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by Donna M.Somewhere in your town, there is a teenager rattling around the internet trying to figure out his life. This teenage, like all teenagers, is curious and maybe a bit confused about puberty, sex, and sexuality. This teenager, like all teenagers, is feeling lonely, unknown, and unknowable. This teenager isn’t too excited about puberty, the development of sexual feelings, or a future vision as a sexual being. This teenager, however, will find a quick internet diagnosis for his feelings of discomfort with the body and general social awkwardness: transgenderism. He must have been “born in the wrong body.”
Once a teen has self-diagnosed that she is transgender, she will train her focus on next steps: social transition and medical transition. The internet tells her that if she doesn’t transition, she’ll kill herself (not true!) and there are hundreds of internet testimonials of how wonderful and awesome and completely worthwhile that effort will be. So when her teacher enquires about preferred pronouns at school, she responds “he/him” or perhaps “they/them.” She may have even decided on a new name.
And if the school has thoughtfully developed a “gender transition plan,” this teenager can go and ask the school to change the pronouns and name on the school records and informal documents. A school representative will ask the child if he feels “safe” at home sharing this information, and if the answer is no, the school will duly note this. The school will then use one set of name/pronouns with the family, and one set of name/pronouns at school, and the family will never know.
The school is painting themselves as the virtuous do-gooders here. They think they have the child’s best interests at heart. They think they are being inclusive and thoughtful. But here’s the fundamental truth: no school teacher, no school representative, no adult of any type has the right to parent a child besides the child’s legal guardians.
Let’s just play this out with any other issue: you are hosting a child’s friend for a meal. You know his family keeps Kosher. Do you say “well, I think it’s no big deal, so we’ll eat the pork chops tonight?” Your child’s friend has a fear of water. Do you take her to a Water Park and tell her to just get in and face her fears – it will be good for her? The friend has anorexia. Do you force her to clean her plate because that’s your family rules? The friend hasn’t got a Covid vaccine yet. Do you just take him to the clinic? The friend just seems gay to you – you’ve got such a strong hunch. Do you take her to your LGB support group?
Because whatever your diet choices, personal preferences, family values, medical decisions, hunches, or sexuality are, you do not get to make those choices for other people’s kids.
Socially transitioning someone is a therapeutic choice to be made by the guardians, not a social nicety to be proffered by schools.
For some families, after years and years of therapy and a formal diagnosis of gender dysphoria, they may make the choice to socially transition their child with a new name and pronoun. In those cases, it is also not the right of the school to deny that choice (though I do believe there is a valid debate to be had on locker rooms, restrooms, and sports teams.) Ideally, this social change will help alleviate some of the child’s gender dysphoria.
For other families, social transition may not be appropriate. Children with anxiety, depression, autism, ADHD, who have experienced trauma, or who may be gay can actually do much worse when they attempt social transition. Reinforcing the delusion can distract from the underlying cause of dysphoria, and delays the efforts needed to address to diagnose and treat those issues. Social transition can isolate the child further from peers and hobble the opportunity to develop healthy friendships or romantic relationships. Balancing these concerns is what the family, along with a psychologist, is best qualified to do. No school representative could ever have the breadth of knowledge needed to make that decision for a child.
Therefore, I propose a national “Defense of Parenting Act” to formally clarify that all physical, medical, and therapeutic choices concerning a child are to be conducted by the parents or guardians of a child, and never the school.
That seems pretty obvious. And numerous court cases are pushing that question forward right now. But let’s speed that up and clarify that parenting is for parents. Pretty simple. Let’s do this.
by Donna M. When I was a kid, my family had a set of rotadraw circles that fascinated me. These were circular plastic stencils. First, you drew in all the stenciled openings for "1," then rotated the circle one phase and filled in those for “2,” etc. This process took concentration and careful alignment. Slowly, the underlying drawing was being built, but you would not be able to recognize it until you completed the task and lifted the stencil off to reveal it. The anticipation was agony. It was brilliant.
I've been thinking a lot about that toy recently, and our culture's general impatience. Just over a year ago, our then 15-year-old son announced to my husband and I that he thought he might be trans. As my other essay described, this was not just totally out-of-the-blue, but totally out-of-character.
As many other parents have described, this announcement usually triggers a brutal, all-encompassing, multi-front campaign into finding a therapist, reading the latest research, exploring anti-depressants, physical and cognitive assessments, re-evaluating and adjusting your child's friends and internet influences, reinvesting in family time, and hopefully building a support group. It isn't easy.
As this process plays out, parents are filling in the stencils, shifting the circle, and following the guidelines. Literally – this is how mature parents are designed to work. Life has taught us to look before we leap. Years of observation and self-reflection have revealed to us that humans sometimes want things or do things that are short-sighted and harmful to ourselves and others. A little bit of time, a deep breath, a small moment away to stop and think and gather more information can prevent a lot of errors.
But teenagers are not capable of this. They lack the ability to accurately estimate risk. They are impulsive. They misread social cues. They can be aggressive. Their brains are literally under construction at this point. Their prefrontal cortex won't be fully formed until they are around age 25. These trans-identified kids are prematurely lifting off their rotadraw stencil, declaring that they are absolutely certain they know what the final design should be, and demanding the permanent markers, scissors and glue to form it the way they think some intangible gender spirit tells them it should be. They literally cannot think logically about this topic. They only think emotionally.
Here's the good news: if you've got a teenage child, you are probably in your forties. You've been around the sun a few times. You've had your hipster grunge phase, your "Friend's" haircut, your Pottery Barn furniture phase. You may even be entering the expensive hobby phase – unless you're still in the expensive braces-for-your-kids phase. You understand that some desires, choices, and actions are harmless, some profoundly beneficial, and some truly damaging. Altering the body by hormones or surgery is permanent. Use that wisdom, use that perspective, and give your kid the things they truly need: time, meaningful experiences, better friends who appreciate them for who they actually are, and lots and lots of love.
Because meanwhile, while you are freaking out (internally!) and pretending to have Carol and Mike Brady-like levels of aplomb and sensitivity, your child's brain will start filling in the stencils, rotating the circle, and building up their design. A year from now (as long as you don't give them puberty-suppressing hormones which totally mess up the brain development), their brain will have more capacity to think. Their mind will have more capacity to understand its self.
So yes, your child's trans thing is a phase. Like multiple studies have shown, around 85% of children with gender dysphoria desist by the time they are adults. If your teen is like mine (no evidence of gender non-conformity throughout their life, profoundly gifted, socially isolated) they are probably going to desist. If they are like my friends' kids (ADHD, Asperger's/ASD) they are probably going to desist. If they are like my other friends' kids (gay or lesbian) they are probably going to desist. With some love and some time and no social transitioning, it may take a year or so, but you'll get there.
And if your child is one of the ones whose gender dysphoria never abates – you'll know it after they've completely filled in their rotadraw. You'll have seen those lines forming those patterns for years and years, since childhood and through adolescence. My heart goes out to those families. To you I caution slow slow decision making. Help your kid understand that sex never changes. Make sure your kid knows what their sexuality is. Encourage them to date until they know who they like. Delay anything permanent until their brain has matured, too. Give them the opportunity to let their brain mature naturally. Let them finish their work of growing up. As the thousands of detrans people can attest, you can always go forward, but you can never go back.
So it comes down to this: if you think it might be a phase, it probably is. If you know it isn't a phase, it probably isn't. Either way, we all need to stop messing with the stencil and stop interrupting the natural development of the brain and the body. Have a little patience and respect for the phases, folks. Stop demanding that teenagers know who they are immediately and stop freezing their puberty in its tracks. Phases are weird and ugly and often unpleasant, but phases are natural, too, and we've come a long way thanks to them.
In recent years, there has been an ongoing controversy about the origins of currently fashionable social justice ideology. Terms like Cultural Marxism and postmodernism have been used and subjected to sometimes fierce attacks. For an example, take this polemic by Charles Mudede against "the insufferable exemplar of self-sourced self-certainty, Jordan Peterson" who "likely does not read books" and whose "idea of Cultural Marxism Is totally intellectually empty."
Ignoring the absurdity of suggesting that Peterson does not read books, does this even represent an actual disagreement? Clearly, Mudede's politics are far from Peterson's, but his belligerence and the verbose complexity of his reasoning only makes it harder to see where the difference lies.
Not Marxism, but a neoliberalism that found its intellectual force in what Peterson imagines as Cultural Marxism but is, in fact, a post-structuralism that exploded on the scene in the 1970s, was promoted by North American universities, and was vigorously anti-classical Marxism.
Mudede seems to be saying that his imaginings about Peterson's imaginings about Cultural Marxism correspond to his (Mudede's) idea of a particular version of post-structuralism. But since he never tells us what specific ideas go into either of these (or neoliberalism), we will just have to trust him on that. Or not.
I have seen similar confrontations many times. If you utter a phrase like "cultural Marxism," you should expect an avalanche of protest before you finish the sentence.
It seems sensible to minimize such misunderstandings by finding better terms. Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay have done an admirable job of this in their book Cynical Theories. They describe in detail how postmodern ideas were adapted for activism, and call the result applied postmodernism. That might be the term that comes closest to encapsulating the historical roots of what we now know as "wokeness," although they also discuss other terms that may be less descriptive but stem from the academic scholars themselves, such as Critical Social Justice as well as Critical Theory including various branches such as Critical Race Theory.
There is a common premise that underlies many of these conversations (or shouting matches): a model of the social dynamics of the ideology in which theorists and thinkers are placed at the center. I propose a radically different (though not contradictory) perspective: putting the needs of activists at the center, and assuming that those needs shape the ideology of the activists. And thus also shaping what the public sees in politics and the media.
The type of activist in question can be identified as radical, revolutionary and utopian. Much of the common conceptual material used by such activists originated with the philosophy of G.W.F. Hegel, who was a decisive influence on Karl Marx in the 19th century and was re-activated by the Neo-Marxists in the 20th century. This passage from The Difficulty with Hegel by Roger Kimball encapsulates some of the essence of this way of thinking:
It is true that Marx devoted many pages to criticizing Hegel’s philosophy. But he firmly embraced Hegel’s view of history as a realm of ineluctable dialectical progress—progress, that is to say, which is necessary, i.e., inevitable, and which proceeds by continuous negation.
This basic idea, known as historicism, recurs both in Marxism, Neo-Marxism and current radical thinking. The progress of history is seen as inevitable and having a utopian endpoint, a goal that will occur as a result of the dialectical process. This differs from the prevailing paradigm in Western democracies, where politics is dominated by a balance between—on the one hand—liberals who push for specific, non-utopian improvements and—on the other—conservatives who hold back because they want to make sure those changes won't destroy anything of value. In the historicist view, politics instead becomes a struggle between progressives who are on the right side of history and reactionaries who are simply holding us back and therefore have nothing positive to contribute.
These ideas have been handed down intact from the 19th century, so there is a continuous tradition. My contention is that they are maintained and kept, not simply because each generation of thinkers has been influenced by the previous one, but because they are useful to activists. Radical utopian activists need to pursue certain goals in order to have success. They must seek power and status, recruit followers to their cause and then try to persuade the rest of us. These goals are supported by a set of ideas that seem to be fairly constant across time, at least as far back as Karl Marx or the French Revolution. Those ideas can be roughly sorted into four clusters: Power and oppression; revolutionary and utopian; collective identity; and truth and reality.
The Power and Oppression Cluster
The idea most obviously relevant to the task of the activist is power. Anyone who wants to change the world by direct means needs power in some form, legitimate or illegitimate. Radical utopians generally hold that the fundamental dynamic of society is a power struggle between oppressor groups and oppressed groups, aggressors and victims, the privileged and the marginalized. These groups can be defined by class, gender, races, or any of multiple other distinctions. Purporting to represent the oppressed makes power seem more legitimate, more palatable and less self-serving. Followers are more likely to see the leader as a selfless hero rather than as someone greedily indulging his own personal lust for power, money or other benefits.
Dialectics and historicism are useful for this purpose. Dialectics emphasizes contradictions and is seen as a higher form of logic, superior to ordinary scientific and empirical thinking. In Roger Kimball's words:
This after all is the famous dialectical process whereby each level of development is said to contain its opposite and is aufgehoben…What this Hegelian philosopher’s stone means is that you can eat your contradiction and have it too. “The essence of each thing,” Hegel wrote in his Lectures on the History of Philosophy, “lies in determination, in what is the opposite of itself.” Nice work, if you can get it. Hegel’s dialectic is a universal cognitive solvent; it licenses epistemological anarchy.
This is how it works: on the one hand, in order to be on the right side of history, we must follow through and support the inevitable process rather than resisting it. On the other hand, the outcome of dialectical thinking is indeterminate. As the philosopher of science Karl Popper has said, the dialectical method is "elastic": "The vagueness of dialectic is another of its dangers. It makes it only too easy to force a dialectic interpretation on all sorts of developments and even on quite different things." So if I'm a power-seeking person trying to get people to follow me, I can use dialectic to dream up a direction to follow, while making it seem like I am pointing out the only way forward, and that anyone who objects is a reactionary who is impeding the march of history.
The struggle on behalf of the oppressed is seen as a zero-sum game, and thus naturally as adversarial and antagonistic. One man's loss is another man's gain. Privilege implies oppression and vice versa. If I'm better off, someone lower in the food chain will suffer. Thus, win-win solutions are typically not emphasized.
This dichotomy is frequently not quite explicit. However, it is explicit in the Marxist concept of exploitation, where workers get less than their fair share of the value of what they produce and the capitalists benefit from this. In this model, all workers are exploited and all capitalists benefit from the exploitation. In other words, this is more than just a statistical difference between the two groups; it applies to every single individual.
In radical feminism, it is more ambiguous. A case in point is Susan Brownmiller's 1975 book Against Our Will, which asserts that rape is "a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear." I have read the entire book, looking for an analysis, or at least a superficially logical argument to justify the idea that all men are actively complicit even though only a minority of men are literally rapists. However, I could find no such argument. Still, a plausible interpretation is that all men might be benefiting from this state of affairs, similarly to how in Marxism all capitalists benefit from exploitation. Most people would reject Brownmiller's claim, noting that men in general don't seem to want women to fear them, especially since that would likely cause women to avoid men. Nevertheless, Brownmiller's book has been hugely influential, and so has the idea that men, qua men, possess some magical key to the problem.
The same simplistic link between oppression and privilege is present in today's Critical Social Justice. In an analysis of the concept of privilege, James Lindsay notes that it has "a pejorative and shaming connotation" and that "privilege operates in a nearly indistinguishable way from the religious concepts of Original Sin and Depravity." While I agree that it does resemble these religious concepts, it seems to me that most of its moral weight comes from the idea that privilege exists at the expense of marginalized or oppressed groups.
...when academics use the term in describing how society works, they refer to the rights, advantages, and protections enjoyed by some at the expense of and beyond the rights, advantages, and protections available to others...[quoted in the above link]
Let us be clear what this means. According to Merriam-Webster, the phrase "at the expense of" means "in a way that harms (something or someone)." In other words, by being privileged, you are literally harming someone who is less privileged. The flip side of this is the notion that the hardship of the oppressed benefits the privileged. Again, this makes perfect sense in the Marxist theory of exploitation, but less so in the real world where most group differences are not the result of dividing a limited amount of resources between groups. Just as men in general don't benefit from women being raped, white people in general have nothing to gain from unarmed black people being killed by police.
How far wrong this way of thinking can go is apparent in how Jews, one of the most persecuted groups in history, are now being seen as colluding with white supremacy: "Despite its laudable goal of opposing racism and white supremacy, CRT relies on narratives of greed, appropriation, unmerited privilege, and hidden power — themes strikingly reminiscent of familiar anti-Jewish conspiracy theories."
The Revolutionary and Utopian Cluster
As mentioned, the (originally Hegelian) historicist view of society implies a utopian state at the end of history. This is intimately related to another concept: revolution. Believers in Utopia compare current conditions to their utopian fantasy which is always vague. By that comparison, they are seen as so deficient as to require a total transformation of society or a "reimagining" of the fundamental principles on which society is based.
Achieving such a transformation is simple in principle, though less so in practice. In essence, all you need is to gather enough people who are willing to do what it takes to "burn down the system" and get to work. The task of recruitment is achieved by convincing people of the absolute horror of the current situation, which is demonstrated by contrast with Utopia and by tricks that enable ever smaller problems to seem large and consequential.
Since the aim is conceptually so simple, people can be brought together with less conflict and friction than when details of goals and plans for improvements have to be worked out in open debate and agreed upon.
Utopian thinking creates a binary distinction with Utopia on one side and the current situation—as well as everything in-between—on the other. Revolutionaries view reforms cynically. To them, reforms have little—or even negative—value unless they hasten the coming of utopia. Reforms can never cure the "fundamental" problem, which is "the system" itself. This leads to an inability to appreciate or even describe gradual progress in the usual sense, since it always remains superficial.
Just as with the power and oppression cluster, revolutionary sentiment and utopianism are often less than fully explicit and apparent. Marxism may seem less utopian at first glance, since it is hardheaded about the proletarian revolution and its immediate consequences (the dictatorship of the proletariat; abolishing private property of the means of production). But the ideas about subsequent developments are mushy in comparison. The dictatorship of the proletariat is supposed to be followed by a "withering away of the State," ending in the true Communist Utopia:
Their dream – the Communist Society – was a free association of completely free men, where no separation between ‘private and common interest’ existed: a society where ‘everyone could give himself a complete education in whatever domain he fancied’…a man would be given ‘the possibility to do this today and that tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, to go fishing in the afternoon, to do cattle breeding in the evening, to criticise after dinner,’ as he chose.
How that would actually come about is entirely unclear; it is simply logically mandated by the idea that the dialectical process of history leads inevitably to Utopia.
Just as with Marxism, utopianism is not readily apparent in (radical) feminism. But UN Women have created a narrative about a utopian society called Equiterra that illustrates it perfectly. The people of Equiterra seem to enjoy a near-perfect existence. In fact, "they are happier and mentally healthier than any other society."
In "Violence-Free Alley,"
Domestic violence is a rare occurrence, because there are strong laws against it and services to support victims. Since gender equality is the norm, the power dynamics between intimate partners are not oppressive or toxic.
Then there is "Inclusion square," where "everyone feels welcome and included. Here, everyone is safe and able to enjoy themselves."
Apparently, the remaining obstacles to a perfectly blissful society stem from the remnants of the old order. Those remnants are dealt with in a process that looks suspiciously like brainwashing. There is a "Toxic Masculinity Recycling Plant" where "toxic behaviours are transformed into attitudes that perpetuate gender equality." (Somehow I get the sense that it will be decided for me which of my behaviors are "toxic" and that I will have no choice but to have them "transformed.")
The key to radical feminist utopianism lies in attributing problems to "gender" even when there is little or no evidence of a causal link. Most human behaviors have an unequal gender distribution. However, statistical differences do not necessarily reflect root causes. Statistically, men and women have different eating habits, and yet the fundamental reason why we eat is the same. Similarly, men are more often violent than are women, but that does not mean that violence in general is caused by "toxic masculinity" or a lack of effective action to protect women (male victims are seldom mentioned). The ultimate roots of aggression are biological. Domestic violence is far from a pure male-on-female problem and women generally seem to perpetrate it for similar reasons as do men.
Gender equality is important and valuable, but only within the scope of its direct effects. It may reasonably be expected to improve fairness and enhance the freedom to not conform to rigid gender roles. Beyond that, its relevance belongs to the world of magical and utopian thinking. That it would end all violence—or even dramatically curtail it—is neither plausible nor supported by what we know about the roots of violence. Nor can it be expected to eradicate other forms of domination such bullying and power games.
Equiterra reflects this mixture of reasonable and utopian notions. There are some ideas that few would object to, such as access to contraception for women. Then there is the assumption that everyone would have the "correct" beliefs and attitudes, with no indication of how that would have happened, except by means of the "Toxic Masculinity Recycling Plant." And the rarity of domestic violence is attributed to "strong laws against it and services to support victims," even though those already exist, at least in Western countries. In short, there is no plan for achieving this near-perfect state of affairs except by what looks like indoctrination camps.
The Collective Identity Cluster
Activists can elevate their status by claiming to speak on behalf of an identity group. This gives them an appearance of legitimacy even when there is no explicit or implicit consent from the actual individuals comprising the group. Groups defined simply by common characteristics (including immutable ones such as skin color) are conceptualized as if they had the same properties as organized groups. They are assumed to have common interests (whether or not they do), and further to have a common "consciousness" and thereby agency as a group.
