Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Is “Critical Race Theory” the Wrong Term?

By Matt Taibbi

Are Republicans tilting at the wrong windmill? New Substack author Wesley Yang, who coined the term “Successor Ideology,” describes a movement that goes far beyond race.

The headline for Wednesday’s CNN feature said it all:

The critical race theory panic has White people afraid that they might be complicit in racism

A quick note about headline style. Some time ago, the word came down in media circles that we should begin capitalizing the “B” in “black.” Trying to be forward-thinking, I went along with it. I remember New York Times national editor Marc Lacey explaining, “Some have been pushing for this change for years… They consider Black like Latino and Asian and Native American, all of which are capitalized.”

In that same article, “Why We’re Capitalizing Black,” the Times quoted W.E.B. DuBois, who once said using a small “n” for “Negro” was a “personal insult,” and that when the Times changed their style to agree with him, it was an “act of recognition of racial self-respect.” They added that “white doesn’t represent a shared culture and history in the way Black does, and also has long been capitalized by hate groups.”

The Columbia Journalism Review reiterated the concept in “Why we capitalize ‘Black’ (and not ‘white’),” saying, “Black reflects a shared sense of identity and community. White carries a different set of meanings; capitalizing the word in this context risks following the lead of white supremacists.”

Less than a month after these pieces, the Washington Post came out with, “Why ‘White’ should be capitalized, too,” arguing: “No longer should white people be allowed the comfort of this racial invisibility; they should have to see themselves as raced.”

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