As an older white guy, age 73, I’m amazed and befuddled by the hysteria over critical race theory and Black Lives Matter.
I’ve been an educator for most of my adult life in various institutions and disciplines. I retired as dean of Nursing and Health Studies at UW Bothell.
Only the McCarthy-era purges of government, media and public life inspired by mostly false fears of communism seem analogous.
Even reactions to second wave feminism, anti-war and civil rights activism didn’t generate as much fear mongering .
The largest claim underpinning the hysteria is that they threaten capitalism, the nuclear family and flat earth navigation.
These are posited not as theories and value preferences but as gods whose critique is sacrilegious.
But capitalism is a theory about how to organize economic life and nuclear familialism is a theory about optimal arrangement for raising children.
And there are data to support each of these theories. But there is a great deal of data contesting these theories as well.
Another implicit or explicit claim is that critical race theory and Black Lives Matter are somehow unethical or antithetical to freedom.
Given that the driving motivation and values of these movements are precisely to enhance human freedom and flourishing, the claim is bizarre.
It’s like the writers have forgotten “liberty and justice for all.”
Extending liberty and justice to a broader swath of people living in the United States and globally is their goal.
These are “critical” movements because they offer data-based criticisms of how history and contemporary life in the U.S. often constrain liberty and justice.
I’ll offer just a couple from my own life: the home my parents purchased in Colorado was available because the United States government violated the Treaty of Laramie of 1868.
The house was affordable because lending institutions red-lined neighborhoods to prevent African American and Jewish people from buying homes.
These are simply facts — claims about life supported with publicly accessible data. Just as there are reams of data documenting that dark skin — or even a dark-sounding name — limits obtaining jobs, housing and advancement.
While I would love to believe my accomplishments were solely due to my talents, hard work and good looks — OK, I’ll waive the attribution of looks — the fact that at every step the competition was heavily tilted in my favor is an “inconvenient truth.”
I won’t bother engaging the silly claim that Black Live Matter is somehow racist. I see it as the activist component of critical race theories: trying to make the world a better place, with a particular focus on how folks like me have been given an unfair advantage through everything from policing to banking.
Just as one can provide evidence and arguments about how un-free “free market capitalism” is, one can argue that the historical and contemporary disadvantages people of color have endured are exaggerated in scope and consequence. But instead of wild fear mongering, let’s sort through the publicly accessible, verifiable data to understand the relative strength of our convictions.
And public education should be one of the most important places where this assessment—and the skills to participate in it — are pursued.