Critical Race Theory - a primer

Sara | Aug 23, 2021
Critical Race Theory (CRT) is an academic theory, the purpose of which is to convince people that in order to overcome racism they need to embrace anti-racism. A basic explanation of the concept is set out.

This theory is perpetuated by creating a method for addressing racism. However, while CRT purports to end racism, it in fact entrenches it.

CRT propounds that blacks are eternal victims of ‘white supremacy’ and whites are eternally guilty as ‘white supremacist’ victimisers, irrespective of their never having participated in the subjugation of blacks.

The theory suggests that the only way to change these black:white power relationships is to destroy “the system”. The theory originated in the United States and is framed in the context of slavery and white dominance in the power structures. This means undermining law enforcement and implementing a Marxist – socialist political governing structure. 

CRT was devised with reference to American history, structures and a 13% minority black population. Like much that originates from American academia, CRT has found its way to our shores. 

CRT is little known in South Africa in general, but of concern is the increasing implementation of it in our schools. This is a pernicious development because it is a form of indoctrination based on Marxist ideas.

CRT seeks to promote the paradigm of victim: victimiser in a society where over 90% of the population is black and under 10% is white. Theoretically it should be relatively easy to marginalise whites from blacks here, particularly given our apartheid history.

Most of us take it as a given that to develop healthy race relations is to know and understand our history; to know what makes us different, but also what makes us similar. It is the humanist response to try to get different races, creeds and religions to understand and appreciate each other as equals. Any idea that promotes victimhood and encourages guilt for historical injustices solely due to the colour of our skin is opprobrious. It is designed to keep people separate and wary of each other – it is the flip side of the apartheid coin.

Schools that implement CRT damage the mental and psychological development of children by teaching them that racial discrimination and segregation are acceptable because different races have mutually incompatible characteristics, beliefs and values that should not be shared across racial lines. This is a very depressing thought.  

CRT came to our attention mostly during the #RhodesMust Fall and #FeesMustFall protests on university campuses from 2015 to 2017. Our concern is that it is being introduced into schools to indoctrinate children into adopting a particular political view. It is not the role of a school to indoctrinate a child into what to think politically – and CRT is a political movement.

It certainly doesn’t preclude a school from dealing with racism and, if that occurs, there must be serious discipline. But If a child says or does something racist, the management may not assume that all the children are racists requiring to be subjected to CRT.

One of the most insidious features of CRT which we have been exposed to at certain schools is the separation of students by race in order to educate each group into the fundamentals of ‘anti-racism’.

We have not been privy to what is communicated in the groups for black students, but what is being reported from parents about what white students are exposed to is deeply disturbing.

In essence, white students are being told that their skin colour identifies them as being ‘associated’ with the harm caused by white colonialism. 

This is terrifying for a number of reasons:

  • It is immoral to attribute hackneyed and shameful characteristics to children of any colour simply because of the colour of their skin. Skin colour tells us nothing about the attitudes, morality and opinions of the individual;
  • It is bizarre and cruel to attribute guilt to young people for something done historically  by people whose only shared characteristic is their skin colour; 
  • No account is thus taken of the person’s personal or family history, which may have been blighted by hardship. Individual white history doesn’t count;
  • The same applies to young blacks being told that they are victims, irrespective of whether or not they remain disadvantaged. No weight is given to improvement of their conditions and therefore the mitigation of positions of weakness and victimhood;
  • It makes no sense for a society that is trying to overcome recent history of legislated discrimination to perpetuate division, mistrust, and attitudes of superiority and inferiority. It cannot be good for society and gives the lie to CRT’s claim to promoting ‘anti-racism’. 

The insidious appeal of CRT is that it is presented as a way to promote social justice and uses language that supports that goal. For this reason some teachers and parents believe that CRT is aimed at achieving a laudable goal. Many people have the best of intentions in applying CRT to achieve social justice. 

The IRR has developed a website, ‘Educate don’t Indoctrinate’, to provide a resource to explain what CRT is. We explain CRT’s origins, the language it uses, how to identify it and what to do about it. (https://edonti.org)

Parents, teachers and school administrators may feel uncomfortable with what appears to be undertaken for the sake of social justice. We encourage them to seek further information, as their anxiety may be justified.

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