By identifying itself with a ‘class’ the Communist Party appropriated both the agency that its theory wrongly attributed to the proletariat and the unanswerability that in fact attaches to every social class. That, I believe, was the source of its criminal momentum. The Party was an agent whose collective decisions were subject to no law and answerable to no human purpose but its own....anyone who actually consults the ideas of ordinary working-class people commits a heinous communist error, the error of ‘opportunism.’ This consists in ‘mistaking the actual, psychological state of consciousness of proletarians for the class consciousness of the proletariat.’
Simply put, it makes sense to attribute agency and accountability to individuals and other legal persons, but not to identity groups. Legal persons have formal responsibilities and the capacity for concerted action. They can "enter into contracts, sue and be sued, own property, and so on."
In contrast, none of this is true of groups that are defined exclusively by similar characteristics. Attributing agency to those groups is a fantasy that is useful primarily for their self-styled representatives. Like a Communist Party, these representatives will profess to express the will of the whole group, while in reality they only speak for their followers—at best.
A seemingly fine distinction must be drawn here: it is not at all illegitimate or morally wrong to claim to know the interests and needs of an identity group and to act politically to further those interests. The problem only occurs when these professed group representatives try to trick the rest of us into believing we have a moral duty to take those claims at face value, rather than as opinion. If we fail to recognize the need to debate those opinions and to weigh them against other considerations, rational decision making becomes difficult if not impossible.
The Truth and Reality Cluster
In a totalitarian system, as in fundamentalist religion, the truth about significant, consequential subjects is whatever those who profess to represent the system say it is, and is not considered debatable. In other words, it is dogma, even when that word is not used. Anyone who challenges the dogma risks being seen as lying deliberately for nefarious reasons.
When there is no room for doubt about what is true, there is no need for individuals to think for themselves, nor to express dissenting opinions. Therefore, disseminating the truth by any means necessary is a good thing, and one of the most effective means is propaganda. In a propagandistic world view, people are seen as passive receptacles of information, buffeted by influences analogous to physical forces that push them in a given direction. It follows that it is also important to prevent competing views from reaching the eyes and ears of the populace. "Lies" and "misinformation" must be fought and ideally eradicated.
At the risk of stating the obvious: the alternative to this mechanical, simplistic model of the public sphere is to think of it as a collective thought process with results that are unpredictable but hopefully embody sufficient rationality and compassion to make us better able to move forward.
In summary, my thesis is that activism shapes the ideology of activists, and thereby most of what is seen by the public, by selection from what to them is fundamentally an a la carte menu of ideas. The result is a deep conceptual similarity that manifests itself as similar behavior: polarization, win-lose conflict ("struggle," "resistance"), propaganda and a lack of interest in reasoned debate, systematic problem-solving or tangible improvements.
From the perspective of radical activism, the utility of the shifting sands of academic scholarship is to allow the activists to update the rationale for activism as the world and public opinion changes. Since activists have a need to paint the present as a nightmare, tangible moral and material progress becomes the worst enemy of their agenda. As material hardship becomes less widespread and as groups are treated more fairly, new reasons for discontent must be found. "Critical" scholarship makes this possible by supplying increasingly sophisticated conceptual and rhetorical tools. Typically, emphasis shifts away from empirically verifiable phenomena and toward the symbolic, the theoretical, the abstract and the hypothetical, including the future. Words become violence, minor slights become microaggressions, relatively rare instances of serious violence (such as police killings of unarmed civilians) become indications of a problem which seems unknowably vast because it's "systemic."
Nevertheless, ideas do belong to an intellectual tradition. Hegelianism and Marxism is part of the intellectual ancestry of wokeness, but I hypothesize that even if that were not the case, modern social justice ideas would still be similar due to convergent evolution. Just as sharks, dolphins and ichtyosaurs look similar due to adaptations to similar environments and ecological niches, the ideology of different radical activists will tend to become similar since it always serves similar needs.
What matters in the real world is the actual political impact of radical utopian activism. That depends less than it may seem on the intellectual pedigree of the ideas and the exact definitions and nature of the various academic theories. Whether wokeness is Marxist (or Marxian)—or just similar in the ways I have described—is a question that has no decisive significance for the real world and the well-being of its inhabitants.
by James Lindsay If we think of the general madness of the world at the present in terms of the familiar biological taxonomical hierarchy: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species, while something like “Critical Whiteness Studies” might be a species within the Critical Race Theory genus, which is in turn classifiable in the neo-Marxian Family, Marxian Order, and Hegelian Class, the question arises: in what the Kingdom are all these interrelated insanities to be found? I assert that it is that ancient parasitic bugbear known as Gnosticism. In fact, the systematic Hegelian project and especially Marxism, which materialized it, would therefore define the Gnostic phylum of Scientific Gnosticism (though, by definition, “scientistic” would be better) that completes the taxonomy. Whatever might be said about other branches in Kingdom Gnosticism, Scientific Gnosticism is perhaps the most calamitous ideological phylum human beings have so far managed to contrive. Within that phylum, though taxonomically placed otherwise, we would find all of the failures of Communism, Fascism, and National Socialism, for example. We will also find our present plight, the so-called “public-private partnership,” which synthesizes Communism and Fascism into one new terror to be managed technocratically, in mockery of the science it will invoke to establish yet another unnecessary tyranny upon the world and its generally innocent people.
The essence of Gnosticism can be expressed in three beliefs. These are (1) that it is not you or your theories that are wrong, but the world itself; (2) that we have been flung into this miserable and intolerable condition against our wants; but (3) are able to attain a consciousness, a knowledge—a Gnosis—that will allow us to repair the world and ourselves. In this regard, Gnosticism is a perverted impulse toward progress, which describes the circumstance in which we have improved our ability to live in the world through a better understanding of it and ourselves in it. That is, progress means better according our lives with reality as it is and thus doing better in reality. Gnosticism turns progress upside-down—inverts it—by reframing it away from the effort to prosper in the world as it is and toward remaking it into a world that is not and, because this non-reality is essential to the Gnostic project, cannot be.
In that regard, Gnosticism is the perversion—the inversion—of epistemology, which is how we might go about knowing what we know and that we know it. Philosophically speaking (which is to say loving wisdom, not mistaking ourselves for the wise), knowledge is a tricky matter. While theologies are content to assert an absolute Truth in the Deity, they also, when mature, also insist that man’s fallibility and limitation prevents him from knowing that Truth as the Deity would. In other words, while there may be some absolute Truth, it is not man’s lot to know it within the circles of this world. To capital-K (or G) Know would position us as gods ourselves—and so whispers the Serpent of Genesis—which is out of accordance with the order of Creation. God’s mind is not our mind, and our minds are not equipped to fathom the ways of the Deity. Instead, we must be content to pursue or to love knowledge, or wisdom, and, if theological, God, and to pursue it as best we may in humility and in recognition of our proneness to error.
The theistic Gnostic, often theosophists, turns this upside-down. Absolute knowledge is available and hidden from us by those who have ordered the world. God is not the Creator who put order to the world and then called it good; He is a tyrant and the warden of a universal prison locked from within, keeps that which is truly Good for Himself, and by maintaining for us a state of ignorance keeps us enslaved. Knowledge of the higher truth, that the Garden is in fact a prison, sets us free of it, at which point we can reshape the world nearer to our hearts’ desires. Religion and Truth merely have to be exposed as the limiting lies that lead us to see the chaos of our lives as ordered, but in ways beyond our knowledge, and our misery as contentment and even joy. Accordingly, Knowledge of the Absolute Truth, Gnosis, is the way to true freedom. We just have to bite into the fruit, and capital-G Knowledge is ours.
So much for premodernity. Theistic Gnosticism is its own set of phyla in our taxonomical tree. In the modern era, epistemology has shifted into the scientific. Where many of the theologically savvy have recognized the scientific method as a tool to gain provisional and limited knowledge of God’s creation, they have come into harmony with those who see order in the brute fact of Nature herself. Science becomes the method by which we ask hard questions of the world, whether it be named Creation or not, and seek to ascertain what we can of its order. There is no shortcut to this process. Science is intrinsically agnostic—without Gnosis. Science, when it hasn’t ossified into some doctrine of scientism, proceeds entirely on the assumption that we do not know. Whereas The Science is settled; the science is never settled. Every hypothesis can be challenged. Every claim to knowledge can be overturned, especially any claim to Knowledge. Science is therefore by definition anti-Gnostic, just as are the healthy expressions of theistic faith. To allow the category error, Nature, whether product of God or not, has ordered the world as it has, for reasons that may forever remain inscrutable to us, and by our application of reason (gift of God or not), we might come to understand some portion of the order in which we live.
This agnostic fact of science bears a number of relevant consequences. One is that, since science is interested in ascertaining provisional truths about all that is, a Scientific Gnosticism must seek to call truths things which are not. This is why non-reality is essential to Scientific Gnosticism, and the form it takes is Theory. Theory sits atop reality and provides the right understanding, such that those who embrace Theory are the only ones who can truly understand reality. Socialism can only be properly understood by Socialist Man, who is a Scientific Gnostic. Another consequence readily follows. Scientific Gnosticism is scientistic, not scientific at all. It uses the prestige of science as a pretense to its own insight, but it is a counterfeit and an inversion in the same way that premodern Gnostic cults are counterfeit, inverted religions, which the faithful call “heresies.” One familiar is here reminded of the feminist philosopher Kelly Oliver, who called for a revolution against the “absolute authority of recalcitrant Nature” in a now-infamous 1989 paper in a paragraph in which she asserts that we can be freed from that prison by abandoning “true theories” and “false theories” for “strategic theories.”
Some in the modern era—notably G.W.F. Hegel and Karl Marx in his wake—believed that such an understanding of the emerging epistemology of that era, science, presents only a low-level understanding of the world as it is. Theirs is a world that becomes, not a world that is, and it does so through the intrinsically negative process of highlighting “contradictions.” Unless a claim to direct revelation is made, contradictions are a typical route to Gnosis for the Gnostic. As the Serpent whispered the first “contradiction” in Genesis—that ye be made in the image of God but are not as God—so raged Marx that the very point of understanding the world is to change it, by “ruthless criticism of everything that exists,” no less. And so Death entered the world as answer to the rebellion against the order of the world, which, in fact, will not change.
The term for “science” in German, Wissenschaft, carried less strict a meaning in the 19th century than its contemporary translation in English, and it was with that Wissenschaft that these German modern-era Scientific Gnostics worked. That Wissenschaft more accurately refers to “knowledge” than to the more specific term, “science,” and the systematic speculative idealist Hegel separated it into two levels: Verstand (“Understanding”) and Vernunft (“Reason”). A nearer articulation of the meaning of these terms, however, would be (agnostic) understanding (of provisional truths about the world) and (Gnostic) Theory, which is to say systematic contextualization—that is, ideology—of that understanding and everything else.
For Hegel, this meant that his own systematic philosophy was the better understanding, the Wissenschaftlicher, of Understanding (and therefore also not wrong). This is a great, and Gnostic, intellectual swindle. Hegel’s “philosophy,” for an actual philosophy it is not, becomes the doctrine through which all knowledge is put into its proper context. Hegel’s “Reason” is the Absolute, which those with Theoretical consciousness bring to completion. Thus, in Hegel, in Marx, and in their intellectual descendants throughout this taxonomical tree, who are in the current end “Woke,” we have the emergence of a “Scientific Gnosticism” that, in our own era, is often mockingly referred to as “The Science.” That a Scientific Gnosticism is, itself, an oxymoronic contradiction in terms is no impediment to The Science, because in-contradiction is its authentic state of being. That’s because it is an inversion of science done in the name of “progress” that seeks to remake the world rather than to understand it and to prosper in accordance with it.
Marx was quite explicit about The Science, which he referred to as Wissenschaftlicher Sozialismus—usually given as “Scientific Socialism,” though the suffix -licher implies that it is more scientific (than science, one might presume). Scientific Socialism is an approach that went on to mischaracterize lowly Verstand science as “bourgeois science,” which in turn led to the unnecessary deaths of possibly more than a hundred million people in the Soviet Union and China. Recalcitrant nature, contra Kelly Oliver, retained its recalcitrance despite the strategery of the Theory.
Strategic theories, Gnostic Theories, turn out only to be good for obtaining power and abusing it, but they cannot deliver Utopia, no matter how many Theorists (Marxian, neo-Marxian, or Woke) spin them in new ways. They cannot remake the broken world into which we have been flung because it is not, in fact, broken in the first place. Vernunft (Theory, usually named Reason) isn’t very reasonable. Socialist Man doesn’t, as it turns out, know better, and he will never be able to reorder the world nearer to his heart’s desire.
Couldn’t we say, though, that that was then and this is now, and we’re no longer in the modern era but the postmodern, in which Scientific Gnosticism cannot be because there is neither Science nor Gnosis to be had? That was the postmodernists’ contention, anyway. All science, all knowledge, all truth is a proud claim to Gnosis, and that, they seem to assert, cannot be had anyway. So we might read Lyotard on the “postmodern condition” or understand Foucault’s dire warnings about biopower. “It’s not that everything is bad; it’s that everything is dangerous”: all progress is an illusion, and the world cannot be remade, nor us within it. Even the neo-Marxists of the late 1960s—undoubtely Scientific Gnostics of the first order—cleaved their Gnosticism in this direction, which is to say in the negative. Negative thinking becomes positive, admonished Marcuse, and the revolutionary potential of the movement is located within the absence of liberation while retaining consciousness of its historical possibility. It may not be possible to cast a positive image of the Utopia, claimed Adorno, but Utopia exists in the negative. Utopia is the possibility of what may be when all oppression is removed. Put otherwise, we might not know what Heaven will look like, but it’s not this and we’ll know it when we see it—now get in the car. This is still Gnosticism, and their mode, profoundly modernist even as it flirted with the postmodern, in the Scientific mold.
Regarding the challenge of postmodernism proper, at least three things must be said. First, the postmodernists, for all their insights and astute warnings about The Science, failed to understand the science it mimics. Second, though their dialectics turned almost completely negative, not even they gave up on Gnosticism. Instead, they retained it in different shape, so that the remaking of the world and Man within it was made totally internal and subjective. Their goal was to reject all meaning and truth, and this is but an avant garde, nihilistic, fashionably 1970s-French way of asserting that they in some way knew so much better, better enough to be able to sit aside from the whole world and shit on it at every turn. Third, their critique, even for what worth it retains in spite of these contradictions and confusions, doesn’t matter because in the years since postmodernism came to America, the Scientific Gnostics merely figured out ways to incorporate it into their Scientific Gnosticism—and they won the fight.
The result of the postmodern turn in Scientific Gnosticism wasn’t its end; it was its kaleidoscopic (literally, that’s their word for it) explosion. Now Gnostic consciousnesses proliferate at the level of identity politics, and these define the entire collection of genera in the “Woke” family or families in our taxonomical hierarchy. Queer Theory sees “queer” as an “identity without an essence,” and so every narcissistic adolescent obtains a specialized Gnosis of the world and its functioning located firmly in their own unstable sense of self that is contextualized by The Science of sex, gender, and sexuality. Race is socially constructed and imposed, says Critical Race Theory, so only by understanding yourself in terms of its structurally deterministic machinations can Gnostic awareness of Race Theory be rightly obtained. Understanding systems and their operation through the black magick of socialization awakens a Gnostic consciousness in every conceivable domain of identity, but Scientific Gnosticism it remains. Postmodernism didn’t kill Scientific Gnosticism; it merely pushed it deeply into the plural.
In this way, we can understand the madness of the current world. Gnosticism is again ascendant in a new postmodern and scientistic form, and Gnostic cults have captured countless people and far too many institutions. The trouble is: they think they Know, and they think that with their Knowledge, they can remake the world and those who are so unfortunate to inhabit it in its Fallen form. As a result, droves of otherwise sensible human beings yet again feel as though they have been flung into a broken world and, with the right Theory, the right Gnosis, they can properly contextualize all that they think they understand and so remake the world and themselves to match.
In practice, then, because these are metaphysically based cults, all stories, including stories about data, must serve Theory because Theory is the map to that Absolute knowledge—consciousness, be that class, feminist, critical, racial, or otherwise—that God and Nature otherwise would withhold from us, no matter how good our theology or our instruments. In this understanding, we can see that nothing has changed and that the “liberation” held out as Theory’s promise is false. Recalcitrant nature—human and otherwise—will remain recalcitrant. Second reality will not become reality. Theory put into practice will fail. They will not achieve “liberation” because liberation from reality is not possible, no matter how self-indulgently miserable and resentful anyone becomes by believing they capital-G Know what they can only pretend to know.
by James Lindsay According to Critical Race Theory, “racism is ordinary, not aberrational—‘normal science,’ the usual way society does business, the common, everyday experience of most people of color in this country” (Delgado and Stefancic, 2001, p. 7). Its advocates call this belief “systemic racism,” and Critical Race Theory is the “study” of this so-called systemic racism, if by “study” we mean “treasure hunt to find racism in everything.”
Consequently, according to Critical Race Theorists, virtually everything anyone can imagine is racist. The names of some birds and fish are racist, according to Critical Race Theory. Math is racist, especially if we care about getting the right answers, according to Critical Race Theory. A rock on University of Wisconsin, Madison, campus property is racist, according to Critical Race Theory. Schools, government institutions, businesses, classical music, Beethoven specifically, art, hiking, going outside, the pandemic, rock climbing, jogging, conservatism and all conservatives, the curriculum in any school and its books, black people who don’t agree with Critical Race Theory, logic, loyalty, punctuality, hard work, merit—these are all part of the “system” of racism that this neo-Marxian Theory “interrogates” for its hidden racism. Even being “less racist” or “not racist” and desegregating schools via Brown v. Board of Education is racist, according to Critical Race Theory. In fact, it was in those two phenomena that Critical Race Theory started.
In that it’s a neo-Marxist Theory that demands to be understood only in its own predefined terms, however, perhaps it is best to consider what Critical Race Theory is really all about by taking the advice of some of its philosophical forebears. In One-Dimensional Man (1964), the neo-Marxist Herbert Marcuse explains, presaging the poststructuralist Jackie Derrida, that the motivating energy for a movement rooted in (Hegelian) “negative thinking” comes from what isn’t there more than what is. The absence haunts the movement and, ultimately, gives it its motivating energy and will. He, of course, meant the (absence of the) liberated Utopia—Communism, when it finally works—that “specter of Marx” that also animated Derrida, though less manically, in the 1990s. Thus, perhaps we can learn more about what “systemic racism” is about by taking some examples of what isn’t systemically racist, even though it plainly is (by their definition).
A glaring example of systemic racism-that-isn’t arises in the willful discrimination against meritorious Asian-Americans in American colleges and universities and other schools. This blatant exception to the rule of systemic racism not only exists but was defended against termination by nearly every Senate Democrat in a party-line vote in April when Ted Cruz attempted to add a provision in the “Stop Asian Hate” bill that would finally prohibit it. But, of course, Asian-Americans are a paradoxical minority. They’re white-adjacent, which is systemically racist.
There’s also the obvious case of the disproportionate impact (this being the proof that systemic racism is occurring) the riots, looting, arson, chaos, and subsequent “defund the police” initiatives had on black and Latino neighborhoods in our cities, costing many hundreds of black and other lives and billions in property damage and theft. “Whiteness is property,” we were told in apparent justification of all this mayhem, and the police are systemically racist. Somehow, though, encouraging these disastrous behaviors and policies doesn’t qualify as “systemic racism” despite the definition because they were protests for “justice,” which is supposed to be “uncomfortable.”
Another less obvious example of systemic racism-that-isn’t follows the eviction moratorium, which was just reinstated unconstitutionally by administrative decree. Brown and black landlords, who tend to run smaller operations and own fewer rental properties, are disproportionately affected and far more likely to lose their livelihoods and property as foreclosures loom. This policy, which benefits interests like BlackRock (with its deep ties to the administration and major international NGOs who also claim to care about “systemic racism” in everything else), is not “systemically racist,” however.
