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Karel | May 26, 2021

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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 www.edonti.org 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: info@edonti.org
  • Caiden Lang, Researcher – Tel: 072 239 6145; Email: caiden@irr.org.za

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. (https://edonti.org)

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

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.

Fear

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’.

Brainwashes

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 NEWSI.co.za 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)

Introduction

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.”

And,

“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. 

Summary

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. 

And,

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. 

 

References:

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

Press Release 19 August 2021

Press release to formally launch 'Educate, don't Indoctrinate' to the public

 

 
 

Media contact
Sara Gon,
IRR Head of Strategic Engagement
083 555 7952
info@edonti.org



 

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 www.edonti.org and complete a form if you wish to contact us regarding CRT at a school, and we will get back to you asap.

 

If you would also like to know more about CRT, go to Educate don’t indoctrinatehttps://edonti.org/

 

Media contacts:

Sara Gon, IRR Head of Strategic Engagement –

Tel: 083 555 7952; Email: info@edonti.org

Caiden Lang, Researcher – Tel: 072 239 61450

Email: caiden@irr.org.za

Media enquiries: Michael Morris – Tel: 066 302 1968

Email: michael@irr.org.za 

Kelebogile Leepile – Tel: 079 051 0073

Email: kelebogile@irr.org.za

 

 

Prof Modiri’s straw-man defence of CRT

Professor Joel Modiri, a critical race theorist in academia, claims attacks on critical race theory are marked by aggression, bad faith, racist anxiety and ignorance. They aren’t, but his defence is.

The need to take racism seriously can no longer be ignored, writes Joel M. Modiri, associate professor and acting head of the Department of Jurisprudence at the University of Pretoria. This, apparently, is a revelation.

‘Attacks on critical race theory (CRT) intellectuals and ideas,’ he writes, ‘are marked by aggression, bad faith, racist anxiety and ignorance – a toxic mix not easily appeased by facts or argument.’

As if to demonstrate those exact qualities, he begins by describing a ‘ferocious right-wing onslaught’ and ‘viral online conservative screeds decrying the pervasive influence of CRT and “identity politics”’, in which ‘white people increasingly, and without irony, claim to be the greatest contemporary victims of racism at just the time black people’s protest and critique against racial inequality and racial violence is gaining greater political visibility and impact’.

I recently wrote critique of CRT on Daily Friend, and the Institute of Race Relations has recently published a detailed report by Anthea Jeffery attacking CRT. Marius Roodt has written in these pages that racism is a problem in South Africa – but it is not the problem, and John Kane-Berman has written against ‘race hustlers’ who claim that racism remains ubiquitous and systemic in South Africa.

I can only suppose that Modiri is reacting in part to the IRR’s campaign on the subject when he refers to ‘right-wing conservatives’. Or perhaps the IRR is the ‘discomfited liberals’ to whom he refers.

His frequent use of such denunciatory labels suggests a level of aggression and bad faith that is unbecoming to a professor, but not surprising in a critical race theorist.

The IRR’s position

The Institute for Race Relations is a classical liberal institution, founded in 1929. It has the explicit objective to combat racism, promote equal human rights and non-racialism (which is the same policy that the ANC has always promoted) and to improve relations between South Africa’s races.

The political ideology it upholds, classical liberalism, is neither right- nor left-wing. Some of its economic views are more consistent with right-of-centre politics, while most of its social policy views are very much left-of-centre. It is certainly not conservative, although some of its members may be.

For most of its existence, the IRR was denounced as a left-wing organisation by the Apartheid state. Pigeon-holing it with ‘right-wing conservatives’ is a malicious lie.

Modiri has great disdain for anyone who isn’t a fellow-academic (although I have no doubt he would also disdain academics who disagree with him).

Here he is on CRT’s critics: ‘The degree of caricature, dishonesty and hysteria displayed by opponents of CRT illustrates that they do not even have a basic grasp of this field of academic study – developed over decades through careful analysis and critique of case law, legislation, literature and archival records, blending law, history, philosophy, psychology and sociology, to theorise race from a critical and emancipatory perspective.’

We, in our passionate ignorance, are not worthy of assailing Modiri in his ivory tower.

This would have been a great opportunity for Modiri to enlighten us mere mortals about the glories of CRT and what it really stands for, but unsurprisingly, he makes no such attempt. Perhaps he is not in possession of the facts or arguments to ‘appease’ the critics of CRT and answer the substance of their critiques.

‘We also know that, historically, lack of knowledge has rarely restrained white people from exercising the prerogative to impose their reality on the rest,’ he says. ‘So, the demonisation of CRT by an increasingly global network of white conservatives and liberals is not about intellectual debate and contestation of ideas. It is, as many commentators have pointed out, a full-scale, well-co-ordinated and well-funded political project against any form of racial equality and racial justice.’

