I am the senior pastor of a rural evangelical church in East Texas. I have friends in Texas and also far beyond, and one of my good friends said that Bradley Mason’s recent article on Critical Race Theory (CRT) is “the most helpful summary of CRT to point Christians to when considering the issues and ideas today.” Well, I am a Christian who is considering the issues and ideas, and I read Mason’s article…. and, I’m still a bit unsure about what exactly CRT is asserting.
I also assume (which sometimes doesn’t work out) that the questions I have about Mason’s summary of CRT are probably not merely my own. It seems to me very likely that others would share my desire for greater clarity. It also seems to me that brief reciprocal volleys on social media are better at creating heat than light. So, to the end that Bradley Mason might read my long-form questions and respond to them, I think such a response might help folks like me understand a bit better.
Here’s to hoping for a charitable public dialogue and greater clarity as a result.
I will arrange my questions according to the format of Mason’s summary of the 11 “tenets” or “commonplaces” of CRT.
- Under the heading “Race is Socially Constructed,” Mason said, “race and racial categories were historically created to justify and maintain social hierarchy, slavery, and other forms of group-based exploitation…”
- When was “race” or “racial categories” consciously created? Who did this? How can we know that such a thing was done for the purpose (partly or primarily) to “justify” or “maintain social hierarchy”?
- If “race” was/is a “created” social construct, then how does CRT distinguish “race” from other social differences (such as gender, class, or national citizenship)?
- Under the heading “Differential Racialization,” Mason said, “Race, as an historically contingent artifact, was constructed to serve different social needs for differing social purposes at different times and in different places throughout history.”
- My first question compounds here. Now I’d like Mason to help me know when “race” or “racial categories” were consciously created “at different times and in different places.” I recognize variations, but I am not ready to adopt the notion that these variations were consciously created instead of naturally occurring phenomenon amid cultural and societal interactions.
- Does CRT view differential racialization as always, sometimes, or never morally bad/wrong?
- Under the heading “Intersectionality,” Mason said, “race is inextricably linked with other social constructions and/or social arrangements… [such as] class, gender, [and] sexuality” among other things.
- How does CRT define “race”? And, according to CRT, how is “race” distinct from some other social construct or arrangement, like class or ethnicity or nationality?
- Under the heading “Racism is Endemic to American Life,” Mason said, “race was historically constructed by, in tandem with, and as integral to other central formative American systems and institutions…”
- Does CRT claim that race was consciously “constructed by” Americans? If so, when and how was it “constructed” as opposed to adopted or transformed from the racial constructs already in existence at that time?
- Are the “racial hierarchies and ideologies… integral to American life” uniquely bad in the world? Is CRT arguing that the racialized experience of all Americans is particularly worse than that of citizens of other countries?
- Under the heading “CRT is Skeptical of Claims to Neutrality, Objectivity, Color-Blindness, and Meritocracy,” Mason said, “CRT judges decision procedures by their remedial effectiveness in addressing the subordinated circumstances of people of color…”
- What is CRT’s standard for judging the “remedial effectiveness” of any “decision procedure”?
- How does CRT’s standard for evaluating the “effectiveness in addressing the subordinated circumstances of people of color” account for the agency, responsibility, or volition of “people of color”?
- Under the heading “Racism is a Structural Phenomenon and Explains Current Maldistributions,” Mason said, “racism is primarily a problem of historically racialized systems—created for the distribution of social, political, and economic goods—continuing to perform as created…”
- Does CRT claim that all “maldistributions” are explainable by racist structures?
- Again, as in my second question above, how does CRT account for the agency, responsibility, or volition of “people of color” with regard to any individual person of color’s social, political, or economic status? Does CRT assert that people of color have no personal agency, responsibility, or volition in such areas?
- Under the heading “CRT is Discontent with Liberalism and the Standard Racial Progress Narrative,” Mason said that CRT scholars do not want to “allow ‘enlightenment’ to run its natural course.” He said they “view such liberal… remedies as a means of preserving the status quo…”
- What means do CRT theorists and adherents advocate for instead?
- What probably costs might there be to such alternative means, and how might those have a more negative impact on the whole society (including both majority and minority “races”)?
- Under the heading “Interest Convergence,” Mason said, “racial progress is often ephemeral, and always prioritized in contrast with the rest of the traditional liberal program—i.e., individual freedom, freedom of association, free markets, vested interests, property rights, etc.”
- How does CRT define “racial progress”?
- What value does CRT place on the concepts of individual freedom, freedom of association, and property rights? And does CRT believe such concepts to be inherently at odds with “racial progress”?
- Under the heading “Unique Voice of Color Thesis,” Mason said, “Those who have been, and continue to be, marginalized through social identification with historically constructed groups are thereby uniquely placed to address their unique social, legal, political, and economic subordination.”
- What does Mason mean by “address” here? Does CRT claim that only “marginalized” groups are able to offer and/or critique solutions to the social, legal, political, or economic problems specific to their group?
- According to CRT, how does a social or economic “subordination” differ (if at all) from a social or economic disparity?
- Under the heading “CRT Aspires to be Interdisciplinary and Eclectic,” Mason said, “CRT seeks to incorporate a wide range of traditions and disciplines in order to address the various and sundry ways racialization is embedded throughout society.”
- Does CRT aim to construct a completely non-racialized society?
- Does CRT desire a racialized society of some sort that practices or experiences racialization better than the present practices or experiences in America?
- Under the heading “CRT is Both Theory and Praxis,” Mason said, “In the end, CRT seeks not only to understand race and racial subordination, but to change the subordinated circumstances of marginalized peoples.”
- Does CRT seek to merely subordinate and/or marginalize different groups or races than those it presently perceives as subordinated and/or marginalized?
- Or does CRT seek to “redistribute social power” such that no group or race is marginalized or subordinated?
If you’ve read this far, then I appreciate the time and thought you’ve given. I trust that my questions will be perceived as sincere, with the true goal of understanding. Maybe the questions I’ve asked here are already helping me and you both arrive at greater clarity, but I think further exchange might be even more helpful.
I genuinely want to know what Critical Race Theory is so that I might evaluate the system of thought more carefully. May God help me.