Perhaps the most interesting example of a haunting absence from the “systemic racism” appellation, though, is in yet another no-brainer that anyone can see as plainly as day: vaccine passports. The irony here is almost delicious, in fact. After sowing rampant distrust by naming the pandemic itself racist, racism as a public health threat, and our own government and healthcare system as racist for years on end, blacks and Latinos are disproportionately less vaccinated than members of most other races. Vaccine passports are then proposed as the newest false solution to the pandemic. Their implementation would, of course, create a (systemically racist) mechanism by which the disproportionately black and Latino unvaccinated population (against COVID-19, specifically, to be clear) will be excluded from full participation in the basic functions of society: public transportation, restaurants, shopping establishments, and, in many cases, employment opportunities. These groups will disproportionately bear the brunt of this discriminatory policy unless their members let the allegedly systemically racist government inject them with undertested vaccines and sign them up for a program that clearly hands over even more control over their lives to said systemically racist government. This is precisely the kind of policy that Critical Race Theorists would normally go berserk about—and for once for good reason. Unlike the boulder in Madison, the vax pass meets Ibram X. Kendi’s brilliant definition of racism almost perfectly: “A collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity that are substantiated by racist ideas.”
Not only do we have silence about the fact of this blatant problem in the vaccine passport program being ignored by those who should be raising a clamor about it, however. At least one social media giant, all of which have shown themselves to do whatever misfeasance they can within their power—mostly censorious—to support the radical Leftist agenda of the day, actively suppresses this fact (for mere narrative it is not). Mememakers of the world rapidly seized upon the opportunity to point out that vaccine passports are systemically racist according to the Critical Race Theory definition employed by our federal government in its “equity” programs, making a series of scathing satirical memes depicting black individuals in dismay with verbiage talking about how they were discriminated against by the implementation of vaccine passports. Twitter responded by locking and suspending accounts that shared the memes and forcing the tweets to be deleted (my own was locked four times in a week). The justification: the memes were said to spread misleading information about COVID-19, which they did not. Those who challenged the bans were told by Twitter that they had “made a mistake,” but the fact remains: Twitter used its ill-gotten power to censor “misleading information about COVID-19” to censor political opinions and satire that are inconvenient to the radical Leftist agenda in which they are taking part. (Note well: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey gave Kendi $10 million in July of 2020 to support his “anti-racism” program at Boston University, so one would presume Twitter cares deeply about and could spot systemic racism where it is actually occurring.)
There is, of course, a pattern to these exceptions to the everything-is-racist rule of Critical Race Theory: they’re all power-seizing Leftist agendas. This is the rub in Kendi’s brilliant definition—ideas they declare to be anti-racist, not racist, substantiate their own policies and power grabs, and that suddenly justifies intent over impact for them. It is now glaringly obvious that critics of the Left and Critical Race Theory have been right all along: Critical Race Theory and the broader Leftist agenda making use of it are not serious endeavors; they’re tools for seizing power, cynically applied. It is perfectly obvious at this point that these radical Leftist ideologies care little or not at all about “black lives” or anything to do with the racial groups Critical Race Theory brands “marginalized” and “minoritized.” They only care about their own power and how they might get more of it by using the disproportionalities of society as a wedge and a lever. This means they’re also using the people they attach to those disproportionate outcomes and count as “systemic racism” when it’s convenient to them and ignore when it isn’t.
A response is necessary, and the shape of that response is obvious. Figures like Ibram X. Kendi, Cori Bush and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who vigorously championed the eviction moratorium extension), Jen Psaki speaking for Biden as White House Press Secretary, and pro-CRT media talking heads like Joy-Ann Reid, Don Lemon, and Marc Lamont Hill should all be asked to comment on why systemic racism is acceptable for agendas they support and intolerable even in the mundane (rocks are literally of the Earth). Why is systemic racism not only tolerable but necessary for articles of the corrupt radical Leftist agenda? Do they believe vaccine passports are systemically racist? If so, how can they justify them against the rest of their beliefs? If not, what does the term “systemically racist” even mean?
The point isn’t to catch these people out. They will have answers, of course, however unsatisfactory. The point is to show the public that, like so much else in their repressive order, the label “systemic racism” is just another arbitrary tool, another potent bit of calculated rhetorical malice, by which they might effect their intended ends. Thereby, the absence of genuine meaning in the concept might tell us everything we need to know about it, and the bigger the audience who sees it, the better.
One of Critical Race Theory’s Major Harms: Asian American Discrimination
by Kenny Xu
Critical Race Theory often justifies Asian discrimination because Asian Americans are often on the wrong side of the "groups who need to be helped" debate.
One of today’s most vexing Supreme Court cases is Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, which has brought anti-Asian discrimination to the forefront of the current cultural discourse. SFFA (Students for Fair Admissions) contends that Harvard’s “race-conscious” admissions process violates the Constitution by disadvantaging Asian American applicants based upon their race, while Harvard argues that campus diversity goals justify their race-based process.
Most of the reasoning behind Harvard’s admissions process comes from critical race theory (CRT), a theory of race which originated with Harvard University. Another hot topic recently, critical race theory teaches that America is divided into privilege and oppressed groups based on race. Negative aspects of modern society follow from that dichotomy, and the only way to fix it is to revolutionize the way we think about race, culture, and society.
Under the critical race framework, “white supremacy” covers a lot of different phenomena. Everything from blatant discrimination, to the existence of English grammar, to choosing not to riot are included under the term. And in the words of social justice activist and author Ibram X. Kendi, “The only remedy to racist discrimination is anti-racist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” In order to combat white supremacy (however broadly defined), critical race theorists view “antiracist” discrimination as the only legitimate response.
However, with the emergence of several racial groups that have come to be just as successful as whites, Critical Race Theorists came up with the term “white adjacency.” Robin DiAngelo, author of the now infamous book “White Fragility,” defines it this way: “The closer you are to whiteness—the term often used is white-adjacent—you’re still going to experience racism, but there are going to be some benefits due to your perceived proximity to whiteness. The further away you are, the more intense the oppression’s going to be.”
According to critical theorists, Asian Americans are the most white adjacent minority. They go so far as to say that Asians don’t count as “people of color,” and even invented the term “BIPOC: (Black and Indigenous people of color) specifically to exclude Asian and other “white adjacent” minorities,
What does this mean? In my new book, An Inconvenient Minority, I tell the story of the many Asian Americans who are harmed by an ideology that penalizes their success. Progressives “call out Asians for either trying to be like white people or benefitting from systems that prop up white dominance.” Under critical race theory, it also means they are complicit in upholding white supremacy. To be white adjacent is to benefit from the systems of oppression that America was allegedly founded upon.
Applying the words of Kendi, then, means that Asians are a privileged group in which discrimination is justified, to make room for the “truly” oppressed.
But is the concept of white adjacency actually valid? In fact, white adjacency is simply a rhetorical tool to discriminate against Asian Americans. It’s also an implicitly racist concept that devalues other races, meritocracy, and Asian culture.
The problem is that critical race theory implicitly defines every good societal outcome as white. Even if your family came from China or India, being educated and achieving a high degree of personal success is deemed “white” behavior. This is racist in multiple ways. Obviously, it puts Asian Americans into a white adjacent box that completely ignores their unique cultures and struggles. Furthermore, it implies by default that other races aren’t successful, talented, or educated. If being rich and successful are “white” characteristics, then doesn’t the logic follow that being poor and lazy are Black characteristics? Despite pretending to care about diversity and inclusion, critical race theory is actually racist in the way it implicitly categorizes groups of people.
Asians are harmed from multiple directions by the white adjacency myth. Asian Americans have struggled in this country as well - let us not forget the Chinese Exclusion Act or Japanese Internment. Yet, the concept is frequently used to silence Asian Americans when they attempt to explain their own struggles as a minority in America. It also gives universities such as Harvard the required justification to discriminate against Asian American applicants to their schools, who blow every other race out of the water academically. Asians are an inconvenient minority because their high performance is a threat to both prevailing woke narratives surrounding diversity, and to continued, largely white, ruling class hegemony in the Ivy League schools. As the coastal elite continue to double down on critical race theory, Asian Americans will continue to be the thorn in their side.
Asian Americans are not deficient white people or “white adjacent.” They are unique individuals from distinct cultures, each with our own struggles and backgrounds. Their individual successes are their alone, and defining those successes as “white” is racist in myriad ways. Asian Americans cannot simply be designated by Critical Race Theory as a prop for white supremacy; we are the inconvenient minority.
Critical Race Theory (CRT) has been gaining traction in organizations throughout the Western world for over 50 years, but increasingly so for the past 5 years leading up to 2021. It is either highly criticized or highly-regarded, with little room for fence-sitting—a phenomenon facilitated by the widespread adoption of social media. This essay will attempt to provide additional information about the connections between Critical Race Theory and its philosophical parent Critical Theory (CT).
A thorough reading of the historical development of both philosophical disciplines reveals a genealogy that is closer than simple intellectual similarities.
A brief overview and explanation of Critical Race Theory will be followed by its history. Next, we will discuss Critical Theory, its origins, supporters, and key assumptions. Lastly, we’ll look at how CRT and CT are related by exploring their common genealogy and conceptual frameworks.
Critical Race Theory
What is it?
Everything in our world is power, the distribution of which is mediated by race (e.g. broad categorizations of Asian, Black, Caucasian, Hispanic, Native, Pacific Islander, etc.). Every human construction, from governments to homeschool co-ops, are embedded in racial structures that fundamentally build or dismantle racism and white supremacy. All people, regardless of socioeconomic status, location, or personality cannot help but perpetuate or undermine systems of racial oppression. This is Critical Race Theory in a nutshell.
For adherents of this theory, Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream is idealistic nonsense. The only path of progress is through the rubble of a completely dismantled America. Why? Critical Race Theory (CRT) asserts that the very structure of society is systemically oppressive to minority populations, and that racism is built into the very fabric of social life. So much so, that even when overtly racist policies, practices, or actions are ‘removed’ or ‘rectified,’ racism still exists—it is simply manifesting in new ways.
As a result, racism cannot ever truly be solved, according to CRT. This belief creates a truly dangerous situation. Children are being taught that they live in a society that is riddled with racism and hate. They are being told that, due to factors outside their control—their melanin levels—they are oppressed, or they are the oppressors. They are also being taught that there is no resolution to this problem. Consider what havoc this is likely to wreak on young minds. “We have a problem. You are the problem, and there is no way to fix it. You’ll never be able to do enough to repair the damage that you perpetuate simply by existing.” CRT is incredibly disempowering. Children who are placed in the ‘oppressed’ category are told that the system is rigged against them. In such a situation, why should a child make any attempt to succeed?
Where did it come from?
Like many ideas, CRT is the product of the combining of other, older ideas. In this case, it started as Critical Legal Studies—the combination of race relations (arguably the social issue of the late 1960’s in America) and the study of the law. A man particularly well-positioned to push this new theory forward, the founder of Critical Race Theory, was Harvard Law professor Derrick Bell. Bell (1930-2011) was the first black tenured law professor at Harvard. He was 40 years old at the time of his hiring.
The ideas and works of Derrick Bell are largely variations on a theme that was laid out over 65 years earlier by W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963). While Bell continues to be seen as the modern founder of CRT, his ties to Du Bois, if only conceptually, are readily acknowledged by CRT scholars.
Du Bois was a political economist who began his undergraduate studies at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, then moved on to Harvard University. At the time, some of the most prestigious universities in the world were in Germany. He spent two years in Germany studying on a scholarship from the Slater Fund, which ended before he could complete his PhD. While he was there, he wrote letters in which he mentioned several of his professors—some of them more than others. W.E.B. Du Bois completed his studies in Germany in 1894.
What is it?
Everything in our world is power. Systems and structures are created to maintain and build upon that power. Governments, organizations, businesses, and even hobby clubs exist solely to maintain and build power. Critical Theory’s goal is to intellectually emancipate society from oppression. Critical Theory is “…practical in a distinctively moral (rather than instrumental) sense.” In other words, “critical” arguments are formed and founded in rhetoric—only. You cannot test their claims with any instrument of measurement. This is Critical Theory in a nutshell.
So, if you can’t test its claims, how can anyone know whether its claims are true or not? This requires faith or ‘suspension of disbelief,’ whichever you prefer. What value does it really have to anyone? So far, it’s been a very effective method of creating additional faculty jobs at universities. It has the added benefit of creating for its proponents social protections that are granted to ‘allies of the oppressed.’
Where did it come from?
Goethe University Frankfurt was one of the preeminent universities during the interwar period of the early 1900s. During this time, the Institute for Social Research was created by Friedrich Pollock and Felix Weil with a professor of political law and economy at University of Vienna named Carl Grunberg installed as its first director. The Institute was bankrolled by Weil, a wealthy student at Frankfurt. All of them were neo-Marxists. While they agreed with Marx, they felt many gaps were left in his writings that required development and explanation. The Institute (now commonly referred to as The Frankfurt School) was formed with the vision of filling in those conceptual gaps through the work of its members. Most notably, these scholars argued, in effect, “Not only was the Social Democratic leadership too wishy-washy and compromising, its voting constituencies among the working classes were themselves clueless about their real needs and their real but masked state of oppression.” By this time, the leading lights of the Institute had agreed that what the Marxists really needed was an aristocracy—a role they could fill. The major result of this work is what is now known as Critical Theory.
Some of the Frankfurt School’s more recognizable names include Horkheimer, Marcuse, Adorno, and Grunberg. Of course, they each differed from one another on particular points of their ideology, but the fundamental theoretical underpinnings—noted above—of the School were largely undisputed among members of the Institute.
Max Horkheimer—who was involved with the Institute from the beginning—pursued his doctoral studies under Hans Cornelius, a neo-Kantian philosopher, at Frankfurt. Horkheimer was a major influence on The Frankfurt School, becoming its second director after the departure of Grunberg due to illness. Both Grunberg and Horkheimer were skeptical of epistemology and reason. They fostered that skepticism among others through their writings and speaking events. While they nurtured doubts about shared reality and objectivity, they pursued Kant’s anti-Enlightenment ideas that prioritized subjectivity and emotion.
The ideas that emanated from the scholars of the Institute for Social Research—Critical Theory—continue to influence the Western world today.
A Common Thread
Gustav von Schmoller was one of the frequently-mentioned professors in W.E.B. DuBois’ letters back home. Carl Grunberg also studied under Schmoller during his stint at Strasbourg from 1872-82.
While no one can be completely sure exactly how much influence Schmoller had on either DuBois or Grunberg, it seems perfectly reasonable to surmise that it was more than zero. And, given both of Schmoller’s eminent students went on to espouse similar positions on the proper framework through which to judge reality, the possibility seems even more likely.
So, who is Schmoller, then? He was born in Heilbronn, Germany in 1838. His father, as a civil servant in Wurttemberg, was a wealthy and influential man with connections to those in power. Gustav was entrusted with the operations of some of his father’s affairs which gave him experience with government, bureaucracy, the economy, and other integral systems that are constituent pieces of a functioning society. At the time, a prerequisite for consideration of an appointment within the government was completion of a university degree in Kameralwissenschaft a discipline “…which combines public finance, statistics, economics, administrative science, history, and even sociology.”
After working for his father for some time, rather than stick to government work, Schmoller decided to teach at a university. He was already a committed “communitarian,” having gained and retained full faith in the state’s ability to manage the entire economy in such a way that productivity and efficiency would be maximized.
For Schmoller, economic theory required a thorough consideration of all potential factors that could affect economic activity. And, as he himself had prescriptions for what the ideal society should look like, he provided social commentary willingly.
Economic behavior is embedded in a cultural style specific to one epoch, one historical structure of meaning, which happens to favor an economic style marked by certain "habitual moral sentiments" (Schmoller 1923a, 22), values, and norms. Therefore, if the most elementary object of economic analysis, economic action, has an ethical, cultural, and religious dimension, then the economic theory purporting to explain it must also encompass the interrelationship of ethical, cultural, and religious factors.
Schmoller sought and advocated for social reforms in the name of social justice that aligned with his prescriptions. He reasoned that the study of political economy was properly oriented when it was focused on the psychology of economic action. “The true desideratum of economic research was, therefore, a psycho-social description of the motivations of human action.”
Conclusion: Intellectual Brothers
Schmoller’s ideas about the psychology of economics found expression in W. E. B. Du Bois’ work on the influence of racism in American economic and political life. Carl Grunberg’s Institute for Social Research was the birthplace of Critical Theory—an admixture of Schmoller’s psychology of economics and Marxism, where Marxism is the interpretive structure and economic psychology is the object of study. Both Du Bois and Grunberg were communists—with Du Bois writing a series of articles in support of Marxism during the 1930s and ultimately joining the Communist Party very late in life in 1961. Both of them believed in a worldview that categorized everyone as oppressor or oppressed. Du Bois critiqued society using race as a frame of reference. Grunberg used social class as his.
Both Critical Theory and Critical Race Theory have at least one common progenitor: Gustav von Schmoller. Their common teacher joins Du Bois and Grunberg as intellectual brothers if their works did not show enough similarities to comfortably make that claim.
This article is adapted from the forthcoming book, Critical Condition: Destructive Ideologies in America’s Classrooms.
Biologists do not use the term “race” to differentiate between people with variations in melanin levels. Race is a purely cultural and rhetorical phenomenon, which has no basis in biology.
History Killers: New Historians Ignore Anti-capitalist Arguments by Southern Slavers
by James M. Masnov In his “Letter from a Pennsylvania Farmer, Letter VII” (1768), John Dickinson argued—in protest to the taxes imposed by England’s Parliament against those living in the American Colonies, that those “who are taxed without their own consent, expressed by themselves or their representatives, are slaves. We are taxed without our own consent, expressed by ourselves or our representatives. We are therefore—SLAVES.” The language of slavery by resistors and revolutionaries during the years that preceded the American Revolution challenges modern sensibilities due to the overt hypocrisies involved in a slave-practicing society arguing for natural rights while simultaneously denying those very liberties to others in their midst. It is an enormous task in the field of American Revolutionary History to recognize this challenge and not attempt to evade it. The discipline required for reasoned and rigorous scholarship regarding the matter means approaching the subject with sober analyses and dispassionate observations. It is not a historian’s role to deify nor to vilify, but to elucidate the inherent complexities of a difficult past. The intersection of slavery, the American Revolution, and the founding of the constitutional republic of the United States can also inspire, for some, an impulse to assume the worst of the revolution’s participants, and conclude that their language of liberty was nothing more than self-serving rhetoric. To do so is to offer a reductionist view lacking in nuance or insight, and only serves to provide for a politically convenient though historically dubious position. Facts counter to a particular narrative are dismissed and surface-level evidence is amplified. Enter: the new historians of capitalism.
A so-called new history of capitalism is currently very much in vogue and has been in ascendance over the past decade or so. It is promoted by various prominent academics, including Sven Beckert and Christine Desan at Harvard University. The introduction in their book, American Capitalism: New Histories (2018), declares, “Slavery’s relocation into capitalism is only the beginning point for a group of scholars studying racialization as an enduring American strategy for the coercion and control of labor, particularly African American labor.” There may well be quality scholarship within the work of the new historians of capitalism but the assertion above obscures rather than explicates the relationship between natural rights, capitalism, and slavery in Colonial America and United States history.
Capitalism, as market economies came to be known, was advocated by seventeenth-century philosopher John Locke through his championing of private property rights. Locke promoted the cultivation of land as a means of self-fulfillment and as part of a natural human impulse to facilitate a private sphere. He asserted that the labor “of [man’s] body and the ‘work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever, then, he removes out of the state that Nature hath provided and left it in, he hath mixed his labor with it, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property.” Locke also believed that reciprocal trade was beneficial to humankind and fostered good relations. Eighteenth century Scottish philosopher and economist, Adam Smith, made similar arguments for what he called the invisible hand of the free market. Smith’s The Wealth of Nations (1776) would prove to be influential upon American thought. Through the influence of Enlightenment thinkers like Locke and Smith, the United States became a nation designed upon natural rights principles which included free markets and private property rights.
