By Joel Kotkin
National Socialism, Maoism and Marxism-Leninism all have one thing in common: they boil down human experience to one aspect, such as race or class, and diminish the struggles and achievements of much of humanity.
In some respects, as an approach to understanding history, CRT has a certain credibility. Ibram X. Kendi’s retelling of American history in Stamped from the Beginning is lucid, well-crafted and internally consistent in its description of racism as both a motivating force and by-product of the American tale. He uses it to rationalise and support his claim that African Americans have failed to attain the fruits of American life in the same way as whites — higher education, corporate leadership, home ownership and intergenerational wealth — but suggests this is due almost entirely to racist policies embedded in American institutions and law.
It certainly does not serve any country’s history to ignore such things; they are fundamental strands of the national tapestry. But CRT and its adherents present an all too one-sided view. Its founding father, legal scholar Derrick Bell, even claimed African Americans had not made progress since Abolition, obliterating the enormous contributions — in politics, arts, culture and elsewhere — made by African Americans in the face of widespread discrimination.
CRT takes an opposite approach to many Black leaders — Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois — who sought not to lower standards, but to raise them. Indeed, Black Americans made significant progress in terms of incomes and skills in the 1940s to the 1960s, before many of the most heinous forms of racism were abolished. Relying on whites to achieve an anti-racist enlightenment has never been a good strategy, in any era.
But rather than draw inspiration from this, today’s racial activists decry the habits often associated with success as reflections of “whiteness”. Some even denounce habits such as punctuality, rationality and hard work as reflective of “racism” and “white privilege”. Mathematics and science have also been dismissed for being reflective of “racism” and “white privilege”. Yet as African American economist Glenn Loury has observed, CRT wipes out agency by downgrading “western” concepts and “impedes the acquisition of traits that are valued in the marketplace and are essential for human development.”