Critical race theory: “It should be rejected in its entirety,” says Ivo Vegter

South Africa has a tumultuous racial past. Under the apartheid government and law, myriad citizens were discriminated against simply because of the colour of their skin. Now, as we steam toward 30 years as a democracy, South Africa still has its fair share of racial issues and discrimination. As serious as it is, a survey conducted by the Institute of Race Relations shows that, in 2018, racism ranked 10th (out of 12) amongst problems South Africans think the government need to focus on. Job creation, fighting corruption and bettering education occupied the three top spots. Below, freelance journalist Ivo Vegter asks why “why there is so much performative genuflecting to anti-racism, especially among white left-wing elites, and why those who refuse to bend the knee are persecuted by baying mobs of woke on social media, and even in the mainstream media, until they do.”

The campaign to revive racism

Among ordinary people, racism is not the problem, as numerous surveys conducted over the years by the IRR have demonstrated. Yet there is an elitist ideology that aims to revive racial essentialism, once again judging people not by the content of their character, but by the colour of their skin.

Anyone who watched the video of the murder of George Floyd and was not outraged did not fully comprehend what they were watching.

No matter Floyd’s character, background or crimes, there is no justice in summarily executing a helpless and subdued person on the street. Floyd, like everyone else suspected of a crime, however great or small, had a moral and legal right to due process, which he was denied. This right is not extended only to sympathetic characters, but to everyone.

The police officer in that case, Derek Chauvin, was charged and convicted on three counts related to murder. He is to be sentenced later this week. One hopes that the sentence will befit the crime.

There are conflicting studies on whether or not police are likely to use a greater degree of force against black suspects than against white suspects. An interesting result that counters the accepted narrative that black people are more likely than whites to be killed by police comes from a study by Roland G Fryer, Jr. In what he describes as the most surprising result of his career, it found that while there is bias against black suspects in the use of force, there is no bias in the use of lethal force against black suspects. Another study found that white police officers are not significantly more likely to kill a black suspect than black police officers are.

The issues raised by the George Floyd case, and similar cases before him, appears to be less one of systemic racism that permeates the police in America, than it is about police brutality. One only has to recall the tragic death of Alexandra resident Collins Khosa during the early days of lockdown in South Africa to realise that brutality and murder by security forces is not a function of the race or racial bias of the perpetrator, and is not unique to countries in which black people are a minority.

Floyd’s death, however, has been exploited by a censorious movement that emerged from the ivory towers of left-wing academia to make the case that racism is systemic, pervasive and a grave threat to a just society.

Popular opinion

Even in South Africa, with its fraught history of race-based oppression, this view is not even remotely consistent with popular opinion, however. In a survey conducted in 2018, the Institute of Race Relations found that fighting racism was near the bottom of the list of what respondents believed ought to be top priorities for the government.

This result echoes a previous survey which asked what South Africa’s most serious unresolved problems were.

Both surveys also found that more than half of South Africans, and almost two thirds of black people, believe race relations have improved since 1994.

This raises the question, then, why there is so much performative genuflecting to anti-racism, especially among white left-wing elites, and why those who refuse to bend the knee are persecuted by baying mobs of woke on social media, and even in the mainstream media, until they do.

Resurgence of white supremacy

Let’s once again make a few things clear. Racism is deplorable, and ought to be denounced wherever it is encountered. Racial, national, tribal and similar social divisions are an unfortunate fact of life, but they should never form the basis of formal discrimination.

Racism is also irrational, since judging someone based on the colour of their skin, instead of their abilities or character, does not lead to optimal outcomes. This is why the classical liberal position holds that every person is equal before the law and has the same inalienable human rights.

Five years ago, I wrote about my thoughts after playing an insignificant part on a panel about racism on television. (That column is well worth re-reading.)

