Whiteness and critical race theory

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
October 25, 2021

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeAn article, “Energising conservative voters, one school board election at a time”, appeared in The New York Times last Thursday. It was subtitled “Republicans hope that concerns about critical race theory can help them in the midterm election”.

This issue has torn apart one of Wisconsin’s suburbs. Stephanie Saul, author of that article, sought to demonstrate how “Republicans are using fears of critical race theory to drive school board recalls and energise conservatives, hoping to lay groundwork for the 2022 midterm elections” (October 21).

Although critical race theory (CRT) is not taught at US primary or secondary schools, parents in predominantly white school districts are particularly afraid of the teaching of what they consider a pernicious doctrine to their children. Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state and a distinguished professor at Stanford University, noted on Wednesday’s episode of The View: “I would like black kids to be completely empowered to know they are beautiful in their blackness, but in order to do that, it don’t have to make white kids feel bad for being white.”

CRT has not been confined to school boards. It has also invaded US politics. In Virginia, Terrie McAuliffe (Democrat) is fighting against Glenn Youngkin (Republican) for his political life in next month’s gubernatorial election. What was supposed to be an easy victory for McAuliffe is now a dead heat because, as McAuliffe says, Youngkin is using CRT as “a racist dog whistle” to energise his followers. During his political rallies “the loudest cheers come when Youngkin promises to ban critical race theory in Virginia on his first day in office” (Washington Post, October 13.)

What then, is CRT and why is it driving white folks crazy?

CRT is not a recent entity against which so many misguided state governors and boards of education have raised their voices. It is an ongoing mode of intellectual enquiry and practice that was started by our academic forefathers and fore-mothers such as WEB Du Bois, Ida B Wells-Barnett, Anna Julia Cooper and Carter G Woodson, all of whom placed the notion of race-consciousness at the heart of their pedagogical and ideological projects.

CRT, in its present form, emerged in the 1980s from the dissatisfaction with how law professors at Harvard University treated the question of race as it involved their interpretation of the law. The editors of Critical Race Theory (1997) noted: “With its explicit embrace of race-consciousness, critical race theory aims to re-examine the terms by which race and racism have been negotiated in American consciousness, and to recover and to revitalise the radical tradition of race-consciousness among African-American and other peoples of colour—a tradition that was discarded when integration, assimilation and the ideal of colour-blindness became the official norms of racial enlightenment.”

White scholars were also present at the founding of CRT as an intellectual enterprise. Derrick Bell, “The man behind critical race theory”, as The New Yorker described him last month, noted: “Those critical race theorists who are white are usually cognisant of and committed to the overthrow of their own racial privilege.”

In other words, the proponents of CRT were saying that one could not analyse the challenges that faced the US if one did not consider the role race played in the making of America and how it shapes society today. Such an analysis must also consider how whiteness and white privilege affect the distribution of goods and services in the society.

CRT, however, did not gather full speed until September 4, 2020, when the Trump administration started its war against “race-based ideologies” and the Office of Management and Budget director Russell Vought, at President Trump’s behest, released a memo instructing “federal agencies to identify any critical race theory and white privilege training within their department training plans”.

Things got worse on September 22, 2020, when President Trump released his “Executive Order on Combating Race and Stereotyping” that was designed “to promote unity in the Federal workforce, and to combat offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating”. He argued that CRT is “an ideology… rooted in the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country; that some people simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors; and that racial and sexual identities are more important than our common status as human beings and Americans”.

Following Trump’s lead, many states adopted the language of his Executive Order to outlaw the teaching of critical race theory or even to mention such language in school. Like Trump, they believe that CRT teaches white children to hate themselves.

One organisation, Moms for Liberty, has 135 chapters in 35 states with 56,000 members and supporters. In January 2021, it sent letters to school board members across the country, alleging that “teaching white children about systematic racism and the legacy of white supremacy makes their children feel guilty about their white skins and even suicidal”.

James Hohmann ended his article, “Critical race Theory is a potent issue in Virginia’s governor’s race”, with the words: “Critical race theory is an issue tailor-made to help Republicans win this, well, critical race.”

CRT does more than this. It prevents America from relapsing into its centuries-old habit of race-blindness that has prevented it from achieving the goals of its Declaration of Independence that all men and women are created equal. With all due respect to Rice, teaching white kids about the central role race plays in their society allows them to have a better sense of how their country works.

