American and Christian perspective on critical race theory
By Bill Connor
For the past few months, parents across the United States have risen up against the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in school districts their children attend. As we have seen on video, the outcry comes from multiple racial Demographics of parents. The political left initially defended the teaching of CRT; however, most began backing off when 22-24 June poll (YouGov/ and Yahoo News) found that of those Americans who knew about CRT, 49 percent were against exposing students to it; by contrast only 37 percent of that group favored such exposure. Since that poll, the left (including the Biden administration) has denied students are being exposed to CRT even while evidence refutes that claim. Instead, they now argue opponents of CRT are actually concerned about exposing students to any history involving slavery or other racism. Since those opposing CRT do not propose restricting the teaching of racism in history, it’s become more important to delineate the important differences with CRT. In doing so, I also offer a Christian perspective for opposition to CRT while still tackling racism and teaching all history.
First, it’s important to understand the genesis of CRT. The idea for “critical theory” derived from the writings of Italian neo-Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci wrote primarily in the 1920s until his death in a fascist prison in 1937. He targeted what he saw as the great obstacle to worldwide communist revolution: an alleged cultural hegemony. Gramsci posited that to bring revolution to a society, the hegemonic pillars of that society (church, family, etc.) had to be undermined through sustained criticism, thereby flipping hegemony from alleged oppressor to oppressed. The German Frankfurt School was influenced by Gramsci and began using the term “critical theory” as early as the late 1930s. Herbert Marcuse, German refugee and member of the Frankfurt School who taught at Harvard in the 1960s, is considered by many as the father of critical theory and of the “New Left” in America. His hypercriticism of the American system was followed by the development of critical legal studies (which claims that the U.S. legal system upholds majority power, regardless of apparent objective legal equality). Critical theory and critical legal theory gave way to critical race theory. From the beginnings of in the 1980s under the writings of law professor Derrick Bell, CRT continued Gramsci’s oppressor/oppressed dynamic.
CRT is distinct from the objective teaching of race within history. CRT holds that racism in America is not aberrational but baked in the system — including the current system. CRT holds that equity (racial groups having equal outcome) is the goal, and not equal opportunity for individuals. CRT holds that the very idea of colorblindness (think Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream his children would be “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”) is itself a perpetuator of racism within the alleged racist system. CRT holds that minorities (particularly “intersectionality” minorities with multiple oppressions) have knowledge that majorities cannot have. It goes so far as to assert that for a white to deny racism proves his racism. CRT holds that appeals to objective evidence and reason proving a lack of racism are irrelevant when compared to subjective opinions of minorities. CRT holds that majority groups are guilty of alleged disparities, and members hold unearned “privilege.” Bottom line: Regardless of the apparent equality and goodness of America, it is actually a systematically racist country that must be fundamentally changed.
Famed African-American pastor and writer Dr. Voddie Baucham has spoken out for almost two decades about the danger of CRT to Christianity. In earning his PhD from Oxford, he studied CRT as it was rising to prominence at places like Oxford. His warnings about CRT to Christianity were and are prophetic. CRT relies on Christian values to make gains with Christians unaware of the full truth of CRT, and yet it is diametrically opposed to many of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Christianity teaches love of all men, even enemies, and opposes racism and mistreatment of the poor or disadvantaged. The Bible demands equal treatment of individuals regardless of race/ethnicity. Christianity teaches repentance for personal sin, including racism. The story of the Good Samaritan provides the great example of the importance of colorblindness in race relations, something CRT repudiates. Christianity stresses the importance of the Christian brotherhood over race. Unlike CRT, which emphasizes racial group identity first, Christianity teaches the importance of the individual in salvation and repentance. CRT rivals Christian teachings with its own “religious” teachings of racial group guilt and privilege. This includes a mandate of repentance for “group” sins of the past, and yet without the hope of grace or forgiveness. CRT teaches minority Christians to believe that a racist system is responsible for individual sin, for which Christianity requires repentance and then forgiveness from God.
Many American school parents appear to have woken up to the dangers of CRT, and understand it’s not about teaching history. It’s critically important for Christians to also boldly proclaim that CRT is not what Jesus taught us and has no place in the church.
Bill Connor is a 1990 Citadel graduate, 30-year Army infantry colonel (ret.) and combat veteran. He is a writer and attorney and lives in the Charleston area.