You have probably heard about Critical Race Theory (CRT) by now. You have probably been scared into thinking that it’s going to take over the education system, the legal system, and all of public discord - but the truth is that the real damage caused by CRT is being ignored by almost every pundit who brings it up. Before going there, however, it’s important to identify just what CRT is and what it isn’t.
Whenever CRT is brought up, it is inevitably linked to several other well-known bogeymen of the Right. CRT is not anti-racism. CRT is not Marxism. CRT is not simply a way for the Left to cram down their beliefs on the Right. CRT is, in fact, a legal argument. So for the correct definition, the best place to look is the American Bar Association.
According to the ABA, Critical Race Theory is merely “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…It provides a lens through which the civil rights lawyer can imagine a more just nation.”
The interesting word in that definition is “lens.” You hear that word a lot when it comes to defining CRT. It was used by CNN, MSNBC, CBS, and host of scholarly works from a variety of papers written by people with a lot of letters following their names. CRT is merely a lens through which law, history, and a variety of other topics can be viewed. Here’s the funny thing about lenses, though: They distort reality.
Imagine a camera with a blue lens over its normal lens. What will happen to the image captured by the camera? Obviously, it will give a blue tint to the entire picture. Things that are not blue will come across with a blueish hue, despite the fact that they are definitely not blue. A picture of a snow-covered mountaintop will be distorted by the lens placed over it. Likewise, the lens of Critical Race Theory will show observable facts as having a tinge of racism, despite racism not being there without placing the blue lens over it.
Let’s look at the other important part of the ABA’s definition: “spread to other fields of scholarship.” This is the important aspect of what we are dealing with today. The spread of CRT is fundamental to its acceptance. Colleges adapt it into their coursework. As such, it seeps into society in all areas of life: work, school, public policy, etc. None of this is more damaging than the way it is being utilized in schools. The refrain we hear constantly from the right is that CRT is being taught in schools. This is not accurate enough to illustrate the problem. When you hear “being taught in schools,” you think that students may spend a few weeks out of the school year examining CRT and applying it to other topics they have covered. After the few weeks, they move on to another topic. Honestly, this is probably healthy for students to learn. If they are to know that this theory is out there, they can have an open and honest discussion about race and how it plays into life.
However, that is not how CRT works. Remember, it’s a lens - an ever-present cloud that alters how pictures, videos, and history are to be viewed. In order for CRT to be functional, it must be consistent throughout the educational process. Every topic must have that lens attached to it. According to the Purdue OWL, “Most CRT scholarship attempts to demonstrate not only how racism continues to be a pervasive component throughout dominant society, but also why this persistent racism problematically denies individuals many of the constitutional freedoms they are otherwise promised in the United States’ governing documents. This enables scholars to locate how texts develop in and through the cultural contexts that produced them, further demonstrating how pervasive systemic racism truly is.” All events need the context of the culture that existed at the time they happened. Without this context, the history or literary work would be incomplete. Therefore, the blue lens of CRT must be constant in order to work.
But there is a dirty truth about the CRT lens that seems to be missed. Let’s go back to that picture of a snow-covered mountaintop to see the surrounding blue sky and a blue lake at the bottom. Placing a blue lens over that image will change the white snow drastically, but the sky and the water remain blue. When you place that lens of race over historical events, it has a drastic effect over the observable non-racist events, but barely effects the actual racist history. And if we teach students everything is racist, it diminishes the real racism our country has faced. Slavery, Jim Crow, and the Tulsa Race Riot are all obviously racist, but when everything is racist-blue, the impact is diminished.
Izzo Zwiren is the host of The Jewish Living Podcast, where he and his guests delve into any and all areas of Orthodox Judaism.