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Critical race theory

The assault on western liberalism

Jake Olimb/Getty Images

To understand the moral panic about “white supremacy”, says Andrew Sullivan in The Weekly Dish, we first have to define its intellectual bedrock, “critical race theory”. That isn’t easy, because it’s full of jargon and “deliberately impenetrable”. But its target is clear: the core ideas that form the foundation of liberal democracy. Among these ideas are “fallibilism”, the belief that anyone can be wrong; and objectivity, the rejection of any theory that cannot “be proven or disproven by reality”. Only one human civilisation has ever depended on these principles: the West since the Enlightenment. It is the “genius of liberalism” that unleashed human freedom.

Critical race theory takes aim at these core principles – and, because it does so in the “otherwise noble” cause of helping the marginalised, it is immensely seductive. “Enlightenment rationality”, it argues, is no more than a manifestation of “white power”. Our minds have been “marinated in white supremacist culture” for so long that the system has to be dismantled rather than reformed. What critical race theory is not – though it should be – is an “open-ended inquiry into buried history”, a way of acknowledging the brutal aspects of white supremacy. Instead it insists that identity always trumps reason. So, when a white cis woman makes an argument, a Latino trans man can dismiss it simply because a white woman is making it. Every time that dismissal sticks, “liberal society dies a little”. Surely we’re better off with a “self-correcting, open liberal system” than surrendering to tribalism.

Read the full article here (paywall).