Some Marxist scholars, including participants in the new history of capitalism, seek to conflate market economies, private property rights, and the history of American slavery. Doing so encourages a narrative that capitalism is a tool of oppression and that slavery is merely a market economy in its most naked form. It presumes a disingenuousness among American founders who struggled publicly and privately to address the institution of slavery, particularly framers like Thomas Jefferson and George Mason who confessed to slavery’s immorality even as they participated in the practice. Worst of all, the new history of capitalism ignores well-documented evidence that the natural rights thesis which gave birth to liberal capitalism and individual rights was, at its core, antithetical to slavery. Framers like James Wilson saw the birth of the new republic and the reining in of the slave trade, outlined in the Constitution in 1787, as a sign that slavery in America would soon be in decline. Furthermore, his state of Pennsylvania had passed legislation that put slavery on a gradual path of extinction and Massachusetts had ended slavery by decree of its highest court a few years earlier. Perhaps most damning of the new history of capitalism’s scholarship is the ignoring or diminishing of the fact that some of slavery’s most vocal defenders in the nineteenth century were themselves critics of capitalism. As the institution of slavery exploded in the American south in the decades following the American founding, slave apologists identified themselves as ardent critics of both natural rights and market economics.
Possibly the best case for discounting the premise that slavery was a capitalist scheme (or is it that capitalism was a slavery scheme? The new historians essentially argue both theses simultaneously) is the writings of nineteenth century slavery apologist, George Fitzhugh. Fitzhugh’s 1856 book, Cannibals All! Or, Slaves Without Masters, is three hundred pages of anti-capitalist/pro-slavery prose. His condemnation of free labor in the North rests upon an explicitly anti-Lockean, anti-natural rights thesis:
It seems to us that the vain attempts to define liberty in theory, or to secure its enjoyment in practice, proceed from the fact that man is naturally a social and gregarious animal, subject, not by contract or agreement, as Locke and his followers assume, but by birth and nature, to those restrictions of liberty which are expedient or necessary to secure the good of the human hive, to which he may belong. There is no such thing as natural human liberty, because it is unnatural for man to live alone and without the pale and government of society.
Fitzhugh, incredibly, asserted that slaves were treated better by their masters in the South than they were under free labor by their employers in the North. He recommended that people in the North:
set your miscalled free laborers actually free, by giving them enough property or capital to live on, and then call on us at the South to free our negroes. At present, you Abolitionists know our negro slaves are much the freer of the two; and it would be a great advance towards freeing your laborers, to give them guardians, bound, like our masters, to take care of them, and entitled, in consideration thereof, to the proceeds of labor.
Fitzhugh’s paternalistic tone betrayed the egregiousness of his message. Free labor, he argued, should not be free, and should instead be cared for by their employers through property and other accommodations. On the surface the message appears empathetic, but at its heart is a declaration that slavery is a more generous and moral institution than a laissez faire market economy.
Among the most glaring and explicit pieces of evidence among Fitzhugh’s polemic that counters the new historians’ thesis is his overt denunciation of the American founding and its principles:
We do not agree with the authors of the Declaration of Independence, that governments “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” … All governments must originate in force, and be continued by force. The very term, government, implies that it is carried on against the consent of the governed … Physical force, not moral suasion, governs the world. The negro sees the driver’s lash, becomes accustomed to obedient cheerful industry, and is not aware that the lash is the force that impels them.
Natural rights principles, including property ownership and liberal capitalism, were tenets that broke history out of the long tradition of slavery and the supposed necessity of human bondage. Once natural rights was overtly asserted and a new nation was founded on such principles, the conflicting character of slavery stood in stark contrast. Justin Buckley Dyer observes, “What seems obvious to us now – that it was a gross contradiction to hold some men in chains while declaring the right of all men to live free – was equally obvious to many during the founding era.” If anything, the language of natural rights and the system of government instituted during and after the American Revolution to carry out such a philosophy shed further light on this blatant hypocrisy and subverted slavery’s legal and moral legitimacy.
One of the most important voices of abolition in the nineteenth century, Frederick Douglass, argued that slavery was not a feature of the American project, but a bug. His arguments reveal that the case against slavery was the same American, natural rights case against indiscriminate power. The evil of slavery was not due to its force alone but in its violation of natural rights. Douglass observed, “you may surround the slave with luxuries, place him in a genial climate, and under a smiling and cloudless sky, and these shall only enhance his torment and deepen his anguish… [It is] absolute power over the body and soul of his brother man… [that degrades the] moral nature.”
As Justin Buckley Dyer observes, “The Constitution, according to Douglass, was morally justified as supreme law because it was, in its essence, opposed to the exercise of arbitrary power.” Furthermore, Douglass saw the American system as an emancipating influence and referred to the Constitution as a “glorious liberty document.” Douglass’s condemnation of slavery was thus part of the legacy of natural rights arguments against capricious rule.
One need not be a free market absolutist to recognize that the new history of capitalism, not unlike the 1619 Project, seeks to manipulate history—and exploit the historical illiteracy of many Americans—to forward a particular Marxist narrative. The practitioners of this project have every right to do so, as free expression and academic freedom are hallmarks of a healthy, liberal society. Conversely, other historians should be prepared to provide some public peer review of such scholarship and note the historical inaccuracies and evasions within the work.
Conflating slavery with capitalism may appear to possess some surface-level logic upon first glance. There is a record of institutions exploiting their labor force for the sake of profit and there is no more blatant example of the exploitation of labor than slavery. That is where the similarities begin to fray, however, as the history of liberal capitalism also includes slave apologists who attacked both capitalism and natural rights, while figures like Frederick Douglass—who experienced slavery first-hand—defended natural rights, the Constitution, and the role free labor and property rights played in empowering free people. The new history of capitalism is an argument well-suited for the kind of shallow-thinking activist who reads nothing more than headlines and can’t be bothered with the details. It is not worthy, however, of the kind of deep analysis and evidence-based scholarship that academic history requires. By that metric, the new history of capitalism deserves a failing grade.
I Act; Therefor I Am. Dear Trans Kids: Stop Feeling and Start Thinking
by Donna M. A few weeks ago, a teacher at my kid’s school shared a bit of wisdom that has rocked my world. She taught the kids that there are four mental stages; feeling, thinking, planning, and doing. People can only be in one stage at a time, and people get frustrated when others are in different stages than they are. If you’ve ever had to bite your tongue while you listened to someone vent, you know this is true. If you’ve ever been married, you know this is true. If you’ve ever parented, you know this is true.
Recently, I joined the twitter world to exchange ideas (that’s the “thinking” stage, there) about the concept of Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD) and the impact of this on teen boys. While many people have shared insights and resources, I’ve observed a typical accusation that certain trans-identified people toss out: “You are saying we don’t exist!”
At first, this struck me as a bewildering non-sequitur. Are they really saying because I have different ideas about transgender theories or gender identity, that I must think their bodies aren’t present in the world? How would I explain that their typed grievances are popping up on my screen? Must I subscribe to a complex superstition of phantoms in the machine? Debating the points of trans identity in fact implies the opposite: I don’t spend time arguing about the Loch Ness Monster or fairies or unicorns, because they do not exist.
On second thought, I utilized the old psychology switcheroo to better understand this: projection. This makes sense. These twitter people are actually questioning and barking about their own existence. Somewhere along the line they got stuck. They are frozen in the “feeling” stage, and are under impression that feelings = existence. And deep inside, despite their passionate feelings, they realize that an existence centered on feelings isn’t very satisfying. They worry that they don’t exist.
As babies, our first mental flickers are indeed feelings. Instinct and our reptilian brain process hunger, cold, discomfort, warmth, rough, cozy, full, poopy. Miraculously, within a few weeks, we begin to think: that face brings comfort. That food tastes good. Soon after, we get to planning: I want that Cheerio on the tray. Then action: I’m going to grab it and put it in my mouth.
Of course, as we all know, mastering this feeling, thinking, planning, acting process can be pretty complex. Impulsively, we leap before we look. We sink into the sandpits of depression. We fill our lives with meaningless activities without stopping to smell the roses. Getting everything right all the time is hard. This is human nature.
And within our lifetimes, we see a broader pattern of this story. Childhood is for mastering feelings. High school and college are for mastering thinking. In our twenties we learn to plan and act. Later in life, we circle around to better know ourselves; our feelings and our thoughts. To wisely evaluate the effectiveness of our planning and actions. To confirm our plans and actions align with our values (aka “thoughts”).
But development on both the individual level and the societal scale requires moving up this ladder from feelings to action. We do not beat the Nazis, cure polio, or reform the justice system by looking at our navels and wallowing. Feeling is just the first step. We think, plan, act. That’s progress.
This is what our parents, grandparents, and teachers have been telling us for years. Get off the couch. Get a degree. Grow that garden, write that book. Yes- your feelings show you are alive. Congrats – you exist just like everyone else. But your thoughtful, considered actions prove you are living. Your obituary will list the things you havedone, the relationships you have built, not the emotions you have felt.
To these trans twitter activists, I urge you to pull yourselves out of your sink hole of emotions. You are more than your feelings, truly. Your dramatic displays of outrage may temporarily satisfy a primal itch, but true self-knowledge and self-actualization comes with some effort and work. It’s got nothing to do with your gender- believe me. Do not circle in that flotsam. No “gender feeling” will ever bring you meaning or true fulfillment.
The only way forward is through your brain -- not your sexual organs. You got your "dysphoria." Fine – that’s a feeling. Now start thinking: why would I suddenly feeling like I dislike my body? Is there something actually physically wrong with it? Is there something appealing about the stereotypes associated with the other sex? Is there some trauma I’ve experienced or observed associated with my sex? Would external changes truly affect my internal feelings? Am I actually trying to avoid sexuality? Or growing up in general?
It’s about your brain and your hands. Get out there and get to work. You’ll feel better, I promise, and you’ll stop wondering if you exist.
Critical Race Theory is currently getting a ton of attention on the national and international stage, which is long overdue, but there are also many misconceptions about it. Here are five questions that many people are asking about Critical Race Theory along with straight answers, explanations, and a raft of proofs from the Critical Race Theory literature itself. My hope is that people will be able to use these proofs to show people that Critical Race Theory is every bit as bad as its critics contend.
Since these proofs run rather long in some cases, here are the questions and answers as a summary:
Is Critical Race Theory racist? Yes.
Does Critical Race Theory advance the vision and activism of the Civil Rights Movement? No.
Does Critical Race Theory say all white people are racist? Yes.
Is Critical Race Theory Marxist? Yes and no.
Is Critical Race Theory an analytical tool for understanding race and racism? No, not really.
Question: Is Critical Race Theory racist?
Critical Race Theory begins by asserting the importance of social significance of racial categories, rejecting colorblindness, equality, and neutrality, and advocating for discrimination meant to “level the playing field.” These things lead it to reproduce and enact racism in practice. It also explicitly says that all white people are either racist or complicit in the system of racism (so, racist) by virtue of benefiting from privileges that they cannot renounce.
“We all can recognize the distinction between the claims "I am Black" and the claim "I am a person who happens to be Black." "I am Black" takes the socially imposed identity and empowers it as an anchor of subjectivity. "I am Black" becomes not simply a statement of resistance but also a positive discourse of self-identification, intimately linked to celebratory statements like the Black nationalist "Black is beautiful." "I am a person who happens to be Black," on the other hand, achieves self-identification by straining for a certain universality (in effect, "I am first a person") and for a concommitant dismissal of the imposed category ("Black") as contingent, circumstantial, nondeterminant. There is truth in both characterizations, of course, but they function quite differently depending on the political context. At this point in history, a strong case can be made that the most critical resistance strategy for disempowered groups is to occupy and defend a politics of social location rather than to vacate and destroy it.” From “Mapping the Margins,” Stanford Law Review, by Kimberlé Crenshaw, p. 1297.
“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. … 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.” From How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi (pseud. for Henry Rodgers), p. 19.
“Unlike traditional civil rights, which embraces 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.” From Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, first edition, p. 3.
“Critical race theorists (or “crits,” as they are sometimes called) hold that color blindness will allow us to redress only extremely egregious racial harms, ones that everyone would notice and condemn. But if racism is embedded in our thought processes and social structures as deeply as many crits believe, then the “ordinary business” of society—the routines, practices, and institutions that we rely on to effect the world’s work—will keep minorities in subordinate positions. Only aggressive, color-conscious efforts to change the way things are will do much to ameliorate misery.” From Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, first edition, p. 22.
(See also below, in proofs for the question of whether Critical Race Theory says all white people are racist.)
Question: Does Critical Race Theory advance the vision and activism of the Civil Rights Movement?
Critical Race Theory refers to that vision as “traditional approaches to civil rights” and calls it into question. The Civil Rights Movement called for living up to the foundational promises of the United States (and other free nations) and incrementally changing the system so that those original ideals were met. Critical Race Theory rejects incrementalism in favor of revolution. It rejects the existing system and demands replacing it with its own. It rejects the liberal order and all that goes with it as being part of the system which must be dismantled and replaced. It is therefore fundamentally different than the Civil Rights Movement (and is explicitly anti-liberal and anti-equality).
“Unlike traditional civil rights, which embraces 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.” From Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, first edition, p. 3.
“We all can recognize the distinction between the claims "I am Black" and the claim "I am a person who happens to be Black." "I am Black" takes the socially imposed identity and empowers it as an anchor of subjectivity. "I am Black" becomes not simply a statement of resistance but also a positive discourse of self-identification, intimately linked to celebratory statements like the Black nationalist "Black is beautiful." "I am a person who happens to be Black," on the other hand, achieves self-identification by straining for a certain universality (in effect, "I am first a person") and for a concommitant dismissal of the imposed category ("Black") as contingent, circumstantial, nondeterminant. There is truth in both characterizations, of course, but they function quite differently depending on the political context. At this point in history, a strong case can be made that the most critical resistance strategy for disempowered groups is to occupy and defend a politics of social location rather than to vacate and destroy it.” From “Mapping the Margins,” Stanford Law Review, by Kimberlé Crenshaw, p. 1297.
Question: Does Critical Race Theory say that all white people are racist?
More specifically, Critical Race Theory says that all white people are either racist or that they are complicit in a “system of racism” (so, racist) that they wittingly or unwittingly uphold to their own benefit unless they are “actively antiracist” (and usually even then). Those benefits of “whiteness” are labeled “white privilege” in general and are said to be outside of the scope of things that white people can intentionally renounce. The most they can do is “strive to be less white” and to become aware of and condemn “whiteness” as a system.
“Wildman and Davis, for instance, contend that white supremacy is a system of oppression and privilege that all white people benefit from. Therefore, all white people “...are racist in this use of the term, because we benefit from systemic white privilege. Generally whites think of racism as voluntary, intentional conduct done by horrible others. Whites spend a lot of time trying to convince ourselves and each other that we are not racist. A big step would be for whites to admit that we are racist and then to consider what to do about it.”” From Being White, Being Good: White Complicity, White Moral Responsibility, and Social Justice Pedagogy, by Barbara Applebaum, p. 15.
“The white complicity claim maintains that all whites are complicit in systemic racial injustice and this claim sometimes takes the form of “all whites are racist.” When white complicity takes the latter configuration what is implied is not that all whites are racially prejudiced but rather that all whites participate in and, often unwittingly, maintain the racist system of which they are part and from which they benefit.” From Being White, Being Good: White Complicity, White Moral Responsibility, and Social Justice Pedagogy, by Barbara Applebaum, p. 140.
“Here we find a claim about complicity that is addressed to all white people regardless of and despite their good intentions. What I refer to as “the white complicity claim” maintains that white people, through the practices of whiteness and by benefiting from white privilege, contribute to the maintenance of systemic racial injustice. However, the claim also implies responsibility in its assumption that the failure to acknowledge such complicity will thwart whites in their efforts to dismantle unjust racial systems and, more specifically, will contribute to the perpetuation of racial injustice.” From Being White, Being Good: White Complicity, White Moral Responsibility, and Social Justice Pedagogy, by Barbara Applebaum, p. 3.
“Many critical race theorists and social scientists alike hold that racism is pervasive, systemic, and deeply ingrained. If we take this perspective, then no white member of society seems quite so innocent.” From Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, first edition, pp. 79–80.
It is accurate to say that Critical Race Theory is mostly Marxian but not specifically Marxist. It is more accurately adapted from neo-Marxism, which is in turn adapted from Marxism.
The main difference is that Marxism is concerned primarily with economic class and rejects racial categories in favor of workers’ solidarity. What this means is that Critical Race Theory operates like Marxism but using race instead of economic class as the line of “social stratification,” above which people are “privileged” or “oppressors” and below which people are “marginalized” or “oppressed.” This social order is assumed in Critical Race Theory as “the ordinary state of affairs” and analyzed in the same way Marx analyzed across class stratification. Namely, Marx’s “conflict theory” (a.k.a. “critical philosophy,” so Critical Theory of Race, i.e., Critical Race Theory) is the tool for analyzing society, which is assumed to be totally racialized (by white people).
For those who understand Marxism, where Marxism sees capitalism as a superstructure that organizes society and determines the outcomes of the privileged (bourgeoisie) and oppressed (proletariat) classes, Critical Race Theory sees “white supremacy” as a superstructure that organizes society and determines outcomes of the privileged (white) and oppressed (BIPOC) classes. From there, it is functionally identical except that it operates primarily in the realms of cultural production rather than in the realm of economic and material production.
Critical Race Theory is most accurately “critical constructivist,” which is to say a form of race-based neo-Marxism (Critical Theory) with some postmodernist (social constructivist) characteristics.
“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. By interrogating the politics of knowledge-production, this tradition also calls into question the uses of the accepted critical-thinking toolkit to determine epistemic adequacy.” From “Tracking Privilege-preserving Epistemic Pushback in Feminist and Critical Race Philosophy Classrooms,” Hypatia, by Alison Bailey, p. 881.
“Our analysis of social justice is based on a school of thought known as Critical Theory. Critical Theory refers to a body of scholarship that examines how society works, and is a tradition that emerged in the early part of the 20th century from a group of scholars at the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, Germany (because of this, this body of scholarship is sometimes also called “the Frankfurt School”). These theorists offered an examination and critique of society and engaged with questions about social change. Their work was guided by the belief that society should work toward the ideals of equality and social betterment.
“Many influential scholars worked at the Institute, and many other influential scholars came later but worked in the Frankfurt School tradition. You may recognize the names of some of these scholars, such as Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Jürgen Habermas, Walter Benjamin, and Herbert Marcuse. Their scholarship is important because it is part of a body of knowledge that builds on other social scientists’ work: Emile Durkheim’s research questioning the infallibility of the scientific method, Karl Marx’s analyses of capitalism and social stratification, and Max Weber’s analyses of capitalism and ideology. All of these strands of thought built on one another.” From Is Everyone Really Equal?, by Özlem Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo, second edition, p. 50.
“As the reader will see, critical race theory builds on the insights of two previous movements, critical legal studies and radical feminism, to both of which it owes a large debt. It also draws from certain European philosophers and theorists, such as Antonio Gramsci and Jacques Derrida, as well as from the American radical tradition exemplified by such figures as Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Black Power and Chicano movements of the sixties and early seventies.” From Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, first edition, p. 4.
Question: Is Critical Race Theory an analytical tool for understanding race and racism?
Answer: No, not really (there’s a tiny sliver of yes here, in a misleading sense).
Critical Race Theory describes itself as a movement of activists and scholars. This is not exactly what one would expect from a mere “analytical tool.”
More accurately, Critical Race Theory is a worldview, not a means of analysis. Critical Race Theory begins from the underlying operating assumptions that race is constantly being imposed by a “white supremacist” society (“systemic racism”) and that racism is therefore the ordinary state of affairs in society. It believes further that racism is effectively impossible to eradicate within the existing “white supremacist” system and therefore that it has merely hidden itself better, when it seems to be diminished or less impactful. Critical Race Theory is the tool that allows the people who have awakened to a “Critical Consciousness of race” (i.e., Critical Race Theorists) to detect hidden racism in everything. This is a way of viewing the world, however, not a way of analyzing the world as it is.
“Racism exists today, in both traditional and modern forms. All members of this society have been socialized to participate in it. All white people benefit from racism, regardless of intentions; intentions are irrelevant. No one here chose to be socialized into racism (so no one is “bad’). But no one is neutral – to not act against racism is to support racism. Racism must be continually identified, analyzed and challenged; no one is ever done. The question is not ”did racism take place”? but rather “how did racism manifest in that situation?” The racial status quo is comfortable for most whites. Therefore, anything that maintains white comfort is suspect. If you are white, practice sitting with and building your stamina for racial discomfort” -Robin DiAngelo (Link)
“The critical race theory (CRT) movement is a collection of activists and scholars interested in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power. The movement considers many of the same issues that conventional civil rights and ethnic studies discourses take up, but places them in a broader perspective that includes economics, history, context, group- and self-interest, and even feelings and the unconscious.” From Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, first edition, pp. 2–3.
