You’ve likely seen talking heads or social media mavens blasting opposition to critical race theory by linking it to a refusal to teach American history. More specifically, the accusation often states that conservatives merely want to do away with teaching the history of the American civil rights movement or other black experiences in the past, such as slavery. It’s one of the most dishonest pivots in the public square today, particularly given that the American civil rights movement shares many qualities with conservatism.
In so many ways, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is a tribute to America’s tradition of liberty. His remarks sought to elevate the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and other symbols of American liberty. Even King’s “let freedom ring” cadences deliberately conjure up images of the Liberty Bell.
“We as Americans are the champions of human rights. It’s a revelation from God to our Founding Fathers,” says the Rev. Andrew Young, one of King’s top lieutenants during the civil rights movement.
Instead, King admonishes the nation for not fully living up to the promises in its founding documents. This is unlike critical race theory, which posits those documents as forever tainted as systems and symbols of white supremacy.
Because CRT is alien to America’s founding ideals and steeped in Marxist thought, it does not offer the same unifying message as the civil rights legacy does. Simply put, its message is one of despair. “The only remedy to racist discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is future discrimination,” declares noted CRT advocate Ibram X. Kendi.
Teaching that some people (based on race) are inherently victims and that other people are naturally oppressors is toxic for society. It reverses the aims of the civil rights movement and America’s entire tradition of ordered liberty.
Of course, one of King’s greatest skills was using Christian tradition and principles to appeal to the white majority for change. Critical race theory rejects the entire Christian understanding of Imago Dei or notions of equality that we are all born in the image of God.
Christianity remains the strongest anecdote to CRT because it stands against the materialist worldview that rejects the existence of God or that humans have souls and a destiny beyond this world.
Marxist thought divides while the practices of non-violence — so typified in the American civil rights movement — were meant to appeal to the conscience of a nation rooted in a higher law. On the other hand, the laws of CRT are dictated by partisan political thought and Marxist academic theories designed to overthrow societal norms.
Schools need to teach about the American civil rights movement and its legacy because it’s antithetical to the worldview of CRT.
It’s a lazy and tired talking point to claim that conservative thought or even those merely steeped in the American liberal tradition are somehow opposed to teaching black history.
Proponents of critical race theory know better but continually double down, calling opponents of their un-American vision as not supporting “antiracist” movements. Yet, the real racism is turning our back on our constitutional order meant to protect the rights and equality of all Americans — regardless of race or skin color.
In an ideological age, such as the one that plagues us today, we often must relearn old truths. A failure to do so only puts on a path to recycling the racist views of the past but morally bankrupting our future.
Ray Nothstine is Carolina Journal opinion editor and a Second Amendment research fellow at the John Locke Foundation.