Karel | May 26, 2021

A New History Curriculum or Anti-American Propaganda?

President Joe Biden wants educators to teach students that racism is endemic in America. He and his “woke” allies think students should learn that our nation was born of the desire to enslave other humans, not as a struggle for freedom. They also believe that the government should racially discriminate, today and in the future.

The president wants these things so badly he’s asked his secretary of education to prioritize grant funding for K-12 history and civics curricula that preach this revisionist history.

That would be a huge mistake. The vile, ahistorical teachings of critical race theory (CRT) should be consigned to the ashbin of history, not taught as sacred ideology in our nation’s schools.

Like other forms of Marxism, CRT teaches young minds to see the world as divided into two categories: oppressors and their victims. The only difference with traditional Marxism is that the CRT categories consist of immutable traits such as race, sex or national origin, not economic classes like the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

CRT eschews economic classifications because they are too fluid. People can change their stations in life—and under capitalism, they often do. Critical Theorists readily concede this point as being one of the downsides of trying to start a revolution with classes that are not immutable.

Critical race theory wants to solve this problem by adding race to Marxism. CRT teaches young minds to focus on nothing but skin color and power, and how one influences the other in public and private life. It promotes racial stereotypes and assumes that humans act according to their category, not as individuals.

This pernicious ideology is already making its way into classrooms across the country—even without the proposed stimulus of federal grants. One example is the Learning for Justice curriculum, a K-12 civics program created by an organization of the same name that operates under the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Learning for Justice curriculum teaches that “White supremacy culture…appears in any organization that is not actively and effectively working to dismantle it.” Educators, it insists, must acknowledge how racism “is embedded into the fiber of our nation and our schools.”

The proposed rule from Biden’s Education Department goes much further. For example, it recommends material created by the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum’s website hosted a chart claiming that “hard work,” “objective, rational, linear thinking,” and following “rigid time schedules” are racist values, mere appurtenances of white culture rather than human practices that lead to success.

The museum, a Smithsonian institution funded through your tax dollars, didn’t remove this racist chart until officials received blowback for such propaganda.

The proposed rule also praises Ibram X. Kendi, one of the nation’s best known CRT trainers, who has written, “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” This, one therefore assumes, is what the Biden administration wants American children to be taught.

The rule also approvingly cites the New York Times’s 1619 Project, a mendacious series of essays on race that historians spanning the ideological spectrum have denounced. The project derives its name from its misleading contention that America’s birthdate is not signified by the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, but by the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in 1619 on the shores of what would later become the United States. The project rejects the document that outlines America’s creed that "all men are created equal.”

The project couldn’t even meet basic standards of accuracy. Spanish conquistadors first brought slaves to what are today South Carolina, Florida, and New Mexico starting nearly a half-century before 1619. Another of the 1619 Project’s errors—one from which The New York Times later backed away—was its claim that the colonists fought the Revolution because they feared that Britain would end the practice of slavery. This is flatly false.

Let’s hope the president and his education secretary weren’t fully steeped in the tenets of CRT when they issued their proposal to subsidize this anti-American propaganda. If that’s the case, you can help straighten them out. If you agree that these pernicious ideas should not be taught to our children, you can submit your comments about the administration’s proposed rule (as we have) here

Original article here.

Nearly a dozen states want to ban critical race theory in schools

Earlier this month, Idaho Governor Brad Little became the first Republican governor to sign into law a bill that restricts educators from teaching a concept called critical race theory.

And more could follow: Nearly a dozen states have introduced similar Republican-backed bills that would direct what students can and cannot be taught about the role of slavery in American history and the ongoing effects of racism in the U.S. today. But critics say the legislation isn't aimed at what children are learning in the classroom.

Idaho's law prohibits educators from teaching "individuals, by virtue of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin, are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin." 

proposal in Rhode Island would prevent schools from teaching that Rhode Island or the United States "is fundamentally racist or sexist."

However, proponents of critical race theory say it does not teach that any race is inherently racist or is superior, but how race is ingrained in our history.

Critical race theory is not typically "taught in elementary and secondary schools because it is based in legal theory," Jazmyne Owens, of public policy think tank New America, told CBS News. She said the wave of legislation "is really aimed at erasing and whitewashing American history."

Owens pointed to a Texas bill that just passed in the state's House that opponents say bans any discussion of privilege and white supremacy. "In the long term, bills of this nature, and those that intend to censor the way that race and systemic racism is discussed in the classroom are way more harmful to students," she said.

"Protecting education means being honest about the parts of our history that hurt, particularly chattel slavery, and being proactive in ensuring that we end current reproductions of racism and inequity in classrooms and beyond," Owens said. 

Many of the state bills have similar goals as two executive orders former President Donald Trump introduced in 2020, one that called for patriotic education and a one that sought to ban diversity training and training on critical race theory for federal workers. President Joe Biden has revoked both.

In introducing his executive order on the 1776 Commission, which was created to reinstate "patriotism" in American schools, Mr. Trump blasted critical race theory and the 1619 Project, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times Magazine project that details the history of America through a collection of essays and resources that look at how slavery shaped the country since the first slaves arrived. It is available to schools as a teaching resource.

"Critical race theory, the 1619 Project and the crusade against American history is toxic propaganda, ideological poison, that, if not removed, will dissolve the civic bonds that tie us together, will destroy our country," Mr. Trump said.

Journalists on the project consulted with numerous scholars of African-American history, conducted research, and fact-checked, with researchers carefully reviewing with subject-area experts, the Times has said.

Mr. Biden has proposed a grant program that would fund curriculum about bias, discriminatory policies in America and the value of diverse student perspectives and would invoke lessons from the 1619 Project, a proposal Republican Senator Mitch McConnell pushed back on.

"Families did not ask for this divisive nonsense. Voters did not vote for it. Americans never decided our children should be taught that our country is inherently evil," McConnell said in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona asking him to stop the program.

Republican Representative Ken Buck, who called the project "un-American," and Senator Tom Cotton each introduced bills last year that sought to prevent teachers from using the 1619 Project. Neither advanced. 

The National Council for the Social Studies denounced legislation to prevent educators from teaching critical race theory and "resoundingly reject any effort by the federal government to silence social studies curriculum that explicitly addresses the centrality of slavery in the historical narrative of the United States."

"In the National Council for Social Studies, we support social studies education and any legislation that is attempting to curtail our students' equitable access to the real truth, to all of history is problematic to us," Wesley Hedgepeth, a member of the council's board of directors, told CBS News.

The council has also defended the 1619 Project, saying teachers who use it "accurately depict the history of slavery in the United States, broaden the horizons of their students, and prepare citizens for a just democratic society."

Owens said while critical race theory "has been around, and debated for many years," Mr. Trump "seems to have made it a part of a political agenda, and now the subject of potential legislation."

Still, state lawmakers have joined the effort to block the 1619 Project specifically and critical race theory from curricula. 

"Policy happens at the state level and bills at the state level have a much larger chance of passing and remaining in place based on the makeup and power of their legislatures," Owens said. "The federal government can try and set the tone, but it's going to be up to voters and advocates at the state and local levels to ensure those bills do not pass." 

In Missouri, Republican State Representative Brian Seitz introduced an amendment that would specifically ban educators from teaching about the 1619 Project to a bill that would prevent critical race theory lessons.

He called the project "revisionist history, seeking to determine our national origins to be based on a negative act (slavery), therefore, everything that follows, including The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, Capitalism, our healthcare system, road systems, even the foods that we eat are fatally flawed and inherently 'racist.'"

In an email to CBS News, Republican state Representative Patricia Morgan, who sponsored the Rhode Island bill, said that critical race theory "seeks to find racism in every part of American society. It is poisonous. It should have no place in our schools." 

Morgan said Martin Luther King Jr. "looked to the day when all of us would be judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skin" in his 1963 'I Have a Dream' speech."

"America embraced that goal and we have made great progress," Morgan said. "Alarmingly, critical race theory does the opposite."

Critics pushed back against quoting Martin Luther King Jr. to argue against critical race theory.

"Utilizing civil rights-era figures to talk about equality" is "really insidious," said Ameila Moore, an associate professor at University of Rhode Island who submitted written testimony opposing Morgan's bill. 

"I think there is an intentional misunderstanding," she said. "And perhaps the people like Patricia Morgan are not aware that they are being manipulated by other powers who are trying to reframe what we're capable of discussing as Americans." 


RIGHT OF REPLY | Try this for meaning, Prof Jansen
Feb 14, 2022

Prof. Jonathan Jansen in an article in TimesLive “Read this for meaning, Institute of Race Relations” (February 10), levelled certain accusations against the Institute of Race Relations, suggesting that “(bodies) such as the IRR should assist in achieving education goals instead of peddling right-wing fluff”. In essence he was criticising us for our concern over CRT being taught in our schools; he denies that is being taught and accused us of seeking 'to piggyback on the reactionary lies of zealots on the other side of the Atlantic.’ This is our reply.

Why Is Critical Race Theory Dangerous For Our Kids?
Marsha Balckburn
Dec 20, 2021

A seven-year-old comes home from school saying, “I’m ashamed that I’m White. Is there something wrong with me? Why am I hated so much?” In terms of the tenets of CRT this is the desired result of her lessons. This mental and emotional trauma is seeping into every classroom in America.

Parents CAN beat critical race theory — by running for school boards

The battle to win control of school boards from the clutches of racial indoctrinators is high stakes. Lose, and a generation is lost.

The outcome will determine whether our children learn to see themselves and other people as ­individuals, instead of merely members of racial groups. Parents of all ethnicities who never thought they’d get involved in politics must step up.

Under the critical race theory pushed in schools, white kids are shamed as racists and oppressors. Black kids are taught to think of themselves as victims. And the ­nation’s history is being presented as something to despise.

When parents object to this brainwashing, school administrators respond with double-talk, ­insisting schools just want to be ­inclusive and diverse.

That’s why it’s time to shift from complaining to fighting for control of local school boards. These boards hire superintendents, set policies and have the clout to stop CRT. Except in large cities like New York, school boards are where the power is.

In Loudon County, Va., parents are organizing to recall a majority of the school board. They’re distressed that teachers are being ­required to learn about “systemic oppression and implicit bias.” One of the recall organizers explains that Loudon schools are focusing less “on individuals” and “more on identity groups and putting everybody into an identity box.”

Last month, parents in Smithtown Central School District on Long Island put up three school-board candidates and swept all three races. Organizers said they acted to stop the school from promoting the 1619 Project, which recasts America’s founding as driven by slavery. Voter turnout was nearly triple the usual turnout.

In Southlake, a Dallas suburb, parents against “divisive, race-conscious learning” ran candidates committed to promoting the ideal of colorblind fairness. They won, too. Hannah Smith, one of the winning candidates, explained the outcome. “By a landslide,” she said, voters “don’t want racially divisive critical race theory taught to their children.”

Even so, capturing a school board isn’t a cake walk. Unions have a grip on the process. Often, candidates are union members or their races are funded by union ­donations. In Fairport, NY, a suburb of Rochester, two opponents of critical race theory lost in May to candidates supported by the teachers’ union.

In Oregon, Sonja McKenzie, vice president of state’s School Boards Association, says she is disturbed to see board races becoming hotly contested political events. “School-board work is not political work. It’s community work.”

Don’t buy that. Incumbents are posing as nonpartisan, but it’s a ruse. Teachers’ unions give 94 percent of their money to Democrats. School boards tend to be pro-union, pro-Democratic Party and in favor of critical race theory.

Last month in Oregon, ColorPAC described its school-board candidates as living “at the intersection of multiple intersecting oppressions.” Opposing them were parents like Maria Lopez-Dauenhauer, who wants unity. She lost her race.

But there is help on the way. Last week, a national political action committee called the 1776 Project announced it will be supporting school-board candidates battling critical race theory. That could even the playing field somewhat against unions.

In many places, the fight for school boards actually started with parents frustrated that teachers’ unions wouldn’t allow schools to reopen. In Eastchester, NY, Jonah Rizzo-Bleichman never thought he would run for political office. But seeing that “hybrid learning” was “a disaster” for his daughter, he concluded “someone had to step up to fight for reopening the schools.”

Now schools are open, but the stakes in the school-board wars are even higher. Of course, schools should teach about America’s past failures, along with its triumphs, and probe racial injustice where it still exists. But of paramount ­importance, young people should learn that their character and deeds matter more than their race.

Original article here.

[Video] Father destroys Critical Race Theory in heartwarming video with daughter

A video, depicting a father educating his young daughter about the dangers of Critical Race Theory, has gone viral on the internet as Republican state houses across the country move to ban the academic theory.

[Video] Students Reject Critical Race Theory After Learning What It's Really About

American students are asked if they know what Critical Race Theory is and if they agree with some of its basic principles.

Interracial couple says critical race theory ‘hurts’ people of color

An interracial couple from Chicago has condemned the controversial critical race theory movement — arguing that it “hurts” the black community by victimizing people of color.

“When I hear the ideas of critical race theory, they don’t remind me of my experience here in Chicago at all,” Takyrica Kokoszka, a black woman and Chicago public school teacher, told Fox News.

Kokoszka and her white husband, Martin, live in the toney, liberal Illinois suburb, Oak Park, with their biracial children.

The couple spoke to the outlet about their experience living in the long-integrated neighborhood, where they say the local school administration tells teachers that “all schools are rooted in white supremacy” and that “racism… is truly all around us.”

Oak Park actively integrated in the 1960s and 1970s, thanks to years of local activism. Now, the couple believes critical race theory is harming that progress and “dumbing down” issues around race and equality.

“Our school that our kids go to, there’s a lot of questions coming from the community about why not more black students are on grade level,” Takyrica said.

“We are looking to explain it away using critical race theory. Instead of us actually digging deep and looking into all the nuances that are involved with school achievement, we’ve watered it down. We’ve dumbed down the reason now to ‘It’s because the system is racist.'”

In fact, the couple believes the critical race theory movement underestimates and oppresses people of color.

“We believe that it hurts our black and brown community that the message is: ‘You’re a victim. You can never make it until we tear down all these systems and structures,” Martin said.

“Black people overcame slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow… and all of a sudden black people cannot succeed?”

The controversial ideology is also harmful and confusing to interracial children.

“Our kids, are they half-oppressor, half-victim? How does that work?” Martin asked.

Original article here.

Black Mom Torches Critical Race Theory: It’s ‘Racist,’ It’s ‘Teaching Hate,’ Will Destroy America

A black mother in Florida unloaded on critical race theory during a speech to the Florida Board of Education, warning that the far-left ideology was racist and that it will destroy America if it is not stopped.

Keisha King, a Duval County parent representing Moms for Liberty, praised school choice and slammed the idea of dividing people on the basis on race 100 years after the Tulsa riots happened.

“Just coming off of May 31st, marking the 100 years of the Tulsa riots, it is sad that we are even contemplating something like critical race theory, where children will be separated by their skin color and deemed permanently oppressors or oppressed in 2021,” she said. “That is not teaching the truth, unless you believe that whites are better than blacks. I have personally heard teachers teaching CRT and we have had an assembly shutdown because a Duval County Public School System consultant thought it would be a great idea to separate students by race. This is unacceptable.”

“CRT is not racial sensitivity, or simply teaching unfavorable American history, or teaching Jim Crow history. CRT is deeper and more dangerous than that,” she continued. “CRT and it’s out working today is a teaching that there is a hierarchy in society where white male heterosexual able-bodied people are deemed the oppressor and anyone else outside of that status is oppressed. That’s why we see corporations like Coca-Cola asking their employees to be less white, which is ridiculous. I don’t know about you, but telling my child or any child that they are in a permanent oppressed status in America because they are black is racist, and saying that white people are automatically above me, my children or any child is racist as well.”

“This is not something that we can stand for in our country,” she concluded. “And don’t take it from me, look at the writers of these types of publications, our ancestors, white, black, and others hung, bled, and died right alongside each other to push America towards that more perfect union. If this continues, we will look back and be responsible for the dismantling of the greatest country in the world by reverting to teaching hate and that race is a determining factor on where your destiny lies.”

Original article here.

[Video] Black father demolishes CRT at school board meeting. Video goes viral. Listen to this man.

Watch this parent absolutely obliterate Critical Race Theory at an Illinois school board meeting: “How do I have two medical degrees if I’m sitting here oppressed?”

He is absolutely right.

  • Critical Race Theory is poison.
  • It literally teaches division. It teaches children to segregate themselves by skin color and dislike each other.
  • CRT is incredibly patronizing toward people of color!