“First, [most critical race theorists assume] that racism is ordinary, not aberrational—“normal science,” the usual way society does business, the common, everyday experience of most people of color in this country. Second, most would agree that our system of white-over-color ascendancy serves important purposes, both psychic and material. The first feature, ordinariness, means that racism is difficult to cure or address. Color-blind, or “formal,” conceptions of equality, expressed in rules that insist only on treatment that is the same across the board, can thus remedy only the most blatant forms of discrimination … The second feature, sometimes called “interest convergence” or material determinism, adds a further dimension. Because racism advances the interests of both white elites (materially) and working-class people (psychically), large segments of society have little incentive to eradicate it.” From Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, first edition, p. 7.
“Many critical race theorists and social scientists alike hold that racism is pervasive, systemic, and deeply ingrained. If we take this perspective, then no white member of society seems quite so innocent. The interplay of meanings that one attaches to race, the stereotypes one holds of other people, and the need to guard one’s own position all power- fully determine one’s perspective. Indeed, one aspect of whiteness, according to some, is its ability to seem perspectiveless, or transparent. Whites do not see themselves as having a race, but being, simply, people. They do not believe that they think and reason from a white viewpoint, but from a universally valid one—“the truth”—what everyone knows. By the same token, many whites will strenuously deny that they have benefited from white privilege.” From Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, first edition, pp. 79–80.
America's Overseers: How the Example of Harvard Discredits the Meme of Black "Marginalization"
by Alexander Zubatov
Among the many spells the wicked witches of the woke West have cast upon us is the one that compels us to believe that blacks (and other minorities) are eternally “underrepresented” and “marginalized” in America. This shibboleth is repeated uncritically again and again until we are bludgeoned into accepting it as a cornerstone of the hastily erected, shoddily constructed, lightning-rod-tipped imaginary tower that goes by the name of “systemic racism.” But whatever truth it might have had in earlier epochs, the marginalization thesis is, in the 2020s, a patent exaggeration and, in many respects, a gross error. It is high time to dislodge this bit of bad code from the program.
I should confess, first, that I have never really understood what “marginalization” is supposed to mean or why it is problematic for any nation to have its default settings, whether institutional, cultural or linguistic, calibrated to the majority rather than to all its multifarious minorities. A majority of voters in a democracy will predictably seek to institute its preferences; this, indeed, is the very purpose of people coming together to form a nation in the first place, as the late conservative philosopher Roger Scruton has argued in England and the Need for Nations. So long as others are treated with dignity and respect and accorded an equal legal right to participate in significant opportunities, I see no particular reason for them to be “centered” rather than “marginalized.” Because of the logic of collective action and dynamics of block voting that are easier to navigate for smaller, more tightly knit interest groups than for the diffuse majority, any ethnic or racial minority that grows sufficiently substantial will rapidly gain the ability to wield political influence disproportionate to its population percentage, as the economist Mançur Olson has explained. The majority should not have the additional obligation to refurbish its entire culture to cater to all the disparate and conflicting preferences of all the possible Others who may live within the nation’s borders or who may later find their way in by hook or by crook.
But, be that as it may, taking “marginalization” and “underrepresentation” on their own terms, any intellectually defensible notion of these phenomena cannot content itself with merely throwing out numbers purporting to show facial disparities and blurting out “racism!” as Ibram X. Kendi would have us do, but rather, should consider why any disproportion exists. Thus, for example, one cannot look at a university physics department and complain that black faculty are underrepresented without dealing with the glaring fact that blacks account for only around 3% of bachelor’s degrees in physics, so that, if anything, it is the latter rather than the former fact that needs to be explained.
Even without delving down to this more granular level of analysis to look behind surface disparities, however, the reality is that, at this point in time, taking only bare population percentages, blacks are no longer underrepresented and marginalized in many respects that matter. First, despite the fact that the corporate media, especially lately, sometimes seems to be spending something like 90% of its air time on coverage of what it deems anti-black racism, blacks actually represent around 13% of the American population. Notwithstanding the endless gripes about purported racism in the entertainment industry, as of 2018-19, blacks accounted for 24% of all lead acting slots on broadcast t.v., 12.9% of cable t.v. leads, and 18% of cast members on broadcast and cable shows. Blacks were also cast in 15.7% of top film roles as of 2019. These numbers are, of course, from before the Great Awokening of 2020, and we should have every expectation that the numbers are still more skewed today.
But black faces are not only getting significantly more than their proportionate share of airtime in fiction on t.v. The overrepresentation and blanket coverage of issues of race and racism, both real and imaginary, whether on t.v., on the radio, in print news or on social media and other online media, are not, I would hope, facts I need to prove empirically at this point. For those interested in what data has to say, however, there is a good argument to be made — one that, indeed, has been made in compelling fashion by Zach Goldberg here — that the divisive racial hysteria that has engulfed much of the country in the last few years is driven by the media’s sensationalized and relentless coverage of race and alleged racism rather than the other way around, viz., any actual uptick in racism driving the spate of media coverage. This is a point given further substantial support recently by the University of London’s Eric Kaufmann’s report on the subject of racism’s social construction, which shows that perceptions of racism in America are largely motivated by larger political affiliations rather than by real-world circumstances.
With black people and issues of alleged anti-black racism at the very front of so many stages today, then, in what sense are black people still “marginalized”? In the sense that actually matters, the marginalization/underrepresentation narrative tells us in response. Conspicuous displays of melanin, the story goes, are reserved for frontstages, i.e., smiling black faces on t.v. screens and in glossy company and university brochures, while all the power behind the scenes is still exercised by the usual suspects: old white men.
In response to this artful dodge, I want to tackle an actual and conspicuous example: Harvard University. Harvard, we can surely agree, is at the epicenter of institutional power in America. But like many contemporary universities, and especially elite universities, Harvard is hard at work using that institutional power to lead an attack upon the culture that created it. Harvard’s English major, for example, was revamped in 2008 to eliminate the chronological survey courses that had given our ever-more functionally illiterate and culturally ignorant students a fundamental background in English literature and substituted electives that would allow them to avoid substantial portions of the British canon and go globetrotting through the diaspora instead. In 2017, Harvard added a requirement that English majors take a victimology course in “marginalized” authors. As it stands now, the revamped English curriculum goes further still, requiring our already intellectually backward contemporary students starting with the Class of ’23, lacking any proper grounding in the English literary tradition, to begin at the end, with a class entitled “Literature Today,” i.e., since the year 2000, which “address[es] current problems of economic inequality, technological change, structural prejudice, and divisive politics.” The subtext is on the surface: this is a prescriptive class in contemporary progressive politics, with the pretext of literariness failing to disguise the bait-and-switch.
The radical agenda is not limited to the curriculum, of course. In 2016, Harvard’s law school, for example, shamefully caved to a student-led pressure campaign to cancel its official seal reproducing the family coat of arms of its founder, Isaac Royall Jr. The reason was Royall’s ties to slavery, despite the fact that the actual crest in no way indicated so much as Royall’s name, such that anyone wishing to uncover the tenuous link to slavery would have had to go to the trouble of figuring out what the design was about and then research the gentleman at issue. Illustrating the hypocrisy of these newly woke institutions, moreover, Harvard, while vanquishing its symbolic ties to Royall, did not see fit to sever its far more substantial material ties to Royall by returning the valuable piece of real estate that he had generously bequeathed to the university to found its law school.
But, once again, the marginalization advocate’s retort might go, such overtures may fall into the category of gestures meant for show, while behind the scenes the usual powers-that-be remain firmly in control.
So who is really in charge at Harvard?, one might wonder. According to the university’s website, one of Harvard’s two governing boards is somewhat infelicitously called the “Board of Overseers.” “Formally established in 1642, the Board plays an integral role in the governance of the University. As a central part of its work, the Board directs the visitation process, the primary means for periodic external assessment of Harvard’s schools and departments.” The Board is composed of 30 Overseers, nominated to serve by the Harvard Alumni Association’s Board of Directors (along with those nominated by petition) and then elected for six-year terms by Harvard alumni.
It is as a member of that last, largest grouping that I recently received my ballot to vote for five out of the newest slate of 11 candidates on offer. I graduated from Harvard Law School in 2000. This is a fact that I used to be embarrassed to admit because of the usual “looking like you’re bragging” problem that graduates of elite universities face (yes, there are much larger problems in the world than that!) but which I am now also embarrassed to admit for a very different reason: as I have explained at length elsewhere, I have lost nearly all respect for these universities, once elite but now coasting on their reputations, because they have all-but-entirely abandoned their educational missions and their missions to serve the important goal (one T.S. Eliot saw as primary) of preserving culture against the unremitting incursions of barbarism and have become, instead, politicized ideological monocultures that are at the heart of sowing divisiveness across the land and unraveling the already-frayed political fabric holding this nation together. Motivated by this consideration among others, I have refused to give any charitable donations to this over-endowed institution and do not so much as keep my current address on file with them. All their mail goes to my parents’ address. This keeps everyone happy: my parents can go on receiving perpetual reminders that their son went to Harvard, while I can avoid those same reminders. Thus, in any event, it was only while I was visiting my parents on a recent occasion that I chanced to come upon one of Harvard’s mailings asking me to vote in their upcoming elections for the Board of Overseers. I decided to take a look.
Here are our candidates, consisting of three men and eight women. Among these 11 individuals, there are:
| exactly one white male, a gentleman named Mark J. Carney, described as a “a globally recognized economist, public servant, and climate action advocate”; and | one white female, Terah Evaleen Lyon, who somehow, despite only graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree from Harvard in 2014, served in the Obama Administration, with her roles including “advis[ing] on issues of diversity and inclusion in the technology industry.”
| Kimberly Nicole Dowdell, the “past president of the National Organization of Minority Architects,” “committed to … equity and inclusion,” who “championed numerous initiatives to increase opportunities for architects of color;” and | Yvette Efevbera, who, “[a]s a global health specialist, … [has] seen the consequences of inequity and advocated for organizations to bring community voices to the table,” “develops strategies and investments addressing barriers girls and women face in her role as Advisor, Gender-Based Violence and Child Marriage, Gender Equality at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” received the NIH’s “Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research,” and states that “[r]acial injustice, gender inequality, and climate inaction impact Harvard students’ success”;
two Latina women:
| Maria Teresa Kumar, “[f]ounding president of Voto Latino, … [t]he country’s largest Latino voter registration organization,” who is “passionate about a just, equitable, and enfranchised country,” “believe[s] education is our best means to achieve greater equity [and] inclusion,” “received the Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s Leadership Award,” and “helped revamp the Harvard Hispanic Journal as a student”; and | Natalie Unterstell, a “Senior International Expert at the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund and founder of a groundbreaking, cross-sector data initiative to protect the Amazon rainforest and its Indigenous inhabitants [who is] working to build a zero-carbon economy and deforestation-free world,” who “believe[s] Harvard has a responsibility to lead on climate action and racial justice through research, education, responsible investments, and recognizing the impact of climate inaction on the most vulnerable communities throughout the world”;
two Asian-American women:
| Sheryl WuDunn, “[t]he first Asian American to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism,” who, with her husband, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, has co-written five books, “including Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide”; and | Chrstiana Goh Bardon, who, aside from letting us know that she is “[a] proud immigrant who came to the U.S. when she was four,” shockingly has nothing else to say to us about her race, gender or passion for diversity, equity, inclusion or social justice, but, just as in the case of Dr. Howard above, managed to convey her pre-commitments to the usual party line on these subjects on her D.E.I. questionnaire (though, perhaps, with a bit more formality and less enthusiasm than some of the other candidates exhibited);
and one Native-American woman:
| Megan Red-Shirt Shaw, who puts her particular tribal affiliation (“Oglala Lakota”) in parentheses immediately after her name as though it were (as it likely is) a career credential comparable to a Ph.D., describes herself as “an advocate for greater Indigenous presence and commitment to Native student success in higher education,” is pursuing an actual Ph.D., including a minor in American Indian Studies, “is the Director of Native Student Services at the University of South Dakota” and tells us that, “[a]s a Lakota educator studying higher education, I’ve challenged the institutions I’ve attended and worked for to think about their impact environmentally, academically, and racially on both a local and national level.”
So, there we go. We have a diverse panel (do we not?), albeit not at all politically diverse. These are the individuals vying for spots as the newest additions to Harvard’s leadership class. I do not make want to make light of them or their credentials or suggest that most of them are in any way less than qualified for the job. Mr. Lohier, for example, is a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (appointed by Barack Obama), and Dr. Howard is a Rhodes Scholar and decorated military veteran, who has served as president of several universities. The qualifications of these candidates have nothing to do with my point, which is focused solely on the racial and gender categories and obvious political commitments of nearly all these individuals.
But perhaps, one might object, this is just the Harvard Overseer Class of 2021, presenting a much-needed corrective to the old white male establishment undoubtedly comprising the bulk of Harvard’s Board of Overseers. Objection overruled. Here are the members of the current board. Their photos and bios do not seem to be online, but here is a photograph I took of my own copy of Harvard’s mailing:
We have here, out of 30 people — assuming the genders of these individuals can be judged by appearances — 11 men and 19 women. Judging, again, largely by appearances (i.e., names and faces), coupled with a bit of targeted Googling to clear up some ambiguities, there are four white men and seven white women (though one of these women, Thea Sebastian, seems intent on pulling a Rachel Dolezal on us by surfacing on lists like this), for a total of just 11 white people out of 30. There are four black men and seven black women, so 11 black people total, exactly equaling the white contingent, both in race and gender. There are four Asian-American women and one Asian-American man. There are two Latin-American men. And there is one Native-American woman.
For those interested in keeping score, what we have here, on one of the governing bodies of one of America’s most powerful institutions and its most readily recognized, most well-endowed university, is that white people, who represent over 76% of the American population, are under 37% of Harvard’s Board of Overseers, a percentage almost certain to diminish still further when the current slate of candidates is voted upon. Black people, representing, again, around 13% of the population, likewise stand at just under 37% of the Board. Marginalization and underrepresentation? No.
I would add here in passing — and to make clear that the demographic underrepresentation of white people that I am seeing is not some unique aberration limited to the Board of Overseers — that the candidates for Harvard’s Alumni Association Board of Directors, the ones responsible for nominating the members of the Board of Overseers for election to their posts, break down along similar racial lines. Among the nine, there is one white man, two white women (neither Anglo-Saxon, for what it is worth), one black man, one black woman, one Latin-American man, one Latin-American woman and two Asian-American men.
Far from a place where blacks are marginalized, Harvard is one that has been completely taken over by woke politics and their aggressive “diversity” agenda that elevates a tribalist concern with superficial racial, gender and sexual characteristics to the highest value in the pantheon. We have every reason to expect the same set of norms and priorities to be in place in other, similar institutions, whether elite universities or professions where graduates of those same universities, and especially of their radicalized humanities departments, predominate, viz., journalism, education, politics and the entertainment industry. I have never seen any proof, however, that the dumbing down of educational standards and the infusion of identitarian tribalism into such elite institutions actually improves in any substantial respect the lives of the large contingent of black Americans disproportionately living in poverty and who are not the ones gaining entry to Harvard or its peer institutions. In that respect, the entire notion of “marginalization” is inherently, down to its rotten core, all about putting on a show to mollify intemperate activists and lighten the load on the guilty consciences of wealthy white liberals.
Let me make this much crystal-clear: I have gone through the motions of engaging in the racial bean-counting exercises above not because I personally think them necessary or desirable, but rather, because the proponents of the marginalization and underrepresentation thesis have made such contemptible calculations necessary to rebut their ungrounded claims. In reality, however, odd as it would be for a majority-white society to yield such an outcome, I would have no problem whatsoever with — and, indeed, would happily vote for — a 100% black Board of Overseers if all the members of that Board were committed to refocusing Harvard on its abandoned educational mission and to defending and restoring respect for learning and high culture rather than attacking these abiding values.
But how, you might wonder, am I going to vote on the current candidates actually on offer, candidates who, I have every reason to believe, will further the politicization and continuing self-destruction of a once-great university? Rest assured that as soon as I am done with using it for the purpose of writing this article, I will be throwing my ballot in the same place all of Harvard’s entreaties for my financial contributions go: the trash.
by James LindsayWhen Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, author of The Gulag Archipelago, gave in his Noble Lecture the credo, “Let the lie come into the world. Let it even triumph. But not through me,” that was based. Not participating in transparent lies or mass delusion is based. Doing so against the madness of the following crowd is based. Nearly everything that it means to be based is either contained within or predicated upon this one trait of character.
Solzhenitsyn wrote those words as a result of his observations living in what may have been the most brutal tyranny of human history: Stalin’s USSR. That simplest of refusals—the refusal to lie on command, or even to fit in—is, in the end, the summary of his observations of what kind of people had what it took to resist a totalitarian regime. Keeping your head down while you hope the unconscionable blows over, say, so you can keep your job but none of your dignity, is not based.
Being unwilling to lie, which is to say being based, is what set Solzhenitsyn’s various heroes apart from the weakness of character, cowardice, and greed that allowed others to survive, if that’s what it can be called. Solzhenitsyn’s brilliance was in observing that, in the end, this trait of character—the willingness to resist lies, be yourself, and tell the truth even when people won’t like you (or will kill you) for it—is one of the small number of necessary characteristics to grind true tyranny to a halt. The other, if you want to know, is laughter. Both of these things, mixed in the right proportions and applied in the right circumstances, make what it means to be based.
Solzhenitsyn’s time in the USSR under Josef Stalin was extreme, but it was not unique. China, Cambodia, and other places saw similar, or even perhaps worse, depending how one counts untellable horrors. While “it could never happen here” is a bit of wishful thinking applied to the question of whether the Nazi regime could ever be repeated in the United States, the ideological conditions and general cowardice that enable these sorts of catastrophes have already come knocking at our door. Their reception has been, from those with the power to answer, troublingly warm.
Though, for the moment, better conditions generally prevail in our day-to-day lives in our teetering Western liberal democratic republics, we have also found ourselves in yet another period in human history when the many millions believe—or at least pretend to believe—outright, transparent lies about the nature of reality, both social and material. What’s more, our elites and the institutions they command have taken the repetition and promulgation of these lies as sure marks of both status and, believe it or not, sanity. That is, once again the lie is coming into the world, and we have been forced to ask ourselves: will it triumph?
That’s an open question, and its answer depends, in turn, upon the answer to the more personal question Solzhenitsyn answered firmly in the negative. Will it come through me? The fate of the future of Western Civilization and Mankind may well hang in the balance of how that question gets answered, and by who, and how many. That is, its answer depends on how many people are willing to get based and stay that way.
The risk is in a peculiar way perverse. If lots of us get based, there’s very little risk to any of us. On the other hand, if only a few of us do, the risk is immense. It’s the prisoner’s dilemma writ large. If a few get based and most don’t, I lose my skin where you might not. If a lot get based, there will be some damage, but it will be minimal. The trouble is that everyone’s self-interest calculation looks straightforward: getting based is a fool’s errand. This misunderstands both the stakes and the truth of the situation. Going based en masse breaks the spell and eliminates the danger. Failing to do so will bring ruin upon all but a few. Put more plainly, you should take the radicals running this show seriously when they say “liberals get the bullet too.”
To me, then, there’s just one option. It’s time to get based and help other people get based. It’s time for based nation. It’s time for a based movement.
Before we begin on such an ambitious venture, however, the origin of the term “based” should be addressed forthrightly because it is profoundly limiting and, in fact, something that prevents being properly and fully based. The term arose online in talking about various ideas that might justify biological racism and referenced being unafraid to say those things because they are politically unfashionable. It arose in being intentionally, and often crudely, politically anti-correct. It arose, frankly, in crowds rightly identified as being “alt-right.” One could say it has expanded from there into something mostly more commendable. I contend something further: that these new early adopters of the mentality were merely re-inventing, typically crudely, something that has been known since time immemorial, while lashing out at the absurd and illegitimate powers of our absolutely ridiculous day. Forget all that edgelord garbage. The Declaration of Independence was based as hell and still is, and no sane person could mistake Thomas Jefferson for some douchey shitposter just looking to rile up some Libs.