CRT does not teach white people to hate themselves. It allows them to liberate themselves from baseless fears they have harboured over centuries due to their mis-education in America.

13 thoughts on “Whiteness and critical race theory”

  1. Systemic racism has been the major factor in race relations for centuries. We have seen it in nations where the dominant race use their position to oppress other races. They hire only their kind but more so the have been brainwashed to see others as enemies and there unworthy of love, respect and the dignity owed to all humanity.

    Since 1956 Africanas in TnT have been dominating the economy and the various organs of the State. Today it is no more clearer, for those who have eyes to see, an Africana P.M., C.J. and President along with a host of tribalist in the media and on all state boards singing for their supper. They are using racial dominance to exclude others and therefore for them “here every creed and race finds an equal place” means they can do what the hell they want and remain unaccountable to anyone.

    In the 60s they began a program of ethnic cleansing that saw 90% of the Army being Africana, 85% of the police service, 80% of the civil service and 90% of housing registered tribalistic excess. In State enterprises it was the same. People who could not read or write properly were engineers and managers.

    How did they do it?
    It was simple, if your name was Ramrajee, Ramlal, Sooklal etc your service commission application was placed at the bottom of the pile or shredded. If you apply for housing it was the same principle. Indians were duped into thinking PNMites were poor people but the truth is they are amongst the richest in the Caribbean after 3 oil booms. In Tobago a billion dollars disappeared in 2005 and nobody knew where the money went. Those crooks like President made themselves unaccountable to the public.

    Under the current regime over $300 billion has been spent with nothing to show. Last election they use tax payers dollars to give grants up to $14,000 effectively bribing the people to support them. Grant money flowing out of the PNM constituency offices under the banner of Costa Nostra. Now they are sending out their agents to take your money in the form of property tax.

    Critical race theory is active in TnT and must be immediately addressed. The imbalance created from it is not good for future generations. Love your country all of it not some of it. Love the citizenry, not some of them all of them. Together we aspire together we achieve!

    1. Let’s see if any UNC supporter is able to highlight or challenge at least some of what is wrong with this comment.

  2. Selwyn Cudjoe has written an informative and educative article that is of great relevance to those who are aware of the threat of distorting history, of rewriting history, and the impact it has on people’s consciousness. For this we must commend Selwyn. The opposition to Critical Race Theory is happening now in America, it is an attempt to distort and rewrite history and to prevent the truth about American history, particularly the exploitation and dehumanization of slaves, from being brought to light. “CRT is not a recent entity against which so many misguided state governors and boards of education have raised their voices. It is an ongoing mode of intellectual enquiry and practice that was started by our academic forefathers and fore-mothers such as WEB Du Bois, Ida B Wells-Barnett, Anna Julia Cooper and Carter G Woodson, all of whom placed the notion of race-consciousness at the heart of their pedagogical and ideological projects.”
    I just want to add some more information on CRT that may give some more context to the issue. WEB Du Bois et al are indeed in the center of the intellectual practice that attempted to expose the injustice and inhumanity of slavery, but CRT is also influenced by a strand of philosophy pioneered by European philosophers such as Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, stemming from the critical philosophy of Kant, through Nietzsche, Foucault, Derrida and Lyotard and then particularly in the Frankfurt School with philosophers such as Marcuse and Adorno. The issue is how do we get knowledge about reality, Kant’s critical philosophy claimed that knowledge was mediated by the categories. In other words there was no unmediated knowledge of reality. It was as if we were wearing sunglasses which colored our knowledge. Philosophers like Nietzsche took it further. Our knowledge of reality was just a perspective. In fact we construct our reality to advance our claim for power, in social terms, sociological and political power. We do this, according to the later philosophies of Lyotard and Foucault, by constructing a narrative about the world. In Derrida’s terms, once we write about the world, we make ourselves the subject, we give ourselves a privileged place and simultaneously we “otherise” the world. It is this connection between our truth (or our narrative about the world) that privileges us in relation to the world. It is this narrative that enables us to subject the world to our whims, our interests, our desires. And if we can give this narrative the power to define the world, get others to accept this narrative, then the world bends to our vision of it, our place in it. Lyotard calls this a grand narrative, grand narratives are totalizing, and this is what organizes the world into oppressor and oppressed and gives a rationalization to injustice. Critical philosophy thus calls for the deconstruction of grand narratives as the means of breaking down the rationalizations to injustice. Critical Race Theory sees the deconstruction of those narratives that rationalize injustice to blacks in America as the means to clearing the path to justice. White supremacy is the grand narrative that rationalizes injustice to blacks, and it is a narrative that must be weighed against the truth of history to deconstruct it. That is why history and the truth of history become so important for CRT and clearing a path for justice.

