Critical Race Theory – A Critique
Written January 7, 2009
First, please ignore my pretentious title. This isn’t going to be as academically serious as the work it criticizes. It’s polemical. That’s my excuse for any mistakes.
My interest in the ideas known as ‘Critical Race Theory’ was sparked off by a presentation at the Pacifica Forum in Eugene by a right-wing theorist called Valdas Anelauskas. Unlike his critics, Valdas is fair to those with whom he disagrees. Far from being a ‘gutter bigot’ as the President of the University of Oregon alleged, in a cowardly attempt to disassociate the University from the Forum, he is a genuine intellectual. Despite his aversion to the left, he cited the work of leading anti-racist theorists so honestly that I found myself agreeing with them! I often disagree with Valdas – for example on racial separatism (he’s for, I’m against). But I stand with him on freedom of speech.
Valdas’s critique of Words That Wound — Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment, is different to mine.
I’m not so much interested in directly opposing the politically correct left as in pointing out its contradictions. Well, one contradiction in particular. It gives Zionism a free pass. I wish I’d read the critical race theorists before writing my pamphlet The Mass Psychology of Anti-Fascism because they give ammunition to my complaint that some of the left, especially in America, is so obsessed with white racism, they hardly notice the much stronger phenomenon of Jewish racism. Instead of sarcastically putting down anti-racists as ‘pc wankers’, I should have taken on their best arguments first. This is where the authors of Words That Wound, Mari Matsuda, Charles Lawrence, Richard Delgado and others come in. Unlike the gutter bigots of Anti-Racist Action, they make valid points, and I’m going to take their arguments seriously, though they do occasionally fall into polemical tricks, like claiming that their opponents complain of being ‘oppressed’ by members of minorities, and embarrassing errors like taking Catharine MacKinnon seriously. I won’t stoop to using this to discredit them. Not yet, anyway.
Matsuda and her colleagues aren’t just critical of a too-literal interpretation of the First Amendment. They also fail to appreciate another great Anglo-Saxon achievement, presumption of innocence. Many political factions have a crime for which they believe alleged perpetrators should not be presumed innocent. For Republicans, its purported terrorists who don’t deserve a fair trial. For some feminists, its alleged sexual offenders. For critical race theorists, its anyone accused of saying nasty things to black people.
“Listen first to the voice of the victims of hate speech” (page 9)
But the presumption of innocence excludes listening first to the alleged victims of alleged crimes. This is true of real crimes like assault and murder, not just the nebulous new offences being dreamt up in left-wing law schools. Even where the offence is real, the prosecution has to bear the burden of proof all the way up a steep hill. I was happy when OJ Simpson was acquitted. I’m glad I live in a country where the prosecution has to prove its case. “Listening first to the victims” is a dangerous error, which has led to miscarriages of justice. Instead of looking for evidence, the anti-racist left says ‘our voices must be heard’. This is much more insidious than postmodernists babbling about narratives, because it sounds fair, and appeals to our bleeding hearts. It is difficult to say no to the softly-spoken spokespeople of the pc left. Claiming that listening to certain ideas ‘diminishes our sense of safety and diversity‘ doesn’t sound like Stalinism, but it is. We must stick to hard evidence, freedom of speech and the presumption of innocence.
A related problem with listening to ‘stories’ of racial harrassment is that many of them are just that – stories. I give a dozen or so examples of hate crimes which were proven to be fake in my pamphlet. However, there are of course real hate crimes, such as lynchings, and there is a genuine issue with whether leaving a Ku Klux Klan ‘calling card’ should be protected speech. This outrage just happened again this year in Kennett, Missouri, during the trial of a black woman who was assaulted by police during an argument in a Wal-Mart store. These cards allegedly said “You have been paid a social visit by the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The next visit will not be social”. A reasonable African-American, reading one of these cards, could well conclude he or she was being threatened with violence. There is already a law covering this crime – it’s called ‘assault’. If that law was applied correctly, those who left that card in Kennett would be arrested. If the police are failing to apply it, undermining the First Amendment with vague proscriptions against ‘hate speech’ isn’t going to help. Left-wing anti-racism doesn’t do much to really help the advancement of black people. It has another agenda.
The ‘listening to stories’ method of academic research violates yet another basic principle of our society. It leads to collecting just the evidence for your hypothesis, rather than trying to disprove it, which is the scientific approach. Matsuda doesn’t look for evidence that contradicts her argument, evidence that the current political atmosphere encourages people to make false claims that they are the victims of hate crimes. She and the rest of the pc academic left have helped create this atmosphere. It’s bad enough when a black person sets fire to a cross in their own front yard. But when Jews scratch swastikas on their car or claim to have been assaulted by Muslims on the Paris metro, its even more serious – it adds to the victimology which encourages uncritical Western support for the Jewish state.