This dude really nails that last point. It's stunning to me that so many people can't see how racist it is to tell people of color, "Oh, you can't make it on your own, let the white people take you by the hand and help you and then maybe you'll be able to achieve something." BULL!

Original article here.

Stop Gaslighting Parents on Critical Race Theory

Some proponents of Critical Race Theory are resorting to semantic gaslighting to defend a dogma that most Americans instinctively abhor. This is false - it has spread through to schools.

Proponents of Critical Race Theory are resorting to semantic gaslighting to defend a dogma that most Americans instinctively abhor.

Some pundits claim that CRT is exclusively a school of thought taught in legal academia. On her MSNBC show, Joy Reid claimed that “law school is really the only place it is taught. NBC has looked into everywhere.” Former Lincoln Project co-founder George Conway tweeted: “I don’t think critical legal studies should be taught in elementary schools, and I am ready to die on that hill[.]”

Some journalists, informed by other “experts,” contend that CRT is synonymous with “talking about racism.” NPR defined CRT as “teaching about the effects of racism”; the New York Times called it “classroom discussion of race, racism.” NBC News labeled it the “academic study of racism’s pervasive impact.” 

These definitions are, of course, mutually exclusive. But they both serve to paint parents into a corner. If CRT is defined just as talking about racism, then parental objections to it must be rooted in racism. If CRT is defined just as a thesis discussed in law schools, then parental objections to it must be rooted in ignorance.

There’s no doubt that CRT has become a politicized term. Manhattan Institute senior fellow Chris Rufo forthrightly explained his strategy on this issue as follows: “The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory.’ We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.”

Liberal writer Freddie DeBoer has argued that CRT is now a “completely floating signifier.” Conservatives label a host of things they don’t like as CRT. Liberals, then, “feel compelled to defend CRT because conservatives attack it,” and defend it by claiming that it has nothing to do with any of the bad things conservatives say.  

But words have meaning. Parents and policymakers should understand CRT not as conservatives or liberals define it, but as it defines itself. Here’s a definition from a 2001 book, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefanic, widely credited as key architects of CRT:

The critical race theory (CRT) movement is a collection of activists and scholars interested in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power. The movement considers many of the same issues that conventional civil rights and ethnic studies discourses take up, but places them in a broader perspective that includes economics, history, context, group- and self-interest, and even feelings and the unconscious. Unlike traditional civil rights, which embraces 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.

Although CRT began as a movement in the law, it has rapidly spread beyond that discipline. Today, many in the field of education consider themselves critical race theorists who use CRT’s ideas to understand issues of school discipline and hierarchy, tracking, controversies over curriculum and history, and IQ and achievement testing. Political scientists ponder voting strategies coined by critical race theorists. Ethnic studies courses often include a unit on critical race theory, and American studies departments teach material on critical white students developed by CRT writers. Unlike some academic disciplines, critical race theory contains an activist dimension. It not only tries to understand our social situation, but to change it.  (Emphases added.)

Several points here deserve restatement: CRT defines itself in opposition to traditional civil rights and even Enlightenment rationalism. It defines itself not simply as a “Theory,” but also as movement of activists who seek to transform society. Many educators consider themselves to by Critical Race Theorists, and CRT ideology has had a profound impact on a wide range of education policy and pedagogical issues.

Anybody who tries to peddle the line that CRT is just “talking about racism” is either gaslighting or being gaslit themselves. And anyone who maintains that CRT is simply an academic theory discussed in law school, at best, is ignorant of what CRT really is.

By contrast, parent intuitions about CRT are spot on. Given that CRT informs so many aspects of education policy and pedagogy, the real crux of the issue for parents is, as Andrew Sullivan adroitly put it, “not teaching about critical race theory; it is teaching in critical race theory.” (Emphases in original.) 

Public schools may be commonly assigning Critical Race Theorists like Kimberlé Crenshaw. But they have embraced a host of policies and practices that are rooted in Critical Race Theory. When parents hear terms like: “Equity,” “Anti-Racism,” “Cultural Competence,” “Culturally Responsive Education,” “Restorative Justice,” “Ethnic Studies,” “Equitable Math,” “Whiteness,” they would be fundamentally correct to go to a school board meeting and complain about Critical Race Theory. All of these practices are influenced by and have the same politicized purpose as CRT, which – to reiterate – defines itself not merely as a “theory” but also as an activist practice.

School boards that are implementing CRT-infused programming should not follow the media’s lead and gaslight parents by claiming that they are “not teaching CRT” on the grounds that they are not assigning academic journal articles by self-avowed Critical Race Theorists. Because the more parents look into it, the more may realize that although their schools might not assign canonical CRT academic journal article, they are teaching “in” CRT.

That will further heighten alienation and distrust between schools and families – alienation and distrust that is unavoidable so long as schools educate students through a “lens” intended to train children to oppose the foundations of our liberal order.

Max Eden is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.



A Cheat Sheet for CRT

A cheat sheet for policy makers responding to social justice justice rhetoric compiled by Dr. James Lindsay, Prof. Bruce D Gilley and Asst. Prof. Peter Boghossian.

Critical Race Theory Is Dangerous. Here’s How to Fight It

Samantha Harris discusses the dangers attendant upon CRT and how to deal with it.

A new orthodoxy has taken over our educational institutions with frightening speed. People who likely never heard the phrase “critical race theory” (CRT) before this summer are now getting emails from their children’s schools about “Decentering Whiteness at Home.” They are discovering that their children’s elementary-school teacher has read them “a book about whiteness” that teaches them how much “color matters” and encourages them to confront “the painful truth” about their “own family” — i.e., that they are being raised by racists. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This is a dangerous and divisive ideology, one that assigns moral value to people on the basis of their skin color. It is inconceivable that anyone could look back at human history and not see that singling out a particular racial or ethnic group as the cause of all societal problems can quickly lead us to a very bad place.

It is understandable, therefore, that the ascendancy of CRT in our educational institutions is deeply frightening to so many people. People feel like their children are being indoctrinated. In many cases, they are right. This ideology is not simply being presented as one way of looking at the world. It is being taught as the Truth with a capital ‘T,’ and you will be cast into outer darkness or punished for questioning it. Just ask David Flynn, the father of two children in the Dedham, Mass., public schools who was fired from his position as head football coach there after raising concerns about changes to his seventh-grade daughter’s history curriculum. (Flynn is now suing the school district.)

We need to fight the rise of this toxic and destructive orthodoxy if we want America to be a place where, as Martin Luther King said, our children are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. But we have to fight it in the right way, without compromising the very freedoms we seek to preserve.

Recently, a number of state legislatures have begun considering bills that would ban or severely restrict the teaching of CRT and its analogues. The Arkansas legislature, for example, is considering a bill that would prohibit any Arkansas public school from offering “a course, class, event, or activity within its program of instruction that . . . promotes division between, resentment of, or social justice for (A) Race; (B) Gender; (C) Political affiliation; (D) Social class; or (E) Particular class of people.” Anti-CRT bills are also under consideration in Iowa, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, and elsewhere.

Yet preventing supporters of this ideology from making their case is not the answer. We know what it is like to have our right to free speech suppressed, because it is happening day in, day out to the critics of CRT and other left-wing ideologies at educational institutions around the country. I understand why it is so tempting to fight fire with fire, but that won’t advance freedom and equality in the long run.

As journalist and author Jonathan Rauch has so eloquently written — in opposition to the kinds of hate-speech prohibitions common on campuses around the country — the tolerance of hateful speech is critical to freedom and progress:

I feel more confident than ever that the answer to bias and prejudice is pluralism, not purism. The answer, that is, is not to try to legislate bias and prejudice out of existence or to drive them underground, but to pit biases and prejudices against each other and make them fight in the open. That is how, in the crucible of rational criticism, superstition and moral error are burned away.

Rauch is right. The battle against these identity-based ideologies needs to be waged in the marketplace of ideas, not through censorship. Proponents of CRT, critical feminist theory, postcolonial theory, etc. have every right to argue for the validity of their positions, just as we have the right to argue for the validity of ours. We must recognize their rights even as we try to convince the world of the dangers of their arguments.

That does not mean, however, that they have the right to indoctrinate our children, or to create a hostile environment in which students or teachers are continually treated as “less than” on the basis of skin color. When these things happen — and they are happening — then we must fight back hard not only in the court of public opinion, but in courts of law as well.

Most people know that the First Amendment protects freedom of speech. But it also protects freedom of conscience — that is, the right to hold our personal thoughts and beliefs free from government intrusion. The freedom of conscience is why the Supreme Court ruled that, even during the darkest days of World War II, a public school could not require its students to salute the American flag. Justice Robert H. Jackson, writing for the majority, explained that “if there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

The freedom of conscience is also why a Nevada mother is suing a Las Vegas charter school for forcing her son to participate in a mandatory class that “required students to reveal their race, gender, sexual orientation and disabilities and then determine if privilege or oppression is attached to those identities.” In the coming years, the First Amendment right to freedom of conscience will play a crucial role in the fight against the indoctrination of our children.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prevents discrimination, including the creation of a hostile environment, at public and private institutions receiving federal funding (which include most private colleges and universities). Many of these critical race trainings, particularly when mandatory, may create a hostile environment by continually singling people out for criticism solely on the basis of their skin color — such as when an employee at Smith College expressed discomfort at discussing her race publicly and was berated in front of her colleagues and told that her distress was merely a “power play,” a manifestation of white supremacy. These trainings have even infiltrated the corporate world: A whistleblower recently leaked slides from a diversity training for Coca-Cola employees suggesting that they “be less white.”

State legislatures can also fight indoctrination and promote viewpoint diversity in schools without turning to censorship. In Florida, for example, the legislature is considering a bill that would require institutions of higher education “to conduct an annual assessment related to intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity,” in order to ensure that students are exposed to “a variety of ideological and political perspectives.” This could be done at the K–12 level as well, and would help the marketplace of ideas function properly rather than shutting it down.

The bottom line is that our future as a free society depends on fighting back against the pall of orthodoxy that has descended over our educational institutions. But we must resist the temptation to fight back with the traditional tools of our ideological opponents — censorship and repression — and instead stay true to the freedoms we are fighting for.


SG pic IRR.jpg

Press Release: Formal launch of Educate don't Indoctrinate

Educate, don’t Indoctrinate – New initiative to combat and expose Critical Race Theory indoctrination in South African schools

The teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) is starting to take place in South Africa’s private schools.

CRT holds that all black people are victims of a system designed to keep them oppressed and that all white people act together to maintain that system in order to protect their unearned, white privilege. Unique, individual characteristics are irrelevant to CRT.

CRT aims to ensure that racism becomes an eternal obsession, patronising black children and shaming white children.

This obsession with punishing racism disproportionately and separating children so that they ‘learn’ their place will result in alienation, not integration. 

Accordingly, the Institute of Race Relations has launched an initiative ‘Educate, don’t Indoctrinate’ in an attempt to equip parents and teachers with the tools necessary to recognise and resist the spread of the harmful ideas of CRT in schools.

The IRR is aware that a significant number of schools have incorporated elements of CRT in official school policies and are presenting this worldview to students as the only viable and moral way to conceive of social justice.

This way of thinking is divisive and celebrates the kind of race essentialism that we have fought so hard.

CRT’s origins are American with specific reference to American history and a society where blacks are a minority group. Given the fact of our dreadful history and that whites currently comprise less than 10% of the population, the consequences of this racial essentialism will be disastrous.

In addition, CRT rests on the assumption that any disparity in outcome between racial groups is the result of discrimination of one group by another, whether conscious or unconscious. As such, white children are being admonished for their complicity in white supremacy with some schools going so far as to teach white students that white supremacy is an evil they have been born with and need to continually purge themselves of.

The IRR believes that the freedom to question what we are told is a hallmark of a successful society and worth fighting for. The IRR recognises the importance of creating a socially just society. However, it strongly opposes any worldview that does not allow its assumptions to be questioned.

We have discovered that students are being told that to question the assumptions of CRT is to admit racism, and doing so invokes the risk of being vilified as racist.

Students are being told what to think instead of how to think: this is untenable as it is not the function of schools to indoctrinate pupils into one political theory while ignoring all others.

Our overarching goal is to support the education of well-adjusted young men and women of sound character and strong moral standing. We do that by helping to:

  • Teach parents and teachers how to spot the danger signs of CRT indoctrination in their children and their schools;
  • Educate parents and teachers about the damage that CRT indoctrination does to the psychological development of children;
  • Provide them with the resources to become informed enough to oppose CRT indoctrination effectively;
  • Provide them with advice and strategies for confronting school governing bodies and teachers that drive such indoctrination.

Please click on to and complete a form if you wish to contact us regarding CRT at a school, and we will get back to you asap.

Media contacts

  • Sara Gon, IRR Head of Strategic Engagement – Tel: 083 555 7952; Email:
  • Caiden Lang, Researcher – Tel: 072 239 6145; Email:

Media enquiries


Critical Race Theory - a primer

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. (

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.

Not for schools to decide what political philosophy children adopt

We argue that political theory should not be taught to the exclusion of all other theories. In so far as CRT sets out a method for training children in the absence of parental permission, it is not in schools' purview.

The IRR formally launched the website ‘Educate don’t Indoctrinate’ (Edonti) on Friday 20 August as a resource for parents, teachers and students, to inform them about Critical Race Theory (CRT), how to recognise it and how to respond to it. Through the site we also offer talks, presentations and circumstance-specific advice.

CRT theory holds that every society is divided into two absolute and unbridgeable, racially determined, groups. The first is black: its members are permanently disadvantaged victims of a society which is set up to enforce black poverty and underdevelopment. The second is white: its members are permanently privileged and perpetrate various crimes against the black group in order to secure their unearned privilege and maintain black poverty.

CRT also applies, though to a lesser extent, to issues of gender, women, sexual orientation, the disabled and other minorities. The inversion of the meaning of language and the adoption of ‘equity’ to mean the achievement of the equality of outcomes, point to a theory that, although it has ‘social justice’ as its aim, is just political indoctrination towards socialism. What we associate with ‘wokeness’ and ‘political correctness’ is suffused into the application of CRT.

Its origins lie in American academia and it is based on America’s 200-year history of slavery and its consequences. CRT has evolved in a country where blacks represent about 13% of the population and whites a majority (although ever shrinking).

Like much American academic theory it is being imported into South Africa wholesale, and although we come from an unimaginably cruel past, it is not the solution to race relations in a society where 90% of citizens are black and under 10% white.

Some comments in response to our site launch ask whether CRT actually exists in our schools. It does and although our early experience suggested that it was a private-school phenomenon, it is also emerging in government schools.


We have been made aware of about seven schools which are taking up CRT to a greater or lesser extent. Generally, teachers are not adherents of CRT, but fear losing employment if they challenge it.

We set out some examples of CRT that we have either heard about or been asked about.

School #1 has an ‘Anti-discrimination Policy’ which states: ‘Saying that you “don’t see colour” is an example of racial discrimination.’ ‘Not seeing colour’ is seen in the CRT context as being opprobrious since seeing colour is exactly what CRT determines a person must do. The contortion of logic required to regard ‘not seeing colour’ as a racist sentiment, rather than the CRT obsession with skin colour, is deeply counterintuitive. The school goes so far as to categorise the comment as ‘hate speech’.

‘Not seeing colour’ is not usually used literally; it simply means that a person doesn’t consider the colour of another person’s skin in interacting with them.

At school #2 the students are prohibited from using the word ‘monkey’ at all even though there are monkeys living in the vegetation around the school. They should rather refer to ‘vervets’. At the same school teachers may not address the students as ‘girls’.

School #3 is a school founded and run according to the precepts of a particular religion. Demands are being made to minimise if not desist from the particular ethos and replace it with ‘social justice’ and ‘inclusion’.

A review of the school’s practices found that interaction between students is racially divided. The review didn’t delve into the reasons for these divisions. Is it a natural division? Is it one engendered by one race or another? Is it possible that the long-standing, active addressing of issues of transformation and diversity are not constructive, but rather destructive of healthy interaction? Are the races so aware and self-conscious of potential racism that separation has grown rather than decreased?

Threatened to destroy careers

School #4 is also a school based on a religious ethos. The school was made aware of anonymous social media messages accusing teachers of racism. These messages threatened to destroy careers, yet no disciplinary action was taken against the students who could be identified, and nor were formal complaints lodged by the students. Nevertheless the teachers were suspended for months before any disciplinary action was taken against them and seven weeks before the charges were provided.

