Critical Race Theorists claim Dr. King as the first “CRTer”

January 18, 2022 • 10:00 am

I could kick myself for not having seen this coming. What has happened is that on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday that took place yesterday, antiracists decided that they could not let the seeming disparity between King’s views and those of modern CRT go unaddressed. No, they had to go back, cherry-pick from King’s writings, and declare, as Kimberlé Crenshaw does below, that King was an advocate of Critical Race Theory (CRT) before the theory existed! His famous claim that people should be judged by the content of their character, and not by the color of their skin, has for a long time rankled those who think that pigmentation remains, and should remain, the most important trait of anyone.

And so, just as the Progressive Left tries to erase racist histories that don’t comport with modern views, people like Crenshaw (a professor at the UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School and a founder of CRT) are trying to recalibrate King’s views so he fits perfectly into the Procrustean bed of CRT. The past must be made compatible with the present, but if the past is bad, it must be erased.

Crenshaw has a long op-ed in the Los Angeles Times (below) to this effect, but of course whether King was a CRT-ite before CRT existed depends on what you consider to be CRT, and of course it varies widely among different people. (To many Republicans, CRT means the undeniable assertion that “racism existed—and still exists—and we must acknowledge it”.) There’s a lot of room between that view and those of the most famous modern CRT-ist, Ibram X. Kendi.

Click to read, or inquire for a copy if it’s paywalled:

So was King really that far ahead of his time? I’ll use several definitions of CRT, beginning with one in Forbes by Ilana Redstone, founder of Diverse Perspectives Consulting and the CEO of The Mill Center for the Advancement of Critical Thinking, as well as a professor of sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Her definition, set out in “A straightforward primer on critical race theory (and why it matters)” has several aspects.

Now Dr. King isn’t with us, so we can’t really say how he’d react to Redstone’s tenets, though surely he’d agree with many of them. What I think he’d decry is the kind of “performative racism” described by people like John McWhorter. In fact, I hope McWhorter write’s a post on “MLK and CRT.”

It’s also true, as Crenshaw notes, that King’s agenda went far beyond “civil rights for blacks”. He was against the Vietnam War, was concerned about class- as well as race-based poverty, and held progressive-style views on affordable housing.  Crenshaw adds this:

It’s no accident that the firestorm over critical race theory has singed King’s message: King was, in fact, a critical race theorist before there was a name for it. A core observation of the theory is the recognition that the promise of liberation extends beyond the elimination of formal segregation and individual-level prejudice. Critical race theory explores how racial inequality was historically structured into the fabric of the republic, reinforced by law, insulated by the founding Constitution and embedded into the infrastructure of American society. Similarly, King observed in 1967 that “the doctrine of white supremacy was embedded in every textbook and preached in practically every pulpit,” entrenched as “a structural part of the culture.”

several tenants embraced by progressive liberals, including the fact of “systemic racism”, which, however, was embedded far more deeply in government and organizations in King’s time than in ours. But on to the definition. I’ll put my own comments flush left, while quotes from Crenshaw or Pluckrose are indented.

CRT is a theoretical perspective that asserts that race is always about inequality and domination. CRT has a few main tenets, some of which can be (over)simplified as follows:

1. Colorblind racism—Deemphasizing the role of race and racism, including to focus on concepts of merit, is itself a manifestation of racism.

I’m not sure that King dwelt on this, as although he did decry racism, of course, I don’t remember him spending a lot of time calling people “racists” beyond the most blatant racism of the South.  But he certainly did not argue, as does Robin Di Angelo, that all white people are marinated in racism.  Here’s what Crenshaw says, though:

Contrary to countless assertions from the right, King did not endorse colorblindness. It wasn’t the remedy for dismantling the ugly realities that white supremacy had produced. Like today’s critical race theorists, King understood that American racism was systemic and demanded systemic remedies. He was forthright in acknowledging that anti-Black racism “was not a consequence of superficial prejudice but was systemic.” Throughout his career, King set his sights on institutional-level change, calling for solutions built on the race-conscious analysis of inequalities across our society.

Times and laws have changed in the last sixty years; would King still say this?

2. Interest convergence—Members of the dominant group will only support equality when it’s in their best interest to do so.

To some extent King did express this view, but also appealed, as did earlier abolitionists, to the moral sentiments of people, and activated those sentiments by staging nonviolent protests that would gin up sympathy by provoking racist brutality. His emphasis on nonviolence by the protestors, though, puts him at odds with modern CRT advocates, some of whom see little wrong with violence accompanying antiracist demonstrations. King did believe, however, that we didn’t have time to wait for people’s sentiments to change: that we had to force the change by either creating incidents that would change ideas, or enact laws forcing compliance by those who despised integration. With the laws, he thought, would eventually come tolerance.

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.

I don’t remember King ever decrying meritocracy, nor claiming that all white people are invested in maintaining dominance over people of color.  Nor do I remember him making the Kendi-an statement that inequities—unequal representation—is always a sign of racism.