I described the pathological self-loathing displayed by some of the white panelists, and the racial hatred and bloodlust of some of the black panelists. I expressed the wish that the acute race-consciousness advocated by the social justice movement does not spark a resurgence of actual white supremacy.

That fear is now coming true. However, the actions of police officers who don’t think the lives of suspects matter, or the drunken rants of assorted two-bit estate agents, does not mean that a plague of systemic racism has infested the institutions of the world.

For that to happen, you need elite academics.

Frankfurt School

Critical race theory has become an institutional orthodoxy at most international and local universities. It has its roots in the Marxist theory of class conflict, which holds that industrial societies are characterised by a power struggle between capitalists and workers, with the former exploiting and oppressing the latter. In this view, governmental and social institutions exist to protect the privilege, power and wealth of the capitalist class at the expense of the oppressed worker class.

The Marxist solution to this perceived problem is revolution, in which the proletariat seize the means of production and form an egalitarian communist society (to make a long story very short).

During the interwar period, a group of Marxist intellectuals at the Institute for Social Research at Goethe University in Frankfurt (the so-called ‘Frankfurt School’) developed a social critique of Western civilisation that called into question the very foundations of Enlightenment principles, such as rationality, scientific objectivity and humanity’s control over nature.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ‘a “critical” theory may be distinguished from a “traditional” theory according to a specific practical purpose: a theory is critical to the extent that it seeks human “emancipation from slavery”, acts as a “liberating … influence”, and works “to create a world which satisfies the needs and powers of” human beings’.

In both the natural and social sciences, ‘they do not merely seek to provide the means to achieve some independent goal, but rather seek “human emancipation” in circumstances of domination and oppression.’

The notion that domination and oppression is inherent in the power relations of Western civilisation thus becomes axiomatic.

Marxist irony

While there is no doubt that domination and oppression occurs, as it must in any society that has a government, it is ironic that Marxists would critique the power structures of the Western world when their own experimental societies such as the USSR, China, North Korea, Cuba, Cambodia, Vietnam, Zimbabwe and Venezuela, are rife with oppression, exploitation and authoritarianism.

Everywhere socialism or communism has been tried it has led to totalitarian dictatorships, grinding poverty, starvation, and brutal repression. The Black Book of Communism estimates that nearly 100 million people died as a consequence of communist revolutions.

It is equally ironic that Marxists criticise the power structures of the West, when the West has seen the most dramatic liberalisation of both political and economic power relations.

The West (re-)birthed democracy after centuries of oppressive monarchies, theocracies and feudalism. Western countries birthed free markets and free trade after centuries of state-dominated mercantilism and colonialism. Western powers, for that matter, were the original abolitionists, rejecting slavery as morally repugnant and economically unsound.

With the failure of the communist project, which became all too clear by the 1970s and 1980s, left-wing academics did not just abandon their anti-capitalist passion. They merely adapted their revolutionary theory to the new struggles of the era, epitomised in the social and racial unrest of the 1960s.

Class becomes race

They called it ‘critical race theory’, extending the ‘class struggle’ idea to other identity-related features; primarily race, but also gender, sexual orientation, disability status, and so on.

It views every social issue through the lens of the perpetual struggle between oppressor and oppressed. It classifies every individual, based not on their actions or principles or character, but on immutable physical characteristics such as skin colour or genitalia, as being either oppressor or oppressed.

Yet it still seeks the overthrow of Western power structures, including capitalism, to achieve its revolutionary goal of supposed liberation and equality.

Ibram X. Kendi, director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, once said: ‘[I]n order to truly be antiracist, you also have to truly be anti-capitalist, … [a]nd in order to truly be anti-capitalist, you have to be antiracist, because they’re interrelated.’

Critical race theory has not changed the Marxist ideal at its core.

Capital W

It does not view racism as a manifestation of individual prejudice. Even in the absence of race-based laws it views racism as a systemic, structural evil that pervades all social institutions, and ‘operates to the benefit of White people, especially White elites’.

