Scholars warn of dangers of critical race theory, how it's being injected into students

People gather near the White House during a peaceful protest against police brutality and racism, on June 13, 2020, in Washington, DC.
People gather near the White House during a peaceful protest against police brutality and racism, on June 13, 2020, in Washington, DC. | AFP via Getty Images/Daniel Slim

Scholars are warning about the influences of the neo-Marxist paradigm in many realms of culture, a theory they say undermines the foundations of a free society and harms the marginalized people it purports to help.  

In a webinar hosted by The Heritage Foundation's Angela Sailor Monday, policy experts spoke at length about the ways in which critical race theory and the identity politics it underpins have sown hostile division into public life while claiming to combat racial injustice. 

Broadly defined, critical race theory utilizes race as the lens through which every area of life is examined, categorizing everyone into oppressor and oppressed groups. The racial theory is the child of critical theory, the scholars explained, and most Americans do not agree with its ideological claims but it is being pushed strongly by elites and has entrenched special interests in many public institutions. 

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Lindsey Burke, director of the Center for Education Policy at The Heritage Foundation, noted in her remarks that among the most influential arenas where critical race theory is being furthered is through the approximately 14,000 public school boards across the country. Those boards indelibly shape the minds of schoolchildren and many are approving the use of the curriculum materials based on the 1619 Project, a series of New York Times reporting that frames the arrival of African slaves on the shores of the United States as the central feature of the American founding. This view stands in stark contrast to the the idea that nation was birthed at the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. 

"More than 4,500 classrooms around the country have begun to incorporate the 1619 Project curricular materials into their content," she said. 

Burke and her colleagues specifically asked school board members and families across the country about the 1619 Project and 50% of all parents and 70% of school board members said that they do not want schools to use the instructional materials rooted in the idea that slavery is the center of the national narrative. Likewise, 70% of parents and 74% of school board members believe that slavery is a tragedy that harmed the nation but freedom and prosperity represent who Americans are. 

Their data showed that only 25% of parents and 17% of school board members believe that students should be taught that the founding ideals of liberty and equality were false when they were written and that U.S. history must thus be reframed.  

Jonathan Butcher, a senior policy analyst at Heritage, explained that what the CRT worldview does is dismantle social and governmental norms and foments a new kind of intolerance. 

"Critical theory is not a sympathetic perspective with policy goals that lead to racial reconciliation, freedom, and opportunity. That's not what it is. It's talking about subjugation and retribution," he said, referencing a paper he co-authored with fellow panelist and author Mike Gonzalez. 

One of the founders of CRT calls for "transformative resistance strategy" in response to the rule of law and the U.S. constitutional republic, he said. According to those who adhere to the theory, they are "highly suspicious of the liberal agenda" with liberal in this sense meaning classical liberal values from the Enlightenment, he noted. 

Gonzalez, author of The Plot to Change America, offered during his remarks that it is important to realize that the far left feels emboldened to repress conservative ideas and are calling for vast institutional change, noting its grip on the government, culture-making institutions, Big Tech, and many Fortune 500 companies. 

At base, CRT is "a tool for changing the country," he said, a tool that undermines societal foundations and holds that the rule of law and jurisprudence is to preserve the privilege of those who write the laws.

Christopher Rufo, a journalist and visiting fellow at Heritage Foundation, has been examining how the theory has been operating within institutions, HR programs, and in federal government agencies. 

At the National Nuclear Laboratories in New Mexico, CRT-based training sessions were held in which white male executives were taken to a resort and were forced to undergo a series of exercises to deconstruct their white male identity, something that the trainers claimed was akin to the Ku Klux Klan, mass killings, and MAGA hats, he explained. The men were asked to condemn themselves and then write letters of apology to women and people of color and apologize for their whiteness. Similar training efforts and exercises were taking place across the federal bureaucracy but President Donald Trump canceled them with an executive order. 

Rufo is now working on reporting that will show how this ideology is being inculcated into K-12 students. An upcoming story he will soon publish highlights how 3rd graders are being tasked with deconstructing their intersectional identities, which is "slicing and dicing their own internal self-image on the axes of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, transgenderism ... and then ranking themselves on a hierarchy of power and privilege." 

"They're taking these tenets that were once limited to academia and now trying to basically inject them into the bloodstream of every institution from kindergarten to the federal government," he said.  

"They are now training elementary school students how to hold protests, how to disrupt the system, how to become revolutionaries."

The theory, which promises a utopia of sorts and racial equality, is not aiming to build anything but rests in negation that relies upon the thrill of revenge yet offers nothing to the margins of society, Rufo argued.  

He urged parents to find out what is in their children's school curriculum, noting that much of it is not only indefensible but likely illegal and is only backed by a tiny group of activists in all but the most extreme school districts. It will take courage to resist but it is necessary and the more scrutiny it receives the more likely it is to be rejected, he said. 

The Heritage Foundation discussion comes amid ongoing debate over CRT among evangelicals, with some influential leaders, including John Piper and Tim Keller, rejecting it.

More recently, a group of Southern Baptist seminary presidents released a statement declaring that CRT is incompatible with their beliefs while denouncing racism. The statement sparked outrage among some within the Southern Baptist Convention, forcing at least two black pastors to cut ties. 

A group of pastors, including SBC's first and only black president, responded with a statement, lamenting that "the actions of some in the SBC appear to be more concerned with political maneuvering than working to present a vibrant, gospel-loving, racially and culturally diverse vision."

"Many who recognize systemic injustices are labeled as 'Marxists,' 'Liberals,' and 'Critical Race Theorists,' even though they are theologically orthodox and believe in the total sufficiency of Scripture," they said. "[W]e stand firmly in opposition to any movement in the SBC that seeks to distract from racial reconciliation through the gospel and that denies the reality of systemic injustice."

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