Straw man

That’s a glaring straw man and an artful dodge. Modiri doesn’t want it to be about intellectual debate and contestation of ideas. CRT, after all, rejects things like facts and reason as instruments of white supremacy. In Modiri’s polarised world, the only answer for critics of CRT is that they’re hopeless, ignorant, white supremacists.

I, for one, and I’m sure I can speak for the entire IRR, do absolutely not oppose racial equality. We also don’t claim to be victims of racism, nor do we deny that racism is a problem.

The IRR’s view, documented by numerous surveys representative of South Africa’s population, is that addressing racism is not a top priority for most people, including black people. That is not ‘white reality imposed on the rest’, that is the lived experience of black people as expressed by black people.

To further shatter Modiri’s cheap caricature of CRT critics, when I wrote about the racism and the social justice movement five years ago, I explicitly acknowledged having benefited from Apartheid, albeit through no fault of my own. I also acknowledged that I continue to benefit from so-called ‘white privilege’ in many ways, but that I feel no personal guilt about this, though I do feel a sense of responsibility not to exploit that privilege, to empathise with people who don’t enjoy the same, and to do what I can to promote the ideal of a free, non-racial society.

Must learn from history

I also believe we ought to teach the history of racism, slavery, xenophobia, and all other manifestations of bigotry and oppression in schools. It is as critical that we learn from American slavery and Apartheid as it is that we learn from Nazi Germany, slavery in non-Western societies, Cambodia’s killing fields, Mao’s Great Leap Forward, and the USSR’s Holodomor. History is full of lessons that we ought to heed.

But CRT does not merely advocate this. Even though I denounce racism, my anti-CRT position will be denounced as inherently racist by Prof Modiri; after all, how can I not be racist when I’m white? However, to the neutral reader, I trust that my views do not appear to be those of some kind of arch-conservative or right-wing extremist.

The late Walter Williams, Bob Woodson, Shelby Steele, and Thomas Sowell all disagree with CRT’s basic tenets. Woodson founded, and Shelby is a supporter of the 1776 Unites movement, which was created by black academics to counter The 1619 Project, which seeks to rewrite history through the ideological lends of CRT. Sowell described CRT as ‘revenge society’ and ‘racism under new management’.

Dismissal of black critics

Modiri, however, glibly dismisses black people who disagree with CRT’s basic tenets as ‘black junior partners’ of the aforementioned ‘right-wing conservatives’.

This is a typical slur critical race theorists aim at critics. If you’re a white and refuse to support CRT, you’re an unreconstructed racist and white supremacist. If you’re black but you don’t share the left’s obsession with identity politics, you’re either ignorant or a race traitor.

His ‘black junior partners’ dismissal is an inch away from saying ‘Uncle Tom’ or ‘house n*****r’, slurs which critical race theorists have certainly used against black critics.

If it sounds intensely patronising and arrogant, that’s because it is. CRT casts black people as victims of systemic racism by white people. It excommunicates as a race traitor any black person who refuses to accept perpetual victimhood status and instead believes in individual freedom and merit.

Modiri pretends that ‘CRT means no harm’, and that it merely seeks racial equality and redress for past wrongs. But that is a misrepresentation of what CRT really stands for. Not only does Modiri claim that laws and institutions remain systemically racist, CRT claims that it cannot be otherwise.

The paper by Prof Derrick Bell which Modiri cites in turn cites Prof Charles Lawrence, who Bell says ‘speaks for many critical race theory adherents when he disagrees with the notion that laws are or can be written from a neutral perspective’ (my italics).

He writes: ‘Lawrence asserts that such a neutral perspective does not, and cannot, exist –that we all speak from a particular point of view, from what he calls a “positioned perspective”. The problem is that not all positioned perspectives are equally valued, equally heard, or equally included. From the perspective of critical race theory, some positions have historically been oppressed, distorted, ignored, silenced, destroyed, appropriated, commodified, and marginalized – and all of this, not accidentally. Conversely, the law simultaneously and systematically privileges subjects who are white.’

There is not a shred of evidence that non-racial laws in fact cannot exist, or if they do, fail to be non-racial in their application. What’s worse, by ‘equally valuing’ all ‘positional perspectives’, CRT elevates subjective experience above objective empiricism as the superior, and perhaps only, valid form of knowledge. This is why CRT has such a problem with terms such as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Because, that’s just your white supremacist opinion, man, and your opinion is oppressive!

Modiri entirely ignores one of the key critiques of CRT, that it is rooted in Marxist ‘class struggle’. In his view, one must assume, a perpetual conflict between the races is not only desirable, but necessary, in order to ‘take racism seriously’.

I, and I would wager most liberal critics of CRT, beg to differ. Conflict between races is what got us Nazism and Apartheid. One does not remedy conflict with conflict.

