Is the phrase “short primer” redundant? If so, forgive me. At any rate, there’s a pretty evenhanded treatment of CRT, covering its main tenets and its implications, in Forbes. You can see it by clicking on the screenshot below:
The author’s bona fides: Redstone is “the founder of Diverse Perspectives Consulting and a professor of sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. [She is] the co-author of Unassailable Ideas: How Unwritten Rules and Social Media Shape Discourse in American Higher Education and a faculty fellow at Heterodox Academy.”
Her main point is that Critical Race Theory “forms a closed system”, a “perspective that leaves no space for anyone, no matter how well-intentioned, to see the world differently.” In other words, it brooks neither dissent nor discussion.
Her concerns are these:
CRT’s critics are often portrayed as wanting to “whitewash” history and deny the reality of slavery. If the problem were that simple, the criticisms would indeed be worthy of the dismissal they often receive. Yet, there are serious concerns about CRT that are rarely aired and that have nothing to do with these points. As a result, confusion and misinformation abound and tension continues to mount.
She lays out what she sees as the four main tenets of the theory as it’s presented in schools or to the public. Note that these differ from conceptions of CRT offered by scholars in academia. Quotes from the article are indented; any comments of mine are flush left.
1. Colorblind racism—Deemphasizing the role of race and racism, including to focus on concepts of merit, is itself a manifestation of racism.
2. Interest convergence—Members of the dominant group will only support equality when it’s in their best interest to do so.
3. Race and racism are always tied together. Race is a construct meant to preserve white dominance over people of color, while making it seem like life is about meritocracy.
4. Inattention to systemic racism—An unwillingness to recognize the full force of systemic racism as determining disparities between groups is a denial of the reality of racism today (and evidence of ignorance at best and racism at worst).
I’d add to that the following three points, which are mine. (Actually, points 5 and 6 come from Ibram Kendi and point 7 from Robin DiAngelo and many others):
5. (Really a supplement to point 4): Inequalities in representation or groups, for example disproportionately low numbers of people of color in STEM fields, is prima facie evidence of current and ongoing racism in those fields and not a historical residuum of racism in the past.
6. The only way to rectify this kind of systemic racism resulting from ongoing discrimination is to discriminate in favor of minorities (i.e., affirmative action, dismantling meritocracies, etc.). As Kendi said, ““The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.”
7. Every white person, whether they know it or not, is a racist, embodying, even unconsciously, the tenets of white supremacy instantiated in point 3 above.
According to Redstone, the downside of promulgating CRT is that all criticism of the theory is immediately dismissed as racism, so that there is no room for “principled concerns some may have about seeing every aspect of society through the lens of race and power.” Further, it may be hard to restructure society, she avers, when all social problems are fobbed off on either racism and ignorance.
Finally, in this short piece she gives her recommendations for people on all sides of the political spectrum, as well as for schools and the mainstream media. I quote:
To conservatives: Stop trying to enact legislative bans on CRT. Such bans are censorious, probably unconstitutional, and, simply put, will do nothing to solve the underlying problem.
To progressives: Stop talking about CRT and, more importantly, its related ideas as though objections to it and concerns about it are all driven by a denial of systemic racism or an unwillingness to acknowledge the reality of slavery. As I’ve pointed out here, this is to grossly miss the point. The importance of this point stands even if the loudest critics are not raising the concerns I’ve outlined here.
To the mainstream media: See advice for progressives, above.
To schools and workplaces: Critical Race Theory is a social science theory—a tool to understand the world around us. As a theory, its related ideas about race, identity, power, and fairness constitute one possible way to see the world. As with any social science theory, but particularly one this controversial, its ideas should be placed in context. Placing the ideas in context requires presenting contrasting viewpoints—for instance, perspectives that do not automatically assert that racialized explanations and solutions should be the primary lens for viewing the world. Importantly, these contrasting viewpoints are to be presented on moral footing that’s equal to CRT’s.
I can’t say I disagree with any of these prescriptions. The presentation of CRT as a given that brooks no dissent is particularly troubling to me as a scientist, because, after all, it is a “theory” and can’t be taken as absolute truth. My points #5 and #7, for example, are dubious and, I think, palpably false assertions. Yet if you raise objections, you’re not only typed as a racist yourself, but demonized. We have to beware of a theory that is presented as prima facie truth, for, like CRT, it constitutes a system that, because it cannot be shown to be wrong, cannot be assumed to be right.
This is not to say, of course, that racism doesn’t exist, or hasn’t shaped our country profoundly. It does and it has. But it’s not the only problem we face (there’s the matter of class inequality, for instance), and even fixing racial inequality is far more difficult than some adherents to CRT suggest. (Effacing history, for example, by removing statues or renaming buildings, while such efforts may be warranted, will accomplish almost nothing.) And CRT won’t touch the issue of anti-Semitism.