Now we can begin. To be based, simply enough, begins with being willing to speak your mind and state objectively true facts about the world even when people don’t like you for it. It means neither lying nor apologizing just because the crowd expects you to, least of all under the absurd implication that doing so makes you more virtuous and brave. It is the refusal to be concerned with what other people think of you when you’re being yourself and the recognition that it doesn’t even make sense to apologize for being true to yourself and your values, telling the truth as well as you can see it, or making a joke, even a bad one. In judo and jujitsu, base is what keeps you from getting thrown, swept, or flipped. Having base is based.
Being based means tolerating most of what’s done in good faith or to lighten the mood. It’s being real with lots of room to play. It elevates the worthy without falling into the indulgent trap of “celebrating” the ordinary, mediocre, and fake. It includes forgiving the trespasses of others when they aren’t rooted in malice and being unwilling to be a doormat when they are. It also means being sensitive but never hypersensitive. When you’re throwing a tantrum, you’ve definitely stopped being based.
Put another way, fitting to our contemporary circumstances, being based is the opposite of being Woke. Woke is wholly intolerant of everything but itself. It, because it is cynical of every motivation, it never acts in good faith. It brings down every mood and celebrates the worthless and the ugly so long as these take no shame in themselves for being worthless and ugly. Woke forgiveness is impossible because, to the Woke, forgiveness would justify the sin. It demands absolute conformity and tolerates no dissent. It defines hypersensitivity, elevates it as a virtue, and, as a result, is always throwing a tantrum.
Obviously, Solzhenitsyn wasn’t writing about the Woke in The Gulag Archipelago, but what he was writing about was another species in the same totalitarian genus. He was writing about people who, due in large part to their ideological commitments, had become “conscious” of a pseudo-real distortion of the world that we otherwise all must share. The lies he admonished us not to live by might be different lies in specific, but they hold up the same sort of regime in general: a tyranny simultaneously doomed to fail and, according to the preposterous theory informing it, unable to fail. The lies serve this intolerable contradiction, and, in the end, so does the censorship, the gaslighting, the caprice, and the murder, by the tens of millions, if necessary. According to Solzhenitsyn, the one remedy to this sort of incomprehensible (and avoidable) tragedy is to, in a word, get based.
There are, in the end, only two things that can tear such a regime down, and they are, as it happens, interrelated. They are the two most powerful weapons against tyranny in the human arsenal: telling the truth, including by refusing the lie, and laughter. Both are based, and to win both are necessary. While Solzhenitsyn tells us that the whole of a tyrannical regime can be brought down in the end by a single person repeatedly telling the truth, the fact is that the USSR that tyrannized him actually fell when its subjects—for citizens they were not—began to laugh at it. So, where being based begins in a certain stoicism, it’s the most based when it’s stoicism with a sense of humor.
Humor isn’t necessary but is the key to being truly based. Absurdity must be exposed, and no acid is more corrosive to the absurdity of tyranny than laughter pointed in its general direction. So, while being based begins with being unapologetic in yourself and the truth, whatever anyone thinks, it does this ideally while being funny. Power, as it happens, abhors a laugh, at least when it’s not based (based power abides). The more seriously anything takes itself, then, the less based it is, and, in turn, the less able to withstand the based it can be. Voltaire was based; John Oliver is an asshole. This is why the left can’t meme. Meme culture is based. The left is not based. (All your base are belong to us, indeed.)
In a very real sense, being based means being able to roll with the joke and knowing that when someone can’t, it’s on them. The based don’t apologize for jokes because they understand that, simply enough, the only people who would demand an apology for a joke didn’t get it—and that’s not at all based. Jokes are meant to dissolve pretense, and there’s nothing more pretentious in the world than asking someone to take back a joke. Some jokes aren’t funny, and in that case, all that’s needed is to let them fall flat.
This isn’t to say, of course, that being based means being disparaging. Far from it. That’s an earlier and more pitiable iteration of based. As noted above, the based are a tolerant lot, unless it’s of pretense, unfairness, cruelty, or bullshit. Disparagement and bullying aren’t cool—and thus they are primary modes of the Woke—so they sure as hell aren’t based. Jokes are subversive. Jokes erode power everywhere it is abused. Jokes burn off the dead wood and leave what’s green, what’s authentic, untouched. Being based includes understanding the difference.
In fact, the subversive humor of being based is what makes being based so open instead of being closed. It is by its very nature irreverent and sometimes crude, but it always punches up, as they say. It is, after all, based, meaning being planted squarely on the ground. In that regard, being based means recognizing the plain fact that life is, on the balance, a comedy rather than a tragedy, and the more pretentious and unaware those in power are of this fact, the funnier their absurdities become.
To strike a more philosophical tone, being based means having common sense in a postmodern context. Like it or not, “Postmodernity” is the name for the time in which we live. It’s a time of images, corporate gloss, and a certain imposed detachment from the real. If you’re Woke, you think this is a weapon. If you’re based, it’s funny as hell, and, let me tell you something, brother, we’re not going to hesitate to drop our best memes from the top rope. The politics of parody are infinitely lame against the relentlessly subversive power of kayfabe. The cream, after all, rises to the top. You may not like it, but you have no choice but to accept it.
To put that somewhat more seriously, the difference between being based and being Woke is the difference between laughter and shame. Comedy and satire have always had incredible subversive potential against illegitimate power because they get those seduced by that power to laugh at themselves for being a bunch of rubes and fools. That makes them based. Shame has no subversive potential. It’s the tool of tools and scolds. It bends people only to a certain point, and that point is precisely the moment at which they finally laugh. This is why based will always defeat Woke. Because Woke is dumb.
The subversive world of the based is one of pushing boundaries so that the arbitrary and pretentious ones fall even while the real ones are allowed to stand. In this observation is all the difference between humor and shame and thus all the distance between based and Woke. Humor washes away the absurd in a tide of laughter and leaves behind what’s real and what really matters—that’s based. Shame doesn’t. It just knocks everything over in its ridiculous attempt to prove that it’s the only thing that isn’t absurd—so not based; totally cringe, in fact. That is, humor is gentle while shame is crude, and humor is alive where shame is afraid to live. This is why the based roll with the joke. This is why the Woke laugh at nothing. It’s because they have no base.
Tyranny is knocking, and we need to get based. Solzhenitsyn told us what it would take to stand up to the end of the world, and what it boils down to is being based—and being based for our times. Our times are absurd, but this doesn’t diminish the threat. Still, in the end, there’s nothing new under this yellow Sun, and, as ever, the truly absurd cannot possibly abide people who completely refuse to take them seriously. The future, then, belongs to the based, not to the clowns. That future is ours because the future is based.
Freedom is ours for the taking. The lies are coming into the world, and, for the moment, they have begun to triumph. Lord, though, are they funny. Being based is little more, then, than a laughing refusal to be pushed around by the preposterous. It’s a refusal to go along with the crowd when the crowd has gone mad. While many people seem to realize that there is some problem, only the based realize not only that its safer and healthier to break away, but that it’s also hilarious. The based aren’t about to live by ridiculous lies because they’ll be too busy laughing the bottom out from under them.
by Donna M.Thirty-five years ago, I convinced another girl to eat a cow pie.
It’s hard to admit this – it’s actually awful, really. The short story is that it was a counselor-approved camp “initiation” ceremony (aka “hazing”), and that I actually stopped her before she did it. But there was a minute or two where I looked this girl in the eye and told her everyone else had done it and it wasn’t a big deal and she believed me. She believed me. And here’s the worst part: despite it all, I blamed her for being so gullible. I was thirteen, and I believed someone that stupid and easily pressured didn’t deserve my respect. To subdue any shame in my own brain, I convinced myself it was her fault.
But it wasn’t her fault. And over the next few years the memory of that moment and her trust in me slowly ate away at me. I couldn’t believe I had done it, that she had believed me, that the other girls (and counselor) had just let me make this outrageous demand. That I had briefly believed that because I had stopped her from doing this horrible thing that I was somehow excused from the guilt of starting it in the first place. Worst of all was realizing that I had that power, and that I could so easily abuse it. Which meant that other people could do that sort of thing, too. It was horrifying and humbling.
A few years later, in the first month of my freshman year at college, a nerdy boy latched on to the two “alternative” girls on the hall. The first one wore heavy eyeliner and made her own artsy clothes. The second one listened to grunge music, had a nose ring, and stashed a clandestine goldfish in her room. They were wicked cool. Anyone could see that.
The boy was a classic music geek. Thick glasses, horrible bowl haircut, collared shirts buttoned up to his neck. He was super intelligent and sweet, but had the street smarts of a ten-year-old. A few weeks into the school year, the two cool girls announced they were going to give him a fashion make-over. To my horror, he was thrilled at this idea. I tried to articulate my concerns, but I was dismissed as a stick-in-the-mud. They tromped down to the local second-hand clothing store and returned later with his new-and-approved wardrobe. This being the nineties, it was a lot of flannel shirts.
For a few weeks, he was blessed with their attention and a spot with them at lunch. By Thanksgiving, the girls had moved on to dating upper classman and ignoring him, and music boy was spending hours in the practice rooms of the music building. In the end, he came through alright, but my respect for the cool girls was gone. Whatever their intentions, whatever his willingness, they had dared to assume that they knew what suited him better than he did.
Last summer, four months into Covid, my son’s mild depression kicked up into something more serious. Isolated and lonely, he spent hours online on reddit and discord connecting with friends and strangers. The one school friend he kept in touch with was a girl we’d known for a while, slightly funky, but generally pretty cool. As he began to sink lower, it was clear she was becoming more important to him. When I asked if he might have a crush on her, he’d responded that she was a lesbian. My response: “Every high school boy should have a lesbian friend.” I thought he was in good hands.
Forty-eight hours after my son announced to us that he thought he might be trans, this teen girl sent me a text congratulating me on having a trans son, saying I must be so proud, and offering to help educate me if I had any questions. You might be surprised to hear that I did not take a teenage girl up on her offer of advice on the psychosocial and sexual development of my son.
Her gall continued. It was clear she had found a new venue for her deep desire to venge justice upon the world. Clearly, this was a wounded and neglected trans boy whose parents just didn’t understand him. Despite her busy schedule of therapy to deal with her anorexia, cutting, and suicide attempt, she found time to provide him clothing and test out nail polish on him.
Over the next few months, we scrambled to find a good therapist, add in an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medicine, and try to expand our son’s world. By January, he was pulling out of his depression, desisting from his trans identity, engaged and happy, and doing well in school.
In late winter, he invited a few friends over (socially distanced – relax!), including the now “non-binary” girl. As a gift, she snuck him some more girl’s clothes.
Which he has not worn.
Every few days, I surreptitiously check the pile of girl’s clothing to see if they’ve been worn. For weeks, they’ve been gathering dust. He’s moved on, but I fear she has not. When will she inquire? It’s the unwanted gift from the lesbian ex-crush girl friend who thinks she’s being helpful. Where’s the Hallmark Card for that one? “Sorry I Confused You and Everyone but It Was a Super Weird Teenage Stage and Can We All Just Pretend That Didn’t Happen?”
And how do we get these teenage girls to back off? They’ve been inundated with conflicting messages that warn them that #MeToo status is threatening them around every corner, or “Girls Can Do Anything” platitudes bejeweled on backpacks. They think they are both more powerful and more fragile than they really are. How can we get them to realize their role is to find that deep sacred truth inside themselves and protect it, while also honoring the dignity of the people around them?
Listen up teenage girls – and for any adults in the wings, this is for you, too. If someone tells you they think they might be trans, your job is not to fix them. If they seem anxious, depressed, or have low self-esteem, being supportive does not mean blind affirmation nor any affirmation at all. This person is fragile, yes. This person needs friendship and support. But the best thing you can say is “I really like you just as you are. Right now.” Anything else, any slight tipping of the scale, or gentle breath on their sail reflects deep narcissism on your part. You are not God. This is not your call to make nor your battle to wage. Back off.
The hubris of the teenage mind is not a new thing. What is new is this sudden cultural amnesia that forgets that adolescence is marked by these painful periods of self-doubt, cruel acts of bullying, and humiliating errors in self-perception. Grown-ups know this. We think we’re being so kind and so thoughtful by “following the child’s lead” when it comes to gender identity, but if we’re letting kids lead, we’re just acting like children. Let kids be kids. Let teenagers be teenagers. But it’s time for us adults to act like grown-ups.
“Unlike traditional approaches to civil rights, which favor incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory calls into question the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and the neutral principles of constitutional law.” From Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, first edition (2001), by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, p. 3.
“Crits [Critical Race Theorists] are highly suspicious of another liberal mainstay, namely, rights.” From Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, first edition (2001), by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, p. 23.
Critical Race Theorists describe Critical Race Theory as a movement (which is strange for a theory of society) designed to reinvent the relationships between race, racism, and power in society. To do this, they begin with the assumption that race is socially constructed and racism is systemic. This means that they view racial categories as social and political fictions that have been imposed by white people on people of color, especially blacks, and that the “system” upon which all of society operates on every level unjustly produces “racist” outcomes that favor whites (and minority races that adhere to “whiteness”) at the expense of people of color, especially Latinos and, even more especially, blacks. Because racism is a property of the system, which includes everything from policy to behavioral norms to manners of speech to what we consider true, racism persists even if no individual or institution acts in a racist way or holds any racist beliefs. It is the way society operates that is racist, as can be determined by the fact that there are statistical differences in average outcomes by racial category.
Critical Race Theory proceeds upon a number of dubious assumptions and by means of a variety of questionable methods, including
Racism isordinary: Critical Race Theory holds that “racism is the ordinary state of affairs in society,” thus the question in Critical Race Theory is not “did racism take place?” but “how did racism manifest in this situation?” Thus, racism is relevant to all interactions and everything else that happens according to Critical Race Theory, and it is everyone’s duty to investigate, expose, and “disrupt” this racism once identified.
Immanence of racism: As a corollary to the above, racism is believed to be immanent in society, which means hidden just below the surface and everywhere, always, according to Critical Race Theory. Therefore, all acts of racism are not to be understood as isolated incidents by individuals or institutions but as specific manifestations of a pervasive system that defines society. (This is why justice is not achieved by finding a police officer guilty; the system must be remade instead.)
Interest convergence: Critical Race Theory holds that dominant racial groups (whites) will not help more oppressed racial groups (blacks, in particular) unless it is also in their own self-interest to do so. Therefore, racism does not go away but is just reproduced in new ways, usually ways that hide it more successfully and require more work to identify in the future (through Critical Race Theory). Therefore, racism doesn’t get better and, in a sense, gets worse over time because it gets harder to identify and call out.
Motivated ignorance: Dominant racial groups (whites) are positioned as benefiting from the system of racism Critical Race Theory assumes pervades everything and therefore have little to no motivation to challenge or change it. Instead, they have motivation to intentionally ignore racism (“willful ignorance”) , to maintain it, and to rationalize it as justified (say, by claiming success is the result of merit). Refusal to “interrogate” one’s own “white complicity” in the racist system is often treated as a character flaw (e.g., “white fragility”) and a feature of white privilege. This trait, together with the above, gives racism a permanence, according to Critical Race Theory.
Structural determinism: Critical Race Theory holds that the systems of oppression in society determine one’s outcomes in life. Therefore, people of color (especially blacks) are positioned by the allegedly white supremacist system to be kept down, and it is the deterministic power of those power structures (rather than individual traits like character or merit) that determine success or failure in life.
Authentic racial experiences (engaging positionality): Critical Race Theory holds that systemic racism creates identifiable racial experiences for members of all racial groups. Further, Critical Race Theory is the only social theory in existence that properly understands how one’s racial social position with respect to these power dynamics can be rightly understood. Therefore, members of each racial category have an authentic racial experience as determined by Critical Race Theory that describes their lived experience within an allegedly white supremacist and systemically racist system that is, especially, “anti-Black.” When these perspectives are put forth by a member of the relevant racial category, they cannot be questioned. When a contradictory perspective is put forth by a member of the relevant racial category, that person is said to have some form of false consciousness, such as “internalized racism” or a cynical desire to “act white” for personal gain.
Unique voice of color: Corollary to the above, Critical Race Theory holds that critically conscious (Woke / Critical Race Theorist) members of minority racial groups possess a unique voice of color that speaks to the lived experience of systemic oppression by race, as Critical Race Theory defines it. This is another tool for asserting that Critical Race Theorists cannot be doubted in their declarations of their experience “as a” member of a particular race.
Identity politics: Critical Race Theory is unabashedly involved in identity politics in the sense of creating special interest groups and political coalitions out of racial identity groups. This tends to take the form of a small number of Critical Race Theory activists speaking for certain racial “communities,” using the points above as justification.
Impact over intent: Critical Race Theory holds that if a (critically conscious) member of a minoritized racial group has experienced racism in some word or deed, then that’s the correct explanation for what happened, and it cannot be questioned. This empowers hypersensitivity and a victimhood-seeking frame.
Anti-liberalism: As can be read in the quotes at the top of the page, Critical Race Theory holds that the philosophy of liberalism is, in fact, a racist system because it creates conditions under which existing inequities (inequalities in outcomes) increase while misleading people to believe that things are more fair than they are.
Narrative and counterstorytelling: Critical Race Theory favors the telling of stories, especially stories that challenge prevailing wisdom or reject established knowledge (usually resting in lived experience and/or statistical exceptions and outliers) as a means of challenging and rejecting facts in favor of politically useful statements and beliefs. Narrative is considered superior to careful, rigorous methodologies, which are believed to have been established from within the “white racial frame,” for example, and that therefore uphold white supremacy, either intentionally or unintentionally.
Revisionist history: Critical Race Theorists believe it is their obligation to rewrite history to tell it from the perspective of Critical Race Theory (even if factually inaccurate—because of the reliance on narratives and counterstories) rather than fact-based or official history, which is deemed to have been written from within the “white racial frame,” which is believed to uphold systemic racism and white supremacy. This is the role of the 1619 Project.
Intersectionality: All forms of oppression by all forms of identity are linked into one broad, pervasive “Matrix of Domination,” thus necessitating solidarity across all forms of oppression.
Believe Moms: There's Something Else Going on With Trans Teens
by Donna M.
Let’s start with a caveat: I love passion. I do. And I have a deep, strong instinct to stick up for people whom I think are ignored or mistreated. I’m a typical bleeding-heart liberal. You know me: coexistence bumper sticker and a cloth grocery sack. I feel your pain, I do.
So let me assure you, I love those incredibly self-assured, brash, righteous, young activists who are screaming for trans rights. I see you. I’ve been one of you, too, believe it or not. And occasionally, I still go out with my protest sign and my sensible sneakers to make some noise on behalf of those who are ignored or mistreated. That’s all okay – and it’s good, and it’s necessary.
But today, I’d like you all to just take a deep breath and center some voices that are being silenced and ignored: the moms of the world. Because we moms might have a few things we’ve learned along the way, and you might save yourself a hoarse voice and some embarrassment by just stopping for a minute and listening. You might just shift your idea of who needs our protection right now.
A few weeks ago, I published an open letter about my Weird Son and his sudden and very unlikely self-diagnoses of being transgender. To my surprise, it was blocked as “Hate Speech” by Medium. Apparently, acknowledging that someone is weird (by the way we all are) is just too too much for our society to hear. It was picked up by New Discourses (thanks James!) where it has had a good run.
Among the many comments was the theme: “Her son is probably trans and she just can’t tell. She’s just oblivious. She’s probably just been ignoring the signs. She should just believe him. She’s a bad mom.”
Beside the laughable idea that a stranger on the internet could adequately diagnose a teenager from afar by readinga description of him written by his mother, I was bothered by the dismissal of a mother’s observations and insights. As if what mothers observe, note, and infer is somehow not to be trusted or valued. There is a knee-jerk reaction out there against the moms of the world. Let’s just call this “misomatery,” a hatred of mothers. (My apologies to the Classics majors of the world.)
It is time to stop dismissing mothers. Because these women are the experts on their children.
And yes, no person can read the thoughts inside another person’s head, nor perfectly measure every emotion someone else feels, but moms are as close to that as it gets. The survival of our species has depended on moms being able to read their children accurately. Was that newborn’s cry hunger or a wet diaper? Is that strange cough and fever within the normal range, or should we blast off to the doctor? Are you really too sick to go to school? There is even a fancy term for this: “mother’s intuition.”