Yes, racism remains a problem. It should be opposed wherever it is found. Arguing that liberals deny this is the epitome of the ‘bad faith’ of which Modiri accuses critics of CRT.

But the future of peace and prosperity lies in promoting individual liberty, human rights, non-racialism and harmonious coexistence, not racial conflict and revolution.

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR

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

CRT as a dangerous and divisive ideology is examined as placing a moral value to people on the basis of their skin color. History provides clarity as to why singling out a particular racial or ethnic group as can quickly lead us to a very bad place. The author also discusses how to respond to CRT.

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.

 

CRT: the next challenge for schools to face

The Constitution should be the lodestar for transformation charters in schools. Teaching children to judge other children by the colour of their skin is is counter to the ethos of the Constitution.

The persistence of educational inequality –  with poor, primarily black, pupils continuing to attend under-resourced schools and receiving a substandard education – is highlighted in a recent article in Daily Maverick by Faranaaz Veriava, head of the Education Rights programme at Section27, a public interest law centre that advocates for access to healthcare services and basic education.

Veriava is correct in highlighting persistent inequality, but her article goes on to issue a ‘call to elite and middle-class private schools and former white public schools to provide spaces where all our youth can belong’.

Referring to the ‘ongoing struggle of black learners attending elite and middle-class private schools and former white public schools’, Veriava writes: ‘Because public interest organisations cannot always direct scarce resources to addressing the transformation issues at these schools, it is incumbent on parents and educators to do this more proactively.’

‘Black learners attending elite and middle-class private schools and former white public schools experience racism, other forms of discrimination and alienation in myriad and often subtle guises,’ according to Veriava.

‘To survive at these schools, learners must assimilate to archaic cultural norms or risk having their identities and conduct questioned, if not pathologised, in ways that other learners do not experience.’  

Speaking from personal experience – I am a non-practising lawyer now, but with 17 years of practice, and I also spent 13 years of my children’s schooling on the governing bodies of their government primary and high schools – I believe that to address these concerns, readers need to understand the issues that Veriava talks about.

Particularly, readers who may be perpetrating these acts need to be given concrete examples of the racism, discrimination and alienation. White parents and children may not realise they are being discriminatory. They need to understand what may not be readily clear or better understand what issues are seen to be racial, discriminatory or insensitive.

Fraught disputes

Veriava is probably correct to say that at an unconscious level, black parents feel a gratitude that their children attend these schools. Might there also be an element of guilt because so many other black children are subjected to a substandard education? These issues need to be considered as well when dealing with the potentially fraught disputes that may arise.

Veriava then refers to situation where allegations of discrimination were made, but not whether discrimination was actually found. In this regard, she first refers to the 2015 Curro School incident, where it was ‘reported’ for racially segregating students.

The MEC for Education in Gauteng, Panyaza Lesufi, appointed an independent firm of attorneys to conduct an in-depth investigation of alleged racial segregation. The investigation was later expanded to inquire into the possible existence of racial practices at all the Curro schools in Gauteng.

The attorneys found that Curro was not guilty of racial discrimination. The segregation of classes was not racial, but based on the division between Afrikaans-medium classes and English-medium classes. The practice has been changed.

In 2018 Curro again faced allegations of racial discrimination at Waterfall Castle (Pre-school). The South African Human Rights Commission conducted an investigation and found Curro not guilty of racial discrimination.

Veriava also refers to the infamous Pretoria High School for Girls controversy of 2016. Black students protested against ‘institutional racism’ at the school, their main complaint concerning the implementation of the Code of Conduct, in particular its policy on hairstyles. 

Lesufi literally helicoptered in to ‘sort out’ the problem, having pre-warned the media he’d be there. The incident became a cause célèbre in local and international media. I wrote about it at the time here.

The girls, and Lesufi, were interviewed by the media at the time.

Lesufi, however, prevented staff members from talking to the media.

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga found nothing racist about the school’s hair policy. Nevertheless, Motshekga came under fire for defending school hair policy that some ‘believe’ is racist – note the word ‘believe’.

The event that launched all this controversy occurred when a girl in Zuleika Patel’s class asked whether they could swop places because she couldn’t see the board beyond her afro. Patel cried racism. Patel’s hairstyle is pictured.

 

Then the matter exploded. Patel, 13 at the time, was a self-proclaimed activist.

The GDE appointed attorneys Harris, Nupen, Malebatsi to investigate claims of racism at PGHS. Their report found that there were instances of racism on the part of some teachers and recommended that disciplinary action be taken. The report did find that Patel had lied.

The report is too extensive to canvass in this article. What is disturbing, however, is that the report failed to examine the role of two political activist groups at the school in the crisis. A protest at the school with girls wearing ANC T-shirts on a civvies day should raise flags. That such groupings should even exist at a school is disturbing.

