Reader Luana sent me this tweet from conservative Christopher Rufo, and, as usual, citing conservative media to liberal readers on my site, I have to make sure that what’s reported is real. Well, it is; you can find this statement on the U.S. Conference of Mayor website. The statement is signed by the mayors of Louisville, Kentucky; Boise, Idaho; Portland, Oregon, and Chicago, Illinois: a strange melange of mayors, though Portland doesn’t surprise me. Neither does our own mayor, Lori Lightfoot, who is black and gay, and getting woker all the time. I’ve enlarged the statement below so you can see what the mayors are endorsing:
BREAKING: The mayors of Chicago, Portland, Louisville, and Boise have officially endorsed critical race theory in public schools and promised to drive "the implementation of CRT in the public education curriculum" across America.
They aren't hiding it anymore. pic.twitter.com/RrubnsCMm4
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) September 9, 2021
Enlarged. I’ll give my take below
This statement surprised me with its vehemence: it could have been written by a bunch of disaffected students at any woke school, though its “demands” apply to public school education.
The first half of the statement characterizes Critical Race Theory the way many people understand it these days. Although these look like statements of fact, most of them are contestable. That includes the first claim that race is not biologically real and “is not connected to biological reality.” Well, the conception of distinct races that are very different genetically, having individually diagnostic genetic traits as markers, with everyone belonging to one race or another, is not true, but as I explained in an earlier post, if the concept of racial groups or ethnic groups was purely a social construction, we would not find this:
As I said, there are groups within groups. Even within Europe, as a paper by Novembre et al. reported, using half a million DNA sites, that to place 50% of individuals could be place within 310 km of their reported origin and 90% within 700 km of their origin. And that’s just within Europe (read the paper for more details). Again, this reflects a history of limited movement of Europeans between generations. Finally, in terms of “self identification”, Tang et al., using just 326 markers, performed a genetic cluster analysis and identified four groups that matched nearly perfectly with the “racial” self-identification of people given four choices (white, African-American, East Asian, and Hispanic). Here’s what they found:
Of 3,636 subjects of varying race/ ethnicity, only 5 (0.14%) showed genetic cluster membership different from their self-identified race/ethnicity. On the other hand, we detected only modest genetic differentiation between different current geographic locales within each race/ethnicity group. Thus, ancient geographic ancestry, which is highly correlated with self-identified race/ ethnicity—as opposed to current residence—is the major determinant of genetic structure in the U.S. population.
That is, there is almost perfect correspondence between what “race” (or ethnic group) Americans consider themselves to be and the identification of groups using observed genetic differences. Because these are Americans, and move around more, the genetics reflect ancestry more closely than geography, though in Europe geographic origin is also important.
The fact that you can predict the self-identification of 99.86% of Americans as to one of four “major” racial groups from just 326 genetic markers shows that the four racial groups named above do have a biological reality in their genetic differentiation. They are not simply “social constructs”.
As far as the other tenets are concerned, I would take issue with the claim that system racism is both ubiquitous and embedded within the legal system (where?), and that basically everybody is a racist. Of course there’s still racism—nobody denies that. But its pervasiveness is a matter of argument, not an assertion of fact.
The idea that it the idea of meritocracy is racist, as is the idea that people should be colorblind (Dr. King, you’re a racist!), are arguable, and I would argue strenuously that we cannot jettison a meritocracy so that all racial groups can have equal achievement. It is not meritocracy that propagates inequality, but the holding back of groups by history and culture.
Finally, in tenet #4 you see the common claim that “lived experiences” should trump data, denigrated here as “deficit-informed research”. Storytelling, while it has its uses, is no substitute for sociology. And storytelling is not a solution, but a weak form of data.
(I’ll mention in passing that Jews are omitted form the list of the oppressed, though on a per capita basis they suffer more from hate crimes than any of the other groups named.)
The document then addresses the achievement gap between races (which, remember, are social constructs), but that gap does need to be addressed. The inequality of ethnic and economic groups in America is embarrassing and intolerable. To reduce it, the mayors propose a change in curriculum to make it more inclusive, which is fine, but then the group decries a “deficit-oriented instruction that characterizes students of color in need of remediation.” But didn’t they just imply that by saying that there are racial inequities and education gaps?
I have no opinion on dress codes; as far as I’m concerned, students can wear what they want so long as they aren’t naked and any mottos on their clothing don’t violate the First amendment. And yes, #5 and #6, about inequality in school funding and quality, are an important part of narrowing the education gap—you know, the one that the mayors say isn’t real.
Finally, at the end, the five mayor resolve that CRT be implemented in the public education curriculum, as well as devising “access to equitable programs that reflect history, decrease achievement gaps, and better ensure that BIPOC students receive resources to ensure their success upon the completion of their primary education.” But these two solutions are not at all the same thing. The implementation of CRT as outlined in the statement is divisive and will marinate the students’ education in racial conflict. The second, reducing inequality of opportunity, is an admirable program.
Sometimes I get the feeling that people like these mayors want race to be the center of all education in schools, so that every subject in public classrooms, including math and physics, must be infused with CRT-informed lessons. I don’t have to tell you that such a program would not bode well for the “success” of students of any race.