Like their fellow alarmists in the ADL and the SPLC, the critical race theorists exaggerate not only the extent of racism, but the direction in which it is trending.
“Racist hate messages are rapidly increasing” (page 24)
In fact, white racism has been declining since the abolition of slavery in 1864. It was the Supreme Court and the 101st Airborne which ended segregation in southern schools, not the Civil Rights movement. You may think the election of Barrack Obama would be a setback for anti-racist scaremongers. If the white Republican candidate had beaten Obama, they would have attributed it to racism. But Obama won. So how to spread paranoia and white guilt? Easy – the reaction to Obama’s victory is racist. Regardless of events in the real world, anti-racism can make out racism is getting worse.
“A marked rise of racial harrassment, hate speech, and racially-motivated violence marks the beginning of the 1990’s” (page 44)
They said the same in the 1960’s. In the mid 90’s, the anti-racists stirred up fear of a white movement called ‘the militias’, which didn’t exist. Today,
`“We see a mainstreaming of white nationalism that we haven’t seen previously,” says Eric Ward, national field director for the Center for New Community, an anti-racism nonprofit in Chicago… saying white nationalists may now be infiltrating the environmental movement and other progressive causes` –http://wweek.com/editorial/3546/13087
Occasionally, anti-racists accidentally say something truthful:
“Victims of vicious hate propaganda experience physiological symptoms and emotional distress…” (page 24)
Indeed. One of my comrades has experienced considerable distress as a result of a campaign of slander against him by anti-racist hate mongers. When anti-fascists post on the internet saying things like “If an average person should kick one of their asses, we should applaud… These scum don’t deserve to exist”, this is a genuine threat of violence written in a way which may just avoid breaking the law. There again, it may not. If we followed the logic of Words That Wound, we would be trying to get Indymedia banned for publishing these threats.
Jewish blackmail is particularly effective at giving us emotional distress. It’s difficult to say ‘Jewish supremacy’ but easy to criticize ‘white supremacy’. The authors of Words That Wound haven’t noticed this. I explain why below.
Charles Lawrence is a lawyer. He argues, in Words That Wound, that the 1954 ban on segregation in schools was in effect a ban on a type of speech – segregation is a kind of speech, as in “don’t bring your child to this school“. So all that is needed, he argues, is to extend existing law to cover speech as speech as well as segregation as speech. But if racist speech is banned, as Lawrence argues, the powers-that-be will decide what is racist. The powers-that-be include Zionists, the most powerful racists in the country. They will use anti-racism to suppress opposition to Jewish racism. It’s easy to predict this, because the US government boycotts international bodies which condemn Jewish racism as racist, though it supported the defeat of white apartheid. Lawrence overlooks this. He ingeniously argues
“The purpose of the First Amendment is to further the greatest amount of speech. Racist insults disserve this purpose” (page 68)
but the same applies to falsely calling someone a fascist, a Nazi or a racist, which happens all the time. This insults are designed to shut down debate, so according to Lawrence’s logic, they should be made illegal!
Lawrence isn’t just a lawyer, he’s an activist. He supports vigils at fraternity houses whose humor has gotten out of hand.The Duke University alleged rape case of 2006 is one of the most dramatic examples of an attempt to apply the principles outlined in Words That Wound. The case was tailor-made for the left: rich white frat boys were accused of rape by poor black women. Activists immediately organized noisy vigils outside the frat house, on the basis that “the daily violence of racism/white supremacy, sexism/transphobia/patriarchy, classism/capitalism, and homophobia/heterosexism are the intersecting sources of sexual violence”. But the students were innocent. The understanding of the nature of American society peddled by the left makes it difficult to believe that the North Carolina police would conspire with an elite southern university’s hospital to slander a group of white men. But that is what happened. This means the left’s analysis is wrong.
An important aspect of the anti-racist campaign against freedom is the use of civil law. The Southern Poverty Law Center cleverly used Oregon civil law to convict a neo-Nazi of organizing racist skinheads to commit violent crimes. He couldn’t be prosecuted in a criminal court, because of lack of evidence. The man convicted really does publish statements which can fairly be described as ‘hate’, so most people accepted the verdict with relief. This is short-sighted – the SPLC picked on him first because he is unpopular. The case set a precedent where people can be prosecuted if their opinions appear to cause violence. A contributor to Words That Wound, Richard Delgado, cites various legal actions against alleged racists, most of them civil. It is possible to be convicted in a civil court of violating someone’s civil rights even when you have been acquitted of murdering them. This is double jeopardy, a violation of a basic legal right. The “victims’ voices must be heard” argument is well suited to the gradual undermining of this legal principle.