Veriava talks about statements and acts of unconscious bias ‘that shame our children’ and which ‘make them feel “less than”, which they struggle to name or understand.’  She doesn’t offer suggestions as to how unconscious bias should be handled.

Apparently, according to Veriava, when students challenge transformation in schools, black students tend to be punished more severely than whites. Again a claim is made without substantiation.

Veriava also refers to research into corporal punishment practices which occurred prior to the practice being banned. It reveals that –

  •  corporal punishment was used in both black and white boys’ schools;
  • white girls’ schools did not practice corporal punishment;
  • black girls’ schools did practice corporal punishment.

This research proves nothing and particularly nothing about the main thrust of the article.

Veriava is correct when she says that the Constitution should be the lodestar for transformation charters in schools.  

She cites the numerous prohibitions against unfair discrimination. This includes learners demanding accommodation for their religious and cultural practices in schools’ codes of conduct; learners with disabilities demanding accommodation and equal provisioning; and LGBTQ learners demanding accommodation in respect of uniform requirements. 

These examples are all open to discussion and different schools may have different responses, as not all discrimination would automatically be unfair. For example, not accommodating other religions in a private school based on a Christian ethos may not be unfair. The specifics of each case would have to be scrutinised individually.

What the article also suggests, without saying as much, is that Critical Race Theory (CRT) is becoming the basis for dealing both with issues of discrimination as well as the content of curricula at schools. This is a dangerous development.

CRT is the theory that rights are determined by a hierarchy of eternal victimhood that identifies blacks as victims and all white males (in particular) as eternal oppressors. The fact that a school child has not victimised another child matters not. A child is judged, literally, by the colour of his or her skin only.

CRT is illogical, intended to separate races (irony of ironies!) and create unaccountable guilt for which there is no redemption. It is the next challenge for schools to face.

[Image: Oberholster Venita from Pixabay]

Are private schools being racialised surreptitiously?

The growth of CRT in private schools appears to owe its genesis in policies based on Critical Race Theory to promote "transformation" and "anti-racism". Caiden Lang analyses this apparently worrying development that seems to have taken hold from 2018.

The Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (ISASA) is the largest and oldest association of independent schools in the Southern African region. It has over 850 schools all of which pay an annual subscription fee in return for financial, advocacy, best practice and professional development services and advice.

ISASA’s theory of school transformation is laid out in two documents – the Statement on Anti-Racism and the Guide to Effective School Transformation and Diversity Management. *

The two documents suggest that ISASA’s vision and mission are consistent with those of an approach to eradicating unfair racial discrimination called critical race theory (CRT).

Critical Race Theory

CRT considers human interaction to be synonymous with interactions of power determined according to the racial identity of interacting subjects. When humans of different races interact it is never the case that they meet on equal footing. People whose racial identity grants them a higher spot on the power hierarchy must, at all times, be aware of their privileged standing and do the work of recognising and dismantling the biases necessarily present by virtue of being born with a particular skin colour. In other words, developing a critical consciousness. In other words, becoming woke.

Crucially, although racial power manifests in individuals, it does so under systems of power – systems that individuals have been socialised into. By this logic, a person is a member of an identity group first and an individual, second.

CRT rejects the main beliefs of philosophical liberalism – equality theory, individualism, objectivity, and incremental progress guided by reason and logic. Instead, it favours equity, identity politics, social constructivism, and revolution. The ultimate goal of CRT is a Marxist society where the shackles of oppression, both overt and subtle, have been discarded. 

CRT is a revolutionary endeavour in the name of social justice. As such, scholars and activists need to find a way to plant the seeds of revolution and they seem to have found fertile ground in our education system. The way that CRT ideas are spread is called praxis – the marrying of theory and practice.

In short, CRT is concerned with 1) identifying oppressive power systems (western liberalism) and disrupting them, and 2) praxis – teaching others to view the world through the ideological lens of CRT.

ISASA’s documents reflect the same ideas.

Power

ISASA holds that schools are made up of the dominant group (whites) and the subordinate group (non-whites). The goal of transformation is to eradicate the power imbalance between these two groups.

‘The drive for inclusion is informed by the reality that the dominant group in that institution already feels part of the ‘institutional family’, but the subordinate groups may feel a sense of not being considered or made part of the institution.’ (Guide)

Members of the subordinate group (sometimes referred to as the oppressed group) feel like they don’t belong because they are expected to assimilate to the ‘values, traditions and customs’ of the dominant group. Members of the subordinate group ‘are expected to give up their identities and cultures and, critically, to acknowledge the superiority of the dominant culture, and by implication, the identities of the groups into whose social context they are moving.’ (Soudien 2004: 95-96 in the Guide)

Here we see that group dynamics based on identity are given precedent over the individual, specifically regarding where they fit within a power hierarchy.

