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Criticisms of Critical Race Theory

Contrary to what the media would have the general public believe, there always have been criticisms of Critical Race Theory in academia and even in the media. Here are some examples:

Leroy Clark, professor emeritus at Columbus School of Law and former Legal Defense Fund counsel during the Civil Rights Movement, in the “Denver Law Review,” 1995:

Professor Bell’s “analysis” is really only accusation and “harassing white folks,” and is undermining and destructive. There is no love — except for his own group — and there is a constricted reach for an understanding of whites. There is only rage and perplexity. No bridges are built — only righteousness is being sold. A people, black or white, are capable only to the extent they believe they are. Neither I, nor Professor Bell, have a crystal ball, but I do know that creativity and a drive for change are very much linked to a belief that they are needed, and to a belief that they can make a difference. The future will be shaped by past conditions and the actions of those over whom we have no control. Yet it is not fixed; it will also be shaped by the attitudes and energy with which we face the future.

Writing about race is to engage in a power struggle. It is a non-neutral political act, and one must take responsibility for its consequences. Telling whites that they are irremediably racist is not mere “information”; it is a force that helps create the future it predicts. If whites believe the message, feelings of futility could overwhelm any further efforts to seek change. I am encouraged, however, that the motto of the most articulate black spokesperson alive today, Jesse Jackson, is, “Keep hope alive!” and that much of the strength of Martin Luther King, Jr. was his capacity to “dream” us toward a better place.

George Will’s column, “At Harvard Law, Intellectual Gerrymandering,” 1990: 

This theory of racially distinctive and automatically validated scholarship is a particularly slipshod and patently political exercise in the “sociology of knowledge.” It asserts that race is an intellectual credential. Bell says: “Race can create as legitimate a presumption as a judicial clerkship in filling a teaching position” regarding civil-rights law.

This is intellectual gerrymandering, carving out for blacks an exemption from competition. One charm of this theory for its proponents is that they can be highly paid professors without forfeiting the coveted, lucrative status of victims. It rests on racial stereotyping – reactionary means for liberal ends. In this “progressive” version of segregation, blacks are supposed to be – indeed, are told to be – homogenized and conscripted into intellectual conformity, apart from the mainstream of American culture.

Paul Carrington, law professor at Duke University, in the “Journal of Legal Education,” 1991:

“If (Derrick Bell) finds the Supreme Court that decided Brown v. Board of Education an unwitting tool of American imperialism, what chance have I of escaping his doom if I disagree with him? This conference is about the freedom to engage in discourse about public issues. I cannot begin to discuss that subject in relation to the issue before this panel without emphasizing the need for greater tolerance of conflicting views. Professor Bell’s paper rests heavily on attributions of antidemocratic and antisocial motives to his colleagues.

Indeed, I assert that not only academic freedom, but democracy itself depends upon our mutual willingness to be tolerant, to refrain from the impulse to attribute evil purpose to those with whom we disagree.”

Rick Nowlin, in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2011: 

In 1994 I came across Mr. Bell’s book, “Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanance of Racism,” published two years earlier, and found much to disagree with — not least the second half of the title. So I shared my thoughts in a column that, I was told when I got to the office after it was published, generated about two dozen phone calls from miffed black students. It eventually drew a written rebuttal from Mr. Bell himself, who said I “didn’t understand the book” and that my description of racism as a problem of relationships, not power, was “defective.”

To many African-Americans, including my father, my late namesake was a hero for “standing up to the Man.” To me, however, he represented not only a modus operandi that never worked all that well but also a worldview that since has been proven obsolete.

A letter to the editor in The Harvard Crimson, 1990:

If, in Bell’s view, it is not enough to tenure someone who “looks Black” but “thinks white” then he must believe that such a person is somehow less Black than someone who “thinks Black.” Is Bell prepared to decide, on the basis of how that person thinks, that he or she is not truly Black and, therefore, not fully deserving of membership in the community of persons who have ancestral roots in Africa?

Bell’s comment represents intolerance in its purest form. It establishes an orthodoxy of thought, and Blacks must embrace it or else face excommunication for their “white” views.

There is a second statement of Professor Bell’s that should disturb people, for it rejects the concept of human equality. Professor Bell stated that because of his gender, he was unable to understand fully the Black female students whom he teaches and who come to him for guidance. …

On a deeper level, what is disturbing about Bell’s comment is its message that human beings are fundamentally different from one another, that there is an insuperable divide of race and gender between us. Such a message is at odds with the lessons of history, so painfully learned.

It is at odds with the philosophy of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., a minister of the Gospels, that we are all God’s children, and that the liberation of society consists of individuals overcoming differences of race and religion which, in the final analysis, are superficial.”

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