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My Chat With a Critical Race Theorist

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is obviously theoretical in nature. That's meant in the simple sense that it isn't primarily factual. It CRS were entirely (or even mainly) factual, it wouldn't be theoretical. Despite saying that, it's cetainly the case that many philosophers of science – as well as scientists themselves - often dispute any rigid distinction between fact and theory. It will even be argued that merely mentioning the words “fact” and “truth” - in this or indeed in any context - is philosophically naïve. Nonetheless, in the case of Critical Race Theory, it's clear that theory is the main deal. If theory were only - or simply - factual, then it wouldn't do the political job that “race theorists” want it to do.

In that sense, CRT is very much like Marxist theory. Indeed it is a variation on - or outgrowth from - Marxist theory.

As Karl Marx himself put it:

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.”

Franz Fanon - the essentialist about blackness and advocate of “revolutionary violence” (who also inspired Post-Colonial Studies, Critical Theory, Marxism, etc.) – also wrote:

“How can one then be deaf to that voice rolling down the stages of history: 'What matters is not to know the world but to change it.' This matters appallingly in our lifetime.”

Moreover, if we also take Sociology of Culture, Critical Legal Theory, Discourse Analysis, Black Studies, Post-Colonial Studies, Deconstruction, Critical Race Studies, Media Studies, Peace Studies, Subaltern Studies, Ethnic Studies, Gender Studies, Cultural Studies, Queer Theory, Critical Theory... ad infinitum, we can safely say that these academic disciplines are deeply political. That is, they don't simply study politics and society: they're also deeply political in themselves. What that means is that such academics have political causes and values in mind before they carry out their “empirical research”. Political causes and values colour almost everything they do. In other words, such academics are as politically-driven as they claim their opponents are. 

All the above points to the fact that these disciplines are tools to bring about "progressive change" - not tools for discovering truths/facts. Truths/facts may be found (or used) by such professors/lecturers in their academic work. However, truths, facts and even evidence aren't the raison d'être of their work.

Despite my mentioning “the unseen” (to use Althusser's word) of academia, many professors and lecturers – especially Critical Race Theorists – have been honest about their political use of theory. They've freely admitted that the prime motive behind their theorising is to bring about “radical political change”. Indeed there are numerous quotes - which can easily be found - of such academics explicitly stating (if not to outsiders or to political opponents) their political motivations

And because of my own critical position on Critical Race Theory, Fluetin McX (whom we shall meet later) had this to say:

“Sociology is a pseudo-science? I forgot we lived in a 'post-society' world, of course.”

I never actually classed sociolgy as a “pseudo-science”. Sociology isn't a “pseudoscience” in the same way that astrology, ESP, Freudianism/psychoanalysis, Marxism, etc. are; though it's certainly not like physics, biology and chemistry. However, the term “sociology” is extremely broad and it covers many areas. So my words are really about the sub-disciplines mentioned above. Namely: Critical Legal Theory, Deconstruction, Discourse Analysis, Black Studies, Queer Theory, etc.

None of the disciplines above utilise the scientific method or any of the tools used by physicists, chemists, biologists, psychologists or even philosophers. Indeed there's no reason why these disciplines should use the scientific method if they aren't sciences in the first place.

Many political/social “theoreticians” and “radical” philosophers have also spent a lot of time criticising science and the scientific method. They've also argued that the scientific method doesn't so much as exist. Indeed many disciplines – such as Deconstruction – have even argued against the very existence of truths or facts; as well as against the political or theoretical point of argumentation or evidence.  Again, this too has mainly been for political – not factual or philosophical – reasons.

The aforementioned academic disciplines, therefore, are but means to bring about political ends. And if we add to that the fact that almost all these professors, lecturers and “researchers” are leftwing or “progressive” in political persuasion, then we have a massive academic bias on our hands. In fact we've had that bias since the 1960s.

Finally, the following is primarily a commentary on a conversation I had – on social media - with a strong believer in Critical Race Theory. I've used his own words in the piece and changed his name to Fluetin McX.


Systemic White Racism?

Fluetin McX said:

“In terms of sociology: yes! All white people are racist. That because all whites benefit from systemic racism.”

I replied:

In terms of very specific progressive/leftwing theories within sociology: yes!  It's indeed the case that “all white people are racist”.

McX continued:

“We identify racism as a systemic network where there is perpetuation of prejudice rather than single instances.”