A protest against ‘racism, homophobia and xenophobia’ erupted in and around the school, with mainstream media in attendance. In an all-girls school a protest against homophobia and xenophobia is unlikely to be supported by evidence.

School #5’s transformation programme included the separation of black and white students. The white students have been expected to consider their ‘white supremacy’ and ‘white guilt’. Creepily, they are required to think about their racist thoughts and commit them to writing. It fits the CRT playbook that students are expected to develop guilt for the actions of some white people’s misdeeds in history. This is irrespective of whether their individual experience is in any way relevant to their forebears or their skin colour.

Disturbing has been the school’s recourse to a book as a textbook called Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad. We will discuss this book in more detail in a later article, but it’s worth noting some of the observations Saad makes:

  • White supremacy is an evil;
  • It is a system of oppression, which has been designed to give you benefits at the expense of the lives of BIPOC [blacks and indigenous peoples of colour], and it is living inside of you;
  • The process of examining it and dismantling it will necessarily be painful. It will feel like waking up to a virus that has been living inside of you all these years, that you never knew was there;
  • Raging against this process and denial is the response of the white fragility and anti-blackness lying within you;
  • The student must commit ‘to your own healing’.


The above examples point to a cult which brainwashes the target into accepting guilt, but with no possibility of redemption.

The school’s workbook, which is based on Saad’s book, holds that ‘(this) workbook is for any person* who holds white privilege**.’

And ‘Who holds white privilege means “persons who are visually identifiable as white, white-passing, or holding white privilege”.’

School #6 has a hair policy that provides for a prohibition on the ‘cultural appropriation’ of hair styles.

School #7 which, when faced with one act of racism by a student, brought ‘consultants’ in to coach all the students. The children were separated by race and a consultant presented views on ‘whiteness’ to the white children. The views of the consultant reflected in some of her writings include statements that ‘South Africa’s rainbow nation is a myth that students need to “unlearn”,’ and that the ‘Democratic Alliance’s Federal Chairman, Helen Zille, should have been jailed for her tweets’.

The school set up a group for parents ‘to create a safe space to share knowledge, facilitate conversations and build relationships and sense of belonging’. The principal advised the parents who had complained about CRT in the school, that he had decided that they weren’t invited to join the group ‘until we feel that you are wanting to come on board to hear/listen and be heard’.

The first group newsletter recommends a podcast by Eusebius McKaiser, and the books White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and I’m still here – Black Dignity in a world made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown.

In 2020 an advert for a history teacher required applicants to teach from a ‘decolonisation perspective’.

CRT is in our schools and, given that its ultimate aim is to overthrow capitalism to create a Marxist state, such indoctrination must be resisted. It is not for schools to decide what political philosophy children adopt.

Why worry about Critical Race Theory? – Part 1

Terence Corrigan of the SA Institute of Race Relations considers whether there is scope for interpretation of CRT and whether there is merit to the charge that its opponents attribute rather too much to CRT.

This is a question that has been directed at the organisation I work for, the Institute of Race Relations. CRT, we have been told, is an obsession of the political right in the United States. It is a contrived bogeyman for South Africa. It is invoked – both in the United States and in South Africa (by ourselves) – as a pushback against just and necessary political change. Taken a step further, to raise the alarm against CRT hints at racism.

In addition (and according to the perspective of the individual critic), properly understood, CRT is either self-evidently applicable to the issues of the day, a sort of best-practice intellectual framework, or – in stark contrast – it is an esoteric idea confined to academic debates among a professorial community.

How does one respond to this?

One needs firstly to have a sense of what CRT is. As with any idea, there is scope for interpretation, and there is probably some merit to the charge that its opponents attribute rather too much to CRT.

Probably the most cited definition reaches into the 2001 work of American legal academics Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, Critical Race Theory: An introduction. They argue that ‘racism is ordinary, not aberrational’ and that it functions to maintain both the ‘psychic and material’ interests of the dominant (white) group over the (dominated) black groups. They add that CRT is emphatically not a mere academic endeavour, but one that seeks to change the conditions it critiques. Hence: ‘Although CRT began as a movement in the law, it has rapidly spread beyond that discipline. Today, many in the field of education consider themselves critical race theorists … Political scientists ponder voting strategies coined by critical race theorists … Unlike some academic disciplines, critical race theory contains an activist dimension.’

Another powerful voice in CRT was the late Prof Derrick Bell. On the theme of challenging racism, his argument was that this was only possible with ‘interest convergence’, where interests of the dominant and dominated (most likely momentarily) aligned. School desegregation in the US, for example, was possible because ‘white’ interests supported it – racial segregation harmed the country’s global interest in the Cold War. This raises questions about the extent to which any moral appeal to the dominant is useful, or whether any existing institution, or legal or constitutional guarantees, will be effective.

Thus, Tommy J Curry, an African-American philosopher and academic – and CRT scholar – has written that CRT goes further than other intellectual engagements with the issue in how it responds to racism:

Because racism is taken to be permanent, CRT maintains that very different strategies be utilized to combat whiteness. It should be clear by now that these means of combat do not rely on either ethically combating whites’ racist dispositions or claiming that deconstructive elements of discourse can remedy racial biases. Instead, CRT’s contributions lie in its ability to confront whites as whites—and nothing more—not as their potential to be better humans, not as their idealization to be more than racist, not even their intentions to be seen as individuals and not part of a colonial heritage. In practically every regard, Critical Race Theory is distinct from the philosophical variety more adequately called ‘critical theories of race.’ … Unlike ‘critical theories of race,’ CRT articulates and acts upon the centres and practitioners of white supremacy without the perpetual emergence of the conflicted white individual—constantly trying, but unable to attain an antiracist disposition. While critical theories of race may possess some latent theoretical contributions, they remain impotent to challenge racism in its social, political, and systemic manifestations.

Tommy J Curry, African-American philosopher, academic and CRT scholar.

This is, it should be noted, not an affirmation of biological determinism. CRT does not posit that people’s race is genetically determined, but rather that the sociological significance that has been built around the notion of race means that racism is omnipresent. The impact of one’s racial identity would – it seems to me at any rate – function rather as though this was an inherent biological trait, in the sense that it is always a consideration, if not the prime consideration, in any social interaction.

But this is an American thing, right?

Not entirely. CRT was conceived in the US, and was aimed at the US context. But the global reach of American culture and intellectual life ensures that what was born in the US will likely intrude into other societies.

In a very readable contribution published in October last year, ‘Please Stop Imposing American Views about Race on Us’, London-based writer Tomiwa Owolade commented: ‘When asked to analyse the experiences of black people in the United Kingdom, we now talk with an American accent.’ This could be taken as a comment germane to much of the world.

This is something that would be familiar to South Africans too. It is notable that demonstrations for justice of casualties of our own lockdown were sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis – a city I’ll wager most South Africana couldn’t find on a map – not the 50 or so deaths that had occurred in South Africa. President Ramaphosa chose to use Floyd’s death to launch a campaign against racism. As for those South African security officials responsible for abuses in South Africa, well, he said, they had let their enthusiasm get the better of them.

Columnist Gareth van Onselen, a former colleague of mine, remarked acerbically that ‘the death of Collins Khosa and others only became a cause célèbre because of what is happening in the US, the land from which we take our social justice cues.’

There is also no real question that CRT has established a base for itself in South Africa. Leading thinkers in the field have received an enthusiastic audience. Robin DiAngelo, whose ideas on ‘white fragility’ have achieved pride of place in the CRT canon, for example, was hosted in South Africa in 2019 (one acquaintance offered to buy me breakfast to accompany him to one of her talks, as he felt this would be both an intellectual and moral education for me). The works of scholars and activists associated with CRT are widely quoted and recommended in ‘anti-racist’ work. ‘Anti-racism’, incidentally, has increasingly come to displace ‘non-racism’ as an aspiration to which behaviour is exhorted – the term anti-racism being intimately associated with CRT.

Indeed, journalist Marianne Merten last year wrote approvingly that CRT had become ‘the prevailing approach in academe and public discourse’.

But the recognition of the concept of CRT is less important than the ideas that it embodies. These had taken hold long before CRT was a broadly recognisable idea in South Africa. Already in the 1990s, the notion that white racism was all-pervasive and probably the central challenge to the country’s future had become a powerful one. While overt racism was relentlessly decried (at times legitimately, at times rather opportunistically), intent was no longer necessary for racism to be present. Policy demanded demographic representivity as an end goal.

An important vignette showing the early influence of CRT thinking (even if the concept may not have been recognised) and its confluence with official policy was on display at the 2000 National Conference on Racism. President Mbeki quoted Alan David Freeman (another CRT scholar) in differentiating between a ‘victim’ perspective and a ‘perpetrator’ perspective. Essentially to argue that racism was about intent and actions rather than structures was to stand in the ‘perpetrator’ perspective.

The focus on ‘structural racism’ or ‘institutional racism’ is central to the CRT narrative. It allows racism to be discerned even when no clear or overt racism can be identified. It has also arisen repeatedly in South Africa, as both a description of and explanation for racially defined divergences.

From the idea of structural racism, it is a short step to a demand for demographic representivity in all things. Aspiring to ‘representation’ in accordance with a given group’s share of the populations (whether that be working age, or regional or national is a constant source of debate) is a central plank of official policy. This has dominated thinking on employment policy in particular. State and parastatal bodies could align their demographics rapidly – having deep taxpayer-funded purses to make this possible, and political protection to defer any adverse consequences – while the private sector would be ‘encouraged’ to follow suit through affirmative action and Black Economic Empowerment policies. There was an internal logic to all this. Accepting that racism conditions all interactions, and that all disparities signify ‘racism’, and that racism didn’t really need racists – but could nevertheless identify ‘perpetrators’ by the terms of their intervention in public debate – it followed that an aggressive state posture was needed. The standard applied was whether any action produced or institution reflected an ‘equitable’ racial composition.

Indeed, Ibram X Kendi – whose book, How to be an Antiracist – has been extraordinarily influential in the CRT movement, has proposed that the US adopt a constitutional amendment that would effectively place all policy under the effective control of a Department of Anti-Racism, and outlaw all disparities above some sort of level. A hyperbolic version of what exists in South Africa, certainly, but one with enough similarities to be recognisable.

So, CRT is here in the manner that makes a difference: its ideas. And perhaps differentiating CRT from the race thinking that had earlier held sway, it brings with it an uncompromising zeal and totalising claim on analysis. For even while splitting discussants into ‘victims’ and ‘perpetrators’ in his 2000 speech, Mbeki also felt it necessary to call for debate. One wonders just how sincere or open that may have been, but doing so nevertheless acknowledged the possibility of legitimate disagreement. It’s difficult to see this (nominal) willingness to debate in CRT as it manifests itself today. Within the CRT frame of reference, its axioms must be accepted, and once accepted, all understanding is driven in a particular direction.

Clevis Headley, American philosopher and (another) CRT scholar, has written:

Critical race theory is best construed as being a relentless and restless advocate for justice such that, to the extent that race remains a permanent feature of social reality, there must be constant vigilance for justice. There can be no determination of the absolute arrival of true racial justice; its advent forever deferred, its pursuit reaches no termination. Consequently, the insomniac career of critical race theory is one without end.

Clevis Headley, American philosopher and CRT scholar.

In this, there is an intellectually certainty, fortified by moral righteousness and without a limiting principle. This is, to say the least, problematic for discourse in an open society.

It is a difficult proposition when applied to policy making too. In the second part of this analysis, I will explore the implications of CRT for South Africa’s efforts to tackle its socio-economic malaise.




Why worry about Critical Race Theory? – Part 2

In the second article on the subject Terence writes a very thoughtful consideration of the ideology of CRT and why CRT is a concept that must be brought into the open and challenged. This article first appeared on Sept 27, 2021.

South Africa is a challenged society. No one living in or visiting the country can avoid confronting that reality in some manifestation or other: the omnipresent poverty, the enforced idleness of unemployment, the threat of violence and the never-ending stream of official malfeasance and incompetence.

Former editor and current columnist Peter Bruce recently described the bleak state of the country as ‘a crisis, rotten economic policies and a skills desert’.

While these pathologies are nothing new, I sense a palpable change in the national mood around them. For as bad as things might have been, South Africa’s people did not typically despair; they hoped and battled for something better. Today, the prospect of catastrophic decline is now mainstreamed, evidenced in opinion polling that shows optimism in the country at probably its lowest level since the transition to democracy.

No longer do we ruminate about whether South Africa could be a global power; now talk is of its survival. Last year, Eunomix, a consultancy, produced a report on South Africa’s developmental trajectory in which it made the following chilling claim: ‘Bar a meaningful change of trajectory, South Africa will be a failed state by 2030.’

The stakes are not merely high, they are existential.

So how does this relate to Critical Race Theory?

If South Africa is to stand a chance of emerging from its present condition, it needs to get to grips with viable solutions that address problems as they exist, and as will make a difference to people’s lives – and not those that dominate the thinking of ideologues. Don’t misunderstand: ideology is an important and inevitable part of political interaction; it is even a helpful one as it can help make discussion coherent. And when I describe myself as a liberal, I am declaring an ideological position.

Ideology is a system of beliefs tied to a call to action. Unfortified by criticism and evidence, it can be a reckless thing. It is this that has often made nationalism a force for destruction, as impulses for the national community’s aggrandizement have overwhelmed voices of caution.

CRT is an ideology, not a theory. This is according to Prof Darren Zook of the University of California Berkeley in an incisive piece entitled ‘The real problem with Critical Race Theory’. Published initially on Medium and later reproduced by The Daily Friend, this piece makes the argument that CRT is in fact profoundly uncritical – it is, in his formulation, ‘hypo-critical’. It refuses its detractors the legitimate option to critique its axioms. It makes a totalising claim about the centrality of racism in society, how it is constructed and how it manifests itself. This is not open to disagreement or criticism, and to do so is merely to expose oneself as culpable in the pathology. 

He writes:

Testing a theory is a legitimate exercise in free thought. Implementing an ideology, on the other hand, is indoctrination, and indoctrination has no place in education. In fact it has no place anywhere in a democracy.

‘The real problem with Critical Race Theory’ ~ Professor Darren Zook of the University of California Berkeley

In other words, once a CRT perspective is adopted, firm injunctions in respect of intellectual and political behaviour follow. While factors other than racism might factor into an analysis of a given problem – indeed, the idea of ‘intersectionality’, the influence of multiple vectors of oppression and advantage that a given person might be subject to as a result of various combinations of identity, is closely linked to CRT – the influence of racism is always to be discerned. The nature of its influence might be debated, the existence of its influence is not.

So, from this point, any analytical exercise will inevitably have to consider if not prioritise the questions of race, racism and racial power. There is a dreadful risk that this will drive thinking about our pressing problems down pre-determined blind alleys, and make durable solutions ever harder to come by. If we are consciously looking for racism as a causal factor in any situation, we can probably find it. Where it is not immediately apparent, ideologically-attuned reasoning – as the CRT worldview prescribes – can confidently discern it.

The response might be that this is all good and well, but given South Africa’s history is it not entirely reasonable to look to race and racism as an explanation for the phenomena that bedevil us? In reply one might say that racism has played a visible and destructive role in South Africa’s history, and this has left us with a litany of problems. Many are directly attributable to the racism and racial discrimination in this lamentable past. But does recognising this mean that it follows that foregrounding racism and racism discrimination necessarily offers solutions to them as they manifest themselves now?

This matters greatly. The extent and patterns of poverty in South Africa can be attributed largely (if no longer exclusively) to race-based policies that extended back to at least the 19th Century, and in some instances before – what one might call the ‘legacy of colonialism and apartheid’. There is further no dispute that alleviating poverty is a central condition for South Africa’s endurance and a key marker of its success. 

This will in turn require increased investment, sustained economic growth and the upskilling and employment opportunities associated with it. All of this has been recognised in a slew of official economic strategies. Yet how that is to be achieved and what trade-offs should be made to achieve it are deeply contested. South Africa’s authorities have determinedly ratcheted up demands on business to conform to its ideological outlook and programme. In large measure, these have been targeted explicitly at addressing the racial disparities in the economy. 

Prominent here have been the imperatives of ‘transformation’, requirements to meet affirmative action and racial empowerment (Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment, B-BBEE) targets. These have become entrenched as sacrosanct in government thinking. Indeed, it is currently the government’s intention to introduce ministerially mandated quotas that firms will be obliged to meet, with the threat of damaging fines to enforce them.