But amazingly, within the context of transgender politics and medicine, these insights are dismissed. The broader culture’s wide-spread misomateric attitude tells teens: if your parents question your self-diagnosed gender dysphoria and are skeptical about your trans identity, they are transphobic and you should ignore them. Trans activists reject parental surveys as being inaccurate or irrelevant (unlike, say, parent reports of a child having depression or tics). Schools begin to socially transition kids without parents’ approval because they think they know these kids better than the parents do.
And incredibly, within mothers, internalized misomatery begins to build. We start to doubt ourselves. Did we really miss evidence of our child’s true nature for years and years? Are we really those bad mothers who have been blind to years and years of our children’s deep distress? Let me tell you, that’s possible, but it’s just not probable. Too many of us are seeing the same thing.
Over the past few months, I’ve joined a community of parents working to help support our trans-identified sons. We’re up to around seventy now, and we’ve coordinated to uncover research studies, track down experts, build surveys and gather data, share ideas and insights, and grapple with the possible ramifications of different treatment options.
Here’s what we see: there is something else going on with this spike of transgender teen boys. These are kids who were “typical” boys in early childhood. They did not cross-dress, they did not demand nor even show much interest in the toys of the other sex. They were completely “normal” until their sudden announcement between ages 14-16.
Well – not completely normal. 100% of the boys in our group are socially awkward. 64% have anxiety, 52% have depression, 40% have ADHD, and around 50% have Autism or Autism-like behaviors (our survey total is 67). Amazingly, over 85% of these kids are gifted (IQ above 130). Sadly, 20% of them have recently experienced a significant trauma such as the death or chronic illness of a parent or sibling. But generally, these are nerdy, awkward boys on the edges of their social circles. Some of them have no friends at all. Despite their announcements, these boys still strongly lean towards the “masculine”: we’ve got lots of video gamers, chess players, computer programmers, D&D, debate club and math club kids. Some of these boys might be gay, and a few say they’re straight, but mostly they’re just sexually inexperienced and/or late-bloomers.
This is not your grandma’s transgenderism. This has nothing to do with Caitlyn Jenner. This is not Jazz Jennings. These are not boys with a strange sexual fetish. These are not porn addicts. These are boys who acknowledge they had never even questioned their gender until quite recently. Most of them have not changed their public behavior or requested female pronouns. These are lonely, isolated, and confused boys, trying to understand why they feel so different.
They need our help and our sympathy – but they don’t need your “affirmation.”
Because we should all agree that kids with mental health issues should have treatments that are safe and effective. And the “affirmation” model is a complete mess. There is no “brain scan” for being trans – there is no biological marker - this is just based on a “feeling.” Affirming doesn’t actually decrease suicide. Puberty-blocking hormones are being used off-label to treat gender-dysphoric children, and the latest study from Tavistock show they don’t actually improve mental health. Cross-sex hormones and surgeries permanently alter a child’s body, by stunting growth (always) and weakening bones (often), and by decreasing IQ (likely), increasing cardio risks (likely), and sterilizing and eliminating sexual function. And even then, they don’t always work. Just ask the over 17,000 desisters and detransitioners in their twenties on reddit!
The old model of watchful waiting seemed to work, though. We know that most (60-85%) young children with gender dysphoria who were left alone came to terms with their birth sex by the time they were 18. We know that psychotherapy has a long history of helping people deal with their mental distress.
And these kids are in distress. They’re lonely, they’re sad, and they are vulnerable. Most of them are struggling with underlying mental health issues. A fair number of them are “weird.” All of them are struggling with the growing pains of adolescence. Perhaps some of them will persist. But a fair chunk of them will not.
But we do know that kids and teens do not have the emotional or cognitive capacity to make these choices themselves. Our teen boys can’t even remember to put the ice cream away - let alone floss their teeth or wear coats on cold days. Their brains are literally not capable of accurately assessing risks or predicting consequences. That’s why they have mothers (and fathers)!
So here’s my idea: let’s start listening to mothers. Let’s center their voices. Let’s overthrow the misomateric idea that what mothers think and observe doesn’t matter. Let’s believe moms, and trust moms. So when a mom says “hey, my kid isn’t trans, he’s just weird, and he’s just fine” we say yes – we believe you. Because you are a mom.
Now put down your “trans women are women” posters. Stop shouting TERF at me. Stop it with the blind affirmation. And get your drugs and surgery and pathology and cult-like messaging away from my vulnerable kid. Stop, and really listen. There are some voices that need to be heard - and they aren’t yours.
Land Acknowledgment Statements: The Cultural Violence of the Academic Elite
by Adam Ellwanger After a quick search of my email history, I discovered that it was about 5 years ago when people who work in universities began commonly listing their preferred personal pronouns in email communications and syllabi, a trend which has now rapidly spread across the corporate world and social media.
While the stated purpose of explicitly naming one’s pronouns is to foster inclusion and tolerance, the practice actually performs two unstated functions. The first is to compel compliance from those who might not be willing to cooperate with the increasingly complicated lexicon that grows out of the pronoun wars. The paper trail generated through daily institutional interaction (which frequently indicates preferred pronouns) is used to force dissidents to comply. If you “misgendered” someone and that person wishes to file a formal complaint with the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, it is a great boon for their case if they can prove you were aware of their preferred pronouns by showing email communications where they made their preferences clear to you.
The second unstated purpose of listing one’s pronouns is to signify one’s membership in the priestly castes of university life: those intellectuals who, by mastering a complex vocabulary that eludes the grasp of regular people, demonstrate their superior respect for human dignity and their deeper concern for the many marginalized communities in the racist, fascist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynous hellscape some people still insist on calling “America.” The ways that this group indicates their status among the clerics of social justice often parallels the performative aspects of religious sacraments. Naming pronouns when introducing oneself takes on a formalized, ritualistic character that is akin to making the sign of the cross at the end of a prayer. It serves to signal one’s profound devotion to a particular way of understanding the world.
Recently, though, the growing banality of naming pronoun preferences has created a problem for the clerisy of academic wokeness: once everyone is identifying their pronouns, doing so can no longer demonstrate your moral and intellectual superiority. Put differently, the common people – non-academics who really don’t have the critical-theoretical perspective to understand the catechisms of the cult to which they unwittingly claim to belong – have stripped away the means by which the true believers of the intelligentsia established their status among the elite. Thus, a new strategy for indicating one’s membership in the priestly class had to be devised.
That new strategy has now arrived on most college campuses, so you can expect to encounter it in Nike’s advertising before too long. Imported from countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, where Postcolonial Theory is more prominent than in the US, Weapon X in the rhetorical arms race that pervades academic wokeness has reached American shores: it is called the “Land Acknowledgement Statement.” As was the case with preferred pronouns, examples are most commonly found in formal textual documents that circulate within institutional contexts. Needless to say (to borrow some vocabulary from the woke themselves), the Land Acknowledgement Statements are rather “problematic.”
So, what is a Land Acknowledgement Statement? According to the University of Connecticut’s website, it is “a formal statement that recognizes and respects Native peoples as traditional stewards of lands. The statement highlights the enduring relationship between Native peoples and their traditional territories.” Generally speaking, these statements consist of a few sentences, placed at the top of a university syllabus or read at the beginning of an academic presentation, which “acknowledge” that the land on which the institution sits was once in possession of Native American people, of one tribe or another.
Some examples of these statements are in order, then.
At Queens University, a syllabus for Psychology 251 (Developmental Psychology) begins “Let us acknowledge that Queen’s [University] is situated on traditional Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee territory. We are grateful to be able to live, learn and play on these lands. To acknowledge this traditional territory is to recognize its longer history, one predating the establishment of the earliest European colonies. It is also to acknowledge this territory’s significance for the Indigenous Peoples who lived, and continue to live, upon it and whose practices and spiritualities were tied to the land and continue to develop in relationship to the territory and its other inhabitants today.”
At the University of Texas, an Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion invited all faculty to include the following statement on their Engineering (!) syllabi: “I/we would like to acknowledge that we are meeting on Indigenous land. Moreover, I/we would like to acknowledge and pay our respects to the Carrizo & Comecrudo, Coahuiltecan, Caddo, Tonkawa, Comanche, Lipan Apache, Alabama-Coushatta, Kickapoo, Tigua Pueblo, and all the American Indian and Indigenous Peoples and communities who have been or have become a part of these lands and territories in Texas, here on Turtle Island.” While the inclusion of the statement remains a “suggestion” for faculty, opting out of such a suggestion from a Dean would certainly raise some eyebrows at any public university today.
We cannot properly understand this new trend without asking why it is suddenly necessary to make such statements. After all, almost everyone already knows that any land in the modern-day United States was probably controlled by Native Americans at some point. This is not new or obscure knowledge. What gives?
The fact that these statements imply a moral duty to acknowledge facts that are already well-known is a primary indicator that the Land Acknowledgement Statements are performing some function beyond merely “acknowledging” land ownership. One covert purpose is to put students on notice as to which worldview and ideology will be privileged in a given course. By immediately drawing an audience’s attention to “historical injustice” in a context of, say, a chemistry class, the instructor signals to students that they are in a space where the politics of grievance will be honored and encouraged. Further, the Land Acknowledgement Statement serves to compel a certain penitential attitude that is a prerequisite for the functioning of “critical pedagogies.” By clarifying that the university is a beneficiary of a program of cultural violence, Land Acknowledgement Statements make it clear to students that they are “complicit” in this legacy of violence and exclusion merely by matriculating at the school in question.
But beyond the ways that these statements enforce a particular politics and preemptively deter classroom dissent, and beyond the fact that they represent a kind of virtue-signaling that marks one’s belonging to the intellectual elite, there are a number of problems with this trend. First, consider how the statement from University of Texas names no fewer than ten tribes before concluding the sentence with an embarrassed “etcetera,” which acknowledges “all the [other] American Indian and Indigenous Peoples and communities who have been or have become a part of these lands”. The truth of the matter is that any piece of land in the modern-day United States was likely held by various native tribes over the course of the Pre-Columbian era and the early American republic. In other words, we can’t even be sure who needs to be “acknowledged” for the land: much of the information is lost to history. Further, the very fact that any given territory was under the control of various tribes over time indicates that the same strategies that European-Americans used to take these lands from native peoples (war, colonization, broken treaties, buying and selling, etc.) were regularly employed by native peoples themselves prior to the arrival of Europeans.
Even more troubling, though, is the way the Land Acknowledgement Statement imposes decidedly Western, capitalist notions of ownership and property upon Native Americans, who, in many tribes, viewed their relationship with the land in ways that starkly contrast our attitudes today. Around 1885, Crowfoot (Chief of the Blackfeet) explained that “We cannot sell the lives of men and animals; therefore, we cannot sell this land. It was put here for us by the Great Spirit and we cannot sell it because it does not belong to us” (emphasis added).
Massasoit Sachem (leader of the Wampanoag confederacy) is reputed to have asked “What is this you call property? It cannot be the earth, for the land is our mother, nourishing all her children, beasts, birds, fish and all men. The woods, the streams, everything on it belongs to everybody and is for the use of all.” Similar quotations from other tribes are not difficult to find. Although these ideas were not shared by all tribes, this ambivalence toward private property and a symbiotic relationship with the land are two of the characteristics that academics often cite as proof that the Native Americans’ ethical sensibilities were superior to that of the Euro-Americans, then and now.
Thus, by “acknowledging” the native claims to a piece of land and implying that these claims supersede and negate the claim that modern local and federal governments make upon the territory, the Land Acknowledgement Statements erase the very particularities of Native American cultures that these academics purport to honor and preserve. In short, the non-Native academics speak on behalf of the people whose dignity they claim to uphold: by appropriating the right of those people to speak, they inadvertently inflict the very sort of cultural violence that they profess to abhor. If, as Massasoit said, anything that modern Americans call “property” is “for the use of all,” why, exactly, should anyone be obligated to apologize for using it? The Land Acknowledgement Statements thus rewrite the Native American ethos by defining it in terms of the same values and attitudes that animated the systematic destruction of tribal life by the colonial powers.
On the other hand, Land Acknowledgement Statements create a concerning problem within Western constitutional law. Consider, for example, that the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits the seizure of property from American citizens without warrant. This constitutional protection only extends to legally owned property and, crucially, not stolen property. With every new Land Acknowledgement Statement, an institution reiterates and normalizes the idea that it has no lawful right to maintain that land and, should the right circumstances arise, may find it seized from them unreasonably though legally and without constitutional protection. Notice that Land Acknowledgement Statements therefore carry the profoundly subversive potential to undermine the Fourth Amendment without repealing it and without changing a single word in it. This presents a glaring danger.
The lessons here are twofold. Recall that the primary purpose of these statements is not to do justice to the victims of historical oppression but rather to signify one’s affinity for the performative rituals of academic wokeness. The first lesson, then, is that the intellectual elite who fetishize the tragic stories of marginalized groups in America are less interested in redressing those sufferings than they are using them to maintain their membership in an elite group that is far removed from the plight of the “Other” (as they might say).
The second lesson is a darker one; one that the progressive left would do well to learn. Enamored as they are with the postmodern tradition of critical theory which they name-check when “speaking truth to power,” they miss one of the central insights of postmodern philosophy: that one can never get outside the network of power to speak truth to it. In their enthusiasm for condemning or humbling the entities that they identify as culturally-empowered ones, they forget that any gesture like a “Land Acknowledgement Statement” is itself an exercise of power. Through their attempts to honor the culture of historically-marginalized groups to which they do not belong – trying to create a space for those cultures to speak on their own behalf – they only end up speaking for them. In this way, they reenact the same legacies of privilege and appropriation that they disdain. So much for checking one’s privilege.
The fight against the ideology called Wokeness is gaining ground for the first time in a decade, if not decades. People increasingly understand what it is and why it is a terrible, inhuman, and inhumane ideology that has no place governing our societies. They also increasingly and rightly see it as a puritanical religious movement built upon a perverse faith, which they are starting to reject. They also increasingly understand it to be a takeover ideology with profound roots in totalitarian, racist, and communist thought that should not be empowered and must be fought. Certainly, we have a great deal of work still to do, especially practically, to fight this ideology and its remarkable bid to take over our society and culture, but people are waking up. Though I may look a bit far down the road in saying so, now we need somewhere to go.
If we continue fighting back—for pushing back is no longer enough—intelligently and firmly against the ideology of Critical Social Justice and the Woke movement it has spawned, we will find ourselves on the road to a post-Woke world, and it is not yet clear what that might look like. It is therefore necessary now, even this early in this ideological war, to set the values that should guide us into a post-Woke era so that we might enter a new era of flourishing and prosperity after this diabolical attempt to snuff out the light of Western civilization and human freedom. These values must be comprehended and asserted starting now as we begin the next phase in the fight to leave Woke ideology behind us, hopefully in the dustbin of history. Here, I offer four cardinal values to orient ourselves toward for the establishment of a post-Woke world that’s full of promise and prosperity. These are truth, beauty, liberty, and merit.
Truth is the truth, and it is above all the first virtue and guiding light of a post-Woke world. That is, a post-Woke world must be based on the relentless and uncompromising pursuit of objective truth, external to any particular individual or affinity group or its nearest approximation. Your truth will not do; neither will my truth. These are subjective heuristics useful in your own life but meaningless beyond that, and it’s time we remembered that fact. The weight of evidence, power of reason, and process of what has been termed “liberal science” must bear on every claim upon the truth in an honest effort to keep what is of value there and discard that which is in error.
The truth is humbling, and it is liberating in the genuine sense of the word. We, as mere men, are subject to the truth of the world and the truths of our own nature as beings in this world, and we are not above them. We can understand “your truth” and “my truth” merely as suggestions—not conclusions—in a broader conversation upon which reason, evidence, and criticism must bear. The goal is understanding the world as it is, including ourselves, our place within it, and how we might best relate to one another. It is the pursuit of getting things right, knowing that any discomfort this creates will protect against greater discomforts when the lie of our folly is eventually revealed to us by the world itself. Lies may for long be sustained against people, but they cannot be sustained against the world, which merely is and doesn’t change because we hope it will or, in our smallness and fear, believe we need it to.
We have no options except to humble ourselves before that which is true or to rise in our hubris against it only to eventually be humiliated by it. By recognizing this, we can orient ourselves with that which is true—what many of faith have called God, or what the Daoists have referred to as Dao, the Way—and free ourselves from the limitations of our own short-sightedness, stupidity, and greed. The Daoists believe that when man goes with the Way—how it is, truly—then he is free and things go well. It is by asserting ourselves against the Way that we create our own catastrophes and suffer the inevitable consequences. By humbling ourselves to how the world really is, which is to the truth, we free ourselves from the suffering that always follows from the disastrous combination of ignorance and pride.
Ironically, there is little need for any individual in a society that values truth to know much truth or even to pursue it with the sort of rigor we expect out of an idealized scientist. Everyone can push their own ideas, which likely often serve their own narrow interests and spring from their own narrow understanding, so long as they are humbled before the process that, in the end, defers to truth. This process has been identified as requiring only two general principles: no one has special authority and no one gets final say. Insights must be put up against other insights in a conversation that never ends, and thus no one becomes empowered as the arbiter of truth, which would inherently be corrupting—a point the postmodernists were right about in the wrong way. Once these principles are combined with a general attitude of respect for reason and deference to evidence and methodology, we have oriented ourselves toward the truth. Thus, these values must be sacred to man, and they must serve as the basis for a post-Woke world.
The call to center truth in a post-Woke world is a call to rekindle the Enlightenment and reawaken its brightest lights, which are currently being dimmed and even snuffed out. It is the rejection of the foolish arrogance of radical subjectivity in favor of an imperfect but worthy goal of discovery. It is to understand the world as it is so that we might flourish in it as it is. To value the truth is to eschew fantasy and ideology and embrace reality, and a great lesson of history is that, though this is difficult, it is possible. Societies flourish and prosperity follows when we orient toward the truth. Valuing and desiring the truth—the whole truth and nothing but the truth, as it is said, in those places where it matters most—must therefore be the first pillar of the post-Woke world we aim to inhabit.
A world without beauty is a dead world. A world filled with beauty that no one can appreciate is identically dead. Beauty is the second value around which a post-Woke world should be built. Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder, and that may be stated fairly enough, but beauty cannot be systematically snuffed out because others who behold it deem it problematic. No person has the right to squash the beauty beheld by another, and it is a crime against humanity to engage in such a project at the ideological scale. To dictate what is and what is not beautiful is to rob humanity of its humanity. It cannot be the basis for any healthy society.
Beauty is aspirational, and, though it may in specific be subjective, there is something in beauty that goes beyond the subjective, not into an objective realm (as does truth) but into a transcendent one that is in its own way bigger than man. The ancient Greeks referred to this aspirational ideal as arete: excellence. Christians, Jews, and Muslims see it in their transcendent God and rightly understand that it is universal through its transcendence.
Though we may all judge beauty by our own standards, we all have a sense of excellence—thus of beauty—when we see it. Excellence of form, excellence of execution, excellence of aesthetics, excellence of being. Beauty is not merely that which people believe to be pleasing to the eye or mind; it is that which exhibits arete. Beauty is that which is excellent in that which it intends to be.
Beauty is therefore a necessary virtue in a society that will flourish because it is, above all else, that which encourages and defines flourishing. Truth, by comparison, is merely necessary, but it is not sufficient. Truth is all head with no heart. Without beauty to grant inspiration and aspiration, truth is cold and even demoralizing. We may obtain right answers and thus avoid certain calamities, but we have little to live for in a perfectly orderly brutalist world. Truth is science; beauty is art, and thus beauty is humanity. Beauty is that supplemental necessity which inspires us and enables our subjectivity in a way that is not merely selfish but that, in its transcendence, lifts us up and all others with us. Beauty is what makes life worth living. It is also what makes that which is worth doing well worth doing at all. Beauty grants sufficiency to life.
The call to center beauty in a post-Woke world is a call to a Second Renaissance that pulls humanity up and out of the cynical, pessimistic mire of modernism and postmodernism. It is a call to aspire to excellence for the sake of excellence in everything that can be made excellent. Beauty—excellence—is the opportunity to elevate whatever it is we do to the highest level, and it is what reminds us that the hard slog of life is worth living, if only for the rare glimpse of that which stirs man through its beauty. Beauty is a call to be better in everything we do, build, and aspire to be. It is a cornerstone of a flourishing post-Woke world.
