Considering Discrimination

Review of Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic’s Book

Critical Race Theory

Review by Joseph Langen

Initial impressions and getting started

I have heard quite a bit about Critical Race Theory and am also aware of conservative ire about the term and what it means. I have heard from conservative parents that this is now part of the school curriculum and is designed to get people to hate whites and love blacks. I thought there must be more to it than that and decided to find out for myself.

I ordered the book from the library but in the meantime was able to download a sample from Amazon which did not leave me any more enlightened. What I found seemed unclear and not very helpful to my understanding of what this is all about.

I also read the Amazon reviews which seemed almost evenly divided between those by people who loved the book and those who hated it. Nobody seemed neutral.

Then the book arrived from the library. At first, I feared that I would be similarly disappointed as I was with the summary. Yet I was not disappointed and found the book very helpful in understanding what is involved and what its goals are in discussing Critical Race Theory.

The nature of Critical Race Theory (CRT)

First of all, what is Critical Race Theory? The authors point out that it is a graduate school level of discourse among scholars about “race, racism and power.” It is a consideration of these three factors with regard to economics, history, setting, group and self interest as well as how we feel about all this and how we feel about it. From this description, it is clear that this not a finalized teaching but an area of inquiry regarding race, racism and the effects on society.

The first consideration was that no person has a single unitary identity. Nobody is just white, nobody just black or other shade of skin. Everyone has other identities such as gender, sexual orientation, occupation, parental status, and many other complementary and sometimes contradictory contributors to their overall sense of identity. In light of this, the conversation includes people of all colors, both genders, all sexual orientations, the variety of immigrants, the poor, and the disadvantaged. 

There are some common understandings among those who are exploring the implications of this theory. They include the following:

  1. Racism is not just in the mind of individuals. It affects “the usual way society does business.” In other words, racism is part of the fabric of American society with far-reaching implications.
  2. There seems to be general agreement that white dominance has significant benefits for those who enjoy being part of that class of people.
  3. Those who study CRT profess that the idea of race is not based on genetics or biology but is a social construct favoring the dominant group.
  4. The dominant group considers “lower” groups in terms of the labor market at any given time in terms of how to take advantage of them.
  5. No person has an identity with just one facet.
  6. Minority groups have an understanding of their condition and its implications which whites are not likely to understand but could learn through dialog.

The book goes on to describe this history of institutional racism and its effect on society. It also addresses limitations in how both conservatives and liberals have often missed the point in considering racism and what is needed to remedy it. One thing we can do is to study what it means to be white for people identified as white and what it means to be in categories other than white as well as everyone learning to respect each others’ experience.

Areas of concern and the future

  1. Race, class, welfare and poverty.
  2. Policing and criminal justice.
  3. Hate speech, language rights and school curricula.
  4. Affirmative action and color blindness.
  5. Globalization and Immigration.
  6. Voting rights.

The authors suggest three possible outcomes in the future:

  1. A bleak outlook until a non-white majority emerges in the next few decades.
  2. The critical race agenda may lead to a violent confrontation such as in South Africa.

They also suggest likely responses to the Critical Race Theory (CRT) movement:

  1. CRT may become the New Civil Rights Orthodoxy.
  2. CRT theory could be marginalized and ignored.
  3. CRT could be analyzed and then rejected.
  4. CRT could be partially incorporated into the way we conduct the future of our society.

You should be able to conclude after reading this book that CRT is not an effort to get anyone to hate people who identify as white. Hopefully you can see that CRT is an ongoing discussion about the significance of “racial” considerations in forming the future of America. This is something we need to study carefully as we share our wants, needs and difficulties across groups in our society. The goal is benefit all of us in order to insure the future of our democracy.

Personal thoughts

In my opinion, the term Critical Race Theory has become controversial and raises people’s hackles. I wonder whether a different term might be more useful in leading us away from fighting with each other in favor of dialogue. We need to have something to bring us together as a nation rather than something to fight about. Could this be our opportunity?

About Critical Race Theory

Critical Race Theory: A Brief History

Photo by lilartsy on Pexels.com

Written by Jacey Fortin and published in the New York Times July 27, 2021

About a year ago, even as the United States was seized by protests against racism, many Americans had never heard the phrase “critical race theory.”

Now, suddenly, the term is everywhere. It makes national and international headlines and is a target for talking heads. Culture wars over critical race theory have turned school boards into battlegrounds, and in higher education, the term has been tangled up in tenure battles. Dozens of United States senators have branded it “activist indoctrination.”