  3. What we are witnessing in the attack on Critical Race Theory in America by right wing fanatics is the attempt to distort history, rewrite history and to leave out incontrovertible facts of history. It is happening before our eyes, transparently, and so we notice it, we are conscious of it. Yet the same process of distorting history has happened before, below the radar as it were. In Central and South America, archaeologists are now uncovering huge cities built hundreds of years ago, relics of the civilizations of indigenous peoples, now buried over by forests and bush, people who are considered “primitive”. Africa has been the main target of this distortion of history. Books like Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” created this image of Africa as a place without civilization, a nothingness that was the opposite of civilized Europe. Rudyard Kipling, who wrote about the “white man’s burden” defending imperialism, was given a Nobel prize in Literature in1907, whilst Toni Morrison, the first African-American Nobel prize winner in Literature, is being attacked by right wing fanatics for her book “Beloved” that describes the hardships of slavery. Africa, the birthplace of Egypt, the greatest civilization of ancient times, Egypt the civilization that had transmitted to Europe many of its ideas, was partitioned off from Africa. It was not even considered black, and yet when we look at the artifacts from ancient Egypt, the pharaohs, the paintings, they all have black features, have you seen a picture of King Tut? The great civilizations of “sub-Saharan” Africa have been literally cancelled out. History has been distorted and rewritten and the image of Africa and Africans has been distorted. Now the attempt is to rewrite history in front of our eyes. Chinua Achebe, in his book “Things Fall Apart”, pointed out the degradation of the African image by writers such as Joseph Conrad in “Heart of Darkness”. The distortion and rewriting of history goes on in a much more transparent way today. It is an attempt to restore and reinforce the narrative of white supremacy because of the challenge of CRT which sees the connection between injustice and the historical narratives that rationalize that injustice. CRT seeks to bring to light facts of history that have been covered over, deliberately and intentionally, to justify injustice against the dispossessed. We need to be aware of what is going on and join the struggle against this attack on the truth. The new struggle for the liberation of humankind is the struggle between historical narratives that falsify the truth and deny the injustices that have been meted out to people of African descent and those that present the truth as it was and still is.

  4. Behind the Critical Race Theory Furor

    How a dark-money mogul bankrolled an astroturf backlash.

    By Jasmine Banks
    August 13, 2021 – thenation.com

    Once again, the forces of capitalism are harnessing racism to do their dirty work.

    More than 25 states have introduced legislation or taken other action that, backers claim, is aimed at banning “critical race theory” (CRT) from schools and government programs. Several states have already passed these bills, and discussion on this topic leads Fox News every night.

    The common story about this surge of action is that this is a new “Tea Party” moment—a genuine uprising by grassroots Americans who are furious about CRT and demanding action from their state legislatures. But that story ignores the clear influence of a carefully built campaign by the network of radical free-market capitalist think tanks and action groups supported by billionaire businessman Charles Koch and his late brother David.
    Full Article : thenation.com

    PS:

    Mathematics in Africa has been written out of history books – it’s time we reminded the world of its rich past

    It is impossible to quantify how much the slave trade impacted the reputation of African mathematics, but we are slowly regaining a better perspective

    By Michael Brooks – independent.co.uk

    “In Trinidad and Ghana, it’s known as susu. In Senegal and Benin it’s tontines. In Nigeria, where it began in the
    1700s, it’s esusu. Whatever you call it, this system of large-scale money-pooling for mutual benefit shows that Africa has never had a problem with mathematics.”

