COMMENTARY: Critical Race Theory tenets are long overdue, but compromises are needed

Marc K. Ensign has been active in community and business affairs for many years, and lives in Paradise.

Critical Race Theory. You’ve heard the term and seen the headlines. What is it? Where did it begin? Who is promoting it and why? As CRT moves from the shadows into the daylight of mainstream America, questions like these abound. Misconception, misunderstanding, and media bias add to the enigma.

In a nutshell, Critical Race Theory is an academic movement launched by civil rights scholars and activists contending that American institutions, it’s government and legal system, including law enforcement, are inherently racist. Its school of thought focuses on how the predominately white American majority has negatively impacted racial minorities. It implies that America has not adhered to its promise of “liberty and justice for all.”

The theory was first proposed by legal scholars studying the issue of racial bias in the U.S. court system in the 1970s. CRT emerged as a cultural movement in the 1980s when civil rights activists began to apply the theory more broadly, blaming racism for many other injustices. The theory’s influence, however, was limited and the doctrine simmered on the sidelines for three decades.

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death last year, Critical Race Theory quickly re-surfaced as a rallying cry for reform, a storefront for social justice warriors, particularly Black Lives Matter.  Academia is once again leading the CRT charge, and argues that it should be incorporated into American history and civics instruction to counter the influence of white supremacy in U.S. classrooms.

In response, CRT training programs are becoming commonplace in schools, government, and corporate life. Proponents argue that this type of training helps to enhance dominant groups’ (whites) understanding and empathy of what oppressed minorities experience on a daily basis. These types of trainings are also promoted as ways to “dismantle” or weaken alleged power structures that they believe impose continued bias and discrimination.

Opponents, however, see the movement as a form of ‘nouveau-racism’ that’s tearing the country apart as it seeks to advance its ideology through “cult-like indoctrination, intimidation, and harassment.” Many have focused their criticism on what they say CRT manifests — divisive ideas about race, collective guilt for dominant groups, and assigning racial significance to seemingly neutral or insignificant concepts.

Some CRT extremists are demanding that white Americans accept guilt for all transgressions against people of color in the past. This so-called “racial reckoning” has seen the propagation of buzzwords and phrases like “systemic racism”, and “be less white” which are now emerging in school districts’ diversity statements, corporate trainings, school educational materials, and government agencies.

In response to these developments, state legislatures are beginning to ban CRT from being taught in public schools (Oklahoma, Idaho and Arkansas so far). The Utah Legislature recently passed a resolution that listed specific concepts to be excluded from public school curricula, including the ideas of racial superiority, discrimination based on race, and the proposition that an individual’s moral character is determined by their race.

As the movement gains momentum and the counter-movement responds, the future of CRT is unknown, but to as many as it hopes to empower, it has equally unsettled. There must be a more equitable way to social justice. Consider these observations:

–  Racism is not new, nor is it extraordinary…it is a part of human identity and culture, and whether you believe we arrived by divine design or evolution, race has a purpose. The uniqueness and singularity of race adds a wonderful diversity to life, and extends both the influence and impact of humanity. The challenge comes with the formation of institutions. Like any country, America was founded by a predominant race. European Caucasians settled this land and formed its government. Racial favor is endemic, and generally aligns with the majority. Is there fault or blame in this anthropological process?

–  According to Daniel Webster, the word ‘critical’ means the analysis of both the faults AND merits of the object being evaluated. To emphasize only faults tells half the story. Incomplete narratives are more propaganda than critical analysis. Without equal consideration of the good, CRT loses value as an objective treatise. “Becoming less white” would eliminate much of the good in American society.

–  There are two ways to level a playing-field. Knock one group down, or raise the other up. History has shown that the former is more likely to fail, while the latter is more likely to succeed. To identify one group as perpetual offenders and the other as perpetual victims will forever keep the divide intact. Vilifying one race to strengthen another is poor policy and leads away from peaceful resolution. Promoting the value, merits and contributions of minorities will move them closer to equality than demanding Caucasians “repent” ever will.

My twin brother who lives in San Francisco called the other day. The conversation turned to Critical Race Theory and we talked for hours, both recognizing that although we didn’t see it growing up, opportunities came easily, and gates opened that we could now only attribute to cultural advantage. We pondered a new awareness and understanding of privilege, and a new sensitivity to the cause of those less fortunate.