The campaign against hate speech has a hidden agenda. Academics who defend some racially-based ideas have come under sustained attack by Zionists, anti-racists and feminists no matter how vigorously they reject hateful speech, the advocacy of violence, the use of racial epithets, etc.. ‘Racism’ is a broad enough category to attack freedom by amalgamating hate with serious scholarship.
The critical race theorists dismiss allegations that their work has been abused to suppress freedom on campus. The reaction against their theory and its legal implications is not as Masuda asserts disguised racism, but a genuine attempt to defend academic standards against an assault on some of the achievements of Western culture – science, logic and freedom.
They talk about a backlash:
“Academic freedom and intellectual pursuit are alleged to be threatened by ‘leftist speech police'” (page 14)
Academic freedom is threatened by leftist speech police. It is also threatened by rightist speech police. What the two wings of speech police have in common is Zionism. There are many examples. I will cite just two.
William Robinson, a sociology professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, was investigated by his employer after pressure from the Anti-Defamation League, a Zionist outfit.
A psychologist at California State University at Long Beach was similarly harrassed as an ‘anti-semite’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center, with the assistance of the Department of Women’s Studies, and some genuine, but cowardly, academics. He was barred from teaching about the link between intelligence and race. The world’s greatest living biologist, James Watson, was fired because he said there might be such a link. It doesn’t matter what you or I think about this issue, or how envious you may be of the cushy life of a tenured academic – what matters is that academic freedom from political interference is how we know what we know about the world. It should be defended.
I figured out some time ago that Zionists have expertly appropriated the thought policing methods of the pc left. The processes pioneered by Matsuda and her colleagues, rather than reducing racial oppression, have been utilized to reinforce the USA’s support for one of the most egregious examples of racial oppression in the world, by suppressing criticism of this irrational and inhumane policy. I was aware of this blind spot in the American left. What I didn’t realize was how conscious the leaders of academic anti-racism were in supporting special pleading for Jewish racists.
“South Africa is alone in its official policy of apartheid” (page 37)
When Matsuda wrote these words, they were not true, and the Western countries only acted to abolish white, not Jewish, apartheid. Critical Race Theory has an anti-white, pro-Jewish bias.
To prove this, I will quote Matsuda at length:
“I reject the sweeping charge that Zionism is racism and argue instead for a highly contextualized consideration of Zionist speech. To the extent that any racial hostility expressed within a Zionist context is a reaction to historical persecution, it is protected under the doctrinal scheme suggested in this chapter. Should Zionists ever lose this historically based privilege? If Zionist speakers are white, do hateful, race-bound expressions of theirs necessarily reinforce historical conditions of white dominance over brown and black people? The analysis must turn on the particular context. If a Zionist’s expression of anger includes a statement of generic white supremacy and persecution, the speaker chooses to ally with a larger, historically dominant group, and the privilege should not apply. On the other hand, angry, survivalist expression, arising out of the Jewish experience of persecution and without resort to the rhetoric of generic white supremacy, is protected under the contextualized approach. Again, it is important to add that the various subordinated communities are best equipped to analyze and condemn hate speech arising within their midst.” (page 40)
This is a smoking gun, and the smoke is white phosphorus. Critical race theory helps the interests of the most powerful ethnic group in America! Matsuda seriously expects us to accept that Jewish supremacy is only racist if it is allied to white racism – but ‘survivalist’ Zionism should be protected. And the tragedy is, much of the left has accepted it. The US government certainly rejects ‘the sweeping charge that Zionism is racism‘. Until that changes, Palestinians will die. Naturally, Matsuda wants to criminalize Holocaust revisionism because of how it makes Jews feel (page 42).
An aside: Mari Matsuda describes racial slurs and violence against her fellow Japanese Americans. She mentions the internment camps, and the bombing of Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But these crimes were carried out by the anti-fascist side during World War II. Was the bombing of Dresden racist too? No, it was carried out by Anglo-Saxons, against Saxons, in Saxony. More ethnic identity might have prevented this and other war crimes. My point is simply that racism can cause violence, but so can anti-racism, both on the scale of a world war, and in our communities today. I don’t see why I have to decide which is worse, a KKK calling card, or a false accusation of rape.
Matsuda et. al. support the dominant ideas, which keep white people guilty and Israel strong. They don’t write the ‘N’ word (Nazi) on the workplaces of other leftists and send threatening letters to those with whom they disagree. Perhaps they would distance themselves from Anti-Racist Action trying to attack the First Amendment with violence rather than clever arguments and emotional blackmail. We are always open to debate.
PS. Jan 17 2010 – a summary of the American Civil Liberties Union’s views on ‘hate speech’, which mostly disagree with the critical race theorists: http://www.aclu.org/free-speech/hate-speech-campus