But there is considerable evidence that these policies have undermined South Africa’s investment attractiveness. The demand for ownership transfers to B-BBEE partners, for example, has been flagged in research by European firms as the largest disincentive to doing business in South Africa.

Is it then in the interests of the country to dispense with these demands, or should they be maintained (enhanced even, as proposed Employment Equity Amendment Bill would have it, or as senior figures in the government have suggested)? This is a deeply serious matter, with profound implications. Should we focus on economic expansion overall, or on ensuring that such benefits as are realised are directed to specified groups? From a CRT perspective, it’s doubtful that that it would even be considered worthy of discussion. Inequalities – or inequities – defined by race are ipso facto evidence of racism, if not racism itself, and thus self-evidently demand race-specific responses.

Understand that there is a fervent moral impetus behind this – little excites the moral conscience quite like the allegation or accusation of racism. And since those pushing these ideas will tend to be in the intellectual professions and policy bureaucracies, they have a significant degree of insulation from any of their adverse consequences. The question of the country’s economic climate, meanwhile, falls out of focus.

This is actually a good part of what has happened with regard to South Africa’s economic policy. Ideology has overwhelmed pragmatism to the extent that it’s hard to find anyone in the government who will even concede that a legitimate debate can be had on these matters. Recently, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana dismissed any suggestion that B-BBEE dissuaded investment.

Now don’t misunderstand: this is not necessarily the direct doing of CRT. It is not as if policy makers got hold of a library full of the works of Ibram X Kendi and Robin DiAngelo and decided to rule out criticism of affirmative action and B-BBEE as a consequence. As I pointed out in the first part of this piece, much of what ails South Africa, including race obsessions, were well in place long before CRT was a widely-known concept. What CRT would do – and as it gains traction among thinkers, is doing – is to give intellectual authority to this sort of reasoning. Debate is the great gift of democratic regimes to policy formation; CRT will be an encumbrance on debate that our development prospects can ill afford.

When Marianne Merten described CRT as the ‘prevailing approach in academe and public discourse’, it must be appreciated for the threat it is. For in its self-conception it is not merely a plausible approach, but a truth-claim that accepts no deviation.

And the implications of that are disturbing. More than just circumscribing debate, CRT stands to be deployed as a formidable weapon for less than honourable ends. Much has been made over the years of the so-called ‘race card’, a cynical response by compromised politicians and other luminaries in which their detractors are accused of racism. Thabo Mbeki, for example, reacted to allegations of corruption in the notorious arms deal – something that did incalculable damage to South Africa’s institutions, aside from its pecuniary value – by scolding critics as ‘fishers of corrupt men’.

‘What our country needs,’ he wrote, ‘is substance and not shadows, facts instead of allegations, and the eradication of racism.’ (And lest we forget, the same tactic has been deployed time and again, on matters as diverse as government’s record on crime and AIDS, and on the Nkandla upgrades.) In an environment in which CRT had established a ‘prevalence’, it’s hard to see why it would not be given a reverent reception. A very plausible response from a CRT starting would be to foreground the question of racism, and to order whatever facts and allegations exist around it. Not entirely a get-out-of-jail-free card to be sure, but at least a narrative in which corruption (or any other governance failing) is but one transgression among others, and not necessarily the most important one.

For myself, I fear that CRT poses a threat to some foundational democratic and civic values. For CRT leads inexorably to this position: discriminatory racial injustices can be met with discriminatory racial justice. Racism, being the omnipresent and malevolent presence it is, is to be challenged with the same tools that produced it. The solution replicates the problem it is meant to alleviate. To quote Zook again:

When a CRT advocate such as Ibram Kendi claims that antiracist racism is a legitimate strategy to smash systemic racism in the United States, what he is really saying is this: the current dominant racism does not benefit me, so I would like to replace that racism with a racism of my own that does benefit me. By calling the new racism ‘antiracist’ it appears to validate the truth-claim by making it impossible to question (only a racist would reject what is antiracist). But at the end of the day all Ibram Kendi is doing is emulating his alleged oppressor. Antiracist racism is at the end of the day still racism, and to paraphrase Einstein on war, you cannot simultaneously abolish and entrench racism. To the extent that Ibram Kendi is a proponent of CRT, then with this type of argument, CRT gives us simply more racism, not less.

Professor Darren Zook of the University of California Berkeley

The CRT thought-process logically then throws up some sinister possibilities. Discrimination is not only permissible, but well-nigh imperative. On what basis and to what issues can that be limited? Hiring and trading practices can be mandated to follow racial patterns, as we’ve discussed above. There is considerable argument about the permissibility of disparate outcomes by different racial groups in educational attainment. In the United States, this has produced pressure to restructure educational systems to produce visibly ‘equitable’ outcomes. This has included deemphasising correct answers and tests, and replacing academic achievement records with lotteries as the basis for admission to high-achieving institutions to ensure proportionately appropriate student demographics.

It’s hard to see why or how ideas such as democratic citizenship or human rights should be immune from such recasting. They depend on the assumption of moral, political and legal equality, which are at odds with the world as CRT conceives it, and (it seems to me) an obstacle to reordering it. If this seems far-fetched or even absurd, bear in mind that flashes of this have been evident for some time. Consider that in April 2019 a senior official at the SA Human Rights Commission – a state body constitutionally mandated to promote and protect human rights in South Africa – declared that the institution dealt with racist transgressions differently depending on whether they were committed by black or white people, ‘because of the historical context’.

If ‘historical context’ can determine the protection afforded to individuals’ human rights, then we are not far from making the argument that human rights themselves are conditional on identity. ‘Historical context’ is intimately related to ‘social context’. And from there it is a short step to dispensing with human rights altogether – at least in the sense of universal, natural and equally-held entitlements held by virtue of a common humanity. Rather, one could argue for sets of identity-dependent privileges, ‘black rights’, ‘white rights’ maybe…

We are not at that point now, but we dismiss this possibility at our peril. After all, non-racism was an aspiration to which we were all exhorted not that long ago – now, that idea is increasingly damned as a species of denialism, to be supplanted by ‘anti-racism’.

One hastens to add here that none of this is to say that all enjoy human rights in equal and bountiful measure at the moment, whether within a given society or across the world. It is also not to deny that racism plays a role in denying people the full enjoyment of the rights that by natural law should be theirs. But it is to say that we concede the idea of universal humanity, human rights and the ideas that make them possible at our extreme peril.

So, what does all this mean?

Despite protests to the contrary, CRT is not a mere academic fad, nor is it a contrived diversion appropriated from anxieties of the American ‘right wing’. It is strongly activist ideology presenting itself in the form of an intellectual framework. This gives it an air of erudition and respectability that exceeds any analytical value it has to offer – indeed, it seeks to foreclose alternative perspectives. And from an academic base, its ideas (and their corresponding calls to action) have spread to numerous other centres of social power.

Sometimes, quite possibly most often, these ideas may not go by the name of CRT: they may be presented as analyses of systemic racism, or demands for social justice, or ‘anti-racism’. But it is necessary to understand their ideological nature and intellectual origin to appreciate where they are likely to go.

For South Africa, CRT poses a real risk to the open and constructive debate we desperately need. It also threatens to undermine some of our most valuable achievements and most beautiful aspirations. That it may do so under the guise of striking a blow against racism does not make this any less hazardous.

And for that reason, CRT is a concept that must be brought into the open and challenged.

Critical Social Justice and Ideological Totalism in South African Schools: A Brief Overview

Caiden Lang compares the teaching of Critical Race Theory to the processes of indoctrination or thought reform used by cults.

               “Everything was perfectly healthy and normal here in Denial Land.”

                   ― Harry Dresden (Jim Butcher, Cold Days)


Under pressure from left-wing commentators and education bureaucrats , former Model C and private schools in South Africa are working hard to foster a school environment centred around 'diversity', 'inclusion', and 'equity'. On the face of it, these seem like laudable goals given our racially segregated and oppressive history. I am sure that everyone, barring actual racists, would agree that fostering environments free of discrimination and where everybody, regardless of their race, feels as though they belong, should be a priority. To this end, schools are rewriting policies, drafting transformation plans, introducing social justice curricula, hiring diversity consultants, and in many cases, forming committees whose job it is to make sure that all stakeholders commit themselves to the new set of rules laid out in the policies – and all of this under the moniker of 'social justice'. 

Being interested in ideas of social justice, I decided to read a book that was recommended by a few schools and diversity consultants. The book is called Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad (2018), who describes it as a "28-day truth-telling journey to guide people with white privilege to discover, examine, unpack and dismantle their inner white supremacy and their internalised racism."

This sounded like bold and important work. So, I picked up the book and started the journey of dismantling my white supremacy. A couple of pages in, I started to feel uncomfortable. And then, to my surprise, I was informed by the author that any discomfort I was feeling meant that her thesis was correct and that I needed to keep reading to understand the discomfort. The author was right. I continued reading and figured out the source of my discomfort. 

I think that the so-called 'anti-racism' movement is an ideology that all too often flirts with mind-manipulation techniques to recruit adherents - occasionally it hops straight into bed with them. Fortunately, being in those cases naked, 'anti-racism' ideology, with its promise of ecstatic release, is laid bare to outsiders who see her for what she is, a siren in a tumultuous sea of perceived injustice.

Me and White Supremacy is one such example of promiscuity. 

The book is full of clever little linguistic traps and attempts at emotional blackmail. Almost everything in the book is centred around emotion. I was told that not feeling what I was meant to be feeling (guilt for my complicity in a system of white supremacy) was proof that I was guilty of complicity. Convenient. A little too convenient, perhaps. And then, of course, there was work to be done. Always work to be done, dammit. Don't misunderstand me – one must strive to improve oneself at all times and all of that, but this seemed different. This was coercive. This was the language of non-thought wrapped up with a pretty bow.

This was an attempt to lure the reader into accepting an ideological worldview.

This looked a lot like brainwashing.

How could a school recommend a book like this to children? Have we lost our minds? Is ascribing collective guilt back in fashion? These were questions I kept asking myself as I turned the pages. And these are the questions I’d like to answer in this essay.

Answering these questions requires a broader look at what social justice means for South African schools. 

In this essay, I will show that the beliefs informing social justice at these schools seem a far cry from what one could call a liberal sense of social justice; that social justice as presently practised should more accurately be called critical social justice, which, regarding race relations, derives its first principles from Critical Race Theory (CRT), broadly speaking; and I make the case that far from fostering inclusion and diversity, CRT promotes a kind of race essentialism, fosters psychological fragility, is anti-intellectual, and is distinctly political. As such, social justice in its present form should be scrutinised more than it is at present by various stakeholders in our schools. 

Further, and perhaps more importantly, I will suggest that proponents of Critical Race Theory and its offshoot, 'anti-racism', employ unethical methods of influence to gain adherents to their worldview – methods that could reasonably be considered indoctrination to varying degrees of intensity. As such, CRT should be treated as a religion in that it should be taught about instead of affirmed as true, as is the case in many South African schools.

Having made the case, I will provide some thoughts on why such an illiberal conception of social justice has become the default theory in schools, and respond to common criticisms of the position I have taken in the essay. 

‘Me and White Supremacy’ as Ideological Totalism

“If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove that they should value it? If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument could you provide to show the importance of logic?” – Sam Harris

“This is not an intellectual activity” – Layla Saad

Whether or not something counts as indoctrination often depends on whether or not you have been indoctrinated. 

In a conversation with Robert Cialdini, author of, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (1984), Michael Shermer jokingly mused that ‘nobody joins a cult.’ Shermer was crystalising an idea perhaps best expressed by Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World (1932).

“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people. His servitude is strictly objective.” (Brave New World Revisited, 1958)

Me and White Supremacy is a book that ‘leads readers through a journey of understanding their white privilege and participation in white supremacy, so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on black, indigenous and people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too.’ 

The book tries to achieve this aim by explaining certain concepts and invites the reader to answer a series of questions regarding their complicity in the system of white supremacy.

The author turns to Wikipedia for a definition of ‘white supremacy’, which is “… a racist ideology based upon the belief that white people are superior in many ways to people of other races, and that therefore white people should be dominant over other races.”

She acknowledges that many white people are reluctant to admit that they fall into the category of ‘white supremacist’ because they believe that all people are created equal and should be treated as such. These people think that ‘white supremacy’ is a term used to describe a fringe group of white people. But, she explains: 

“What this workbook, which is a deep-diving self-reflection tool, will help you to realise however is that that isn’t true. White supremacy is an ideology, a paradigm, an institutional system, and a world view that you have been born into by virtue of your whiteness.”

The author’s argument is as follows: 

White supremacists believe that white people should be dominant over black people.

All white people are white supremacist

You are white,

Therefore, you believe that you should be dominant over black people.

If the premises are true, the argument is sound.  

It is obvious that the second premise is the one that requires evidence for its truth value. It is this premise that the author is going to help us ‘realise’ is true. 

Typically (ideally), when somebody presents an argument and tries to convince you that it is true, they will be engaging in an intellectual activity. They might provide data in the form of psychological studies, statistical evidence, scientific papers, or even rely on an a priori argument proving that their conclusion is necessarily true. 

Layla Saad does no such thing. She merely asserts that the above argument is true and relies on a plethora of manipulation techniques designed to convince the reader to accept them – manipulation techniques that bear a striking resemblance to what we might think of as indoctrination, brainwashing, or what Robert J. Lifton describes as ‘thought reform’. I would even go so far as to suggest that ‘anti-racism’, as Saad presents it, could be thought of as a cult, and as such, Me and White Supremacy should not, on moral grounds, be mandatory reading in any business or school. 

Before getting into specifics, I’ll offer a taster. The author categorises her audience as follows: 

“Lastly, there will be different categories of people who read this book:

There will be those who read this book because they want others to think they are a good white person.

There will be those who read this book because they genuinely want to do the work, but they tap out after a few days because it challenged them too much and required too much of them.

There will be those who will use this book to become better white supremacists - learning the lingo and the arguments, and then weaponising them against BIPOC to continue to build their ego, and maintain the status quo.

And then, there will be those who are really about this work. Who worked through the entire book, and will continue to use it as a tool to re-examine their complicity in white supremacy and how to dismantle it - both within themselves and in their communities.

You get to decide which category you belong to. You get to decide whether or not you become a good ancestor.”

 Notice how there is no category for people who disagree with her work. Presumably, those people are subsumed by those in the third category.

You don’t have to be a fishmonger to notice when something smells fishy. However, a fishmonger can tell you what species of fish you’re smelling. 

For that, I turn to Robert J. Lifton, one of the authorities on indoctrination. 

Thought Reform

In 1961, Robert J. Lifton, an American psychiatrist, published a book called Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of "Brainwashing" in China. 

Lifton sought to understand how Chinese communists were able to ‘brainwash’ American POWs during the Korean War, many of whom converted to communism, an ideology that under normal circumstances they would be opposed to. 

Lifton interviewed several American servicemen who were subjected to Chinese indoctrination, as well as fifteen Chinese students who had fled their homeland after experiencing similar indoctrination in Chinese universities. 

As a result of those interviews, Lifton wrote, “I wish to suggest a set of criteria against which any environment may be judged – a basis for answering the ever-recurring question: ‘Isn’t this just like brainwashing?”’. He goes on to say that, “The more clearly an environment expresses these eight psychological themes, the greater its resemblance to ideological totalism.”

Lifton’s eight conditions are:

1) Milieu Control – the control of behaviour and communication. 

2) Mystical Manipulation – behavioural and emotional manipulation that occurs in such a way as to appear to have arisen spontaneously.

3) Demand for Purity – arbitrary standards for purity are set and then guilt and shame are elicited by convincing a person that they fall short of these standards.

4) Cult of Confession – insistence that a person confess their sins and accept responsibility for them, thereby purifying themselves.

5) Sacred Science – the doctrine is presented as sacred and transcends ordinary reason and logic. Critical thinking is met with hostility and derision.

6) Loading the Language – the use of a unique and restrictive vocabulary that limits expression and subtly shapes the way a person interprets their manipulation.

7) Doctrine Over Person – a person’s experiences are processed through the group’s philosophy.

8) Dispensing of Existence – a sharp line is drawn between those who have a right to ‘exist’ and those who do not.