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).

See above. We no longer live in King’s day when the law and common practice did indeed make much of racism systemic. This is not to say that it’s gone: in many cases (I’m talking to you, Republicans), it’s gone underground, manifested in Republican backed bills to restrict voting eligibility and ban the teaching of CRT. (I oppose all such bills as restrictions on academic freedom.) But the bandying about of “systemic racism”, as if it’s baked into every business, university, and corporation, is misleading and often wrong.

When I wrote about Redstone’s piece last summer, I added a few more tenets of my own:

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.

See above. I don’t think King would adhere to the Kendi-an view here.

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.”

Crenshaw says this:

King invoked a “bank of justice” to be mobilized against the many structures of racial oppression to ultimately realize “the security of justice” for all Americans. This commitment explicitly extended to the mode of race-conscious practice that now goes by the name of affirmative action.

As you can read in several places (e.g, here and here), King did indeed favor affirmative action, but action based not just on race but on class. Whether he’d favor extending this action for an indefinite time, as seems to be happening now, is something we don’t know.

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.

In an article at Counterweight, which I wrote about here, Helen Pluckrose distilled CRT down to four points, which I’ll number and add to the previous list:

Critical Race Theory: An Introduction describes it as a departure from liberal Civil Rights approaches:

Unlike traditional civil rights discourse, which stresses incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.

and sets out four key tenets [JAC: these are similar to some of the tenets given above]

8. First, racism is ordinary, not aberrational—“normal science,” the usual way society does business, the common, everyday experience of most people of color in this country.

This is a claim that racism is everywhere. All the time. It’s just the water we swim in. It’s also claimed that most people of colour agree with this.  In reality, people of colour differ on this although a greater percentage of black people believe it to be true than white people.

I withhold statements about this, as I’m not significantly conversant with everything King ever said. I do argue, however, that he did not consider every white person to be racist or supportive of racism. I think self-flagellation of the DiAngelo stripe would embarrass King, and he’d see it as divisive and counterproductive.

9. Second, most would agree that our system of white-over-color ascendancy serves important purposes, both psychic and material, for the dominant group.

This means that this system, which has just been asserted to exist everywhere, is valued by white people both psychologically and in practical terms. Many white people would disagree that they regard racism positively.

See above.  King might have agreed, but he would not argue, I think, that every white person is racist because it serves their purposes, much less that every white person IS racist.

10. A third theme of critical race theory, the “social construction” thesis, holds that race and races are products of social thought and relations. Not objective, inherent, or fixed, they correspond to no biological or genetic reality; rather, races are categories that society invents, manipulates, or retires when convenient.

This argues that races are social constructs rather than biological realities which is true – “populations” are the biological categories and don’t map neatly onto how we understand race – and that society has categorised and recategorised races according to custom, which is also true.  [JAC: I’d take issue with the claim that there is no biological “reality” at all to populations, races, or whatever you call ethnic groups. The classical definition of “race” is incorrect, but the view that races have no biological differences and are thus completely socially constructed, is also wrong.]

I’ll largely pass on this one. As a biologist, I do consider that groups like “black” or “East Asian” or “Polynesian” are biologically meaningful, even if the concept of fixed, highly differentiated and finite races is a “social construct.” I am not sure whether King ever spoke about the “social construction” of racism.

11. A final element concerns the notion of a unique voice of color. Coexisting in somewhat uneasy tension with antiessentialism, the voice-of-color thesis holds that because of their different histories and experiences with oppression, black, American Indian, Asian, and Latino writers and thinkers may be able to communicate to their white counterparts matters that the whites are unlikely to know. Minority status, in other words, brings with it a presumed competence to speak about race and racism.

Again, I largely pass, though I also know that King worked with too many white people during the Sixties to hold the naive view that all blacks were more competent to speak about racism than all whites. And I suspect he didn’t say much, if anything, about “intersecting oppressions.”

As you see, my ability to address this topic is limned by my limited experience with King’s writings and speeches. But I do get the impression that Crenshaw is cherry-picking King’s quotes to make her case. More important, though, is this: why do we need to make such a case? I am sure that King’s views would be considerably divergent from those of people like Ibram Kendi. So why force them into bed together?

This is done, of course, so that people can posit an uninterrupted continuity of ideas about racism, just as the 1619 Project posits a historical continuity of American racism going right back to the American Revolution.

King is not here to answer these claims or to speak for himself, and yet we wonder how he’d react. But I will maintain that even though his comment about “colorblindedness” has been the sole mantra of King cited by those who want to perpetuate bigotry, in the end the goal must be not an America divided, comprising mutually hostile groups with different interests.

Here are the last bits of King’s most famous oration:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right down in Alabama little Black boys and Black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.