But C.R.T., as it is often abbreviated, is not new. It’s a graduate-level academic framework that encompasses decades of scholarship, which makes it difficult to find a satisfying answer to the basic question:

What, exactly, is critical race theory?

The person widely credited with coining the term is Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, a law professor at the U.C.L.A. School of Law and Columbia Law School.

Asked for a definition, she first raised a question of her own: Why is this coming up now? “It’s only prompted interest now that the conservative right wing has claimed it as a subversive set of ideas,” she said, adding that news outlets, including The New York Times, were covering critical race theory because it has been “made the problem by a well-resourced, highly mobilized coalition of forces.”

Some of those critics seem to cast racism as a personal characteristic first and foremost — a problem caused mainly by bigots who practice overt discrimination — and to frame discussions about racism as shaming, accusatory or divisive.

But critical race theorists say they are mainly concerned with institutions and systems.

“The problem is not bad people,” said Mari Matsuda, a law professor at the University of Hawaii who was an early developer of critical race theory. “The problem is a system that reproduces bad outcomes. It is both humane and inclusive to say, ‘We have done things that have hurt all of us, and we need to find a way out.’”

Critical race theorists reject the philosophy of “colorblindness.” They acknowledge the stark racial disparities that have persisted in the United States despite decades of civil rights reforms, and they raise structural questions about how racist hierarchies are enforced, even among people with good intentions.

Proponents tend to understand race as a creation of society, not a biological reality. And many say it is important to elevate the voices and stories of people who experience racism.

But critical race theory is not a single worldview; the people who study it may disagree on some of the finer points. As Professor Crenshaw put it, C.R.T. is more a verb than a noun.

“It is a way of seeing, attending to, accounting for, tracing and analyzing the ways that race is produced,” she said, “the ways that racial inequality is facilitated, and the ways that our history has created these inequalities that now can be almost effortlessly reproduced unless we attend to the existence of these inequalities.”

Professor Matsuda described it as a map for change.

“For me,” she said, “critical race theory is a method that takes the lived experience of racism seriously, using history and social reality to explain how racism operates in American law and culture, toward the end of eliminating the harmful effects of racism and bringing about a just and healthy world for all.”

Opponents of the academic doctrine known as critical race theory protesting outside the Loudoun County School Board office in Ashburn, Va., on June 22.Credit…Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Like many other academic frameworks, critical race theory has been subject to various counterarguments over the years. Some critics suggested, for example, that the field sacrificed academic rigor in favor of personal narratives. Others wondered whether its emphasis on systemic problems diminished the agency of individual people.

This year, the debates have spilled far beyond the pages of academic papers.

Last year, after protests over the police killing of George Floyd prompted new conversations about structural racism in the United States, President Donald J. Trump issued a memo to federal agencies that warned against critical race theory, labeling it as “divisive,” followed by an executive order barring any training that suggested the United States was fundamentally racist.

His focus on C.R.T. seemed to have originated with an interview he saw on Fox News, when Christopher F. Rufo, a conservative scholar now at the Manhattan Institute, told Tucker Carlson about the “cult indoctrination” of critical race theory.Use of the term skyrocketed from there, though it is often used to describe arange of activities that don’t really fit the academic definition, like acknowledging historical racism in school lessons or attending diversity trainings at work.

The Biden administration rescinded Mr. Trump’s order, but by then it had already been made into a wedge issue. Republican-dominated state legislatures have tried to implement similar bans with support from conservative groups, many of whom have chosen public schools as a battleground.

“The woke class wants to teach kids to hate each other, rather than teaching them how to read,” Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said to the state’s board of education in June, shortly before it moved to ban critical race theory. He has also called critical race theory “state-sanctioned racism.”

According to Professor Crenshaw, opponents of C.R.T. are using a decades-old tactic: insisting that acknowledging racism is itself racist.

“The rhetoric allows for racial equity laws, demands and movements to be framed as aggression and discrimination against white people,” she said. That, she added, is at odds with what critical race theorists have been saying for four decades.

In 1980, Derrick Bell left Harvard Law School.

Professor Bell, a pioneering legal scholar who died in 2011, is often described as the godfather of critical race theory. “He broke open the possibility of bringing Black consciousness to the premiere intellectual battlefields of our profession,” Professor Matsuda said.His work explored (among other things) what it would mean to understand racism as a permanent feature of American life, and whether it was easier to pass civil rights legislation in the United States because those laws ultimately served the interests of white people.