Over and above these eight conditions,

 “…the thought reform process, according to Lifton, revolves around two extremes of treatment and two demands – the alternation between assault and leniency (extremes of treatment), and the requirements of confession and re-education (demands). Physical and psychological assault is designed to bring about ego death, and leniency and confession are the means by which “rebirth” occurs. This process of death and rebirth is said to have profound effects on the person in question’s loyalties and beliefs, as well as his sense of being an individual and being part of a group.” (Hunter, p. 202)

Before I proceed, I offer the following caveat. I am not suggesting that anybody who reads the book will have undergone the same experience as did a POW during the Korean War. I am merely suggesting that in her attempt to make her white readers realise that they think they should be dominant over black people and should, therefore, participate in a lifelong process of anti-racism, Saad employs all but one of Lifton’s conditions of thought reform to varying degrees.

There is a big difference between an adult reading this book at home and a child being required to read and answer all the prompts at school and in a group setting. The former can easily decide to put the book down, whereas, for a school child, it's not that easy. Reasons for this might involve peer pressure as well as an assumption that whoever has been chosen to administer the workbook will have already subscribed to the ideology. Therefore, in the context of the discussion, I am assuming that the reader is a high school student whose school has made it mandatory to go through the workbook as part of a social justice curriculum.

Indoctrinating Johnny: A helpful guide

Johnny is a white high school student who arrives at school one day and is told that he and his white classmates will be working through a book called 'Me and White Supremacy'. 

The following is a guide for anybody interested in learning how to change somebody’s mind without offering any meaningful evidence. 

First, you must have complete belief in the truth of your doctrine. If you want Johnny to believe what you are asserting, you must believe it too. This is crucial and cannot be overstated. There can be no doubt in your mind that your message represents the truth about how the human race is to reach its utopia. Put another way, you need to be the opposite of those who couch what they say in intellectual humility. After all, if you are willing to doubt your position it must mean that you are not in possession of the Truth. You are without faith. 

One way to wipe doubt from your mind is to give God, or a higher power, the dishcloth. You must believe that you are merely a mouthpiece delivering the good news. As such, your doctrine should be presented as something sacred – something beyond the purview of conventional rationality or science. Your message is urgent, there is no point getting stuck in the meticulous weeds of logic and silly syllogisms. 

Layla provides some nice examples of unfettered certainty. Here she is explaining the inspiration for her work. 

“I’m working quickly and efficiently now. I can barely keep up with the prompts that are pouring through me from what I believe is God (or Spirit, or however you define Source) working through me.”

“I ask God for further direction. I listen for an answer.”

“I am simply following Divine directions.”

She tells us that the workbook is partly the result of “… a manifestation of a mystical experience that happened in the middle of the night on a full moon.”

In the acknowledgements, she says, "It is my belief and experience that this work was divinely channelled through me."

In addition to citing God as a reference, Saad describes her work as ‘Sacred Activism’, ‘spiritual shadow work’, and ‘soul work’. 

Channelling God/Source plays an additional role. When trying to help Johnny 'realise' that an ideology is true, he must be discouraged from asking questions. Basically, you need to convince Johnny that blind acceptance of your message is a feature and not a bug in your totalism machine. Mentioning God is a good start. Johnny happens to believe in God so you've probably convinced him already, but just in case, it is useful to explicitly discourage thinking. Your message is not about thinking, it is about feeling. 

Something like this would work nicely:

“I repeat this a lot in my work and it bears repeating again: This work is not an intellectual exercise or a mental thought experiment.”; 

“This is not an intellectual activity. It is a personal deep dive.”;

And finally, “It is work that is designed to get you to look at something you don’t want to look at – the way white supremacy manifests within you. Not as an intellectual concept, a thought experiment or a thing to do because you are ‘a good white person’. But something deeply personal and intimate.”

As an aside, another benefit of describing your work in that way absolves you of anything a reasonable person might consider logically fallacious or just downright confusing. It means people can overlook the fact that you define ‘people with white privilege’ as “… persons visually identifiable as white, white passing, or holding white privilege.” (My emphasis) 

Or claim that “You do this work because Love is not a verb to you, it is an action.”

Or indeed having to consider the fact that you have a chapter explaining that when white people try and help black people (including wanting to travel to Africa to help the poor) it is racist, without the intellectual awareness to consider that your entire book is about getting white people to be 'allies' of black people, with one possible way of achieving this being to donate money to an anti-racist organisation like Black Lives Matter.

Anyway, once you have sown the seeds of non-thought - harvested from the parent-crop in your head - you might want to begin to make Johnny ‘realise’ that the world is made up of evil people and good people and that if he wants to be a good person then he must believe everything you say. This serves a couple of ends. It fosters group solidarity, especially if you continually repeat that your doctrine serves a higher purpose; and it begins to distance Johnny from social circles who may present an obstacle to your message in that they might not agree with you. Just don’t lay this motif on too thick just yet. That will come later.  

Take a lesson from how Layla manages to manipulate Johnny into believing the us/them paradigm (sidenote – some people might call what you are doing ‘emotional blackmail’ but they would say that, wouldn’t they?):

“… if you are a person that believes in love, justice, integrity and equity for all people, then you know that this work is non-negotiable. If you are a person who wants to become a good ancestor (be on the right side of history), then you know that this is some of the most important work that you will be called to do in your lifetime.”

In other words, if you don’t do the work of anti-racism, you are someone who believes in hate, injustice, dishonesty and inequity for all people. Also, you are someone who wants to be on the wrong side of history.

In a similar paragraph, Layla explains why someone would want to ‘do this work’:

“…you do this work because you believe in something greater than your own self-gain. It means you do this work because you believe that every human being deserves dignity, freedom, and equality. It means you do this work because you desire wholeness for yourself and for the world. It means you do this work because you want to become a good ancestor. It means you do this work because Love is not a verb to you, it is an action. It means you do this work because you no longer want to intentionally or unintentionally oppress people.”

And my personal favourite …

“The work you do as you go through this workbook will make you feel uncomfortable. You’ll feel queasy in your stomach. Like the ragtag group of humans who are trying to save planet earth for future generations, you may face opposition, not only from your inner self, but also from friends, family members, and others who are close to you.”

Put another way, ‘If you think that it is important to save planet earth for future generations, you think it is important to accept everything I tell you.’

Or, indeed, ‘if you don’t accept my message, you are a climate change denier.’ 

This tactic of drawing a moral equivalency between your movement and another is quite brilliant. Use it. 

At this point, Johnny, who does believe in being a good person, begins to understand why this work is ‘non-negotiable.’

Another aspect of the purity demand you'll want to take advantage of is to help Johnny realise that he is evil and that the only way for him to become less evil is to follow your instructions. Convincing Johnny that he is evil is quite easy at this stage given the fertile ground you have already created. Truth be told, all you need to do is assert that he is evil and that the only reason why he may have thought otherwise is because of said evil. It also helps to assert that as a result of his evil, Johnny bears responsibility for the literal deaths of those who happen to have been born without sin. In this case, everybody who is not white or white-passing. 

Say things like:

“As I’ve mentioned a number of times, this work is hard. There is no way to sugar coat it. White supremacy is an evil. It is a system of oppression, which has been designed to give you benefits at the expense of the lives of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous People of Colour), and it is living inside you.”


“You will want to blame me, rage at me, discredit me and list all the reasons why you are a good person and why you don’t need to do this work. That is a normal, expected response. That is the response of the white fragility and anti-blackness lying within you.”

Johnny thought that he was a good person. Or, at least, he tries hard to be a good person. It saddens him that he bears responsibility for the deaths of people who are not white. For a split-second, Johnny considered putting his hand up and asking exactly how he is responsible but suddenly recalls that his doubt proves that he is, in fact, responsible and the moment passes. 

Once Johnny believes that he is carrying some sort of original sin inside him, he is now primed to receive a solution to his predicament. This is when you can start to ramp things up a bit. You’ll want to do few things here. First, you’ll want to avoid sounding like a self-help guru as there are so many of them! Frame the solution in mystical or religious language so that Johnny understands that you are not merely offering a solution to the ‘virus that has been living inside of [him] all these years, that [he] never knew was there’, but rather, you are offering a completely life-changing experience that will ‘feel like waking up.’ 

To that end, describe the process of recognising the evil within, in the following ways (I guess you could pick your favourite, but it might be beneficial to follow Layla’s lead and use a few of them):

Refer to it as, ‘beyond transformational’, ‘work that will pull out the worst of you, so that you can get to the best of you’, ‘re-humanis(ing) yourself’. 

The idea of waking up or being lost and now found, not only makes your mark more committed to the work but contributes to the idea that anybody not doing the work is asleep, not fully human, content with living with a virus inside them. The presence of an out-group does wonders for the cohesion of the in-group. 

The work has been stressful for Johnny up until now. But, as the lady says, doing this work means he will become fully human. 

I hope you are still with me. Just a few more tips to go before you can start trying this for yourself. 

Now, the process of re-humanising Johnny can be a slightly controversial one because essentially what you'll be doing is asking him to confess to a plethora of sins. The problem is that calling it 'confession' might not sit well with some people – it might evoke images of torture, self-flagellation, and coercion. Rather refer to it as 'truth-telling' as Layla does – everybody thinks that telling the truth is a good thing. Alternatively, you could use the word 'sharing' as some cults do. 

Despite this part of the work having its difficulties, for the aspiring ideological totalist, it can also be the most rewarding. Here is where you are likely to find vindication. Here is where Johnny will confess that he has indeed been living with evil inside of him and that he is willing to face his ‘darkest shadows’. It’s what you have been telling him all along, but to hear him say it is a triumph. 

Before you embark on the truth-telling process, you'll want to warn Johnny that confession is not going to be a comfortable process. You'll want to make sure that he frames the discomfort positively. Layla does this superbly by helping Johnny realise that feeling pain, shame, confusion, fear, anxiety, anger, remorse, grief, apathy, and rage " … are an appropriate human response to racism and oppression." It is important to feel those feeling because, "in doing so, you wake up."

Johnny is relieved because he has been feeling some of those feelings and he thought he may have been doing something wrong. He realises now that those feelings mean that the evil inside him is beginning to be exorcised. He is a bit apprehensive about what comes next, especially because he will be ‘truth-telling’ in front of his teacher and friends. But they’re all in it together and the evil has to come out somehow. 

Occasionally, Johnny will not be willing to tell the whole truth. You might want to tell him to ‘Keep writing until [he] hit[s] the ugly truth, then write some more.’; not to “Surface-skim or side-step telling the truth.” After all, that is what evil people would do:

“When you don’t tell the truth as deeply as you can, you are cheating BIPOC of your allyship, cheating yourself of your own growth, and illustrating that you are not truly committed to dismantling white supremacy within yourself, and therefore within the world.”

And, just in case Johnny answers a prompt in the abstract because he doesn’t think that the particular ‘truth’ applies to him, tell him that he is not allowed to:

‘Answer the prompts as specifically as possible with your own examples about yourself, and not about white people broadly. For example: In response to the question “How have you stayed silent when it comes to...?” do not answer “White people stay silent by…”, but rather answer with “I have stayed silent by…”. Remember always that this work is first and foremost about you and only you.

Because this work can rub some people up the wrong way, it is important that the process of confession remains private or shared with only those that are committed to the doctrine. Layla writes, “Please keep all your journal writings to yourself and/or your #MeAndWhiteSupremacy Book Circle, and do not share them online.” 

A good idea is to start slow and turn up the heat gradually. You’ll want Johnny to confess to some pretty awful things towards the end of the process - don’t fly before you can walk. You don’t want Johnny crashing out when you begin to coerce him into confessing to some pretty nasty thoughts that he isn’t even sure he had. Therefore, take the time to ease Johnny into the ‘truth-telling’ process. A nice way to do this is to ask very broad questions about thoughts and actions that most people would have had, but tell Johnny that because he has had them, it proves he is evil. Hopefully, by the time Johnny gets to the part where he is required to confess to some more serious sins that he never knew he had committed, he will be more willing to admit to having committed them. He will believe that the sins have been floating around in his ‘shadow-self’ the entire time. Of course, because of your divine connection, you knew they were floating around in there all along. 

Just in case Johnny feels like he wants to jump straight to the juicy stuff without having been primed for it, you might want to forbid him from doing so. Just like Layla does, say something like,

‘I have designed the journey to follow a very specific and intentional path. Each journaling prompt builds upon the preceding one. When you skip around rather than following the laid out sequence, the work loses its effectiveness. When you choose to skip certain days because you don’t think they apply to you, you undermine and bypass the work.’

Some aspiring totalists might, at this point, be wondering what to make Johnny confess to. The answer is quite simple. In short, come up with a range of tailormade thought-terminating clichés and domain-specific jargon and get him to confess to how that particular term applies to him. 

It is worth pausing to understand exactly what a thought-terminating cliché is and what it does so that you can make full use of them in your own totalistic endeavour.  

Lifton explains what a thought-terminating cliché is and what it does. He says,  

“The most far-reaching and complex human problems are compressed into brief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorised and easily expressed. The major effect of loading the language is that the subject is constricted in terms of his communication and since language is so central to all human experience, his capacities for thinking and feeling are immensely narrowed.” (1961, p. 430)

You may have encountered a few of these from time to time. Some examples might include phrases like:

‘Everything happens for a reason.’

‘God works in mysterious ways.’

‘His ways are above our ways.’

Some thought-terminating clichés might seem benign but they are always designed to stifle independent thought.  

“Stated simply, thought terminating clichés are words or phrases which have the effect of minimising critical, or independent, thinking. Many of these phrases appeal to the emotions of the individual and their desire to see themselves (and their desire to be seen by others) in a positive way. This may occur by making the uncritical acceptance of ideas seem like a virtue, or by making critical thinking seem like a flaw. Lifton (1961) uses as an example the phrase “bourgeois mentality” (p. 429), explaining that it “is used to encompass and critically dismiss ordinarily troublesome concerns like the quest for individual expression, the exploration of alternative ideas, and the search for perspective and balance in political judgments”. In others words, any person who tries to think independently, or consider other perspectives, might be labelled as having a “bourgeois mentality”. Those who have bought into this thought-terminating cliché would form a negative association with the individual without considering the merits of his position.” (Hunter, 2019, p. 274 – 275) 

In addition to thought-terminating clichés, if you want the confession process to do its job, never allow Johnny to deny that a particular term applies to him. Come up with a thought-terminating cliché that refers to somebody that denies that any of the terms apply to them. Layla uses White Fragility to play that role (bourgeois mindset, anybody?). 

Here are some examples of how Layla helps Johnny to realise that he is a white supremacist. Feel free to use this rubric and insert thought-terminating clichés in service of the ideology of your choice. 

  • Could you, if you wished, arrange to be in the company of people of your race most of the time? If yes, you have White Privilege which means you are complicit in white supremacy. 
  • Have you ever been annoyed, angry, stayed silent, or gotten defensive when somebody calls you a racist? You have? Well, that means you have White Fragility.
  • Ever asked a non-white person to 'calm down' or to express themselves in a nicer way if they have been shouting at you or using an aggressive tone? Yes? A typical example of Tone Policing. (Johnny sticks up his hand and says, 'But Ma'am, sometimes it's difficult to have a discussion with somebody if they are shouting at you.' The teacher answers, 'Johnny, why are you getting defensive? Did you not learn anything from our discussion on White Fragility?’ Classmates mutter and shake their heads at Johnny. 
  • Have you ever chosen not to engage in a conversation about race, or not attended a Black Lives Matter protest? Yes. That’s called White Silence and it is because of you that black people are being killed. 
  • Have you ever engaged in Tone Policing? (See above). You have? That means that you have White Superiority. It means that you think you are better than black people. 
  • Have you ever thought of yourself as not racist? Yes? That’s called White Exceptionalism and it means that you are, in fact, racist.
  • Have you ever had the thought that a person should be judged on their character rather than the colour of their skin? Yes. Typical white supremacist behaviour. (Join Martin Luther King Jnr in the naughty corner.)
  • Have you ever done yoga, braided your hair or been involved in any activity whatsoever that did not originate in the West? You have? That’s Cultural Appropriation
  • Have you ever travelled or wanted to travel to Africa, Latin America, or Asia to ‘save the poor people’? That’s White Saviourism and it means you are a white supremacist.  

Follow each topic with questions that Johnny must answer and share with the group. Always ask ‘When have you …?’, ‘Why have you …?’, and, ‘How have you …?’. Never ask ‘Have you …?’ – it defeats the purpose. 

