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Critiquing Critical Race Theory

The current discourse about racism is underpinned by a belief system that actually prevents us from identifying the real barriers to communities thriving, writes Mike Thomas  


Forty years ago we lived opposite a corner shop run by a Sikh couple. One morning, we noticed that abusive graffiti had appeared on their wall. I was so ashamed that this could happen in our neighbourhood that I took a bucket and scrubbing brush and removed it myself.

A decade or so later, I attended a seminar led by a church racial justice co-ordinator. There we were told that only white people can commit racism. In spite of the fact that this extraordinary assertion seemed to fly in the face of common sense, I did not have the confidence to interrogate it. It was still puzzling me on a couple of more recent occasions, when I was subjected to racial abuse: from a policewoman in Africa (using intimidation to elicit a bribe), and from a group of young men in a dark alley in the majority-Asian neighbourhood where we lived (probably just having a laugh).

I was once on the receiving end of a loud tirade, generously spiced with expletives, in a church meeting, accusing me of racism, because I had gently challenged the person concerned about an aspect of their conduct. Members of the family hinted at possibilities of violence and, while such threats were never carried out, quite a few uncomfortable encounters ensued. Eventually, I am thankful to say, there was a reconciliation. The episode taught me that the accusation of racism can be as painful as the experience of it.

When I hear that only white people can be guilty of racism, I realise that most antiracist experts must be approaching this issue from a very distinctive angle. Delving deeper, I discover the pervasive influence of something called Critical Race Theory (CRT). This worldview maintains the Marxist premise that western societies are structured on the basis of a division between oppressed and oppressors. White people are oppressors, black people are the oppressed. It is because racism must be understood as an element of this exploitative structure that, by definition, only white people (the oppressors) can be guilty of racism. CRT demands that only the oppressed may define what their oppression is, for even the structures of thought and discourse have been rigged by white people to such an extent that it is a waste of time seeking truth by weighing evidence and engaging in rational debate. In fact, there is no objective truth to be sought, for ‘all reality is socially constructed’. Only those with ‘lived experience’ are entitled to be heard.

All this is supported by a selective account of history, especially slavery and empire, in which the guilt of Egypt and the Midianite traders is writ large, while the sin of Joseph’s brothers disappears into the background. Racism and race itself, we are told, were invented by Europeans in the 17th century, a proposition that sounds just as unlikely as ‘only white people can be racist’; so unlikely, in fact, that it could only be the product of an ideology.

Since the Macpherson Report of 1999 brought the concept of ‘institutional racism’ to the fore, the category has been used with ever broadening meaning, in harmony with the CRT agenda. ‘Institutional’ or ‘structural’ racism is now routinely used to describe any state of affairs in which any ethnic group experiences worse outcomes than white people.

Why are there more black people in prison, and mental institutions, why do more black people die of Covid, why do non-white people have a higher incidence of infant death, etc.? The ideological answer is that society is organised in such a way as to be unfair to them. As Robin DiAngelo, author of the best-selling White Fragility, puts it: “the question is not ‘did racism take place?’ but rather, ‘how did racism manifest in this situation?’” The remedy is that every facet of society and culture must be regarded as racist and must be radically dismantled and reconstructed.

Against this background, it is no surprise that the recent Sewell Report was received with so much condemnation, misrepresentation, and abuse. For Sewell maintains that the evidence does not support that structural racism is a main factor in producing negative outcomes in the UK in 2021.

On the contrary, he argues that regarding racism as the main problem prevents identifying the real barriers to communities thriving. If we jump to the conclusion that racism is responsible for poor health outcomes we will neglect to focus on, for example, the disproportionate occurrence of diabetes; we will not address the effect of high levels of cousin to cousin marriage on the incidence of fatal congenital birth defects, within some Asian communities; we will perhaps be glad of an excuse to avoid the thorny issue of the correlation between absent fathers and poor educational outcomes and teenage crime.

The zealous rooting out of institutional racism (‘decolonisation’) has recently become the distinguishing mark of the ‘progressive’ executive. Hull University has announced its intention not to mark students down for bad grammar, punctuation and spelling, in order to ‘challenge the status quo’ of a ‘North European, White, male, elite mode of expression’. Oxford Music Faculty is under attack from students for its half-heartedness in downgrading the status of Western classical music, a restraint which, the students say, gives a nod ‘to white supremacist views in (sic) the authority of White Western cultural products’.

The Church of England, along with many other corporate bodies, is in the process of introducing racial quotas for a wide range of appointments, an ‘easy fix’ which inevitably means that in some instances white candidates will be subject to unfair competition. Kew is relabelling its plant collection. Those who question such iconoclasm or reverse discrimination put their jobs or promotion at risk.

Bishop Michael Nazir Ali claims that Critical Race Theory is, “at heart, in opposition to Christ and Christ’s message. It…seeks to make victims of any group deemed ‘oppressed’, so as to use them to overthrow the existing system. The theory seeks success through conflict…; and, as I hope the Church hierarchy will one day understand, it is hostile to the reconciliation and fellowship demanded by the Gospel.”

For now, the logic of Critical Race Theory works its way out remorselessly: western civilisation must be dismantled because it is, well…western. No-one can tell where the destruction will end. All of which seems a very long way from me washing racist graffiti off a Sikh family’s wall.

Image | James Eades | Unsplash

Dr Mike Thomas has pastored Baptist churches in Watford, Bromley, Croydon and Luton. He is now retired, partly in order, with his wife, to care for a daughter with special needs.

For further online reading, he suggests visiting the recently formed Counterweight, a secular organisation dedicated to defending liberal values against Critical Justice Theory in its various forms: counterweightsupport.com.

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Baptist Times, 06/05/2021
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