No society is worth inhabiting if it is not geared to secure the liberty of its citizens. Liberty—the birthright of man—is therefore a necessary condition of any flourishing society and the chief object that any functioning state must secure for its citizens. Liberty, which Woke ideology threatens in its relentless bid for power (which it confuses with empowerment), is thus a necessary component of a post-Woke society and is its third core value.
As the Woke have successfully leveraged, and as the great Liberals of the Enlightenment realized, liberty exists in uneasy tension with two important forces: security and liberty itself. Liberty is freedom, and freedom is dangerous. When a man finds himself in dangerous circumstances, though, he is less able to be as free as he would be in safer conditions. In such situations, he is constrained to do what he must to secure his own well-being, or that of others for whom he will voluntarily sacrifice, in place of what he might otherwise do and enjoy more. He must go according to the situation—that is, recognize and act in accordance with the truth—or risk losing everything. Security is therefore productive of liberty and restrictive of it, placing them in tension. Further, my liberty and your liberty exist in a similar uneasy tension because what I choose to do in my own freedom may well restrict yours, or vice-versa. In this regard, liberty is a balancing act between many individuals who must find ways to come to agreements—called societies—that, ideally, maximize every individual’s liberties as they exist in tension with one another.
For both of these reasons, liberty requires responsibility. Indeed, liberty—along with the security that enables its exercise—is responsibility’s reward. People must take enough responsibility to maintain their own security and to increase the security of their communities, which benefits them as well as the whole, and they must therefore be willing to sacrifice some of their liberties to do so. They must do the same with regard to the balance of their own liberties with those of others, for the more responsibility each individual takes for his own circumstances, the less others have to take up that slack. Understanding the need to take up responsibility is, when generally practiced, the antidote to the sort of resentment that, when it grows metastatic, tears down civilizations. Being willing to shoulder that burden is easiest in the name of liberty, which therefore must be valued.
The challenges of liberty highlight the fundamental tension of the human condition, which the Woke have greatly threatened: the balancing act between the individual and the collective. Liberty only makes sense in the realm of the individual, who has agency, feelings, and intelligence. Liberty makes no sense in terms of groups, which have none of these things and, indeed, are ultimately composed of individuals. By focusing on liberty, we focus on individualism over collectivism, and we understand that teamwork—the formation of purpose-driven, voluntary “collectives”—becomes possible. Collectivism—enforced “teamwork,” which is not the same as broad civic-mindedness—never works, and the reason is that it violates individual liberty and thus generates the seeds of its own destruction, which are apathy, alienation, and resentment. It is in the balancing of liberty between individuals that we find another key value, which is equality, for that which diminishes equality before the law or via prejudice denies the affected individuals their liberty.
The Woke doctrine of “liberation” gets these issues backwards. It wrongly believes that liberty emerges from enforced equality rather than understanding that equality results from valuing liberty. It also favors absolute security, provided by a perfected state that cannot exist, on the belief that the responsibility we have against our insecurities constrains our freedom to do whatever we would. In this way, it vainly hopes that liberty might be enjoyed without responsibility to self, others, or society. Thus, “liberation” is a utopian dream (not a “historical possibility”), and the attempt to realize it will always end in calamity, suffering, bondage, and death. These tragedies of utopia are guaranteed because the fantasy of liberation—communist or otherwise—puts liberty last rather than first, eschews responsibility as a limit on freedom rather than its precondition, and does so proceeding upon the dangerously naive, in fact ridiculous, assumption that perfect security (which ideally “should” exist) is attainable. The world is not ideal, how it “should be” in the minds of dreamers, however. It is how it is and, though changeable, is limited in its malleability—this is the truth.
Since perfect security cannot exist, it cannot be the starting point of any serious philosophy upon which a society can be built. Woke ideology wrongly believes otherwise and, starting upon that fraudulent assumption, seeks to solve the problem of the unperfectable state through enforced collectivism and the denial of any individual agency, will, or liberty. The state will be perfected, they believe, only when everyone fully embraces their ideology and submits to it rather than to the world as it is. This is a violation of the human condition (denial of truth) and a murder of the human spirit (rejection of beauty), and so it always ends in catastrophe. Woke “liberationism” must therefore be rejected in favor of individual liberty because its dream is, in reality, a nightmare.
A post-Woke world must be wiser and therefore hedge its understanding of liberty toward individualism and thus to the willful bearing of responsibility. We will be rewarded for doing so. To center liberty in a post-Woke world is to center the possibility of opportunity. It is the path to flourishing, prosperity, and well-earned satisfaction, if happiness cannot ultimately be obtained in the pursuit. Liberty is not the condition of a free society; it is its reward. In turn, liberty is not the result of a secure society; a secure society is the reward of responsibility, which arises most earnestly in the desire to be free.
Merit is the measure upon which a flourishing society is built. It is oriented on results and is the combination of talent and effort. Therefore, merit paves the road to a prosperous society. Merit means getting results. A post-Woke society must put getting results first because results produce everything that society depends upon and most of what it enjoys. We must therefore value merit.
Prosperity and flourishing, thus happiness and fulfillment, and also security and freedom, all depend upon getting results. Without good results, bad things happen. When the storm comes, we have either prepared our house to weather it or we have not. Reality is not fantasy, and we cannot just wish the storm away or talk our way out of its injuries. Results matter, and merit is the measure of getting results.
Moreover, whether we like it or not, the world is competitive. Should one individual or a whole society put other interested ahead of getting results—ahead of merit—others will recognize this mistake and capitalize upon it. Those interested in security, whether individual or national, would be wise to remember this truth sooner rather than later, for our enemies have not forgotten it. The maelstrom that’s coming, in other words, might be whipped up by man rather than by nature, and those who value merit more have the best chance of surviving it.
Because we are humans, we are biased, and recognizing this is part of our deferral to truth. We tend toward favoritism of those we know or like—or far more crudely, those “like us,” perhaps only in looks or phenotype—and so merit is too easily forgotten in the name of corruptions like favoritism, nepotism, cronyism, country-clubism, and bigotry. A society that values merit is not free from these corruptions, but it abhors them and seeks to minimize them.
Also because we are humans, we are limited. Merit cannot always win the day because we have to make our decisions from within the limits of that which we know. This is not a strike against merit, however, as many contend. It’s a call to broaden our horizons without compromising our standards.
Furthermore, because the world is not fair (and never will be), talent is not evenly distributed or evenly discoverable, sometimes for bad reasons (which we should hope to minimize in light of the other values presented here). Nevertheless, the adage that chance favors the prepared mind rings true, and merit is therefore not merely luck but the ability to make use of luck through the application of hard work and character, which are, in at least some significant respects, often well within the range of our control.
Note well that merit implies individualism, again alongside liberty. This is because a successful group is composed of successful individuals who know how to work together as a team and who are willing to. The weakest link in any team effort diminishes the group’s capacity to get results, as does its failures of teamwork. Thus, no matter how important teamwork may be to success—and it is, itself, an individual skill that can be developed—merit is at bottom an individual quality. So, as with liberty, merit evokes the individual. Even in team efforts, the skill of teamwork and meritorious achievement in that skill is necessary for success, and individual willingness to participate in the team effort outperforms collectivists demands to do so in all but the most perilous of circumstances. The skill of teamwork, facilitated by the skill of leadership, nonetheless, falls on each individual in the group, not the group itself.
Valuing merit produces results and minimizes corruption. It spurs innovation and entrepreneurship. It lifts societies. A post-Woke society must therefore value merit as highly as other seemingly more lofty ideals like truth, beauty, and liberty. We must care about results, and we should reward those who get them. Merit is the way.
What, though, about justice? Surely, if the ideology we are seeking to overcome focuses itself on justice, albeit badly, justice must also be a cardinal virtue of a society that would overcome that ideology, right? I disagree.
Justice is, to my thought, a second-order value in society, one that follows from getting the cardinal values right to serve as a foundation for justice. Indeed, I think this is one of the great lessons of the Woke “Critical Social Justice” era that free societies everywhere and in all times should pay attention to—a society that places justice ahead of deeper virtues is a society in immanent danger. Justice is necessary for a flourishing society, but it is also more subjective than other values, and therein lies the danger. Those with power to dictate what justice looks like may not have the right foundation upon which to judge, for that judgment to be truly just must be principled and blind. This lesson we have learned in a hard way over the last decade in particular. Justice has been the mantle of those with a crooked, unprincipled foundation, and rampant injustice in Justice’s name has been our reward.
This is to say that justice cannot lead but must follow from deeper principles if it is to exist at all. Indeed, even though any society that neglects justice will be a sick society, only a sick society would dare to put justice first. Justice must proceed from values like those listed above: truth, beauty, liberty, and merit.
Classically, Justice is depicted as a woman blindfolded, holding out scales in one hand and a sword in the other. This is the ideal from which justice springs. She is beautiful, and in being blinded she is interested only in what is true without partiality. She holds a sword to defend any against infringements against their own liberty and to punish those who would violate this sacred trust, and she carries scales to weigh out the merits of every situation, which returns us again to truth. Justice is the result of these deeper principles, not that which generates them.
Without truth—as impartial and objective as that can be—surely there is no justice. This follows from the simple fact that outside of truth, which is impartial and the same for all, all judgment rests only in power, which is corrupting and can as easily be held by the narrow, the capricious, the ignorant, or the evil as it can by the wise, the fair, the reasonable, and the good. Those who hold power will always be tempted to identify as just that which benefits them, and this is guaranteed to deliver injustice to those whose circumstances they do not understand, do not value, and do not like. A standard outside of any such empowered cabal is therefore necessary to effect justice in the world, and such a standard must be based upon the truth, the light of reason, and an impartial standard such a system of law before which all citizens are treated as equals.
Without beauty, which is to say an eye to that which is genuinely good, surely there is no justice. Beauty is the aspiration to an ideal of goodness—though not a naive vision of perfection—and when those who are entrusted to mete justice for a society are content only with what’s “good enough,” injustice will be the result. As injustice is ugly in the mind and heart of all who encounter it, justice depends upon a notion of beauty—of excellence in the sense of arete—to come into existence. Ugly justice may sometimes have to serve in ugly moments, but in the same breath it serves as the impetus to improve. Justice itself, when achieved under a high standard of excellence, is beautiful in turn.
Without liberty, certainly there is no justice. An injustice is done against any man whose liberty is restricted without sufficient cause, which is always rooted in grounded claims that he is infringing upon the liberty of another. Men will—and do—accept reasonable limitations on their liberty for the common good, which is their right as free men and also in their own interest and within the reaches of their compassion, but injustice is there whenever they are forced to think, act, or believe as they wouldn’t, or placed in bondage to serve interests that they wouldn’t, especially when those violate their principles or conscience, unless it is demonstrable to impartial judges that their actions violated the same liberty in others. Men must be free and their liberty must be valued before justice has any hope of coming into the world, and it is in the balance of liberties and the attendant responsibilities that a sense of justice begins to hold any meaning.
Without a basis in merit, justice is always lost in the very attempt to claim it, for the opposite of merit is corruption, with which merit cannot be synthesized. Merit—whether in the fair rewards for applying one’s talent, character, and effort, or merits of each case weighed against one another—is the basis for all justice. Justice is ultimately the fairness that sees people get what they, in truth, deserve and that sees them avoid what they do not deserve. What can reasonably said to be what someone has earned, including by his capacity to capitalize upon his luck, must be the first basis of his reward, and nothing of which a man is innocent can be justly deemed a basis for his demerit, exclusion, or punishment. Where merit falls out of focus, justice cannot be found.
Justice, then, follows from these more basic premises than itself and cannot merely assert itself into the world. Attempting to adjust the facts, skew the ideal, chain man’s liberty, or dethrone merit will always produce a tilted field in which justice is impossible, so attempting to do these evils in the name of justice is little more than an application of hubris, blindness, or malice. These sins are, in perverse ways, also self-rewarding such that they always awaken the worst—and least just—impulses in those empowered by them.
Truth and beauty—what the faithful recognize as God—are bigger than any man and than all men, and we only err by attempting to assert ourselves over them, even in the pursuit of justice. All that places itself ahead of these will do evil, often under the delusion of good. Liberty is the promise granted to every man born into this world if he has any hope of living in a just society, so it precedes the machinations of other men who might seek to order the world according to their own narrow wishes. Merit is the foundation of just decision-making, so it cannot be ignored, supplanted or discounted if a just society is what we desire.
A post-Woke society isn’t tasked with realizing these truths so much as remembering them, as these ideals were already understood before and were the basis for a prosperous society that was steadily and rapidly improving itself toward ever greater justice. A post-Woke society must stop putting the (social) justice cart before the values horse—the values that can and will produce a just society when they are not subverted, supplanted, or interfered with. These values are truth, beauty, liberty, and merit, and these must be the North Star for any society that wishes to climb out of the darkness and back into the light—light that brings prosperity and flourishing to its people and to man. Building the post-Woke world thusly is our charge, then, and these will be our values to build it upon.
A Letter Supporting a Bill to Ban Critical Race Theory
by James Lindsay The state of New Hampshire is trying to advance a bill in its state house of representatives (HB544) that mirrors the executive order President Trump issued "against Critical Race Theory," which is to say against the divisive (and racist/neoracist) tenets at the heart of Critical Race Theory and so-called "diversity" training sessions based upon it. After testifying in support of the bill in a legislative committee meeting on February 18 (in which sitting state representative Kris Schultz slandered me), I have followed up with the legislative committee this week by sending the following letter urging positive endorsement and support for the bill as it hopefully makes its way to the New Hampshire House floor. Because I think it might be instructive for other people to see what I wrote, the letter I sent is reproduced below (correcting a typo or two from the original). I encourage other people to follow suit in their own states, urging similar legislation or executive action and then showing up to testify and sending letters of support and encouragement.
To whom it may concern,
I am writing as an expert and concerned American, though not a New Hampshire citizen, in unequivocal support of HB544 which bans the teaching of certain divisive tenets as though they are fact. I also testified in the committee hearing as an expert on Critical Race Theory, against which this bill is ultimately based, on February 18 of this year. Please give this important, necessary bill your full-throated endorsement and a positive recommendation.
I don't know that this is the time for lengthy written testimony, so I'll try to keep my remarks brief. The bill being proposed, it should immediately be noted, bans not only the divisive tenets that stem from the Critical Race Theory worldview and its related activism, which is very aggressive and very interested in achieving dominance in our schools, workplaces, and lives, but it also bans trainings and uncritical teaching of what would be the more commonly understood forms of unacceptable bias, behavior, and ideology, including both white supremacy and patriarchy. It prohibits recipients of state funding from the same things the Civil Rights Acts and the Fourteenth Amendment are already supposed to protect against, although these are failing. Namely, the bill would prohibit teaching as uncontested fact or mandating training in racial and sex stereotyping, scapegoating, and discrimination, as well as positioning the state, institutions, etc., as intrinsically racist in a "systemic" way, which has allowed them thus far to avoid being found in violation of either the Civil Rights Acts or Fourteenth Amendment despite openly and explicitly advocating, in the words of the theorist Ibram X. Kendi, "present discrimination," which is billed as a necessary remedy to past discrimination. While someone might argue that this bill is unnecessary because of the Civil Rights Act, in practice this has not been borne out, making a bill like this more necessary than not. Every American, and every New Hampshire citizen, should not want discrimination, stereotyping, and scapegoating to be a part of their workplace training modules or children's education. This bill helps support that fundamentally equal and fair treatment before the law, which is currently at risk.
It should also be noted that this bill has First Amendment relevance as well, and not in the way its opponents would explain. The essence of the First Amendment is that people have freedom of conscience, particularly with regard to matters of spiritual belief, and freedom of speech, such that the state can neither compel nor restrict speech. Opponents of this bill will say that the bill seeks to restrict speech, but this is not true. It explicitly leaves provision for workplace trainings and education that don't teach these already-illegal tenets as uncontested fact. Moreover, the situation is quite the opposite to that portrayed by the opponents to the bill who oppose it on free-speech grounds. These workplace trainings and educational programs violate for very many people both freedom of conscience and freedom of speech. Their freedom of speech is violated by compelling them to admit to complicity in racism and sexism, among other social violations that are unlikely to be true. It also compels them to adopt a particular approach to anti-racism and anti-sexism that is very narrow and to speak on its behalf. This latter example, then, not only violates freedom of speech but also the freedom of conscience implied by both the free-exercise and establishment clauses of the First Amendment. It is not the state's place to be dictating (or funding the dictators of) how one is to feel about the issue of racism and sexism. Citizens, the overwhelming majority of whom firmly reject racism and sexism, should be granted the freedom of conscience to oppose those on terms they find recognizable, which in a free, liberal country like the United States will mostly likely be rooted in equality, colorblindness, individualism, and universal humanity, which are solidly American values. They may also do so from Judeo-Christian principles, for example the famous injunction from Paul that in Christianity there is "neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free," etc. They should not be compelled to do so in the terms most often employed by so-called "anti-racist," "diversity," "racial sensitivity," and "culturally responsive" programs today, which are a specific ideology known as Critical Theory, which explicitly rejects virtually all of these values for others, sometimes termed "liberationist" and at other times rightly labeled "neo-Marxist," including in the words of the activists pushings these programs themselves. While the law may not bear out today that these trainings and pedagogical pursuits violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as existing Civil Rights legislation, it is likely that they will eventually. It is therefore better to get on the right side of this issue now and take proactive steps to strengthen a legal architecture that is failing citizens in their most fundamental rights.
For the sake of brevity, I will not elaborate at length on the theory underlying the overwhelming bulk of these trainings and relevant school curricula, which is Critical Race Theory, the same (neo-Marxist) Critical Theory mentioned above specifically made to take race as a category of difference upon which Marxian conflict theory (oppressors versus oppressed) is to be applied. I will simply remind the committee that in addition to this theory being one among many approaches to the issue of race and racism, it is one that is rooted specifically in making precisely the same mistake that made racism the problem it has been throughout our history as a nation, which is specifically placing social significance into racial categories and considering that significance determinant and in some ways relevant to one's social standing and access to power. This was a horrific thing to have done in the 16th century going forward, and it's no better to do in the 21st century. It didn't work out then, and it won't work out now, unless one's goal is to effect an American Cultural Revolution in mirror image to the one Mao perpetrated on China in the 1960s-1970s, which (as few people know) used many of the same arguments and ideas about race, applied to the Han Chinese race instead of "whiteness."
Critical Race Theory begins from the assumption, in its own words, that racism is the normal state of affairs of society, changing the question from "did racism take place?" to "how did racism manifest in that situation?" (for racism is assumed to be relevant to every situation), and it calls into question "the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and the neutral principles of constitutional law." That is, it is presumptive, divisive, and explicitly un-American, if not anti-American. Moreover, it is designed not to be able to be disagreed with, as all disagreement is framed as some variation of racial "fragility" or "privilege-preserving epistemic pushback," which is to say a cynical drive to maintain one's social dominance, not legitimate criticism of the genuinely bad arguments and cynical assumptions put forth by the theory itself. Because it cannot be disagreed with without accusations of bad intentions and motivations, it is divisive and very difficult to uproot once installed. Because it believes "there is no neutral" between "dominance" and "oppression" (Marxian conflict theory), it is again divisive and in fact polarizing. Because its issues are so sensitive and because it addresses them in such an accusatory way (everyone who doesn't agree with it is racist and white supremacist), it diverts incredible volumes of resources to dividing and polarizing every environment it can gain a foothold in. HB544 exists to minimize that destructive influence and colossal waste of (taxpayer-funded) resources. Even worse, not only is there no evidence supporting the application of this theory, there is evidence against its claims that it can generate that which it claims to generate, so it tears apart organizations and poisons minds (including those of children) with its divisive tenets while profiting off a fraudulent enterprise that robs the taxpayers while destroying their communities.
On these grounds, and possibly hundreds of pages more that I could write if needed, I again urge you in the strongest possible way to support and recommend HB544 as a step in the right direction, away from these divisive teachings and in support of the fundamental inalienable rights this country has always recognized and strived to extend to all citizens, even the allegedly privileged ones. This bill is important for New Hampshire, and it sends a message to America, whose federal government has just unambiguously signaled it wants to take us in the opposite direction by rescinding a similar federal executive order. That opposite direction is back into racial and sex discrimination, stereotyping, and scapegoating, and its into things America has never been and has never been willing to become, namely whatever it is that Critical Theory (i.e., neo-Marxism) aims to make of it.