Why This Liberal Opposes Critical Race Theory
Welcome back to the TaraElla Report. To kick this new season off, let’s talk about one of the most controversial topics right now: critical race theory. In particular, some things left-wing commentator Vaush said in his recent video titled ‘Conservative Snowflakes Terrified by Anti-Racist Powerpoint’ has prompted me to respond. As I promised, this season will be all about quality conversations on a higher intellectual level, and that’s what we will be doing today.
The main angle Vaush seems to be taking is that conservatives fear critical race theory because they don’t want to acknowledge racism exists, and they don’t want to fix racism. To be intellectually vigorous, there are many points to unpack there. Firstly, is it just conservatives who oppose critical race theory? Secondly, is the rejection of critical race theory based on not wanting to fix racism? Finally, is critical race theory even a good framework to fix racism in the first place? Let’s look at these things one by one.
Let’s start with the common misconception on the Left that the opposition to critical race theory is driven entirely by conservatives. Indeed, in the comments, they were talking about Trump supporters a lot. While it is true that conservatives often shout the loudest in this conversation, partly because they are often very well-funded, there are plenty of people who are not political conservatives who oppose critical race theory. For example, myself. I certainly don’t support Trump, in fact I have been a bigger supporter of Biden this year than most so-called progressives. I also certainly oppose racism in all its forms. I oppose critical race theory entirely from a liberal philosophical perspective. Indeed, as a committed liberal, the way I practice my anti-racism is completely incompatible with critical race theory.
I guess this means the discussion must then turn to what critical race theory is. Vaush initially said that it’s just a term to describe a collection of theories to describe our understanding of racial inequality, which I think is misleading. It’s misleading because critical race theory specifically refers to a subset of critical theory, and critical theory has a foundation in a worldview that is incompatible with liberal philosophy. Therefore, a philosophically liberal theory to understand racial disparities could not be a critical race theory, for example. To be fair, Vaush then went on to say something along the lines that critical race theory being about analyzing power structures that relate to race, where race is part of a wider system of such power dynamics. Now, that’s a much more accurate description of critical race theory, even though it’s still a bit vague, like descriptions of critical theories often are.
At this point, I should make it clear that I oppose critical race theory because it is a form of critical theory. I mean, in recent months there has been a unbalanced focus on critical race theory as opposed to other forms of critical theory. Indeed, it could arguably be racist to only oppose critical race theory, while not opposing other critical theories. I would at least be suspicious about the intentions of someone with that position. Now, let’s look at what critical theory is. Officially, critical theory is about analyzing power structures. But that’s not the whole story. You see, when critical theory was first invented in the 1930s, it was intended to be an application of what they believed to be the ‘method of Marx’ to areas other than economics.
My first problem with critical theory is that it divides people along lines like race and gender into rigid groups, with conflict between them inevitable and even desirable. My second problem with critical theory is that, as a liberal, specifically a Moral Libertarian who believes in Equal Moral Agency for every individual at the individual level, I cannot abide by critical theory’s conclusions, which would often justify the unequal treatment of individuals based on their supposed privilege.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I fully acknowledge the ugly reality of racism, and I’m committed to the elimination of racism.
No matter what you think about his policies, the election of President Obama was made possible by progress towards an anti-racist, colorblind society. The fact that America couldn’t seriously consider voting for a black president in 1988 but actually did so in 2008 is real progress made. I’m not saying you have to support Obama, what I’m saying is that it has recently become possible for America to vote for a black president, whereas in the past it was unimaginable, and this is real progress, all of it brought by liberalism and not critical theory. Of course, we still have a long way to go to eliminate racism, and there’s hard work to do. But we’ll do it the liberal way, not the critical theory way.
Finally, let’s address the point that people are opposing critical race theory because they don’t want to fix racism. Is that true? I think it’s certainly true in some cases, unfortunately. The failure to take racism seriously is a serious moral failing, and the existence of critical race theory is not an excuse at all for this moral failing. We should call out racism whenever we see it. But it’s very clear that you can be fully anti-racist, and still oppose critical race theory. Let’s not allow certain activists to paint an either-or picture of this.