After Professor Bell left Harvard Law, a group of students there began protesting the faculty’s lack of diversity. In 1983, The New York Times reported, the school had 60 tenured law professors. All but one were men, and only one was Black.

The demonstrators, including Professors Crenshaw and Matsuda, who were then graduate students at Harvard, also chafed at the limitations of their curriculum in critical legal studies, a discipline that questioned the neutrality of the American legal system, and sought to expand it to explore how laws sustained racial hierarchies.

“It was our job to rethink what these institutions were teaching us,” Professor Crenshaw said, “and to assist those institutions in transforming them into truly egalitarian spaces.”

The students saw that stark racial inequality had persisted despite the civil rights legislation of the 1950s and 60s. They sought, and then developed, new tools and principles to understand why. A workshop that Professor Crenshaw organized in 1989 helped to establish these ideas as part of a new academic framework called critical race theory.

OiYan Poon, an associate professor with Colorado State University who studies race, education and intersectionality, said that opponents of critical race theory should try to learn about it from the original sources.

“If they did,” she said, “they would recognize that the founders of C.R.T. critiqued liberal ideologies, and that they called on research scholars to seek out and understand the roots of why racial disparities are so persistent, and to systemically dismantle racism.”To that end, branches of C.R.T. have evolved that focus on the particular experiences of IndigenousLatinoAsian American, and Black people and communities. In her own work, Dr. Poon has used C.R.T. to analyze Asian Americans’ opinions about affirmative action.

That expansiveness “signifies the potency and strength of critical race theory as a living theory — one that constantly evolves,” said María C. Ledesma, a professor of educational leadership at San José State University who has used critical race theory in her analyses of campus climate, pedagogy and the experiences of first-generation college students. “People are drawn to it because it resonates with them.”

Some scholars of critical race theory see the framework as a way to help the United States live up to its own ideals, or as a model for thinking about the big, daunting problems that affect everyone on this planet.

“I see it like global warming,” Professor Matsuda said. “We have a serious problem that requires big, structural changes; otherwise, we are dooming future generations to catastrophe. Our inability to think structurally, with a sense of mutual care, is dooming us — whether the problem is racism, or climate disaster, or world peace.”

What the founders of critical race theory have to say about the conservative attacks

Photo by Matthew DeVries on Pexels.com

Written by Rachel Hatzipanagos and published in

The Washington Post July 22,2021

For decades, the founders of critical race theory hashed out their differences at academic conferences and in journals.

The “crits,” as they are known, disagreed over whether their framework for examining systemic racism was too far removed from activists, and if their approach focused enough on the struggles of the poor.

“This was before the internet, before email. If you wanted exchange of ideas, you met face-to-face,” Mari Matsuda, a law professor at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, said in an email. “This allowed for expressions of difference, questioning, arguing, while forging solidarity.”

But in recent months, critical race theory has leaped from the classroom to conservative news networks, where it has been attacked as divisive. Conservative activists and politicians have seized on the issue, often redefining the academic term to encompass nearly any examination of systemic racism. Several state legislatures are considering whether to ban teaching critical race theory in schools.

In interviews, the scholars who helped create this academic framework said they’re angry about the way the current debate distorts their ideas. They worry about chilling effect this backlash could have on teaching about race and racism in America.

“This is basically an effort to create a boogeyman and pour everything into that category that they believe will prompt fear, discomfort and repudiation on the part of parents and voters who are primed to respond to this hysteria that they’re trying to create,” said Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles and Columbia Law School.

Critical race theory: Breaking down the truth behind the spin

As outlined in “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction,” CRT was fueled by provocative ideas from its start.

In 1980, Harvard law professor Derrick Bell argued that the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education failed to significantly improve the lives of Black students, and that the decision only came about because the United States needed to improve its image around the world. “The interest of blacks in achieving racial equality will be accommodated only when it converges with the interests of whites,” Bell wrote.

His essay would become one of the founding documents of critical race theory.

Opinion: Two voices of resistance to the critical race theory backlash in Oklahoma

Not all critical race theory scholars agree exactly with Bell, or with each other. But they broadly argue that race is a social construct and that the law helps perpetuate racism and existing social hierarchies, said Ian Haney López, a law professor at University of California at Berkeley and a longtime scholar of critical race theory and dog-whistle politics.

“Law cannot stand apart from society. Law must take seriously the extent to which it’s enmeshed in and draws upon very often legitimate, unjust social hierarchies,” Haney López said.

These ideas exploded into the mainstream in the summer of 2020, when massive, multiracial protests spread across the country after the murder of George Floyd. Support for the Black Lives Matter movement hit an all-time high, and books related to systemic racism and White privilege soared to the top of bestseller lists.