McX's ideas above are political additions to the everyday notion of racism. They're a result of leftwing theory. No one accepts them unless they already accept the politics inherent in them and the political causes they advance.

McX had more to say on “systemic racism”: He said:

“The fact that this system is skewed into direct benefit of white people means that we take, tacit or not, advantage out of the system.”

Even if all that were true, it still wouldn't stop blacks from being racist or succeed in making all whites racist. It's theory and theory alone which does that trick. 

As for every white person being a racist, McX also said:

“Participating in a racist system, whether apologetically or not, is being part of the system. and being part of a racist system means being racist, whether we want it or not, this is truth.”

I then asked him if - being a white person himself - he too was a racist. I also asked if he also “participates in a racist system”. 

So McX believes in a sociological theory which makes it the case that all whites are racists and that no blacks can be racist against whites. That basically means that theories and definitions can do miraculous things. Especially if they're used to advance political causes.

The main claim, then, is that all whites – presumably this also includes white Leftists/progressives –  "benefit from systemic racism". That must also mean that not only is white racism built into all political and social institutions in the “capitalist West”: it's also the case that all whites benefit from that systemic or institutional racism. And if that's the case, then, by definition, all whites must be racist (either in a strong or a weak sense).

So do all whites benefit from systemic racism?

What about homeless, unemployed and poor whites? In parallel, don't some – or even many - blacks benefit from such “racist institutions”? What about Barack Obama, Diane Abbott MP, Al Sharpton, black politicians, lawyers, pop stars, sports celebrities, rap stars, actors and, last but not least, Critical Race Theorists?

Fluetin McX's logic is faulty in another way.

Even if whites do benefit from “systemic racism”, that doesn't automatically mean that they're racist. Perhaps they can't help but benefit from such a system. This is like the case of people being born into a rich, privileged and politically-powerful families. That accident of birth can't be held against them. Though what they do after birth may be held against them. This, of course, depends on what they do after birth and also on one's own political and moral position on those people born into rich families.

In any case, presumably a person's racism is primarily a psychological phenomenon; which can indeed have social/political consequences. Thus it must also be about a person's attitude towards black people. Even if a white person does benefit from a “racist system” (if only in a passive way), he may still not be racist. Of course this is where theory comes in. Hence you can define a racist as "any white person who benefits from a racist system"; regardless of his psychological attitudes towards black people.

Why would someone want to define racism in this highly specific and theory-laden way? The answer is simple. That definition is a very good way to advance the political cause of utterly changing a political system. That is, the definition is designed to help radically change (or even destroy) "capitalist democracy" in the West.

This isn't hyperbole.

If the system – by definition - makes all white people racist, then the only solution to this is to change (or destroy) that system. Thus these theoretical definitions of racism are also designed to bring about large-scale political power for black people; as well as for the white (leftwing) enablers of blacks.

The Racism/Prejudice Distinction

McX also said that blacks can “hold prejudices; though they can't be racist against whites”.  That's another theoretical/technical pair of terms from Critical Race Theory. It's yet another mindless expression of the cliched and very well-embedded distinction between “racism” and “prejudice”.

The strange thing is that (some?) CRTs do believe that blacks can be racist – though not against whites! McX, for example, said:

“I never said black people cannot be racist, as there are other racisms, like against Asian people and so on.”

So blacks can indeed be racist against Asians; though not against whites. Why is that? Because “whites have the power”.  Asians don't... or at least Asians don't have as much power as whites. However, Asians (i.e., mainly Chinese, though also Japanese, Korean, etc.) often do have more power – at least economic/business power – than blacks. And that partly explains the extensive and long-running black racism and violence against Asians in the United States.

To get back to the racism/prejudice distinction.

What most leftwingers (or “progressives”) do is quote this theoretical contrast as if it's progressive scripture. Yet, in actual fact, this distinction – along with the views that “all whites are racist”, etc. - is only held by a tiny number of  people (mainly academics and students) at a particular moment in history. Nonetheless, these academics have immense social and political power: not only on their students; but also on the wider (non-academic) world.

Finally, there's no reason why anyone should accept Critical Race Theory's highly-theoretical distinctions and ideas unless they already accept the political causes, beliefs and values which have given rise to them. Thus, if one rejects the political theory, then the prejudice/racism distinction – along with all the other theories which run parallel to it - will very quickly collapse. 


Into the Wasteland: Toxic Masculinity Edition

Stephen Kessler 18 February 2019

Into the Wasteland: Toxic Masculinity Edition

Stephen Kessler 18 February 2019