******Take a lesson from how Layla asks Johnny to answer her prompts regarding some of the topics above:

  • What have you learned about you and your specific white privilege: How it shows up, how you hold on to it, how you use it (consciously or unconsciously) against BIPOC?
  • How have you weaponised your fragility against BIPOC through for example, calling the authorities, crying, claiming you’re being harmed (‘reverse-racism!’, ‘I’m being shamed!’, ‘I’m being attacked!’)?
  • What emotional outbursts have you had during racial interactions? Or how have you shut down, walked away, deleted everything and pretended nothing happened and hoped no one would notice? (White Fragility)
  • How have you insisted on white norms of “respectability” and “civility” when BIPOC talk about their lived experiences? (Tone Policing)
  • How have you discounted BIPOC in general because of the tone that they use when they talk? (Tone Policing)
  • How do you do harm with your white silence?
  • In what ways have you consciously or subconsciously believed that you are better than BIPOC? Don’t hide from this. This is the crux of White Supremacy. Own it. (White Superiority)
  • In what ways have or do you believe you are exceptional, exempt, “one of the good ones”, or above this work?
  • Are you someone who has used the idea that “there is only one race - the human race” to gaslight, minimise, erase, ignore and harm BIPOC? (And by the way, race is a social construct - we actually are one human race - but race-based systems of oppression like white supremacy act in opposition to that). (From the chapter called, You and Seeing Color)
  • What mental gymnastics have you done to avoid seeing your own race (and what your white race has collectively done to BIPOC)? (You and Seeing Color) 
  • Why have you felt entitled to appropriate from races you see as less than yours (whether consciously or subconsciously)? (Cultural Appropriation) 
  • This is from the chapter on 'Racial Stereotypes':

“Today I want you to think about the Indigenous people from the land where you live, as well as the migrants and descendants of immigrants who live in your country.”

  • What are the negative and/or fetishising racist stereotypes, beliefs, and thoughts that you hold about these people?
  • What racist assumptions do you make about them?

Note: When completing today’s prompt, please identify people by their race. They are not a monolithic block of ‘others.’ Write out the racist stereotypes you hold by race, rather than referring to POC broadly.”

This was a tough day for Johnny because he knows that stereotypes exist and what many of them are. But, it wasn't until he was asked to confess to having applied them to the indigenous population of his country, did he think he did apply them. He had to reach deep into his subconscious to pull this one out. But it was worth it. He knows now that he has always been a racist. 

At this stage, Johnny knows that he has evil inside him. This is where you should turn on the heat and solidify his membership in your group. As many cult leaders and cult researchers will know, one of the biggest obstacles to ideological totalism is the presence of Johnny's existent social circle – those not listening to your message. Friends, family and role models might influence him and cause doubt in his mind. This cannot be allowed. At a certain point, therefore, you will have to begin turning him against these people. You will have already given Johnny the idea that those outside of the totalising environment are not fully human, and you have provided him with a range of loaded words and thought-terminating clichés that only the others who are taking part in your totalistic class will understand. This is a great start and will make Johnny feel special and part of a group but you still have to find a way to alienate him from people who are not receptive to your doctrine. 

Layla is subtle in how she achieves this. During the build-up to the ‘truth-telling’, she begins to plant the seeds of what is to come: 

“This work may bring up dynamics that have caused you or others harm in your family relationships, your friendships, your romantic relationships or work relationships.”

“If you are the only person in your family, friendship group or community doing this work, it can feel lonely. Reach out to other white privileged people who are doing this work so that you can support one another. Do NOT however reach out to other BIPOC (whether family, friends, peers, etc.) to support you and help you process what is coming for you. They do not owe you that emotional labour.”

Do not, “Ask any BIPOC to help you process what is coming up for you in this work, whether paid or free. That includes family members, friends and partners”

Layla then piles on the pressure towards the end of the ‘truth-telling’ part of her book.

She asks Johnny to answer the following questions:

  • What actions have you taken when you’ve seen other white people culturally appropriating? Have you called it out? Or have you used your white silence?
  • Have you or your teachers profited from cultural appropriation?
  • Have you held yourself or your teachers accountable to doing better?
  • In what ways have you observed white-privileged people in your communities (family, friends, work) being apathetic when it comes to racism?
  • Knowing what you now know about white supremacist behaviours across Days 1-22, how do you respond when you witness white leaders behaving in these white supremacist ways? Do you call them in/out on it? Do you ask them to do better? Do you project your own white fragility on to them and fear calling them in/out, because you yourself fear being called in/out? Do you act like it didn’t happen and keep buying their products and services, or following their leadership regardless?
  • Do you challenge white leaders, or do you silently seethe inside while hoping someone else will do it? Do you allow them to do the bare minimum and give them a cookie when they do (whether through speech or in your mind)? Had you even noticed before this work that your white leaders have been showing up in these ways? And if you now realise they have, how do you plan to respond (if at all)?
  • Are there certain people you continue to stay in friendship with even though they are problematic and refuse to change?
  • Have you risked any of your friendships to call in/out, even if nobody was going to give you an ally cookie for it?
  • How do you feel about your friends who are not doing their own personal anti-racism work, and what responsibility do you feel to encourage them to do their work?
  • How do you feel about speaking up about racism and white supremacist beliefs and actions to your family members? Do you speak up or do you remain silent? Do you excuse your family members’ racial aggressions because it’s “not worth it” and you want to keep the peace? Do you justify your silence with your family by referencing your mental health? And do you understand that BIPOC have mental health issues too and still have to deal with (your and your family’s) racism? Do you excuse your elders’ racism because they are “from another time”?
  • If you are a parent, do you speak to your children about racism? And not the “we don’t see colour” talk, but the “white privilege” and “white supremacy” talk? Do you realise how early BIPOC have to talk to their kids about racism? Did your parents or caregivers ever speak to you about racism?
  • What racist beliefs have you internalised from your family?
  • Do you believe talking about racism is important, but not important enough to disrupt your family dynamics?
  • To what extent do you place white comfort over anti-racism in your family?

Snitching Layla includes a chapter called ‘You and Being Called Out’ in which she primes Johnny for the work to come and what reactions he might receive when calling out his friends, family, and teachers. Any negative reaction has a thought-terminating cliché attached to it and will help Johnny see that the white people in his social circle are racist: 

Common Reactions When Being Called Out

Becoming defensive, minimising, derailing, crying, falling silent, flouncing/dramatically leaving the space or conversation, deleting everything and running away (see Day 2: White Fragility).

Talking about your intent while ignoring your impact (see Day 6: White Exceptionalism).

Claiming you’re being attacked, or characterising the person(s) calling you out as aggressive and irrational (see Day 3: Tone Policing).

Pretending that you ‘don’t see colour’ (see Day 8: Seeing Colour).

Pulling out your token BIPOC to prove you’re not racist, or talking about all the good things you’ve done for BIPOC. (see Day 17: Tokenism).

Talking about how the person calling you out doesn’t “know the contents of your heart”.

Having to have the last word (see Day 5: White Superiority).

And other white fragile reactions that center you as the victim, instead of the one who did harm.

Johnny begins to pull away from his friends, family and role models because they are not willing to ‘do the work’ of anti-racism. He called them on their white supremacy and they reacted just like Layla said they would. Badly. He knows it is their White Fragility rearing its ugly head. They just don’t get it. They don’t get how they are harming BIPOC with their White Silence, White Exceptionalism, and White Superiority. He decides it’s better to be friends with those who get it – those who will be on the right side of history. 

Well done for making it this far. Your mission is almost complete. The final thing you will need to do is get Johnny to publicly pledge his commitment to the cause. Layla does like this:

Starting today and over the next week, begin to write down your commitments to this work. Craft a commitments statement that you will be able to refer to everyday, and especially on the days when you screw up. Your commitments are not what you will try to do or hope to do, but what you will do.

To craft this document, go back through all the journaling notes you have made when answering the prompts in this workbook, and recall the ways you’ve done harm and the ways in which you are committed to change. Think about what you are ready to commit to in your personal life, your family life, your friendships, your work and business life, your community life.

Where and how are you committed to showing up? Where and how are you committed to stepping back and de-centering yourself? Where and how are you committed to continuing your life-long education? Where and how are you committed to putting skin in the game instead of staying on the side-lines? Where and how are you committed to being a good ancestor?

Commitments are strong statements of solidarity and action. They are not guarantees that you will actually do the work. But they will help focus you so you know what work you are supposed to be doing. COMMIT to this life-long work. Write it down and then live your life accordingly.”

And with that, dear aspiring ideological totalist, your work is complete! You have managed to completely reform Johnny's thoughts without making a single intellectual argument. You have found the holy grail. Congratulations.

Johnny entered the classroom aware that racial disparities exist. He wanted to make it all better. He knows about the history of colonialism and apartheid. He knows the hurt and indignity it caused for the parents and grandparents (and so on) of his black classmates. But, he entered that class not blaming himself for what his ancestors did. Sure, he had some guilt. Guilt that luck can be a cruel mistress and that he may have been dealt a better hand than some. He wasn’t sure what he could do to fix the fact that his black friend doesn’t live in a house as nice as he does. But he wanted to fix it. And then his teacher started talking. She offered a way for him to fix it. A simple way. A revolutionary way. And it all began with acknowledging that everything was his fault. He had a ‘slavemaster’s’ mindset. He left the class believing that anything to do with western culture was bad and that he was to do everything he could to dismantle it. He left the classroom hating himself but at least he wasn’t alone. 


Here is a recap of what was discussed above, regarding Lifton's conditions of thought reform as they exist in Me and White Supremacy. This constitutes evidence for the strong case – the argument that ‘anti-racism’ as it is presented in Me and White Supremacy is an example of what Lifton refers to as Ideological Totalism. 

Saad claims her work is a revelation from God and discourages readers from thinking about it critically (Sacred Science); 

she sets the standard for purity as that which is not white supremacist, and then elicits guilt and shame in readers by convincing them that they fall short of that standard (Demand for Purity); 

she insists that readers engage in 'truth-telling' to purify themselves (Cult of Confession); 

she employs a host of domain-specific jargon and thought-terminating clichés which stifle independent thought and ensures that readers thoughts and experiences are processed through the lens of ‘anti-racism’ (Loading the Language; Doctrine Over Person); 

she draws a line between those who are asleep and those who have woken up/ those who are not fully human and those who are ‘re-humanising’/ those who are content with being evil/ those ‘doing the work’ of ‘anti-racism’ (Dispensing of Existence).

In addition to the above conditions, Saad’s work alternates between assault and leniency in that it necessitates stress in the form of a range of negative emotions that she describes as a feature of the work and a necessary component of the waking up process, while periodically providing leniency by telling the reader that they are being a ‘good ancestor’ among other positive attributes. The psychological assault is designed to bring about the death of the reader’s former identity as a white supremacist and through the process of confession, have the reader experience re-birth. 

“This process of death and rebirth is said to have profound effects on the person in question’s loyalties and beliefs, as well as his sense of being an individual and being part of a group.” (Hunter, p. 202)

The condition Lifton refers to as Milieu Control is one that, more than the other conditions, exists on a spectrum of intensity. It refers to the general control of a person's behaviour and communication. In terms of behaviour, it could range from sleep deprivation, physical assault, not being allowed to go to the bathroom, and isolation, to more benign controls including ritualistic practices like chanting a mantra or having controls on movement. Control of communication could refer to anything from forbidding a person from speaking at certain times, to what words a person may or may not use, and who a person is allowed to communicate with. 

Control of behaviour and communication is present in Me and White Supremacy. 

Saad writes, 

“If you are truly interested in doing this workbook in a group setting, then the only way this should be done is through a #MeAndWhiteSupremacy Book Circle, using The Circle Way as the model and structure for doing so. Choosing to use another process, or no process at all, against my express wishes, is an indication that you are not truly ready to do this work. This work is powerful, transformational, healing work. I ask that you treat it as such.”

Saad explains that The Circle Way is a methodology structured for ‘deep conversation and wise outcomes.’ It is based on a methodology developed by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea in 1992. 

It includes behavioural controls like having a host or volunteer begin the circle ‘with a gesture that shifts people’s attention from social space to council space’. This could include a moment of silence, reading a poem, or listening to a song, or ‘whatever invites centering’. 

Participants are encouraged to place objects in the centre of the circle that represent the intention of the circle and a focal point through which 'all energies pass'. Such symbols may include 'flowers, a bowl or basket, a candle.'

Meetings begin with a ‘check-in’. This

‘… helps people into a frame of mind for council and reminds everyone of their commitment to the expressed intention. It ensures that people are truly present.' In this case, the expressed intention is to help white people dismantle their inner white supremacist. Check-in begins with verbal sharing, beginning with a volunteer and proceeding around the circle. 'Sometimes people place individual objects in the center as a way of signifying their presence and relationship to the intention.’

In addition, Saad explains that, 

“The single most important tool for aiding self-governance and bringing circle back to intention is the role of guardian. One circle member volunteers to watch and safeguard group energy and observe the circle’s process. The guardian usually employs a gentle noisemaker, such as a chime, bell, or rattle, that signals to everyone to stop action, take a breath, rest in a space of silence. The guardian makes this signal again and speaks to why s/he called the pause. Any member may call for a pause.”

Behavioural control is evident in some of the examples used regarding Lifton's other conditions of thought reform. They include such things as telling the reader who they may or may not turn to for support and how they are to act when called out for their racist behaviour. 

Control of communication is present in the way that readers are asked to explain and understand their and other's behaviour according to the specific terms present in the anti-racist lexicon, as well as other communication restrictions outlined in The Circle Way. 

I mentioned at the outset that Me and White Supremacy uses seven of eight of Lifton’s conditions of thought reform to persuade a reader of the truth of the message. I have shown that to be the case. 

Lifton’s condition of Mystical Manipulation is perhaps the most difficult of the conditions to tie to Me and White Supremacy because it depends on the specifics of the administering of the workbook in a given context. 

Mystical Manipulation refers to events which take place in the environment that may seem spontaneous, but are actually orchestrated by the group (Lifton, 1961). Lifton states that those controlling the environment seek to “provoke specific patterns of behaviour and emotion in such a way that these will appear to have arisen spontaneously from within the environment” (p. 422).” (Hunter, p. 232)

A textbook example of mystical manipulation occurs in the context of 'faith healing' when a person from the congregation is 'healed' but that person has been planted by the faith healer to manipulate the rest of the congregation into believing in the faith-healing process.  

In the context of a #meandwhitesupremacy Book Circle, it is not unimaginable that an already converted guardian or volunteer start the 'truth-telling' portion of the session to manipulate others to follow their lead. But, as I said, it is difficult to prove and for that reason, I maintain that Me and White Supremacy fulfils seven of Lifton’s eight conditions of thought reform.

Therefore, a strong case can be made that Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad, when mandatory and read in a group setting, constitutes an example of ideological totalism, and as such, should not be required reading at any school or business. 

Because, this does seem an awful lot like brainwashing, don’t you think?

There might be a strong temptation to dismiss Saad’s book as a fringe case of indoctrination, however, 

“[Saad’s] work has been brought into homes, educational institutions and workplaces around the world that are seeking to create personal and collective change.” Me and White Supremacy

This, in itself, is concerning, but even more concerning is the fact that such was the success of the workbook that a new edition was published in 2020 and includes a foreword by Robin DiAngelo. The book is called Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor. 

Enobong Tommelleo of Booklist lauded it as ‘an insightful and necessary contribution to the work of combating racism’. Kirkus Reviews described the book as a ‘bracing, highly useful tool for any discussion of combating racism’, and Carl Logan of Midwest Book Review called it ‘mandatory reading for anyone having to deal with the social injustice arising from racism and bigotry’. 

Some might argue that making a case that this particular workbook is an example of ideological indoctrination does not necessitate that all ‘anti-racist’ education is such an example. I agree. However, given that this particular book is, according to the author’s website, a New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Amazon bestseller; has been described by none other than Robin DiAngelo as, ‘An indispensable resource for white people who want to challenge white supremacy but don’t know where to begin.’; and the author herself being lauded as ‘… one of the most important and valuable teachers we have right now on the subject of white supremacy and racial injustice.’, by Elizabeth Gilbert, New York Times bestselling author, I make the weaker case that if Me and White Supremacy can conceivably be thought of as a study in indoctrination, it should, at the very least, necessitate further consideration about whether this type of social justice be pushed onto students in the way that is becoming mandatory in many schools in the western world. 

