There Is No ‘Conservative Case for CRT’ | National Review

There Is No ‘Conservative Case for CRT’ | National Review

An anti-critical race theory sign is held at a Loudon County School board meeting in Ashburn, Va., June 22, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

The Washington Post published a piece this morning by contributing columnist Gary Abernathy, ostensibly one of the Post’s right-leaning voices, arguing that “there’s a lot for conservatives to embrace in critical race theory.” It’s the latest in the budding subgenre of “the conservative case for [insert X left-wing policy here] think pieces: “the conservative case for the Democratic Party,” “the conservative case for Roe v. Wade,” “the conservative case for ditching the Electoral College,” and so on. But it is in a league of its own when it comes to the sheer absurdity of its line of argument, which operates off of a surprisingly shallow understanding of both CRT and conservatism. (Note: The Post capitalizes “white” and “black”; quotations from Abernathy here will duplicate this style for the sake of accuracy in quoting, not to endorse it.)

Abernathy argues that “conservatives should consider that maybe [the Left] has a point” about CRT because “many conservatives pride themselves on being grounded in logic rather than emotion,” and “logic dictates that something as historically obvious as the impact of slave labor on the success of our nation should be acknowledged and more comprehensively taught, along with the fact that our legal, governmental and economic institutions were crafted, intentionally or otherwise, to favor White people.” He does not elaborate on which of today’s American institutions unfairly favor whites, or by what standard he’s judging the unfair privileges they bestow. He simply asserts that “logic dictates” it is so.

Certainly, many on the left would agree with that assessment. But many on the right don’t; conservatives tend to be skeptical of claims that disparate outcomes — the social-justice Left’s favorite metric to cite as proof of discrimination — are inherent evidence of injustice. Abernathy frames his argument as addressed to the Right, but makes no attempt to actually engage with these conservative critiques of CRT. Nor does he even make any reference to basic conservative principles beyond the fact that “many conservatives pride themselves on being grounded in logic rather than emotion.” In other words, it’s not entirely clear why Abernathy thinks conservatives should support CRT, beyond the fact that he wants them to.

There are many reasons to object to CRT from a conservative perspective. It is a corrosive racialist ideology that undermines American institutions, it teaches citizens to categorize one another on the basis of race, and it presents a dark and twisted view of U.S. history. Most of all, however, the doctrine’s view of the individual as a mere “ensemble of the social relations,to use Marx’s language, is fundamentally contrary to the conservative understanding of the human person, portraying citizens as helpless conduits for faceless power structures rather than as sovereign agents. 

Abernathy waves all this away by suggesting that “critical race theory should be welcomed in schools” so long as it occurs “within a curriculum that stops short of sermonizing to today’s white Americans or force-feeding politically driven solutions.” Arguments like these are difficult to take seriously. How might one teach an ideology that explicitly categorizes different races as “oppressors” and “oppressed” without “sermonizing to today’s White Americans”? And how would one avoid “force-feeding politically driven solutions” with an ideology that is explicitly Marxist and revolutionary, views everything as inherently political, and rejects the freedom of expression that is so crucial to liberal education?

You can’t. And it’s exceedingly odd for anyone — let alone a conservative — to pretend otherwise.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.