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Opinion: Critical of Critical Race Theory

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Since they were not listed, I do not know what Ms. Baning’s credentials are for describing critical race theory (CRT). As she outlined it, it does not look all that scary. There are some aspects that were not addressed to my satisfaction, though. 

First, looking at the third point in the list “A lesson on critical race theory,” I have no idea what she means by “Embracing the lived experiences of people of color” in that list’s context. Grammatically, it does not fit. Perhaps that is a typographer’s error, not hers.

Second, she implicitly assumes the issue has been decided that CRT is accurate, fair to all, and worthwhile. One discerns this when she writes, “These tenets are . . . a way to understand how our current systems work. This can then lead to a restructuring of the current systems so that they work for all members of our society.” I disagree that the three of the tenets which are understandable embody unchallengeable truth. The implicit assertion that the current system does not work for everyone requires evidence to support such a huge claim. 

I readily grant that some people find more success than others in the system. That, however, is a far cry from alleging the system is set up to produce that outcome.

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It is important to understand that when I use the term “system” I am referring specifically to the formal structure of laws and regulations enforced by varying branches of government. I am referring as well to various voluntary relationships citizens have with formal entities under that structure: businesses, corporations, contracts between parties, etc. I am not referring to the results of how citizens choose to live their lives within that structure.

I would like to be shown concrete examples of each of these tenets. I grew up and lived my first 77 years in the south. I know perfectly well for at least half of those years the system was openly set up to disadvantage minorities. That system has been replaced. If you can, show me one aspect of it that remains.

Third, there are far too many examples of people of all races, colors, backgrounds, ethnicities, etc. (minorities, for short) who have succeeded in building substantial, highly successful, and admirable lives. I cannot accept without real evidence that the deck is so stacked against minorities success cannot be achieved by them without enormous struggle. I have personally and intimately known such people myself, people who fully participate in all aspects of society in perfectly ordinary ways, and who did not benefit from any special effort to help them succeed. Assuming minorities cannot succeed without outside intervention is the most racist thing of all.

Fourth, Ms. Baning writes, “This quote is in direct alignment with [CRT]; that current laws are written in a way that allows for the progress of the interests of historically marginalized people and achieving racial equality only when it converges with the interest of the white majority.” Aside from asking the grammar to be corrected, I need to ask whether there might be reasons why a given person is marginalized, other than the person’s minority status. I assert that marginalization may be a function of many other factors than some minority status. How does one sort that out?

Let’s use some actual facts. The Pew Research Center published a study, “Facts on U.S. Immigrants, 2018.” Among many other findings, it shows college enrollment by all U.S.-born citizens to be 42.2 percent, while sub-Saharan African enrollment is 55.4 percent. U.S. born bachelor’s degree is 12.4 percent, sub-Saharan African is 23.5 percent. That doesn’t look like the system is systemically stacked against minorities.

We have all heard about how Asians in the U.S. far outstrip U.S. born nationals in almost every way imaginable. Are Asians denied membership in the minority culture?

Moving on, the quote from the Constitution is simply wrong. It does not say what Ms. Baning says it says. It does say something like that, but in a much more elegant way. I have not analyzed the actual text of the Preamble in comparison to what is in the article, so I do not know for sure whether the two are identical for all practical purposes. Perhaps they are, perhaps not. But there is certainly no reason to paraphrase the actual words. What is to be gained by that?

My problem with CRT is that it starts out assuming the system is systemically unfair to minorities, as Ms. Baning wrote. Because one is not achieving what one believes one should be achieving is no proof of anything. Come back to me when carefully researched facts supporting that conclusion are available. 

People are free to believe anything they choose. Facts, however, don’t care what you believe to be true.  Because there is inequality of outcome does not prove inequality of opportunity, and equality of opportunity is all we are promised. That is what the system that CRT advocates rail against, the one which has produced more wealth and more benefit for the world than any other, is founded upon. Show me that is not what it delivers.

DeWitt Shank lives in East Montpelier.