Having discussed the thesis of Saad’s book, a natural question to ask is ‘what is the endgame?’. If Me and White Supremacy is indoctrination, what is the ideology underpinning it and what does it want? 

Saad coerces her reader into believing that white culture is necessarily oppressive and informs the reader that white people, as a moral imperative, should ‘ally’ themselves to the cause of ‘anti-racism’ which primarily involves ‘de-centering whiteness’. An important thing to understand is that ‘anti-racism’ is a political ideology that advocates for racial equity, not as a by-product of equality of opportunity, but by actively adjusting social, economic and political goods such that racial equity as an outcome is achieved. 

Saad's book is not merely about getting white readers to purge themselves of the evils of whiteness but to buy into a political worldview based on core ideas of an area of study called Critical Race Theory. The assertions in Saad's book are numerous and varied but they can be sorted into ideas that fit neatly into this worldview. Once the ideas are understood it makes it very clear why 'equity' is the logical endgame of the 'anti-racist' movement. 

The core claims of CRT inform the transformation drive in most of South Africa’s prominent schools.

Critical Race Theory

“From a critical social justice perspective, the term racism refers to this system of collective social and institutional White power and privilege.” (Sensoy and DiAngelo, 2012)

The term ‘racism’ is not to be confined to overt discrimination by a person targeted at people of another race based on the idea that one race is superior to another. Racism is also subtle and ubiquitous and exists in institutional ‘systems’ designed by white people to continue their domination over previously oppressed racial groups. 

Because white people benefitted, or continue to benefit from these systems, any argument for the utility or morality of a system put forth by a white person, must be interpreted as an attempt to preserve the status quo of white dominance. If such an argument is made by a black person, it must be the case that they have internalised their oppression and are working against their own interests. 

In addition to racism being defined in that way, it is also the case that racism only manifests in one direction. Namely, from whites against blacks (and previously oppressed groups, generally). The reason for this is that social interaction is believed to take place along a power continuum which is always present when people of different racial groups interact. Racism is thus defined as prejudice plus power. In the case where a black person uses derogatory language aimed at a white person based on the fact that the person is white, this is considered prejudiced but not racist. You might wonder whether this would still be the case if a wealthy, black, CEO were to treat a white homeless person in what we’d normally consider a racist manner, given that the power dynamics in that situation would seem to favour the CEO? CRT advocates would still refer to the attitude of the CEO as prejudicial, not racist, because, as we saw in Saad’s work, white supremacy is the dominant force that exists in western society. Therefore, the homeless person, by being white, is considered to be a custodian of the evil of 'whiteness' and thought to hold power over the CEO. 

This idea extends to the concept of ‘cultural appropriation’ which Saad explains only occurs when white people appropriate from other cultures and never the other way around. 

Given the focus on power and the idea that racism exists in western institutions, it makes sense that activists consider liberalism itself as the most fruitful target of radical scepticism given that liberalism is the dominant paradigm within which western democracies operate socially, economically and politically. 

This is not a trivial assertion because it would mean dismantling liberal values like enlightenment rationalism, neutral principles of constitutional law, capitalism, equality of opportunity, and individualism in the service of racial equity. You might think that I am overstating the case for dramatic effect but this statement is entirely factual. 

‘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.’ (Delgado, Critical Race Theory)

The call for equity is based on the assumption that any disparities in outcome between racial groups are evidence of racism as defined by activists. It follows then that any institution that produces racial inequity must be perpetuating white supremacy and must therefore be altered in such a way as to produce equitable outcomes.  

Here are two examples of how this kind of thinking plays out in schools:

On average, whites get better marks at school than blacks. Reason: The tests are racist; the curriculum is racist; schools are predicated on white ‘ways of knowing’. Solution: change the tests; get rid of tests altogether, decolonise the curriculum. 

At many former ‘Model C’ and private schools, black students and teachers are underrepresented in relation to the demographics of the country as a whole. Reason: Hiring and recruitment practices reflect an unconscious racial bias on behalf of the school. Solution: actively hire and recruit black students and teachers regardless of whether or not they are the most qualified for the position. 

It should be quite clear that in each of the above examples, a variety of confounding variables is omitted in favour of the simplistic anti-racism argument. Differential outcomes between racial groups are undoubtedly partly a result of historic racism by whites on blacks. This, however, does not tell the whole story because it glosses over various factors including cultural norms, class, and poor policy decisions. 

However, in requiring additional evidence for the CRT assumption that racial disparities equal racial discrimination, a person is often accused of ignoring the ‘lived experience’ of the racially powerless. If one argues that ‘lived experience’, although important to consider, might not always be epistemically sufficient evidence to base a political worldview on, one is accused of relying on western forms of evidence predicated on the western institution of enlightenment rationalism which betrays in the sceptic evidence that he has internalised ‘white ways of knowing’. To be clear, what is being referred to is scientific evidence, logic, and reason as ways of determining whether a proposition is true or false. 

It is not surprising then that Saad informs her readers not to assess the truth value of what she asserts, intellectually. After all, it is not about thinking. It is about feeling.

The point I am making here is that although Saad’s book does not explicitly explain what it means to ‘dismantle whiteness’ in all its iterations, it is important to understand her work in the broader context of CRT and its political views. The indoctrination process evident in Me and White Supremacy, therefore, could be considered a politically ideological recruitment process in service of equity as understood by social justice activists. Once you can get a kid/person to believe that they are evil and that they must do everything they can to ally themselves to the 'anti-racist' cause, it is an easy step to get them to further your political agenda.

Readers who have been indoctrinated into 'anti-racism' will believe that racism is everywhere; social interactions are predicated on power; racial groups are political units; individualism and meritocracy have been designed to ignore the plight of black people and to uphold white superiority respectfully; and that to reach an equity utopia, western culture ought to be dismantled. To top it off, readers will think that anybody who opposes any of the above views, do so because they are racist or have internalised their oppression.  

CRT and thought reform.

I have shown that Me and White Supremacy takes the beliefs of CRT as its starting point and uses seven of eight of Lifton’s conditions of thought reform to persuade readers of the moral imperatives of doing the work of ‘anti-racism’ – a worldview with definitively political agenda. 

Although Me and White Supremacy is a concentrated example of thought reform, its ideological parent, CRT, by virtue of its core beliefs, should be viewed with some scepticism in light of the assertions it makes and their correlation with Lifton's conditions of thought reform.

CRT says that racism is ubiquitous. It takes as evidence, racial disparities and lived experience. Anyone that challenges the notion using conventional methods of assessment like reason, logic, and scientific evidence, is considered to be motivated by their racist thoughts, whether conscious or unconscious (Sacred Science). 

CRT sets the standard for purity as someone who agrees with its beliefs about the world. It elicits guilt and shame by telling people that they fall short of the standard unless they make a lifelong commitment to fostering racial equity (Demand for Purity).

CRT asks individuals to examine their complicity in furthering the agenda of racist institutions that prioritise western ways of knowing or being and to atone for these sins (Cult of Confession).

CRT uses a bunch of domain-specific jargon and thought-terminating clichés designed to stifle independent thought and ensures that a person adopt these terms as a way of interpreting their own experiences (Loading the Language/ Doctrine Over Person)

CRT draws a line between those who are asleep and those who are ‘woke’. It divides society into good and evil and asks that people dispense with their ‘old’ identities and take up a new identity as somebody who has awoken to the worldview of CRT (Dispensing of Existence).


Critical Race Theory in Schools

“The very power of [textbook writers] depends on the fact that they are dealing with a boy: a boy who thinks he is ‘doing’ his ‘English prep’ and has no notion that ethics, theology, and politics are all at stake. It is not a theory they put into his mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and its presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all.”

  • C.S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man (1943)

The beliefs of CRT and ‘anti-racism’ form the dominant paradigm within which former ‘Model C’ and private schools are interpreting what a socially just school would look like. This is evident in the terminology used and beliefs espoused in anti-discrimination policies, transformation agendas, and social justice curricula. It is also evident in the types of social justice training that staff are required to attend. 

This raises the question of how this version of social justice has taken over these schools with little to no pushback from teachers, parents, and governing bodies. I will give some possible answers to that question but first I will explain what I mean when I say that CRT is the dominant paradigm in many schools in South Africa. Thereafter, I will close by remarking on possible consequences of pushing CRT in schools and I will respond to some common criticisms of the position I have taken in this essay.  

A large number of schools are committed to achieving racial equity quotas whereby the student body, staff, and governing body must be demographically representative of South African society as a whole. This idea is in direct opposition to equality of opportunity and meritocracy. Hiring practices have changed in many schools such that instead of hiring the best person for the job in terms of experience, performance and qualification, schools have the mandate to consider the equity quota. The best person for the job appears more and more to mean the person who best adds to the racial diversity of the staff. 

If two candidates could not be separated in terms of experience, qualification and performance, I would have no problem with a school hiring the candidate who is from a previously oppressed group. However, the equity quotas are resulting in job advertisements that explicitly say that the school is looking for somebody from a previously oppressed group. If I was a parent, I would want my child to be taught by the most qualified candidate no matter what colour they happen to be. This would seem to align with non-racialism as stipulated in our constitution. Sadly, non-racialism appears to have gone out of fashion and is being replaced by race essentialism in the guise of ‘anti-racism’. 

As proof of this, it is quite common for schools to include in their anti-discrimination policies a clause stating that 'saying that you don't see colour' is an example of unfair discrimination. This could be read in two ways. The first, as some school administrators have assured me, is that the sentence 'I don't see colour' is used by white students as a way of masking their racism. It is akin to saying 'I have black friends', and therefore, is considered proof of racism. 

The other way to read this clause is that it is a way of outlawing the individualist ideal of judging somebody on the contents of their character rather than the colour of their skin. This 'colour-blind' ideal is in overt opposition to the CRT/ anti-racist idea of producing racial equity. For racial equity to be engineered, the identification of people by race is a prerequisite. For CRT theorists, racial identity is the defining characteristic of a person and any other individual traits are secondary. Whereas I might see myself as an individual with unique desires, experiences and personality traits who is a father, a Liverpool supporter, a South African, and a fan of Neil Young, amongst other characteristics, a CRT activist would consider these things to be secondary to the fact that I am white. That I don’t consider the fact that I am part of a group called ‘white’ to be more important than other identifying factors is, according to CRT activists, a function of my white privilege. A person’s racial group is the most important thing about them and a predicter of their prospects. Thus, saying that you don’t see colour, on this view, is a racist proposition in that it is believed to de-humanise the individual by stripping him of the most salient part of his identity.

This idea is echoed in Kendi’s ‘How to Be an Antiracist’, where he explains that, 

“The common idea of claiming “color blindness” is akin to the notion of being “not racist”—as with the “not racist,” the color-blind individual, by ostensibly failing to see race, fails to see racism and falls into racist passivity. The language of color blindness—like the language of “not racist”—is a mask to hide racism.”

Even if it is the case that schools that include this clause in their policies are doing so in the very context-specific manner as in the first reading, it seems to conveniently throw the baby out with the bathwater in the sense that while it might reveal a racist attitude in the rare case where the phrase is used, it outlaws the more common use of the idea of colour-blindness as a liberal, individualist ideal of social interaction. When placed in the context of CRT, this result is desirable, especially given the explicit equity goal of most schools. 

Another common sentiment in school policies is that racism is systemic. It is built into the very fabric of our institutions, and particularly our schools, seeing that many of our schools were built for white students and teachers. Many schools explicitly state the need to transform their institution because it is dominated by white cultural norms. One school policy explains it like this:

“As the demographics of many schools continue to shift a more culturally assertive “born free” generation of black learners feels increasingly disconnected from schools that continue to perpetuate dominant white cultural values, practices and power structures.”

The idea is that black learners, up until recently, have been expected to conform to, or assimilate with, the dominant culture. However, 

“Given the growth of representivity of black learners and their increasing cultural and political confidence this approach to racial inclusion is no longer tenable. If schools continue on this path conflict will only increase as blacks will continue to challenge the dominant order, which will experience deep seated discomfort as a result and intergroup tension levels will remain elevated.”

What the school means by 'dominant white cultural values' and 'practices' is not made explicit but having read many resources regarding transformation both in South Africa and abroad in the US and Great Britain, it appears that dominant white cultural values and practices can range from things like wearing a school uniform, work ethic, having to stand and greet teachers, hair regulations, standardised testing and homework, to being on time and being expected to get the right answer to maths questions. 

In addition to policies and transformation mandates, many schools have implemented social justice curricula that teach students about concepts like ‘white privilege’, ‘white fragility’, ‘whiteness’, ‘cultural appropriation’, ‘decolonisation’, ‘intersectionality’ and a host of other terms that relate directly to the beliefs of the CRT worldview. 

Schools are recommending books like ‘White Fragility’, by DiAngelo, ‘How to be an Anti-racist’ by Kendi, and ‘Me and White Supremacy’ by Saad, and a host of others. 

Teachers around the country are being made to attend regular workshops hosted by various organisations whose philosophy is based on CRT. In other words, teachers are being forced to accept a worldview that is ultimately antithetical to the core values of liberal democracy and are being asked to pass on this knowledge to students, as one school puts it, ‘… in an explicit manner, at every opportunity, and in all subjects and teaching.’

Students attending a maths lesson at this school might have made the reasonable assumption that they were there to learn maths, not learn about systemic racism and how maths interacts with this system. 

It is difficult to downplay the extent to which the beliefs of Critical Race Theory and its offshoot, anti-racism have found their way into our school system. I can only conclude that those commentators who deny that this is the case, have not bothered to read the social justice material at our top former Model C and private schools. 

Perhaps they have and are reading the policies selectively. Having read quite a few policy documents I do sympathise. Our schools’ anti-discrimination policies can be vague and intellectually inconsistent. Some statements seem liberal yet are contradicted by other statements, and some clauses ban a particular act of discrimination which the school itself is guilty of. Amid such confusion, the important question to ask is who gets the final say when it comes to interpreting the document? This is not clear but having spoken to schools it seems like the answer is, as you may have guessed, the same person in charge of recommending books like Me and White Supremacy.  

Some examples include: 

1. Claiming non-racialism yet not allowing a colour-blind perspective of race relations.

2. Including in your policy the following examples of discrimination …

- “Dissemination of any propaganda or idea, which propounds the racial superiority or     inferiority of any person, including incitement to, or participation in, any form of racial                     violence.” 

- “Inferior treatment of a specific racial group, compared to those from another racial group.”

- “Use of derogatory language to undermine a certain racial group”

- “Using insulting language against particular cultural or racial groups”

- “Suggesting that a member of a particular race group only got to where they are because of                  their race.”

- “Associating the presence of any group of people with racial or cultural stereotypes.”

… while at the same time teaching students about concepts like ‘white privilege’, ‘white fragility’, ‘white supremacy’, and ‘whiteness’. Having taken you through Me and White Supremacy, I hope to have left little doubt that these terms undermine, insult and stereotype a certain racial group. However, for the same reason, I hope to have left little doubt that CRT and ‘anti-racist’ activists do not consider these concepts to be in violation of any of the above examples of discrimination because to them, discrimination is a one-way street. As one school explicitly states.

““Racism” means prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalised.”

School policies also seem to be in the business of claiming tolerance of diversity, where diversity extends to freedom of belief, conscience, and opinion. I can’t help but feel that many schools are not living up to that ideal.  

In the course of my looking into issues of social justice in South African schools, I have yet to come across a single resource that is critical of the CRT version of social justice or one that offers an alternative to telling students and teachers that they are either oppressors or oppressed based on the colour of their skin and that the only way to rectify the situation is to racially engineer society and institutions so that equity is achieved. One wonders how much freedom of belief, conscience and opinion is allowed? It is difficult to tell, but in reading statements like this … 

“A critical question we needed to ask ourselves was how we would ensure that staff aligned themselves with the detail/philosophy and rationales for the policies put in place for hair, uniform, spirituality, identity and so on. This will require ongoing monitoring and working closely with staff and there will be further engagement with all staff at the start of 2021.”

… I submit as the answer – not much. 

Given what I’ve discussed, ensuring that staff ‘aligned’ themselves with this school’s social justice philosophy comes out sounding a lot like Saad helping her readers to ‘realise’ that they think they are superior to black people. Yikes. 

I hope I’m wrong, but the liberalism in so many of our schools’ policies looks like window-dressing when all of the above is taken into consideration. 

But why has this happened in South Africa with so little push-back?

