The political left wishes to discredit concerns over critical race theory (CRT) being taught in our schools by adverting it is nothing more than “political theater.” Unfortunately, their criticism is misplaced. The reality is that some North Carolina schools are actively pushing CRT doctrines, albeit not calling it by the name. This article will reveal the Marxist origins of CRT and how it is currently being pushed in North Carolina schools.
My investigation opens with the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Marxism is a derivative of Hegelianism, whereby it pulls from Hegel’s dialectical process. Generally speaking, the dialectical is a process for which one comes to know geist (German for mind or spirit). Hegel takes a historical view of how one progresses to know geist. For Hegel, history is merely the progress of the consciousness of freedom to activate its teleological end, viz. to know geist. What Marxism does is take this philosophy and replace geist with production and the struggle to know geist with class struggle, whereby the struggle is for the proletariat to take control of the means of production from the bourgeoisie. Karl Marx states this in the “Communist Manifesto.”
“The history of all…existing society is the history of class struggle…The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class.”
Critical theory (CT), a social theory developed in the mid-1900s, emerges from the Frankfurt School (a collection of European intellectuals and social theorists) as a 20th-century interpretation of Marxism. CT essentially argues that the critique of current social structures should start with how historical beliefs, social norms, and institutions have played a role in their development. While CT is an amalgamation of other social and political philosophies, its roots are in the Marxist belief that current social conditions are the product of history. This belief comes directly from Marx’s writings, where he claims current systems are just the continuation of past systems. He states in the “Communist Manifesto” that “the means of production and of exchange, on whose foundation the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society.”
Now, I will discuss CRT, which is merely an extension of CT but with the focus being on race rather than the working class. To avoid the criticism that I am making a strawman argument, I surveyed multiple sources and found The Washington Post used a definition that most supporters of CRT tend to agree with. The Washington Post defines CRT as:
Critical race theory is an academic framework centered on the idea that racism is systemic, and not just demonstrated by individual people with prejudices. The theory holds that racial inequality is woven into legal systems and negatively affects people of color in their schools, doctors’ offices, the criminal justice system and countless other parts of life.
Like CT, CRT argues that social issues in the present are rooted in the past. Additionally, baked into CRT is another Marxist belief that the world can be divided into oppressed and oppressor. We can see this clearly on the first page of the “Communist Manifesto,” whereby Marx states, “[f]reeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another”.
This notion of the world consisting of oppressor and oppressed in a broader sense is essential for CRT, otherwise, there is no distinction between CRT and CT. The terms used in the definition, i.e., “racism is systemic” and “racial inequality is woven into legal systems,” speak to the idea that groups are inherently racist and that systems established by a particular group, whether intentional or unintentional, has built into it, necessarily, biases against other groups.
Now, how is CRT being advanced in North Carolina schools? While CRT may not be explicitly mentioned, it is actively being pushed into the consciousness of educators and social studies curriculum. Recall the debate earlier this year around the proposed term “systematic racism” being added to social studies. As we can see from the definition of CRT, this notion of “systematic racism” is a direct reference to the belief. Three years ago, The News & Observer reported “white privilege is something that Wake teachers and principals are studying as part of the district’s diversity training.” Using the City of Raleigh’s Equity and Inclusion Department define of “privilege” which states “unearned set of advantages, entitlements and beliefs of the dominant group reinforced by formal and informal institutions of society (white privilege, male privilege)”, we can see the terms “white privilege”, “unearned set of advantages”, and “dominant group” speak to inherent features about a particular group. This is another direct belief of CRT. The aforementioned education trends demonstrate an active interest in the promotion that systems and a particular group consist of inherent features that necessarily put other groups at a disadvantage, i.e., oppressed. Furthermore, efforts have been made to rebrand CRT in North Carolina as “culturally responsive teaching” and “culturally relevant teaching.” But these are tautologies. This admission by itself is the smoking gun that CRT is being taught in our schools.
In summation, parents, scholars, activist, and the political right are not only making valid claims against CRT, but the history behind it and the definition also confirms it is a derivative of Marxism concerned with denoting groups as either oppressed or oppressor. Furthermore, CRT advances these categories, not as social consequences of history but inherent properties of groups. The political left relies on tautological arguments to say CRT is not being taught in schools. But changing the words does not mean you changed the behavior. Calling an apple an orange does not change the fact that it is still an apple.
Joshua Peters is a philosopher and social critic from Raleigh, NC. His academic background is in western philosophy, STEM, and financial analysis. Joshua studied at North Carolina State University (BS) and UNC Charlotte (MS). He is a graduate of the E.A. Morris Fellowship for Emerging Leaders.