But as support for Black Lives Matter began to wane among White Americans, conservative activists such as Christopher Rufo began to argue that attacks on critical race theory could be used to turn Americans against efforts to increase awareness of systemic racism more broadly.

“We have successfully frozen their brand — ‘critical race theory’ — into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions,” Rufo, 36, wrote on Twitter.

For generations, children have been spared the reality of slavery. Some schools are trying to change that.

By September, President Donald Trump banned federal agencies from teaching critical race theory in trainings. President Biden has since reversed Trump’s order, but conservatives have remained focused on the issue. In May, several GOP lawmakers introduced a bill to ban the teaching of critical race theory in federal institutions because they say it promotes discrimination and stokes division.

“I grew up attending segregated schools in the Jim Crow South during a time when people were treated differently based on the color of their skin,” wrote Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah) in a statement. “Critical Race Theory preserves this way of thinking and undermines civil rights, constitutionally guaranteed equal protection before the law, and U.S. institutions at large.”

Haney López sees these attacks on critical race theory as part of “a well-established theater that is well practiced, well-established, even to some extent demanded by the right wing base.”

He believes there are a few things that made CRT attractive to attack. The scholar-driven movement fits into the right’s attack on “cultural elites.”

“It is part of a larger practice of culture-war politics, an effort by the Republican Party, by the party of big business, to convince working Americans that the elites who threaten them are not economic titans, but instead, cultural elites,” Haney López said.

And critical race theory, “has the word ‘race’ in it so it can be connected to the larger claims that demands for racial justice are really a form of anti-White racism and are rooted in hatred of White people,” Haney López said.

“There is a central lie that is being told all the time that is completely independent of CRT and … it is the lie that says people of color threaten White people,” he added.

What is critical race theory, and why do Republicans want to ban it in schools?

Opponents of critical race theory are also pushing legislation that would limit what students can be taught about race and racism. For generations, many U.S. public schools have not taught the true horrors of slavery, a Washington Post series reported last year.

Pushes to revamp curriculums and include scholarship such as the New York Times’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project, essays that examine slavery’s ongoing impact on American life, have similarly met resistance. At least 26 states have introduced bills or taken other actions to ban or limit CRT or discussions of race in the classroom, according to an Education Week tally.

“This is one of these moments where ignorance is a never-ending gift, you know, to these right-wing strategies of distraction and denial,” Crenshaw said. “Most Americans were not exposed to these histories in their classrooms.”

The American Civil Liberties Union is already taking steps to challenge the bans. But that hasn’t stopped some schools from prohibiting teachers from discussing race and racism in the classroom. A teacher’s course on race and ethnicity at Oklahoma City Community College was canceled for the summer semester, and Kansas is asking public universities to provide a list of courses that include critical race theory as part of the curriculum. A Tennessee schoolteacher was fired after assigning an opinion essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

“We already see the most vulnerable educators — K-12 in red states, adjuncts and lecturers at universities, exploited grad students, small town librarians — losing positions, and facing hard choices and censorship when they are just trying to do their jobs,” Matsuda said.

Crenshaw said movements for social change have historically been met with resistance, and critical race theory is just the modern-day example.

“We have had efforts to suppress literacy, writing, advocacy, actual thinking about race from the earliest moments of our history,” Crenshaw said. “Abolition material was characterized as seditious and regulated by law. Black people, enslaved people, were not allowed to read by law.”

“The ability to turn racist aggression into self-defense is as old as the republic. The problem is that we’re unaware of it,” Crenshaw said. “And now as a society, we may be paying a cost for our ignorance about our own history.”

There Is No Debate Over Critical Race Theory

Pundits and politicians have created their own definition for the term, and then set about attacking it.

Written by Ibram X. Kendi and published in The Atlantic, 7/9/2021

 About the author: Ibram X. Kendi is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and the director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. He is the author of several books, including the National Book Award–winning Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America and How to Be an Antiracist.

The United States is not in the midst of a “culture war” over race and racism. The animating force of our current conflict is not our differing values, beliefs, moral codes, or practices. The American people aren’t divided. The American people are being divided.

Republican operatives have buried the actual definition of critical race theory: “a way of looking at law’s role platforming, facilitating, producing, and even insulating racial inequality in our country,” as the law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, who helped coin the term, recently defined it. Instead, the attacks on critical race theory are based on made-up definitions and descriptors. “Critical race theory says every white person is a racist,” Senator Ted Cruz has said. “It basically teaches that certain children are inherently bad people because of the color of their skin,” said the Alabama state legislator Chris Pringle.