First, teachers are being trained in Critical Pedagogy at University. This is a theory of education that encourages teachers to instill in their students a ‘critical consciousness’ which amounts to examining their complicity in systems of oppression as well as uncovering, at every turn, how the syllabus relates to these systems. Alison Baily explains that,

‘Philosophers of education have long made the distinction between critical thinking and critical pedagogy. Both literatures appeal to the value of being “critical” in the sense that instructors should cultivate in students a more cautious approach to accepting common beliefs at face value. Both traditions share the concern that learners generally lack the ability to spot inaccurate, misleading, incomplete, or blatantly false claims. They also share a sense that learning a particular set of critical skills has a corrective, humanizing, and liberatory effect. The traditions, however, part ways over their definition of “critical.”’

She continues, 

“The critical-thinking tradition is concerned primarily with epistemic adequacy. To be critical is to show good judgment in recognizing when arguments are faulty, assertions lack evidence, truth claims appeal to unreliable sources, or concepts are sloppily crafted and applied. For critical thinkers, the problem is that people fail to “examine the assumptions, commitments, and logic of daily life… the basic problem is irrational, illogical, and unexamined living” (Burbules and Berk 1999, 46). In this tradition sloppy claims can be identified and fixed by learning to apply the tools of formal and informal logic correctly.

Critical pedagogy begins from a different set of assumptions rooted in the neo-Marxian literature on critical theory commonly associated with the Frankfurt School. Here, the critical learner is someone who is empowered and motivated to seek justice and emancipation. Critical pedagogy regards the claims that students make in response to social-justice issues not as propositions to be assessed for their truth value, but as expressions of power that function to re-inscribe and perpetuate social inequalities. Its mission is to teach students ways of identifying and mapping how power shapes our understandings of the world. This is the first step toward resisting and transforming social injustices.” (‘Tracking Privilege-Preserving Epistemic Pushback in Feminist and Critical Race Philosophy Classes.’ Hypatia, 32(4), 2017: 876–892, pp. 881–882.) 

In addition, CRT, like Critical Pedagogy, has a distinct activist element. It is evangelical in orientation. Saad describes her work as ‘Sacred Activism’, and Delgado explains that, ‘The critical race theory (CRT) movement is a collection of activists and scholars engaged in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power.’ (Delgado, Richard. Critical Race Theory) And Delgado and Stefancic explain in Introduction to Critical Race Theory, that

“Unlike some academic disciplines, critical race theory contains an activist dimension. It not only tries to understand our social situation, but to change it; it sets out not only to ascertain how society organizes itself along racial lines and hierarchies, but to transform it for the better.” 

Most teachers probably do not take CRT and Critical Pedagogy too seriously. They are more concerned with imparting knowledge and teaching their students how to think. However, some teachers are CRT activists and take their role in evangelising very seriously. It is these teachers that seem to be in charge of social justice in schools because they are thought of as 'experts'. They are the ones who are involved in writing anti-discrimination policies. 

One of the interesting things I have learnt while investigating the spread of CRT in schools is that most stakeholders defer to so-and-so when asked about particular policy decisions. Anti-discrimination policies and transformation plans are, more often than not, signed off by governing bodies and trustees of the school. I have spoken to members of governing bodies asking them whether they are aware that their school outlaws colour-blindness or that the social justice curriculum is teaching students that they are victims or oppressors. It is curious and a little disheartening that in response to these questions, the person will often display some shock but then tell me that they do not know much about social justice and I should rather speak to so-and-so about it. Inevitably, so-and-so is somebody who has been educated in critical pedagogy and believes fully in their mission to dismantle whiteness in the school. I have even spoken to teachers that sit on social awareness committees who are unaware of the beliefs propping up the content of their policies. 

Another reason why CRT has infiltrated schools without much opposition is the way that language is used to take advantage of the good intentions of most people. Much like Saad couches her message in lovely sounding words like ‘love’ and ‘integrity’, CRT activists use words and concepts that discourage anybody from looking behind the curtain. Some examples of this are ‘social justice’, ‘diversity’, ‘inclusion’, ‘equity’ and ‘anti-racism’.  Anybody not aware of CRT will read those words in a positive light. After all, who wouldn’t want to be against racism? 

But, taking into account the actual content of CRT ideology, these terms take on entirely different meanings. The tactic is brilliantly deceptive. 

For example, ‘social justice’ actually means ‘critical social justice’ with ‘critical’ being used in the sense explained above. 

‘Diversity’ means creating an environment where the individual, with his own opinions and range of identities, is subsumed by a diversity of racial identities understood in terms of intersectional hierarchies of power as explained by CRT.

‘Inclusion’ means making people from previously oppressed groups feel comfortable in an environment by dismantling spaces thought of as ‘white’ and violating freedoms of speech by banning certain words and opinions thought to cause discomfort and offence to previously oppressed groups. While this might sound admirable, it results in the banning of viewpoints considered racist by CRT activists and privileges anything not seen as a product of western culture. 

As I have already discussed, ‘equity’ is not meant to be taken as ‘fairness’ as a by-product of creating equal opportunity but, instead, refers to the goal of actively engineering equality of outcomes between racial groups. ‘Equity’, therefore, is Marxist in its mechanism but differs from Marxism in that instead of focusing on material means of production, CRT activists focus on material as well as cultural means of production where any racial disparity in outcome must be amended because it is considered a result of discrimination due to the culture benefitting only those who are historically privileged. 

‘Anti-racism’ does not mean the same as ‘against racism’. To be anti-racist is to believe that any disparity in outcome between racial groups is evidence of racism and to commit to a lifelong process of dismantling any institution or law that has produced the disparity. Kendi defines it as follows:   

“The opposite of “racist” isn’t “not racist.” It is “anti-racist.” What’s the difference? One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an antiracist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an anti-racist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of “not racist.” The claim of “not racist” neutrality is a mask for racism.”  (Kendi, Ibram X., How To Be an Antiracist) 

Kendi, in a wonderfully straightforward way, goes on to say that,

“The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity. If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist.”

And further, that, 

“The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”

Once these terms have been placed in the context of CRT and anti-racism, I doubt that parents and other stakeholders would accept them as willingly as they seem to have. However, policy documents and transformation plans are not forthright in defining what they mean. So, while stakeholders leave social justice to so-and-so, so-and-so organises training sessions, forms committees, and writes social justice curricula steeped in an ideology that nobody really understands except for so-and-so and their anti-racist colleagues, who then present it to children in ways that, as I’ve discussed, look a lot like brainwashing. And given the praise heaped on books like Me and White Supremacy, it seems brainwashing doesn’t count as brainwashing if the ideology you’re spreading is the Truth. 

Another reason CRT ideology has received so little pushback is that schools are afraid to challenge bureaucracy. By this I am specifically talking about the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (ISASA) of which most private schools are affiliated. 

ISASA has produced an anti-racism statement as well as a ‘Guide to Effective School Transformation and Diversity Management’. Both documents are steeped in CRT ideology and contain such statements like, “Quality schools do not subscribe to the ‘colour blindness’ approach”, and 

“ISASA views an anti-racist school as a school that is dedicated to providing an educational experience characterised by an African identity that is reflected daily in the experience of each member school. ISASA schools are places where attention is drawn to an understanding and appreciation of the African experience by drawing attention to and emphasising, specifically, the importance of an African identity, as well as global identities and heritages.”

The document also makes a distinction between the curriculum and the ‘hidden curriculum’. The hidden curriculum is an idea that comes from critical pedagogy and is about going beyond the conventional curriculum to teach students about power and identity (link to Mike Young essay?).

There is much more to say on the role of ISASA and critical social justice in schools but for now it is important to understand that there is only one version of social justice in the organisation – the same version that ends up producing books like Me and White Supremacy.

I understand the hesitancy of heads of schools and administrators to kick up a fuss about what they are being told to teach, how they are being told to hire for diversity and equity, and the diversity training they are being told to undertake. After all, 

All employees and Governors/Boards in member schools must undertake to accept the responsibility to educate all students regarding race and endeavour to educate all their students to uphold principles of anti-discrimination, equality and inclusion. 


Should a member school not work towards actively combatting racism and discriminatory practices, ISASA deems this failure to be inconsistent with its vision and mission. Such a failure to combat racism and discriminatory practices may be considered a material breach of ISASA’s membership conditions and may result in that member school’s membership being terminated in terms of Article 21.2 of the ISASA Memorandum of Incorporation


Having said that, schools are certainly not blameless and I hope that they find the courage to face the lawmakers who are leading them down a road to ideological totalism. 


Before I write some closing remarks, it is important to dispel some misconceptions about the position I have taken in this essay and respond to the most common criticisms of the position. The criticisms themselves reveal some interesting things about CRT ideology. 

It is often claimed by social justice activists that CRT is just a legal theory and only exists in law departments. This claim is completely baseless and serves as a way of discrediting those who push back against the endorsement of CRT in schools and businesses.

Saying that CRT exists only in a few university departments is like saying that theology only exists in a seminary. That the man is praying in front of the alter over there has nothing to do with theology. 

As Delgado and Stefancic explain in Introduction to Critical Race Theory,

“Although CRT began as a movement in the law, it has rapidly spread beyond that discipline. Today, many in the field of education consider themselves critical race theorists who use CRT’s ideas to understand issues of school discipline and hierarchy, tracking controversies over curriculum and history, and IQ and achievement testing.”

Another deflection used by those who buy the ideology of CRT is to claim that detractors just do not understand it. They just don’t get it. But they never really explain what you don’t get. I think that ‘you don’t get it’ is just another way of saying that you haven’t felt its truth. It reminds me of the time I asked a former colleague whether he seriously believes that Jonah survived in the belly of a whale for three days. He shook his head. I just didn't get it. Did I not know that the bible says it was a big fish, not a whale!? 

Yet another common tactic by critics of those who question CRT ideology is to dismiss that person as Trump-supporting, vaccine-averse fellow who is just picking up on a right-wing talking point. Someone who denies that racism exists. So, of course, they would oppose CRT or anti-racism. This claim is demonstrably false and is just another version of saying that someone has a ‘bourgeois mentality’ – easier to dismiss criticism if it comes from somebody who carries evil in their heart (or unconscious). 

I also hear people claim that those who say that children are being indoctrinated by CRT activists are being alarmist. Truthfully, I thought that too until I started looking into it. I hope that I have dispelled that claim by discussing how CRT ideas are presented. Sure, some of the indoctrination rhetoric is overblown. There will be many schools that are just following the social justice trend and are not pushing the beliefs on teachers and students. However, seeing as a significant number of the top schools in the country, along with a host of consultants, are actively pushing the CRT worldview, it is just a matter of time. In any case, perhaps being alarmist is prudent given what we know of 20th-century politics and ascribing collective guilt to people based on ethnicity.  

A final note on criticism: 

No, people who take the position I have taken in this essay do not deny that racism exists. That would be a ridiculous claim. Of course, racism exists and we should do everything we can to combat it. I think that we do a pretty good job of it, too. However, if the definition and evidence of racism are as CRT activists assert, then yes, in many cases, I do deny that racism exists. 

But what about all of those people that have the ‘lived experience’ of racism? Am I saying that they are lying? No, I think that they do have the lived experience of racism. However, the real issue is whether or not those people are justified in having that experience. In many cases, they will be, and we, as a society should condemn whatever racist act was perpetrated against them. But, just because somebody feels like the target of bigotry does not mean the feeling is justified. If a black student reports that they feel they have been the victim of a racist act because their teacher struggled to pronounce their name, I suggest that that person's accusation is not justified and that they should think hard about what has caused their psychological fragility and takes steps to rectify it.

Closing Remarks 

Critical race theory and its offshoot, anti-racism, is the dominant theory underpinning social justice in South African schools. CRT uses unethical methods to recruit adherents to what is essentially a political ideology. I showed how in its most concentrated form, CRT ideology can plausibly be called indoctrination. Seeing as Me and White Supremacy is endorsed by DiAngelo and by social justice experts in South African schools this suggests that the kind of indoctrination used by Saad is not an outlier but instead is the logical endpoint of anti-racist education. It is a feature, not a bug.

The ramifications of this kind of thinking will be dire for race relations in this country. CRT ideology depends on a kind of race essentialism and leads not towards integration but segregation. It promotes us vs them thinking by ascribing collective guilt for things that happened in the past and which are thought to be thrown forward in the hearts and minds of anybody wearing a particular skin colour. It vilifies anybody holding a heterodox opinion. It doesn’t just consider opponents misguided or wrong, but instead considers opponents to be bad people whose opposition is tantamount to blasphemy and smears them with a word like ‘racist’. Perhaps ‘infidel ’would be more apt.

CRT ideology creates psychological fragility. Racism and power exist in an all-encompassing ether and pointing it out is proof that you are a part of the congregation and will create a sense of tribal belonging. Being offended by something is becoming a mark of virtue and evidence that you are part of a group called ‘anti-racist’. Any challenge to your position causes offence which is taken as proof that that person or thing has committed an act of racism against you. This might cause you to feel unsafe and demand that your school create a ‘safe space’ where the offended might gather and not have to be subject to white fragility, white silence, white exceptionalism etc (this is the case in some schools). Ideas that have been conjured as Kafka traps to confirm what you already believe to be true – that the person who offended you is guilty of blasphemy whether they know it or not, intention be damned. If one goal of education is to produce mentally robust young men and women who are ready to take their places as productive members of society, promoting an ideology like CRT does not seem to align with that goal. Young men and women should enter adult society having been taught how to present and argue a point of view using mental tools at their disposal like reason, logic, and evidence, not having been taught that being offended by an idea is proof that the idea is bad and is being wielded by somebody who means them harm. This idea is antithetical to the very notion of progress.

Progress necessarily depends on the diversity of opinion being tolerated. We never know when we are wrong unless the opinion we hold rubs up against a contrary opinion that proves the previously held one wrong. That is why it is illiberal to explicitly outlaw 'colour-blindness'. It is illiberal to force teachers and administrators to attend Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training sessions that teach that the CRT worldview as the truth while painting any heterodox opinion as contrary to that truth. This is dogmatism masquerading as tolerance. Progress does not look like ascribing collective guilt and suggesting to a black child that but for people like the white kid next to him, he would be living in a world without prejudice; that but for oppressive institutions like liberal democracies, he would be living in an equity utopia. After all, what happens when Jane reaches for a doll and James reaches for a dinky car? Do we start all over again? Progress does not look like telling a child that to think about something intellectually is not useful when attempting to converge on the truth. Progress does not look like teaching children that 'lived experience' is the only epistemic yardstick by which to measure reality. We know that 'lived experience' can be unreliable and misinterpreted - that it can be influenced and reframed. We know ways of making this happen, too. Just ask Asch, or Lifton, or Mao. 

Progress does not look like Critical Race Theory or anti-racism. Yet this is fast becoming the only lens through which our children are being permitted to view our world with all of its nuance and complexity.

Progress does not look like ideological totalism.

I said that I would like to answer three questions in this essay. How could a school recommend a book like Me and White Supremacy to children? Have we lost our minds? Is collective guilt back in fashion? 

The answer to the first is because it offers a simple solution to a complex problem. A solution presented in a way that exploits good intentions. A solution predicated on non-thought and advanced by people who see that as something noble and will stop at nothing to spread the good news. 

To the second, sure, but only the parts involved in thinking. 

To the third, it would certainly seem so. And doing it in service of some noble cause doesn’t make it any less palatable to those who take history seriously. If a stranger in a van offers you sweets – say no. 

Parents need to start asking questions of school administrators and social justice committees. Teachers need to speak out if they do not agree with the transformation agenda at their school. Schools need to organise debates about social justice where heterodox opinions are encouraged instead of frowned upon. I think that Critical Race Theory ideology will lose in the end. But the question remains, how much damage will this latest iteration of ideological totalism cause in the meantime? The answer depends on the willingness of people to stand up for liberal values. Values that have created the most peaceful, prosperous, and non-racial societies the world has ever seen. 

Nelson Mandela said that ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’

If education looks anything like Me and White Supremacy, it might just be the weapon used to unmake the world the West has created. 



Hunter, J. (2017). Stress-induced hypomania in healthy participants. PhD, University of KwaZulu-Natal. 

Lifton, R. (1961). Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism. North Carolina: W.W. Norton & Co. 

ISASA (2018). A Guide to Effective School Transformation and Diversity Management.

ISASA, Statement on Anti-Racism


[Video] What is Critical Race Theory?

James Lindsay provides a concise definition from his New Discourses - Translations from the Wokish

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