This is a dream of equality, not of division: a call to eliminate the “jangling discords of our nation”. And if true harmony, colorblindness and unity are not the ultimate goals of modern antiracism (yes, for some modern purposes we must pay attention to “race”), well, I’ll stick with King’s program.

73 thoughts on “Critical Race Theorists claim Dr. King as the first “CRTer”

  1. … and there I was thinking that CRT was only a graduate-level seminar taught to a handful of students in law school … and nothing at all to do with current themes in K-12 education.

    1. No rational person can possibly be misled by the foolishness of the semantic games in which the CRT-deniers engage ad nauseam. It is undeniable that BLM/CRT/1619 propaganda is pervasive in much of K-12 (racialized “lessons”, often about current events and sometimes under the guise of “ethnic studies”, at the expense of teaching English, math, science, geography, etc) whether or not it is in the curriculum, and that it informs much of the regnant system of pedagogy, the techniques of which are far too often malformed by totalizing and totalitarian “wokeness”.

    2. Not related to CRT, but woke-adjacent (as I tend to lump CRT in with woke excesses in my mind): a student in my kid’s elementary school just got in trouble for saying the Jainist swastika looks like the Nazi swastika put on it’s side. He didn’t endorse Nazism, mind you, he just said the symbols look similar. Which of course they do, since historically that’s where the Nazis got it from. No doubt the teacher didn’t describe the Jainist symbol using the s-word, but the kids aren’t stupid.

      So nope, the madness is not staying in grad schools. It’s already down in grade school. Though to end on a positive note my kid hasn’t reported any CRT-specific craziness (like teachers telling kids all whites are racist or anything like that).

      1. Wasn’t calling the hakenkreuz (“hooked cross”) a swastika some kind of translation mistake?

        At the end of the day they’re just some lines and it’s context that matters.

        1. Yes. In Japan on maps they use it to denote Buddhist temples, where I believe the Nazis got it from though I might be mistaken there. In Japan there were noises a few years ago about changing the symbols on maps as idiot foreigners didn’t understand it didn’t denote Nazism (sigh, stupid gaijin).
          D.A.
          NYC

          1. Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism all use it.

            Though the Buddhists had nothing to do with the Nazis’ choice, as the Nazis logic, IIRC, went something like: Aryan good -> Aryans originally came from around India -> lets use an Indian good luck symbol. Though IIRC they even got that wrong; one way the ‘arms’ go symbolizes sun and luck, the other way it symbolizes dark, and they chose the ‘dark’ way. Though maybe that wasn’t them getting it wrong, maybe it was intentional.

  2. “. . . trying to recalibrate King’s views so he fits perfectly into the Procrustean bed of CRT.” This was worth getting out of bed for.

    Interestingly, Governor Youngkin’s Executive Order Number One has in its preamble this statement:

    Instead, the foundation of our educational system should be built on teaching our students how to think for themselves. Virginia must renew its commitment to teaching our children the value of freedom of thought and diversity of ideas. We must equip our teachers to teach our students the entirety of our history — both good and bad. From the horrors of American slavery and segregation, and our country’s treatment of Native Americans, to the triumph of America’s Greatest Generation against the Nazi Empire, the heroic efforts of Americans in the Civil Rights Movement, and our country’s defeat of the Soviet Union and the ills of Communism, we must provide our students with the facts and context necessary to understand these important events. Only then will we realize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that our children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

    1. Only then will we realize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that our children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

      Right-wingers like Youngkin seem to know only this one line ever spoken by Dr. King.

      Like most great public speakers, Dr. King had certain set pieces that he would mix and match, as the occasion called for. “I have a dream” was one of Martin’s. It wasn’t even in his prepared remarks for the March on Washington Speech. He added it spontaneously, as he reached his speech’s peroration, at the urging of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson’s, standing near him on the Memorial’s steps, to “tell them about the dream, Martin!”

      You never hear right-wingers like Youngkin quote from Dr. King’s more militant Letter from Birmingham Jail, or ever even mention the overarching metaphor that provided the theme to Dr. King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial — the “check” (alternatively referred to as a “promissory note”) that the US wrote to its citizens in its founding documents, but which keeps getting returned to minority communities for “insufficient funds.”

      Lemme know when Youngkin and his ilk say anything explaining how they intend to cover the balance still due on that check. In the meantime, I guess we’ll just keep hearing them repeat the “content of their character” line over and over and over again — like an oldies radio station disc-jockey spinning “Stairway to Heaven” or “Free Bird.”

      1. How do you propose to cover the balance due, Ken? And who decides when the debt has been discharged? Or is that all just meant to be taken oratorically?

        1. Oh, I’m open to ideas, Leslie; I just never hear any coming from the Right.

          I have a dream that someday my progeny will travel across this great country and no longer be able to tell immediately the neighborhoods that are almost exclusively white from those that are almost exclusively black without even needing actually to see the color of the people living there.

