Written by Taru Taylor
Critical race theory stipulates to the facts of American history—which include U.S. genocide of American Indians, enslavement of Black Americans, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and forced internment of Japanese-Americans during World War 2.
Lawyers stipulate, or agree upon, certain facts relevant to their case. Their stipulation provides the factual baseline from which they argue in court. But critical race theory stipulates to facts for the larger court of public opinion.
Put another way, critical race theory illuminates our historical record despite centuries-long efforts to whitewash it. White nationalists present “alternative facts” conducing to a zero-sum society of white winners and nonwhite losers.
Our nation has yet to achieve a constitutional consensus, so extremist factions dominate our politics. Hence the need for critical race theory, which envisions an equitable and inclusive America.
Meanwhile, legions of parents call out proposals to teach critical race theory in our schools as “Marxist.” They evoke McCarthyism and the many twentieth-century movements that were framed as communist conspiracies.
We’ve seen this paranoid style of politics before. After Brown v Board of Education mandated desegregation of public schools in 1954, 19 senators and 82 representatives from the South signed The Declaration of Constitutional Principles, or “Southern Manifesto.” Led by Senators Richard Russell (D-AL) and Strom Thurmond (D-SC), they argued that it was unconstitutional for white children and Black children to sit together in classrooms.
They evidently won. Public schools all over this country are arguably more segregated now than they were before Brown. Perhaps George Wallace, the former Governor of Alabama, best expressed the white-nationalist credo: Segregation today! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!
But the American historical record doesn’t necessarily equate to an inherently white-supremacist USA. Some critical race theorists do argue that our nation is essentially racist. As if all Black people are oppressed and all white people are oppressor and everyone the world over is either victim or victimizer and no in between.
But the facts aren’t all doom and gloom. Black voters command majorities in select counties and cities across the land. Forty million Black Americans have over $4 trillion in aggregate purchasing power, making them one of the 15 richest peoples in the world. If considered a nation unto themselves, Black Americans are as rich as Canada.
White American households do enjoy 7.8 times the wealth of Black American households on average. But the “racial wealth gap” that many critical race theorists obsess over seems exaggerated.
Consider that most American workers regardless of race live hand to mouth as at-will employees who can be fired without cause and at a moment’s notice. Poor whites actually outnumber poor Blacks. Critical race theory tends to gloss these socioeconomic realities.
Too many critical race theorists frame the facts to portray the perfect Black victim. But Black history invokes survival and redemption, not victimhood and defeat.
Our nation’s founding documents, The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution, denote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans. But Martin Luther King’s reference to them in “I Have A Dream” still rings true:
“It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.”
The Fourteenth Amendment makes every person born on U.S. soil a citizen. And yet it’s a live question whether U.S. citizens not Caucasian truly belong among “We the People.” Former President Donald Trump seriously considered issuing an executive order to end birthright citizenship.
Right after the constitutional convention, Ben Franklin warned: “A republic, if you can keep it.” If we fail to achieve a constitutional consensus that stipulates to the facts of our historical record, we shall surely lose our republic, such as it is.
Author’s Note: I went to law school to learn all about how We the People are sovereign and how as jurors and electors we “check and balance” the other three branches of government. A lot of this stuff I should have learned in grade school. Please email me at email@example.com with questions or comments or further dialogue.