One might wonder whether the presence of some black students who do feel like they belong at their school is enough to debunk the sweeping generalisation, but here ISASA invokes the concept of ‘internalised oppression’ to explain the psychological state of somebody who falls into this category.

The Guide quotes Peterson (1986):

‘Internalised oppression is the incorporation and acceptance by individuals within an oppressed group of the prejudices against them within the dominant society. Internalised oppression is likely to consist of self-hatred, self-concealment, fear of violence and feelings of inferiority, resignation, isolation, powerlessness, and gratefulness for being allowed to survive. Internalised oppression is the mechanism within an oppressive system for perpetuating domination not only by external control but also by building subservience into the minds of the oppressed groups.’

In other words, black people who do not feel victimised by ‘white’ values, traditions, and customs are wrong and they are working against their own interests. This is extremely patronising; how does a school take this as a given?

In addition, the Guide’s definition of racism reflects CRT thought in that only members of a dominant group can be racist:

“… an institutionalised system whereby certain racialised groups are systematically dominated or marginalised by another racialised group or groups and where the inequalities and abuses that the phenomenon seeks to entrench are primarily legitimated or justified, and consequently reproduced by means of systematic inferiorisation or ‘negativisation’ of dominated racialised groups.’”

Praxis

In order to liberate the victims of oppression in our elite private schools, ISASA considers it the duty of the school to equip the learners to ‘recognise, analyse and appropriately respond to the impact of power, privilege and race in their daily lives.’

The Guide ‘recognises’ that some people might be resistant to transformation, therefore, ‘Leaders and educators may need to undergo the personal transformation journey first to enable them to facilitate and support the process of transformation, diversity and social justice among learners.’

Therefore, a school should, ‘Develop a cohort of champions and mentors for personal and group change who have a deeper understanding of transformation’, because transformation ‘must go deeper than the intellect.’

ISASA considers ‘an unwavering belief in action even in the face of resistance’ to be a necessary criterion for anybody wanting to be part of the cohort of champions.

The cohort should be named either the Transformation and Diversity Task Team or Employment Equity Committee**, and it should ‘participate together in a structured programme of personal development’ in order to best ‘prepare teachers to take up issues of inclusion, fairness, racialisation, diversity, social justice and transformation in the classroom and the curriculum specifically.’

The Guide is talking about Critical Pedagogy – a theory of education arising from the Critical School of Education – that, according to Wikipedia has the goal of ‘emancipation from oppression through an awakening of the critical consciousness.’

For a more thorough understanding of Critical Pedagogy, I highly recommend Mike Young’s essay ‘Educating for Politics: How Critical Social Justice Politicizes the Classroom and Indoctrinates Students.’

In the essay, Young summarises the goal of those who endorse critical pedagogy and the Critical School of Education more broadly not as teaching children to ‘read, write and do math while helping to prepare them for life in the world,’ but rather as a ‘site of political struggle and a vehicle for radical social change.’

Equity

Transforming stakeholders’ mindsets through education is not the only intervention proposed. Another is to engineer the racial profile of the staff and student bodies so that demographic representation is achieved. The Guide refers to this as ‘equity’ – reaching a result of equality of outcomes which may well sacrifice merit.

To help schools to track racial equity, the guide gives examples of racial scorecards. Here is one example:

 (The idea of a racial scorecard seems somewhat at odds with another statement from the Guide saying, ‘The most daunting – but not insurmountable – task of transformation efforts is also about breaking down the cycle of further racialisation of society and institutions’.)

An African Identity

An important question to ask is what does a truly transformed school look like? (How will we know when transformation is achieved?)

In material terms, the guide tells us that a quality school is demographically representative across all sectors. This is something that can be measured. But some indicators remain more abstract.

For example, what dominant ‘values, traditions and customs’ need to be dismantled? And how will we know when dismantling has been satisfactorily achieved? How do we distinguish between values, traditions and customs that are genuinely oppressive and discriminatory and those that some people just don’t like? Perhaps it would be beneficial to assess such things based on intellect (logic, reason, and evidence), something that the guide considers secondary to matters of the heart.

ISASA’s Statement on Anti-Racism offers the goal of school transformation –

‘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.’

But what exactly is an African identity? This seems to assume that all African people have a shared identity and experience, an idea contradicted by the Guide’s definition of ‘human diversity’ –

‘The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and it recognises our individual differences. It is about understanding each other in a safe and positive environment, and moving beyond simply tolerating to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity within each individual.’

ISASA references Kwame Nkrumah’s suggestion that an ‘African identity’ (here he is referring to racial identity, not geographic) is one founded on hope, trust, friendship, and directed to the good of all mankind, in contrast to identities built on fear, envy and suspicion, won at the expense of others.

What identity is based on the second set of attributes? Perhaps the one whose values, traditions and customs require dismantling in the name of transformation and social justice.