          Hundreds of years of slavery, followed by another hundred years (following the failure of Reconstruction) in which chattel slavery was replaced by peonage slavery, have consequences that reverberate into our present. Unless we recognize this, we’ll never heal this divide. My supposition (and I can claim no more for it than that) is that Dr. King would agree.

          Is it your contention that the US has put paid to the promissory note?

          1. Not for me to say, being a foreigner, but do take care that the more you pay against the note, the larger seems to grow the outstanding principal. Were I a right-winger, I would take that as a cue to stop paying. I’d also start looking for another metaphor, one where the creditor doesn’t get to raise the interest rate with each instalment to punish prompt payment.

            1. Well, Leslie, between the two of us, if we torture that metaphor any further, we may have to stand trial at The Hague. 🙂

      2. But the “check” only promised equality under the law, along with “life, liberty and the pursuit [not “attainment”] of happiness”. It didn’t promise equality of outcome. It didn’t even promise equality of opportunity (opportunities are inevitably different for the son of a billionaire verses a trailer-park kid with a single parent on welfare).

        1. Is it your position, then, that the check was paid in full by passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which was ardently opposed not just by Southern segregationists, but by Republican right-wingers — including the GOP’s presidential standard bearer that year, Arizona US senator Barry Goldwater)?

          If that’s the case, you must think it passing strange that Martin was still out protesting four years later. Indeed, he was in Memphis to march with the city’s sanitation workers when he got clipped on the balcony of the the Loraine Motel on April 4, 1968.

          Dr. King certainly saw his work as far from done. He’d only yet been to the mountaintop and had a peak at the other side.

          1. Too much harping back to 50 or 60 years ago is counterproductive; the situation today is good enough (though not perfect) and people need to take responsibility for their own outcomes.

  3. Claiming someone fairly long dead as a backer of one’s own cause strikes me as indefensible behavior. I’m hoping to see some pushback in the LA Times letters to the editor but there weren’t any today. If I recall correctly, the online version of Crenshaw’s opinion piece didn’t allow comments.

    1. Claiming someone fairly long dead as a backer of one’s own cause strikes me as indefensible behavior.

      Indeed.

      I remember articles which said that this or that historical person must have been homosexual because he/she remained unmarried all his/her life and formed strong bonds with their own sex. I always feel that these conclusions are not justified due to the lack of clear evidence.

    2. Of course. But Dr. King cannot be ignored. He has a holiday in the US, and over 900 US streets named after him. Plus, a portion of Dr. King’s descendants support the far left, and have some amount of influence.
      Denouncing him and tearing down his statues and memorials would be really bad optics in Black communities. Any community, really.
      It is better to rewrite Dr. Kings positions on racial issues. Since so much of CRT is in direct opposition to his actual public statements, the rewriting will not stand up to even a casual analysis, as Dr. Coyne has done here.
      But a large part of the intended audience are not going to probe these claims at all. I think even some people who normally read footnotes and check the source material are not going to do so, because it conforms to what they want to believe.

      As I understand Dr. King’s goals and beliefs, he would be horrified at where CRT is likely to lead us. In the simplest of terms, CRT seeks out little children of all races who are playing together, or holding hands and singing together, and tries to get them to fight instead. I am sure that most of the CRT evangelists don’t intend that to be the result, but they are the same group who are willing to accept the idea that Dr. King wanted a world where everyone was treated differently, according to a strict racial hierarchy. That is not what Dr. King wanted, that is more like the philosophy of Julius Streicher.

  4. Those CRT advocates who are rapidly rebuilding the battle lines between races that MLK fought so hard to dismantle had best revisit his emphasis that this is not a “white vs black” movement: “We must not allow our creative protest … lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”

    1. Thank you, read the Guardian article. It does have I point, I think. King reached semi-saintly reveration only because he was dead and his memory was cleansed of the parts that were still unpopular in the post-civil rights liberal consensus. A point that the article doesn’t mention is that nowadays, his sexual behavior would have resulted in “me too” accusations and litigation.

  5. About “color blind.”

    Use of this term does damage. Why? because it feeds the pivot-point of Woke that white people don’t see black people, that they don’t want to discuss race, that they don’t want to be discomforted.

    Meanwhile, that is not the meaning. MLK’s phrase is the meaning. He does not say the goal is to not see each other, but rather to not judge based on it.

    Woke does not want to acknowledge that Americans — except bigots — see the color of the skin of others yet grant the beneficent default “goodwill unless she shows otherwise in thoughts, words, and deeds.”

  6. “We no longer live in King’s day when the law and common practice did indeed make much of racism systemic. This is not to say that it’s gone: in many cases (I’m talking to you, Republicans), it’s gone underground, manifested in Republican backed bills to restrict voting eligibility and ban the teaching of CRT.”

