanding of the basic claims of critical race theory and New Racism will find Sanchez’s essay helpful—I encourage you to read through it as you think through these philosophies yourself. They won’t be going anywhere any time soon.
CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’ weekly newsletter, written by Communications & Research Associate David Acevedo. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.
Image: Gustave Doré, illustration to Dante’s Inferno, Plate VIII: Canto III: The gate of Hell. “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” Public Domain.