Whatever happened to judging people on their character instead of the colour of their skin? Whatever happened to not defining somebody’s worth based on immutable characteristics?

ISASA thinks that ‘Quality schools do not subscribe to the ‘colour blindness’ approach’. It is no surprise, therefore, that many school policies regard an expression of ‘colour-blindness’ as a disciplinary infraction. Identity politics is the fashionable framing of social justice in many of our private schools.

Given our innate tendency towards tribalism, I suggest that we proceed with caution and highlight commonalities rather than play the sorts of games favoured by some of the 20th century’s tyrants.

Racism and discrimination are complex issues. I think that instead of getting distracted by the shiny baubles of emancipation that ISASA is tossing up, schools should consider whether or not it is in their students’ interests to favour collectivism and equity over individualism and meritocracy.

Unfortunately, it may not be that simple for schools affiliated with ISASA, whose Statement on Anti-racism provides –

‘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.’

Does this mean that as long as schools deal with racism and discrimination, it doesn’t matter how they choose to deal with it? Or is membership conditional on accepting ISASA’s terms of employing critical race theory to transform schools?

Footnote:

*In an address delivered at the 2018 ISASA Combined Conference, Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga praised the guide, calling it ‘necessary’ and ‘timely’.

**The guide says that,

‘Trust between parents and school staff is one of the key factors in the success of a school. The school should work tirelessly to maintain this trust relationship between these two sets of very important role players in the education of learners.’

… which is undercut by the fact that the guide recommends that the committee take charge of budgeting for transformation, adding that, ‘The transformation team should decide what should be disclosed. Not all details need to be transparent.’

Educate Don't Indoctrinate - An initiative pushing back against Critical Race Theory in SA's schools

Duwayne Esau (Campaigns Officer IRR), chairs a panel of Sara Gon (Head of Strategic Engagement IRR), John Endres (COO IRR) and Caiden Lang (Researcher, IRR) to discuss what Critical Race Theory is, how it manifests at schools and the creation of the 'Educate don't Indoctrinate' site as a resource for parents, teachers and students on CRT.


[Video] Critical Race Theory is TAKING OVER the workplace

This is an interview hosted David Ansara of the Centre for Risk Analysis with HELEN PLUCKROSE, British academic who writes extensively on Critical Race Theory and has co-authored 'Cynical Theories' with Dr. James Lindsay on the philosophical underpinnings of CRT.

CRT table - CL.jpg

Layla Saad & Robert Lifton.jpg

The lie of CRT

‘Critical race theory’ is a liar about the history of Africa, and of black people. It suppresses all reference to the thirteen hundred years of Islamic enslavement of black Africans

The real problem about ‘critical race theory’ is that it’s really Uncritical Racist Theory – that is, if you can classify such irrationalist hypocrisy as ‘theory’.

First of all, it is racist because it asserts race as the foundation of human society and of theory. It is no different, theoretically, from Nazism, which also claimed race to be the foundation of society and history.  Hitler graded Jews as sub-human, devilish antagonists of the Germans, who were the pinnacle for him of the Aryan ‘race’. ‘Critical race theory’ simply does Nazism upside down. Whites up – whites down.

Next, ‘critical race theory’ is a liar about the history of Africa, and of black people. It suppresses all reference to the thirteen hundred years of Islamic enslavement of black Africans as ‘kuffar’ (infidels, and therefore legitimate for enslavement), which began not long after the death of the prophet Muhammad, who himself enslaved Jewish women and children he had captured in jihad in what later became known as Medina.

Enslavement of black Africans in southern Africa from tribes that were classified as ‘kuffar’ by black African slave-hunters based at Angoche in northern Mozambique only ended when the Angoche slavemasters were militarily defeated by the Portuguese colonialists in 1910.

As I noted in my article, ‘A lethal censorship of black history’ on Politicsweb on 8 October 2020, ‘Stokely Carmichael made his home in Guinea for the last three decades of his life, without reference to the hundreds of years of Islamic slavery in Guinea as part of the Mali Empire before European colonisation.

‘As the North African Arab scholar, Ibn Khaldun, noted, the grand pilgrimage to Mecca of Malian emperor Mansa Musa in 1324 (724 in Islamic history) consisted of 12 000 slaves.

‘Slave women and men’

‘“At each halt, he would regale us [his entourage] with rare foods and confectionery. His equipment furnishings were carried by 12 000 private slave women (Wasaif) wearing gown and brocade (dibaj) and Yemeni silk […]. Mansa Musa came from his country with 80 loads of gold dust (tibr), each load weighing three qintars. In their own country they use only slave women and men for transport,but for long journeys such as pilgrimages they have mounts.”’

Among Middle Eastern slave-trading states and recipients of African slaves, ‘slavery was legally abolished in Saudi Arabia and Yemen only in 1962, following its abolition in Iran in 1929. In Oman slavery was made illegal only as late as 1970.’ 