    I am not going to debate the degree of systemic racism that exists today. I am going to argue that systemic racism is on the cusp of a great comeback. It is naïve to think that if the right-wing gains full control of the federal government that it will stop at racist voting legislation. Under the guise of the concept of personal freedom and the right of people to do whatever they want their property, we will see discrimination allowed in public accommodations such as restaurants and housing. Businesses will be allowed to base hiring on the basis of race. School segregation will not be illegal. A far-right Supreme Court will endorse these actions, rendering rulings reminiscent of the laissez-faire ones of the late 19th century, even if most people will be oblivious to what it will be doing. In short, a new era of Jim Crow is lurking in the shadows, preparing to once again seeing itself in the light of day, all in the name of “freedom.” Perhaps most people will not support the new Jim Crow, but racism and discrimination will be legal and will once again become embedded in American law and society. We will also the erasure of the line between church and state.

    1. Sorry, but I vehemently disagree with this bleak view, which you keep perpetuating. It’s like saying, “Pigs will grow wings and fly.”

      It sounds ridiculous to think that the Supreme Court, conservative as it is, will allow segregation in schools and businesses. Yes, you can say these things, just like you can say anything you want, but that doesn’t make your views credible.

      I’d bet you a lot of money that these things will not come to pass, just as I would be you a lot of money that the Republicans will start gassing the Jews in concentration camps.

      And no, you did not make any arguments, like you said you would. You made assertions based on the most pessimistic views you could assert. But being a hyperpessimist doesn’t make you any more credible.

    2. I agree with just about all of it. It is coming fast and is almost here. The democrats so far cannot stop it. They lack the votes in the Senate by two and those two just as well be in the other party. None of their important and necessary legislative acts will be achieved. That includes the very important ones of voter rights and stopping the republicans from reducing democracy to garbage. Women’s right to control their own bodies is dead. Every issue has been stuck in a one way trip to the supreme court because congress is useless. MLK will be flipping in the grave. Trump has taken over the republican party — it is his cult, his racism. If you saw any of the reruns of his campaign in Arizona the other night you would know. It was all about the poor whites at the back of the line.

        1. I don’t find the idea of betting on political views particularly interesting. I do not bet on sports either. If items the legal system is currently working on does not put Trump behind bars and stop the current direction, it is likely he will be back. The legal systems and what the 1/6 committee is doing is all we have. If you know how Trump and his cult are going away, please let us know.

          1. I didn’t say Trump is going away, and I worry about that. I said that this hyperpessimism is unwarranted. It’s curious that you find it “uninteresting” to take a thouand bucks off me–why is that not interesting. It always seems that when I propose a bet I’m sure to win, the other person maintains their views but says something like, “I don’t bet.” That is a statement, not an argument .

        2. I’ll back Ceiling Cat’s bet on his side. I would nail it down further and say those events won’t come to pass within two years of the GOP achieving control of both Houses and the White House, which can’t happen before Jan. 2025 but probably will. $1000 to the Red Cross if I lose.
          I also don’t think the highways will fall apart just because maintenance is contracted out. We’ve been doing that here for decades.
          (Just a foreigner speaking with no ability to influence events.)

          1. Sadly, nobody is going to take our bets because we will win. I’d give a thousand to the Red Cross, too, or to ‘Randy’s favorite charity, so $2K would go for good causes.

            But Mr. Shenck doesn’t find that “interesting,” regardless of the lives it would save. The real reason is that hyperpessimists are moaning about possibilities that they don’t think will happen, and when forced to put their money where their assured predictions are, they find a reason why they’re “not betting kind of people.”

        3. If a new Jim Crow does come to fruition (which is posited only on condition of a right-wing takeover of all branches of the federal government) will certainly NOT take place in the next two years, a time frame you have arbitrarily created. As with the original Jim Crow, it will take place in slow motion, probably over at least a decade. On the state and federal level, legislation will be passed to dismantle civil rights legislation. The legislation will be challenged through the courts and eventually reach the Supreme Court that will validate all or parts of it. This will all take time, but the end result will not be good. To prevent this nightmare scenario, right-wingers need to be defeated at the polls. Nevertheless, the far right-wing Supreme Court will remain in place and could get worse if any of the three remaining liberal justices leave the Court under a Republican president, Trump or otherwise.

          1. I find it strange seeing US future analyzed from the recent polarized positions people like to take.

            Yes, according to Wikipedia US is a slowly failing democracy. No, it isn’t worse than France (yet).

            1. I should add that the analysis of the trend by the expert group that helps out was [IIRC, and a few years ago] that it was spawned by the 30s depression. So it is an old trend but also an old damage that hasn’t been fixed in almost a century.

          2. I do not want to run this conversation into the ground but guess I have. All the republicans need to do is control the election mechanism in the swing states. The actual vote does not matter. They have already run this in 2020, they just did not have all their people in place. Next time they will. Elections are controlled at the state and local level so if you have the people in place in these important states, it is all over. Jim Crow is obsolete.