From this vantage point, we hope the more noble intent of CRT succeeds, and that Americans of all cultures, races and genders receive fair treatment and equal opportunity going forward. We felt that in its current formation, CRT will continue to struggle for footing, and must be more balanced, cooperative, and less confrontational to avoid becoming a failed social experiment. We believe, however, that many of its tenets are long overdue and hope for a compromise that everyone can get behind.

It’s not the conclusion I first anticipated, but I find the more objective and open-minded I am, the more I see and feel. I believe it’s a discussion whose time has come.

What do you think? Share your comment below:

Marc K. Ensign

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  • you wish August 4, 2021 at 1:04 pm Reply

    CRT is just new wave race baiting. It has no merits because it is built upon a foundation that is morally wrong.

    • KA August 4, 2021 at 3:51 pm Reply

      You’ve never read it.

  • Marc K. Ensign August 4, 2021 at 2:40 pm Reply

    I’m interested in your opinion you wish. Could you elaborate on the foundation of CRT?

  • BWood August 4, 2021 at 5:14 pm Reply

    Growing up, racial issues were typically taught as a “section” within history and social studies. Some of it was certainly whitewashed. I’d love to see a history taught that shines a light on the events and struggles of all folks. There ought to be a heavy inflection on all peoples marginalized. Black history is indeed American history, and doesn’t belong on a different shelf.

    • Marc K Ensign August 5, 2021 at 10:25 am Reply

      I agree. Black history is American history, the same as any other race that has contributed to our nation.

  • Marina Kesling August 5, 2021 at 7:06 am Reply

    We imported the blacks for slavery; we should have sent them all back to Africa when slavery was abolished and let those who wanted to be here come on their own… all the others who have come from all over the world.

    • tjtj August 5, 2021 at 1:28 pm Reply

      Marina – do you see how nobody has replied. It’s because that is a ridiculous comment.

      Seriously – Slavery abolished, so put all the blacks on boats and send em back? Like “job is done, you can go now”??

      If that were to have happened, you wouldn’t have a country right now, or rather we’d be some other country. Most of us would have starved.

      • Marc K Ensign August 5, 2021 at 3:09 pm Reply

        tjtj, your’s is a great comment. We owe much to our African American neighbors. To have sent them back after their emancipation from slavery would have robbed both them and America.

  • KJN August 5, 2021 at 10:06 pm Reply

    “Many of it’s tenets are long overdue “ very disappointing. Have you ever noticed that are special interest groups and special programs for every ethnicity except whites? I believe we were well on our way to celebrating the merits and accomplishments of minorities. CRT will promote hatred between children who will grow up seeing nothing but race and self loathing for white children but that seems to be what is desired by the left. Ever since Obama was President, race relations have worsened. If whites are inherently racists, how did we elect a black President twice? I know many people that voted for him. This is all pushed on us by design to divide us from within.

  • K Leetzow September 12, 2021 at 12:30 pm Reply

    CRT is not a productive subject. Your article is written form an extreme left opinion. The current education system in college is warping the minds of our 18 to 21 minds to believe the “Professor” is God. Sorry should not of used thta term. Most professors don’t believe in God my bad. It seems your argument that we ae racist and hold down the minority is well, off base. I just love “white” liberals are out shouting we should be ashamed of our whitness. Well my friend I won’t be. I live in Texas and have spoke and listened to Black and Mexican people and they do not support the CRT nor open boarders. If you would see the black educated are very much against CRT. We as a country have always fought for the rights of all. George Floyd should not be put on a platform of who we honor. BLM is against the family unit and now has been caught with their “hand in the cookie jar” miss using funds for own personal gain. Floyds family has recieved over $50 mil which I am sure was not given back to all communities of financial oppressed.
    Remember it was the democrates that were KKK and supported slavery. They are the ones who started PPP and endorsed abortion of black children.
    CRT is telling black children you can’t be and your not able to be as a “white” person. That my man is racist.
    Ask one question if this country is so horrble than why are millions of “not white” people wanting to come here?

  • Kelli J. Fife September 14, 2021 at 9:29 am Reply

    It’s name says it all, “Critical Race THEORY.” It is a theory only. The theory of evolution is accepted by some but not all. At this time, I don’t see evidence to support CRT. Certainly not enough evidence to change the constitution, change our lives, and teach it in school.

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