Note the capitalisation of ‘White’, here. This is exactly what the Apartheid government did when they described the races, and it is exactly what white supremacist groups still do today. Whenever you see ‘White’ capitalised, you can be sure you’re dealing with a fan of White Pride or White Power, or with a critical race theorist.

Critical race theory, and the broader ‘social justice’ movement it has spawned, including Black Lives Matter, says people are defined by their race, and cannot escape their racial identity. Hitler and Verwoerd said the same.

It necessarily inflames racial tension, because without tension you cannot have a struggle between oppressor and oppressed. Without tension, you cannot have revolution and the overthrow of ‘racist institutions’ like liberalism and capitalism. And that tension, far from reducing white supremacy, actually inflames white nationalists, which gives the would-be revolutionaries something to revolt against.

Infiltration

Critical race theory holds that establishing knowledge is not an attempt at arriving at a universally shared objective truth, but truth lies in individual ‘lived experience’, and everyone’s subjective truth is equally valid.

It holds that every field of study should be in service to emancipation, or anti-racism. This extends even to mathematics, as I’ve written before. (It is notable that the quotations I used in that column have since been changed in the source documents, presumably to appear less offensive to common sense.)

It has infiltrated university faculties, schools, government agencies, and corporate boardrooms. It has become a very profitable industry. It demands unquestioning subservience to its ideology, and requires everyone to accept their status as either victim or perpetrator of racist oppression.

It demeans white people by attributing to them, based only on the colour of their skin, collective guilt for the racism and slavery of ages past. White people are expected to apologise for their whiteness, and should not expect that apology to be accepted.

It demeans black people by casting them as perpetual victims, able to thrive only when white people do not exercise their ‘privilege’.

Bigotry and segregation

Black people themselves have welcomed measures to curb critical race theory training and indoctrination programmes. Horace Cooper, co-chairman of black conservative activist group Project 21, said: ‘Critical race theory is bigotry, pure and simple. Its advocates should apologise to Jim Crow and South African apartheid supporters for ever offering a critical word. Claiming that people have characteristics and behaviors due solely to their race is a tired, old and evil idea that has no business being supported by taxpayer dollars.’

Critical race theory has reintroduced racial segregation by establishing ‘safe spaces’ for people based on race, gender, or other immutable physical characteristics.

It seeks to silence speech that it considers offensive, and explicitly considers offensive speech to constitute ‘violence’. This, again, is demeaning to the very people it claims to protect, suggesting they’re too fragile to tolerate people being mean to them.

The entire edifice of racial segregation, racial identity and ‘separate development’, sustained for decades by the Apartheid government, and torn down with the liberation of South Africa in the 1980s and early 1990s, is being rebuilt in the name of critical race theory and ‘social justice’.

When you need to qualify the word ‘justice’, it isn’t justice. Critical race theory is not only grossly unjust, but it contradicts – to appropriate one of its own pet phrases – the ‘lived experience’ of black people in South Africa, only 2% of whom believe racism to be a serious unresolved problem that ought to be a priority for government to address.

The future of peaceful coexistence lies in non-racialism and non-discrimination. Critical race theory does not offer that. In fact, it considers non-racialism to be racist, too.

This harmful, vindictive ideology has no place in our universities, schools, companies, or public policy. It claims to be ‘anti-racist’, but that is just an Orwellian dysphemism for quintessential racism, repackaged for the neo-Marxist generation.

It should be rejected in its entirety, and nobody should be forced to bend the knee to it.

  • The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR
  • If you like what you have just read, support the Daily Friend
  • Ivo Vegter is a freelance journalist, columnist and speaker who loves debunking myths and misconceptions, and addresses topics from the perspective of individual liberty and free markets. As an independent researcher, he is the author of the recent report from the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) – South Africa’s Minibus Taxi Industry, Resistance to Formalisation and Innovation – which assesses the potential for innovation and modernisation in this vital transport sector.

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