            1. Let’s bring this back around to the original proposition from Historian:

              Businesses will be allowed to base hiring on the basis of race. School segregation will [be legal]. … [R]acism and discrimination will be legal and will once again become embedded in American law and society. We will also the erasure of the line between church and state.

              This is the proposition.

              Jerry doesn’t think this will happen. (I don’t either; but that’s neither here nor there.)

              Do you think that racial discrimination in: hiring, housing, service, etc. will become legal under GOP capture of the ruling power in government?

              I certainly agree that the GOP is trying to attain long-term dominance (isn’t that what all parties do?). (The Wisconsin redistricting after 2010 and the results of subsequent state elections are a glaring example.) One consequence of that effort is their attempt to disenfranchise Democrat voters. In many large urban areas, those voters are predominantly BIPOC. So, in that sense, the effort is racist.

              But will it result in legal explicitly racial discrimination? Will it result in “[R]acism and discrimination [becoming] legal and once again become embedded in American law and society”?

              That was the proposition. Do you agree with the proposition?

              1. Even if the Republicans take over the government in 2024, I suspect they’ll not create overtly racist laws for fear of public outrage and violence in the streets. They will find that implicit racism is sufficient for their purposes. As Trump showed, you don’t need to be overtly racist in order to get a racist message across. They will find ways not to fund efforts that have an anti-racial purpose. They will spend money on police to deal with the violence, real and imagined, rather than fund education and inner-city renewal.

              2. I don’t see this proposition as relevant myself. I realize that many of you are connected to schools and education institutions but I am not. If democracy goes away certainly discrimination and segregation will be wide spread. Trump or his party will determine everything. Our relations with Russia will be very good.

            2. You ARE running this thread into the ground so back off. If you’re so sure that segregation will come back into place again, either put up or shut up. We have $2000 on offer for your favorite charity; all that’s required is that your predictions be right.

              That’s enough for now.

          3. In order to make reasonably accurate predictions about how someone will act in a defined future situation, you need to to have an unbiased understanding of their motives and abilities. The better you understand them, the more likely you are to anticipate their actions.
            If you base your predictions on the belief that republicans are all more or less like Sen. Rawkins from Finian’s Rainbow, you are going to find that your predictions tend to be wrong.

    3. The push for segregated schooling is coming from the Woke Left now (“safe spaces”), in many forms.

      Racism was explicitly legal last spring: If you were white, you had to wait a couple of extra months to vaccinated for COVID. (I wonder how many white people died as a result? Don’t hold your breath on getting those numbers.)

  7. It’s really strange that progressives are still ignoring the awful transgressions of MLK that were uncovered in the past few years. Anyone else who this was found out about would be cancelled so fast you be afraid to utter their name in public.

    Don’t know what I’m talking about? This should catch you up: https://theconversation.com/im-an-mlk-scholar-and-ill-never-be-able-to-view-king-in-the-same-light-118015

    Original article was taken down, but it lives on here: https://archive.ph/hEEun

    1. Well, we’ll have to wait five more years to see if any of this is true. But even if it is, MacPherson’s Law (framed by me) dictates that when women’s well-being comes into conflict with another priority of the extreme left, the women always lose.

      1. Yes, we’ll have to wait until it’s released publicly to hear it for ourselves. But even then, no doubt people will claim it was fabricated, so it won’t convince anyone who doesn’t want to believe it.

        Even though we can’t hear it ourselves, the person relaying this info is incredibly trustworthy on this matter, being a respected historian and great admirer of MLK. The notion that he would be making this up is infinitesimally unlikely.

  8. “color blind” is a negative good which has been flipped by Woke. If we could replace it with a phrase that does not care about the distinction of race …

    “To achieve social justice, ‘color blind’ is an excuse for white people to ignore racism. What do you say to that?”

    “The term ‘color blind’ is meaningless now, got twisted. I only go by ‘character-keen’.”

    or ‘soul judging.’ [soul as a person’s self-earned personage, not god given]

    or ‘The solution to the persistence of bigotry is to ride the rainbow.’

  9. My own current hobby horse is the re-establishment of monarchy as a favored government principle. If we had monarchs again, we could give them adorable nick-names like Pepin the Short and his wife Bertha the Broadfoot, king and queen of the Franks once upon a time. Their predecessor, Childeric the Idiot, would undoubtedly have favored our cause were he alive today to say so. And we could certainly count on the support of a later successor, king Charles VI of France (known as Charles le Fou) who thought he was made of glass.

    1. Hahaha. Best argument for monarchy I’ve seen in a while. The only thing comparable today is the nicknames of blues and rap artists — a tradition culturally appropriated from the kings and queens of Europe?? Could be. The blues scene after all has its 3 Kings (B.B. [Blues Boy], Freddie [Texas Cannonball], and Albert [the Velvet Bulldozer]).

    2. I met an old man in Provence in 1997 who slyly told me that he was a monarchist and hoped for the return of the Bourbon family to rule France.

