Critical Race Theory and the Verdict of R.L. Dabney

Back last year an OpEd piece showed up in The [Raleigh NC] News & Observer by one Professor John Biewen, who is Audio Program Director at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. In his essay Biewen explained: “White supremacy today is not mainly about the guys with Tiki torches. It’s about power, and systemic patterns of racial advantage that were baked into our institutions – institutions that we’ve never fundamentally reformed…. Whiteness, like blackness and the other ‘races,’ is a fiction, invented to justify and explain exploitation. That fiction and its outgrowth, white supremacy, were central organizing principles in the building of the United States.”

Professor Biewen is illustrative of the wide influence—I would say stranglehold—that what is termed “Critical Race Theory” [CRT] now exercises over academia, most especially in our college law schools, and in departments of English and Comparative Literature (but also now embedded in most other liberal arts disciplines, including sociology, history and philosophy).

CRT basically posits that “historic white racism and oppression” and “systemic white privilege and supremacy” are inseparably integral to Western Christian society, historic realities that characterize and have defined our history. They are central to our inherited culture, and thus the examination and evaluation of our past by our various disciplines of knowledge and study must necessarily be refocused and take account of their dominating presence.

Such evaluation, inevitably, leads to an understanding that at base Western society is structurally and inherently unequal, and inflexibly prejudiced against non-whites and non-Europeans, and that the received structures, legal framework, mores, and social usages of Western society require radical reform and restructuring.

As CRT posits that the accumulated past is, by definition, unjust and a deep-seated history of systemic oppression by dominant white populations, often through violence, enslavement, and economic despoliation, any remediation must be essentially radical. And thus, the old classical “liberal” idea of “equality” and “equal justice” and “merit” (as remedies) must be completely redefined.

Instead, reaching this new brand of “equality” must entail and require, among other actions: reparations for endless past injustices, censorship and criminalization of what is deemed “hate speech,” and special compensatory privileges (extreme affirmative action) extended to designated minorities, that is, the ones that CRT determines as having been “oppressed” by the “power structure.” In actuality, the liberal idea of equality is turned against itself.

In academia, on our college campuses, this means the suppression of anything deemed to be “hate speech,” and special preferences (which are not based on merit) for those designated and formerly “oppressed” minorities, the transformation of school curricula to reflect these CRT theories and ideological goals, and the connivance and at least tacit cooperation of college administrators.

In a real sense, CRT dictates a kind of totalitarianism, academically and culturally. Since the “white oppressors” by definition incarnate “evil,” in fact they deserve no respect or real consideration. As they have “oppressed” the downtrodden peoples of the Third World for centuries, they must be made to give way, to cede their power and authority, to continually grovel and apologize profusely for their past “sins” (which, in actuality, can never be fully expiated). In short, they must now experience the brunt of a furious, perhaps at times violent, ongoing revolution and a resultant deprivation of their “privileges.”

CRT now, in fact, dominates (even if not named) most all our national conversations about “race and racism,” and a stultifying and widespread political correctness on the topic has been imposed in academia and in our culture generally.

And a “sister” theorization of radical feminism—“gender studies”—operates and dominates equally in the area of discussion over the “role” and “rights” of women in our society, openly denying the historic and natural roles of men and women, replacing them with a so-called “sexual equality,” which in fact entails the destruction of historic masculinity and the politicization of sexual functionality.

As CRT is manifested in just about every discussion and in just about every question that arises these days concerning in any way race or racial questions, both national political parties now buy into its template. The Democrats now fully embrace it as their governing narrative; the Republicans, while often restless or hesitant about its more radical manifestations, still acknowledge de facto its significance and power, and, normally, do not challenge its intellectual hegemony and control in society.

Want to discover the actual basis for the unbridled and frenzied hatred of Confederate monuments—or of the hatred of stricter voting laws—or of the attacks on perceived “police brutality” (directed at blacks)—or of countless other assaults on envisioned examples of “white oppression” and “white privilege,” then CRT is the explanation.

And it is the conjunction of CRT with Cultural Marxist theory about culture—and the gradual undermining and transformation of traditional society—that has produced what we see on most college campuses (and increasingly in public schools), and what we observe now reigning triumphant in Hollywood, what is constantly broadcast via the Mainstream Media, what permeates our politics, and, yes, in how our very language is being shaped, censored and abused.

In short, it is a multifaceted Revolution against both God and Man, against the Divine Positive Law and against the very laws of God-given Nature. It is an advance unit of the “rough beast” (to use William Butler Yeats’ poetic imagery), of the Anti-Christ, itself. Certainly, it must be met in spiritual battle, but it also must be opposed practically on every front with resolution and intelligence.

And that means rigorous educational reform—steps like greatly increased home-schooling and starting new religiously-based and private schools (and colleges).

My friend Dr. Clyde Wilson suggests that our public colleges (and probably many of our public schools) should be napalmed. Irrespective of that increasingly appealing solution, eventual privatization of our public education and an ironclad insistence that our colleges return to their original mission (even if that means firing every professor on the faculty at the end of the school year, before vetting and rehiring some of them back) should be de riguer a constant goal.

And, foremost we must recognize that the very concept of “equality,” the old classic liberal totem that has regulated much of American life and dictated American ideals since the conclusion of the War Between the States, is not what our country’s Founders envisaged. They understood that the liberal idea of “equality” (whether of result or opportunity) violated God-given human nature and the natural order of things. Egalitarianism leads inevitably to the government-sponsored equivalence of truth and error, to an open door to the incendiary legions of radical ideology which have used the demand for “equality” as a weapon against that very liberal order—and to infiltrate and undermine our educational system, itself.

One-hundred and forty years ago, the great Southern theologian and polemicist, Robert Lewis Dabney, debated the first Virginia Superintendent of Public Education William Ruffner over public, state-run education. “Providence, social laws, and parental virtues and efforts, do inevitably legislate in favor of some classes of boys,” he declared. “If the State undertakes to countervail that legislation of nature by leveling action, the attempt is wicked, mischievous, and futile.”  Dabney understood that there could be no such thing as secular or value-free education. The liberal ideal was flawed fatally from its inception. “There can be no true education,” Dabney insisted, “without moral culture, and no true moral culture without Christianity.” If the nonjuring state replaced the parent (and church) as primary purveyor of education that would undermine the Founders’ vision of the old republic and leave our educational institutions open to aggressive ideology.

Recall the lines from Robert Bolt’s “The Man for All Seasons,” when St. Thomas More was able to cross-examine Richard Rich (his lying accuser): “Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world… but for Wales?”

We weigh what is at stake; we cannot sacrifice our souls “for Wales.” We must stand against these epigones of Evil and send them back to the lower reaches of Hell from whence they came.

In short, our politicians and leaders should be reading and quoting John C. Calhoun—and Robert Lewis Dabney—and avoiding the high-flying egalitarian rhetoric of Abraham Lincoln or the educational nonsense of John Dewey.

The alternative is the end of our culture and of our civilization.

About Boyd Cathey

Boyd D. Cathey holds a doctorate in European history from the Catholic University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, where he was a Richard Weaver Fellow, and an MA in intellectual history from the University of Virginia (as a Jefferson Fellow). He was assistant to conservative author and philosopher the late Russell Kirk. In more recent years he served as State Registrar of the North Carolina Division of Archives and History. He has published in French, Spanish, and English, on historical subjects as well as classical music and opera. He is active in the Sons of Confederate Veterans and various historical, archival, and genealogical organizations. More from Boyd Cathey

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