There are differing points of view about race and racism. But what we are seeing and hearing on news shows, in school-district meetings, in op-ed pages, in legislative halls, and in social-media feeds aren’t multiple sides with differing points of view. There’s only one side in our so-called culture war right now.

Conor Friedersdorf: Critical race theory is making both parties flip-flop

The Republican operatives, who dismiss the expositions of critical race theorists and anti-racists in order to define critical race theory and anti-racism, and then attack those definitions, are effectively debating themselves. They have conjured an imagined monster to scare the American people and project themselves as the nation’s defenders from that fictional monster.

The Biggest Threat to Democracy Is the GOP Stealing the Next Election

STEVEN LEVITSKY AND DANIEL ZIBLATT The evangelist Pat Robertson recently called critical race theory “a monstrous evil.” And over the past year, that “monstrous evil” has supposedly been growing many legs. First, Republicans pointed to Black Lives Matter demonstrators. Three days after George Floyd’s murder last year, President Donald Trump recast the largely peaceful demonstrators as violent and dishonorable “THUGS.” By the end of July, Trump had framed them as “anarchists who hate our country.”

Then “cancel culture” was targeted. At the Republican National Convention in August, Trump blasted “cancel culture” as seeking to coerce Americans “into saying what you know to be false and scare you out of saying what you know to be true.”

Next came attacks on the 1619 Project and American history. “Despite the virtues and accomplishments of this Nation, many students are now taught in school to hate their own country, and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but rather villains,” read Trump’s executive order on November 2, establishing the President’s Advisory 1776 Commission.

And now the Black Lives Matter demonstrators, cancel culture, the 1619 Project, American history, and anti-racist education are presented to the public as the many legs of the “monstrous evil” of critical race theory that’s purportedly coming to harm white children. The language echoes the rhetoric used to demonize desegregation after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, in 1954.

In the 1950s and ’60s, the conservators of racism organized to keep Black kids out of all-white schools. Today, they are trying to get critical race theory out of American schools. “Instead of helping young people discover that America is the greatest, most tolerant, and most generous nation in history, [critical race theory] teaches them that America is systemically evil and that the hearts of our people are full of hatred and malice,” Trump wrote in an op-ed on June 18.

After it was cited 132 times on Fox News shows in 2020, critical race theory became a conservative obsession this year. Its mentions on Fox News practically doubled month after month: It was referred to 51 times in February, 139 times in March, 314 times in April, 589 times in May, and 737 times in just the first three weeks of June. As of June 29, 26 states had introduced legislation or other state-level actions to “restrict teaching critical race theory or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism,” according to Education Week, and nine had implemented such bans.

I have been called the father of critical race theory, although I was born in 1982, and critical race theory was born in 1981. Over the past few months, I have seldom stopped to answer the critiques of critical race theory or of my own work, because the more I’ve studied these critiques, the more I’ve concluded that these critics aren’t arguing against me. They aren’t arguing against anti-racist thinkers. They aren’t arguing against critical race theorists. These critics are arguing against themselves.

Read: The GOP’s ‘critical race theory’ obsession

What happens when a politician falsely proclaims what you think, and then criticizes that proclamation? Is she really critiquing your ideas—or her own? If a writer decides what both sides of an argument are stating, is he really engaging in an argument with another writer, or is he engaging in an argument with himself?

Take the journalist Matthew Yglesias. In February, in The Washington Post, he wrote that I think that “any racial gap simply is racist by definition; any policy that maintains such a gap is a racist policy; and—most debatably—any intellectual explanation of its existence (sociological, cultural and so on) is also racist.” But nowhere have I written that the racial gap is racist: The policies and practices causing the racial gap are racist. Nowhere have I stated that any intellectual explanation of the existence of a racial gap is racist. Only intellectual explanations of a racial gap that point to the superiority or inferiority of a racial group are racist.

Was Yglesias really arguing against me, or was he arguing against himself? What about the columnist Ross Douthat? In a recent op-ed in The New York Times, he did what GOP thinkers keep doing to Americans striving to construct an equitable and just society: re-create us as extremists, as monsters to be feared for speaking out against racism. Douthat accused me of “ideological extremism that embarrasses clever liberals,” comparing me to the late Rush Limbaugh. I’ve spent my career writing evidence-based historical scholarship and demonstrating my willingness to be vulnerable; Limbaugh had no interest in being self-critical, and for decades attacked truth and facts and evidence.