      He seemed quite sane; just with unusual political leanings.

      1. When I worked on Wall St I knew a Frenchman who called himself – seriously – a “count”. Possibly his family WERE ONCE nobility.. they had a lot of money and a famous name, but it has been a long time. People like to hang on to whatever aristocratic pretentions (even long expired) if they think it’ll give them an edge.
        D.A.
        NYC

        1. Long and long ago, I attended a dinner party in NYC with Count Sforza, an Italian aristocrat. He was a reserve cavalry officer in the Italian military, and took his martial responsibilities very seriously, despite having a prosthetic arm. The rest of us at the dinner party were nervous about the threat of nuclear war, but not Count Sforza. If the announcement came that missiles had been launched, he said, he knew his duty exactly: he would immediately put on his gloves, nail a sword to his wooden arm, and mount his horse to ride to his regiment’s mustering station.

  10. “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

    I imagine that this quote is unacceptable to the Woke, and therefore MLK has to be retroffited to what he *should* have said.

    After all if everyone is born a blank slate (ha!) and everyone has equal opportunities in life (not yet) then there will still be winners and losers based on their character. How could that be explained if their was no systemic oppression?

    1. You’ve hit on a good point. It seems that retrofitting, or more appropriate in this case, IMO, retrospective conversion (retcon) is a widespread cultural fad in this day and age. Witness the current crop of popular movies and TV shows, the majority of which are retconning older stories and characters (and losing audiences as a result). With MLK, Jr., now we have both the Woke and the white Christian nationalists retconning him to suit their particular ideologies. Let’s not lose him to this dual retrospective conversion.
      Of course, religions are good at retconning their myths, especially in the aftermath of Darwin’s Origin of Species, relativity, and quantum mechanics. Religious retconning, though, goes back centuries. Christianity is a retcon of the ancient Hebrew religion, and Islam is a retcon of both Judaism and Christianity. Mormonism is a separate retcon of Judaism and Christianity.

  11. This is an instance of the devil being able to cite scripture for his purpose. It is possible to comb through Dr. King’s voluminous speeches and writings to argue the issue whether he was a critical race theorist avant la lettre either way — depending not least of all on how one chooses to define critical race theory.

  12. The local media isn’t worried. From a Wikipedia entry, likely signifying how little headway it did since 2002:

    In 2002, more than 20 law schools in the United States and at least three universities outside the United States offered courses and courses in Critical Race Theory where theory is given a center in education.

  13. If law schools are so concerned about equality (or “equity”), I wonder why they ignore the true systemic inequality in American law: Different from the European system, in the US, the state attorney does not have to consider evidence contrary to his case and does not have to reach a fair summary of the case, and what’s worse, they are also elected politicians who have some personal stake in the outcome of trials. Defendants are completely dependent on the defense lawyer to counter the accusatorial state narrative in the eyes of a non-expert jury, and people who can pay an expensive highly competent lawyer to pour a lot of time and resources into preparing have a far greater chance of avoiding a guilty verdict. This inequity is built into system of American law itself and should be easier to tackle by law reform than other social ills.

  14. The ordinary meaning of “colorblindness” is reflected in Martin Luther King Jr. famous words to judge people on the content of their character, not their colour of their skin. This is indeed declared as racist now.

    The “woke” criticism of “colorblindness” is best summarised in their famous, often meme’d phrase “check your privilige”: so-called privileged identities, male and pale, must relect on their own gender/“racial” identity which is otherwise said to be invisible by default for “white males”. They say, sometimes explicitly, that the whole exersise is to “see race”. And that’s the crux, because woke people themselves rarely differentiate between “race” and “racism” — an affliction they share with their postmodernist progenitors who couldn’t distinguish between map and territory, either. That‘s why their criticism of “colorblindness” often suspiciously sounds like criticism of ignoring racism. In other words, a “colorblind” person is not someone who judges people based on their character, or even merits, but actually is ignorant of racism. There is a nuanced overlap, but the woke aren’t noted for nuance.

    Wokeness itself is a about seeing everything, more or less, through a racial and/or gender lens. They can see the green code of systemic racism and sexism running down the walls, as Neo sees the Matrix. If you want to see those systems, too, you must wake, get woke by swallowing the “Red Pill” — oh wait, this is the imagery from the other racists. Here even the clergy, like Richard Delgado, admit that CRT is fluctuating between trying hard to be anti-essentialists, but then often end ups essentialising (Delgado & Stefancic, 2006).

    There are other more technical meanings of “colorblind”, but they can’t be brought to bear in an internet culture were critics or just curious people are bludgeoned and smeared by the “woke” for a good decade; where “woke” advocates made no effort to ever advocate for anything, other than setting pyres on fire; where they refused to even explain one time what they actually believe (look at the countless woke atheist blogs, or famous wokie atheists like Mehta and Dillahunty, some prolific, who never got around to explain all this mumbojumbo they want others to believe in) and where, as a result of free-form-make-stuff-up-to-win-the-current-argument, two woke people have three different takes on the concept, at four different times a day, whichever is suitable momentarily to get the interlocutor smeared, deplatformed and banned.