The Wikipedia entry, Slavery in Mauritania, states that slavery ‘has been called “deeply rooted” in the structure of the northwestern African country of Mauritania, and “closely tied” to the ethnic composition of the country.

‘In 1905, an end of slavery in Mauritania was declared by the colonial French administration, but the size of Mauritania prevented enforcement. In 1981, Mauritania became the last country in the world to abolish slavery, when a presidential decree abolished the practice.

 ’However, no criminal laws were passed to enforce the ban. In 2007, “under international pressure”, the government passed a law allowing slaveholders to be prosecuted.

‘Despite this, in 2018 Global Slavery Index estimated the number living in slavery in the country to be 90,000 (or 2.1% of the population), which is a reduction from the 140,000 in slavery figure which the same organisation reported in 2013, while in 2017 the BBC reported a figure of 600,000 living in bondage.

‘Sociologist Kevin Bales and Global Slavery Index estimate that Mauritania has the highest proportion of people in slavery of any country in the world. While other countries in the region have people in “slavelike conditions”, the situation in Mauritania is “unusually severe”, according to African history professor Bruce Hall, and comprises largely of a black population enslaved by Arab masters. 

‘The position of the government of Mauritania is that slavery is “totally finished … all people are free”, and that talk of it “suggests manipulation by the West, an act of enmity toward Islam, or influence from the worldwide Jewish conspiracy”. According to some human rights groups, the country might have jailed more anti-slavery activists than slave owners.’

Reminiscent of Adolf Hitler

That anti-Semitic, anti-Western response, reminiscent of Adolf Hitler, has its echo in CRT.

Given that southern and western Mauritania were part of the Mali empire of Mansa Musa, it is clear that slavery there in the 21st century continues a history that began centuries before white Western colonialism.

Captured in Guinea, black slave men and women formed a base in the same way of the despotic and murderous regime in Morocco of Sultan Moulay Ismail many centuries before Morocco was occupied by France, with hundreds of thousands of white Christian men and women enslaved there as well.

In his study, ‘Expediency, ambivalence and inaction: the French Protectorate and domestic slavery in Morocco, 1912-1956’, published in 2013, R. David Goodman noted that ‘a clandestine slave trade continued along with domestic slavery throughout the French Protectorate, from the 1912 Treaty of Fes to independence in 1956. Notably, on the eve of decolonisation, a French colonial official recorded payments for royal slaves without any remark.’

CRT is a racist lie which helps to perpetuate the slavery of black Africans in Mauritania at this very moment.

To the advocates of CRT, I would say: answer that. But they won’t, because they can’t.

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR

[Video] What is Critical Race Theory?

James Lindsay provides a tidy definition of CRT from his New Discourses - Translations from the Wokish

Activist Teachers: the new priestly class?

A former pleads with teachers imbued with the spirit of Social Justice and Critical Pedagogy not to harm his child in the name of a new religious dogma.

Many parents will have become aware of a theory of social justice commonly known as Critical Social Justice (CSJ). However, many parents are unaware that CSJ has already taken root in their child’s school. The seeds of the worldview have been planted in official school policies and if parents do not take an active role in pushing back against it, its divisive and psychologically damaging doctrine will flourish. 

When I refer to 'activist teachers' I am referring to teachers who have been trained in 'social justice education' or 'critical pedagogy'. Teachers who believe the classroom to be a vehicle for radical social change. These teachers are usually the ones involved in writing social justice policies and who are in charge of making sure that nobody steps outside of the rules and regulations that they have written. They are in the minority but wield the majority of the influence on matters of social justice due to their credentials as ‘experts’. They are the arbiters of morality.  

To them, I write …

Dear activist teacher,

Your doctrine is sceptical of meta-narratives. Do you not see that yours is one? 

When I interact with you and hear you make the case for why your worldview should be treated as true, I can’t help but see myself in you. Your unwavering certainty was my certainty, too. Just like yours, my world was a battle between good and evil – an idea reified in an origin story carried forth in holy texts and vindicated by revelatory experiences and a profound sense of righteous purpose. Just like you, I knelt in supplication to something. I was Christian like you are woke.

Activist teacher, 

You are a member of a priestly class, tasked with spreading the Truth to those whose eyes have not been opened. I imagine that the Christian missionaries felt just as you do when they were sent forth to educate the heathens. Or is yours a nobler calling because it is right and theirs was not?

I disagree with much of your worldview, but I do not hate you. I cannot hate you. I know that you look at the world and see inequality, injustice and pain. I know that you think you have a simple explanation and a simple remedy. I know you want the best for my child and so you teach him your doctrine so that he may join your crusade.