Douthat claimed that I have a “Manichaean vision of public policy, in which all policymaking is either racist or antiracist, all racial disparities are the result of racism—and the measurement of any outcome short of perfect ‘equity’ may be a form of structural racism itself.”

Where did he get perfect equity? In How to Be an Antiracist, I define racial equity as a state “when two or more racial groups are standing on a relatively equal footing.” I proposed that an example of racial equity would be “if there were relatively equitable percentages” of racial groups “living in owner-occupied homes in the forties, seventies, or, better, nineties.” By contrast, in 2014, 71 percent of white families lived in owner-occupied homes, compared with 45 percent of Latino families and 41 percent of Black families. That’s racial inequity.

What we write doesn’t matter to the people arguing with themselves. It doesn’t matter that I consistently challenge Manichaean racial visions of inherently good or evil people or policy making. It doesn’t matter that I don’t write about policy making being good or evil, or that I write about the equitable or inequitable outcome of policies. It doesn’t matter that I’ve urged us toward relative equity, and not toward perfect equity.

If you want to understand why I’ve made these arguments, you first need to recognize that for decades, right-wing thinkers and judges have argued that policies that lead to racial inequities are “not racist” or are “race neutral.” That was the position of the conservative Supreme Court justices who recently upheld Arizona’s voting-restriction policies. Those who wish to conserve racial inequity want us to focus on intent—which is hard to prove—rather than the outcome of inequity, which is rather easy to prove. Case in point: GOP state legislators are claiming that the 28 laws they’ve enacted in 17 states as of June 21 are about election security, even though voter fraud is a practically nonexistent problem. They claim that these laws aren’t intended to make it harder for Black voters or members of other minority groups to cast ballots, even as experts find that’s precisely what such laws have done in the past, and predict that’s likely what these new laws will do as well.

Jarvis R. Givens: What’s missing from the discourse about anti-racist teaching

These critics aren’t just making up their claims as they go along. They are making up the sources of their criticism as they go along. Douthat argues that work like mine “extends structural analysis beyond what it can reasonably bear, into territory where white supremacy supposedly explains Asian American success on the SAT.” Who is giving this explanation other than Douthat? I’m surely not. I point to other explanations, including the history of highly educated Asian immigrants and the concentration of score-boosting test-prep companies in Asian (and white) neighborhoods.

White supremacy does explain why more than three-quarters of the perpetrators of anti-Asian hate crimes and incidents before and during the pandemic have been white. Asian American success as measured by test scores, education, and income should not erase the impact of structural racism on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. This group now has the highest income inequality of any racial group in the United States. Asian Americans in New York experienced the highest surge of unemployment of any racial group during the pandemic. Do the critics of critical race theory want us to think of the AAPI community as not just a “model minority,” but a model monolith? Showcasing AAPIs to maintain the fiction of a postracial society ends up erasing Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Critical race theory has been falsely labeled as anti-Asian. Helen Raleigh, an Asian American entrepreneur, defined critical race theory as a “divisive discriminatory ideology that judges people on the basis of their skin color” in Newsweek. “It is my practice to ignore critics who have not read the work and who are not interested in honest exchange,” responded one of the three Asian American founders of critical race theory, Mari Matsuda, a law professor at the University of Hawaii. “But I do want to say this for the record: Asian Americans are at the center of CRT analysis and have been from the start.”

How should thinkers respond to monstrous lies? Should we mostly ignore the critics as Matsuda has, as I have? Because restating facts over and over again gets old. Reciting your own work over and over again to critics who either haven’t read what they are criticizing or are purposefully distorting it gets old. And talking with people who have created a monologue with two points of view, theirs and what they impute to you, gets old.

But democracy needs dialogue. And dialogue necessitates seeking to know what a person is saying in order to offer informed critiques.

As a scholar, I know that nothing is more useful than criticism to improve my scholarship. As a human being, I know that nothing is more constructive than criticism to improve my humanity. I’ve chronicled how criticism and critics have been a driving force on my journey to be anti-racist, to confront my own racist, sexist, homophobic, and classist ideas—and their intersections. Constructive criticism often hurts, but like painful medical treatments, it can be lifesaving; it can be nation-saving.

But what’s happening now is something entirely different and destructive—not constructive. This isn’t a “culture war.” This isn’t even an “argument.” This isn’t even “criticism.” This is critics arguing with themselves.

Ibram X. Kendi is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and the director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. He is the author of several books, including the National Book Award–winning Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America and How to Be an Antiracist.