    With that said, once you enter academic technicalities, Crenshaw might be right, when “colorblindness” here means ignorance of racist structures and legacies that still affect minorities, and not what people generally think it means (including typical free-roaming wokies).

  15. I honestly don’t get the point of anyone saying “MLK would have supported this” or “MLK would not have supported that”, etc. I respect the man greatly; he did truly important things and was a great leader of the civil rights movement. But he was no more particularly privy to ultimate wisdom than Moses or Jesus or Mohammed or Charles Manson.

    All of this nonsense is a form of argument from authority, which is just as fallacious as its counterpart, the ad hominem attack. What is important–in matters of reason, logic, justice, whatever you want to call it–is what the ideas are–the message, not the medium. All this noise is part and parcel of the human, primate, hierarchical mentality, that seems so prone to cause so much trouble when you try to graft it onto an actual civilization.

    If something is correct, it should not matter who said it, or who would agree with it, or who claims to have originated it, or where someone claims it came from. This is the flaw inherent in the “cancel culture” regarding people from the past, just as in the urge toward canonizing people from the past and then trying to give one’s own position the veneer of greater strength by making it look as if the “Dear Leader” had supported it.

    MLK was a great man because of the ideas he espoused and the actions he took. He dreamed of a positive future, but he did not have any supernatural ability literally to see it, nor to know what CRT would be or to specifically anticipate it…and if he HAD been able to do so, his approval or disapproval of it would not make it right or wrong, it would just be one man’s judgement.

    Newton was probably the greatest physicist of all time, but he wasn’t quite right about gravity, and his thoughts about bible codes and alchemy were just nonsense. Evolution by natural selection is right not because Darwin said so…HE was right because he “discovered” and first characterized and described it scientifically.

    Not even Moses got tablets from God on the mountain–he probably didn’t exist in any form, let alone having seen into the promised land–so why do we even care what MLK might or might not have said or thought about CRT as it is today? What matters is what those alive today say and do and think about it.

    1. Hear hear. On the other hand, there is a lot to be learned from how modern commentators paint the thoughts and actions of MLK, Moses, etc. Learned about those commentators, that is.

  16. Excellent essay as usual, Dr. CC. I will definitely bookmark this page.

    The essay reinforces my belief that one of the most effective weapons against an irrational belief system is just to paraphrase the tenets of that system in standard, easily understandable English. To be believed, listeners must be awed by the scholarly-sounding expositions the adherents produce. That sheen of deep, intellectual scholarship tends to come off when some “Philistine” just out and says what it all means.

    By contrast, a characteristic of good science is that while the science itself may difficult to grasp, the language used to describe it can be made simple to understand. One example of good scientific writing I encountered was an essay written by Einstein describing the basic insights behind his special theory of relativity. Simple, straightforward, made as understandable to the masses as possible.

  17. Did MLK endorse Critical Race Theory (apart from the name)? No. Does Ilana Redstone’s list of its supposed theses fairly and reasonably summarize CRT? Also no. It is part straw man and in larger part simply pulled from Redstone’s excretory orifice.

    Derrick Bell is a leading early advocate, and according to Wikipedia, the creator of Critical Race Theory. You can find six theses of Bell’s on the Wiki page. Redstone’s 4 is similar to Bell’s first thesis, and 8 – her numbered statement, but not the gloss she puts on it – is Bell’s first thesis again. The rest, not so much. Enough straw men to make a haystack.

    1. Thank you for the link. Put as generally and tentatively they are here, and in the context of 1973, I would largely subscribe to these theses. That’s not how they come out the of the mouth’s of today student wokies, though (“racim is ordinary” becomes “racism is everywhere and is the reason for all disparities” “all whites are racist” and “non-white people can never be racist”), and US society has changed, too. Also, Bell, like current students, seems to be US-centered, but these phenomena are very general and encountered all over the world in different guises, with different protagonists. Third, his own revealed preferences are very different from the preferences he declares in his antiracist science fiction : “[It’s] better [to] risk the unknown in space than face the certainty of racial discrimination here at home.” (On when US blacks are sold as slaves to space aliens by their white compatriots!) Bell himself seems to have been quite content at his US university, and for a group whose activists complain about massive oppression, US descendants of slavery seem to be singularly uninclined to leave the US and live elsewhere (a US passport opens the world to you). What’s more, and I found that quite shocking, the situation Bell describes in the story is not all that far from what really happened to the Africans who were sold as slaves (by other Africans, who were frequently not of the same ethnicity/language) to alien traders with a superior technology who took them on their ships. It is considered gross (and rightly so) to wonder whether in the long run, the slaves and their descendants weren’t better off having been sold to the US than staying in Africa.

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