When I was a young man, I’d meet in prayer groups and read John or the letter of Paul, or sometimes Job. I liked the simplicity of it all. I’d have my doubts but it helped that the pastor, elder or deacon understood more than I did. It helped when they assured me that the contradictions I thought I saw were, in fact, no such thing. That I just needed to understand the message and I’d see that. I never really understood the message completely. But they claimed to and I trusted them as my child trusts you. 

I wonder, do you gather with others and read what your prophets and elders have written? Does it keep your faith steadfast?  

Do you read Davis, Crenshaw, Marcuse, Gramsci, Foucault, Giroux, or sometimes even Hegel? When you have doubts do you turn to Kendi and DiAngelo?

I’ve never envied the work of apologists. It looks complicated trying to keep things simple. 

Do you feel vindicated when you hear the testimony of the lived experience of converts to your faith, like I would when the spirit healed somebody or turned a drug addict from his vice? 

I believe that you have the right to worship as you wish, to believe what you want. But, activist teacher, you do not have the right to force your worldview on our children no matter how much you believe it to be true. Maybe it is true. But let my child decide that for himself. 

My child respects you and believes what you say. Please do not betray him.

I’ve read some of your holy texts. I know some of what you believe and what you’re willing to do to reach your promised land – your Equity Utopia – and it concerns me. 

Why do you hide what your doctrine says behind nice-sounding words? I’ve read some of your anti-discrimination policies and your transformation plans. You use words like ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ but you fail to tell parents and governing bodies that what you mean to do is censor dissenting voices that dare blaspheme. Is it because you know that the majority of parents would push back against you indoctrinating their children? 

Why do you say that every individual is unique and should be treated as such, but then tell students that it’s racist for them to take a colour-blind view of society? Was Martin Luther King Jnr mistaken? Was his dream, in fact, your nightmare? 

You speak about ‘decolonising’ the curriculum and pretend it means including more black authors in the English reading lists. But what you mean to do, according to your doctrine, is peel away the systems that prop up oppression, imagining that some sort of liberation will follow. You’d like to get rid of ‘western’ concepts like equality of opportunity, neutral principles of constitutional law, and enlightenment rationalism. You imagine a pearl in an oyster that does not exist. 

Will telling a black child that mathematics, science, and reason are products of white supremacy, liberate him? What if he wants to be a scientist, lawyer, or engineer? 

Your policies say that students should not be burdened with any specific trait based upon the colour of their skin, and yet you teach children about ‘whiteness’ and ‘white privilege’. You say that you are teaching white children to be aware that the opportunities they have been afforded are often not afforded to black people. That they should be compassionate towards those who are less fortunate than they are. And then you turn around and teach white children that they have been born with the original sin of whiteness and that all they can do is try and be less white. To repent for their sins - to un-eat the fruit you think they have relished in digesting. 

Your doctrine says that a black child is doomed to live life as a member of an oppressed group – a perpetual victim. You give him that burden to carry. Your theory says that the white kid sitting next to him is complicit in his oppression whether he is aware of it or not. You are promoting tribalism. It will leave scars. 

Your mythology is over-simplified. History is complicated and cannot be reduced to good versus evil.

You offer no evidence for your claims but the lived experience of converts as if knowledge of this kind is epistemically sound. You rely on revelation just as I did when I had a god. 

My church thought it was teaching me the ultimate Truth, but where it faltered it was honest. It told me to have faith. That faith was part of the Truth. Your church is different. It pretends to have nothing to do with faith. 

My church taught compassion, love, and forgiveness. Yours teaches no such thing.

When I was a boy, I’d wonder fancifully whether God was as tall as that tree or as tall as that other tree. 

Must my child wonder whether that person is this amount racist or that amount racist? That doesn’t seem as fanciful.

Dear activist teacher,

Your eyes shine bright with some secret knowledge. Mine burned with it, too. I see your golden heart and hope it's not too heavy.

I had a god once. 

I felt him bubbling inside me when I joined the congregation with my hands up in the air. His love was in all of us at once. But then I went to a Metallica concert and felt Him there, too – bubbling in all of us as we held up our hands. The priest told me that this couldn’t be. But I don’t think he’d ever been to a Metallica concert.

I had a god.

One day a young church elder laid hands on my head and told me that the spirit was on its way. I waited, thinking it had someone more worthy to visit, like those around me who had fallen to their knees. I was patient, though. We were joined by more elders. They were younger than the first. They laid their hands on me – preparing the way. And then I felt it. The spirit. It felt just like hands and fingers on my shoulders and my stomach. It was heavy, getting heavier. I kept my eyes closed, wavering under the weight of it all. Unable to bear it, I fell to my knees. The elders left me there alone because I had been saved. The fingerprints have disappeared now but that night the spirit left human bruises on my shoulders.

But I was one of the lucky ones. Do not leave scars on my child that cannot be erased.

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