    “Sub-Saharan Africa has largely been written out of the history of mathematics because many of its traditions were passed down by word of mouth and then lost because of disruptive events such as the slave trade. It also suited Europeans to spread the idea that the peoples that they had captured and enslaved were not intelligent in any meaningful way. But the records we do have, some written, and some bound up in historical artefacts that give a glimpse of daily life, tell us that complex mathematics was always central to the activities of African civilisations, just as it always has been to civilisations in other regions of the world.”
    Full Article : independent.co.uk

  5. When slaves were captured brought to the West they were regarded as sub human creatures. To be property of the white man. Therefore the whole idea of racial equality was vanquished in the slave markets of America. There stood a young man like a dog with a chain band around his neck and two chains connected to his hand. Let’s give that young man a name Kuntakinte Kian

    In Africa he was a prince but now he is sold as property to a cotton plantation. There he will toil from early in the morning as the slave driver bears on his back a whip that has created furrows covering his back from years of bleeding and healing.

    CRT is necessary to raise the conscience of society from what was once acceptable to what is now scornful. That slave Kuntakinte Kian did not deserved to be treated in such a horrible manner. Today white privilege is part of the psychology imbued within the psyche of all and sundry. The white folks are treated with a higher degree of respect and less suspicion. This is common amongst all races. It is a psychosis that is more common amongst the older generation. I have had that problem of being viewed and respected less because “u isa onea ah we”. Or the usual “I doh have to listen to he”. I had to fire a guy once for that behaviour. But white folks my age are given the utmost respect.

    It is a sad reality of the times we live in.

    1. Thanks News.. But why is a Psychologist Association ‘apologizing’ for their role in ‘promoting’ Black Oppression?
      I mean, I do see psychologist names mentioned on the credit lines of movies and ting?
      Are their members saddled throughout media ‘for we’? What exactly are they apologizing for? I see no specific role mentioned here… Help..

    2. Google says: “Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior, according to the American Psychological Association. It is the study of the mind, how it works, and how it affects behavior. … A psychologist treats a patient through psychotherapy, helping to relieve symptoms through behavioral change”. Feb 1, 2018

      Thanks, News.

    3. And News, as our people perish from Covid… in TT.
      One is reminded of our own Terry Joseph… They don’t come like that anymore. We can only imagine if he was with us today, you would doubt that this pandemic would take hold of TT as it has now… Not when we can look to Africa for relief…

      RIP, Dear Brother.

      >Emancipation episodes
      By Terry Joseph
      July 22, 2005
      Carried in the June 9 edition of The Economist, an obituary to Mr Naki, who died on May 29 at age 78, shed new light on 20th Century cruelty against South African blacks, not the whipping and jailing but the most outrageous case of identity theft, for it was Mr Naki’s work that made possible the world’s first heart transplant, although Dr Christiaan Barnard singularly reveled in resulting global fame for more than 30 years before admitting the deception.
      On December 3, 1967, the body of a young white woman, victim of a traffic accident, was brought to Groote Schuur hospital in Capetown and Mr Naki assigned to do post-mortem dissection. She was brain dead but her heart remained pumping. It was as lucky as Dr Barnard could get, since a patient in an adjacent operating theatre, Louis Washkansky, desperately needed a heart.<

      http://www.trinicenter.com/Terryj/2005/Jul/22.htm

    4. The organization said it has been complicit in systemic racism and eugenics for decades by “upholding the myth of White superiority.”
      Psychology has accepted Whiteness as the standard and “presented other races as inferior, marginal, or unnatural,” the group said.
      White men established the APA in 1892 and many of them contributed to methods that perpetuated systemic racism, such as promoting eugenics, the APA said.
      “Psychologists created, promoted, and administered psychological tests, intelligence tests, educational assessments, and interventions that were normed on White samples, culturally-biased, and discriminated against people of color,” the APA said.
      Along with the resolutions, the APA published a chronology from 1869 to the present that details events, research and practices within the psychology field that harmed communities of color or contributed to racism.
      https://edition.cnn.com/2021/11/01/us/american-psychological-association-apologizes-racism/index.html

      Historical chronology
      Examining psychology’s contributions to the belief in racial hierarchy and perpetuation of inequality for people of color in U.S.
      https://www.apa.org/about/apa/addressing-racism/historical-chronology

  6. Food for thought, Professor… As if I have time for VA politics..

    >Virginia’s first black Lieutenant Governor tears into Democrats
    Harriet Alexander For Dailymail.com 7 hrs ago

    Winsome Sears, 57, was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and arrived in the United States when she was six. She grew up in the Bronx, entered the Marines as an electrician, and ran a homeless shelter before entering Virginia politics in 2001.<

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/virginia-s-first-black-lieutenant-governor-tears-into-democrats/ar-AAQj0Fj?ocid=msedgntp

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