Uncritical Race Theory
Let me say at the outset that Critical Race Theory is a dangerous, completely unsubstantiated pseudo-theory of race that has now become dogma in academia. It, along with the equally false theory of Intersectionality, are the most serious threats to the sanity and unity of the United States since the Civil War. They are responsible for the current woke idea that the USA is systemically racist. And it is responsible for the increase in Jew-hatred that is discriminating against Jewish students and businesses across the country. And yet to dare to say so invites unbelievable counterattacks that impugn one’s integrity, honesty, and humanity.
The USA, like any other country, has its rich, poor, privileged, and disadvantaged of all races and colors. There are huge gaps between the rich and the poor and it is a problem that must be taken seriously. But it will not be achieved by stressing victimhood, any more than it has solved the Palestinian problem.
The theory claims that all whites are systematic racist and colonial oppressors and responsible for all the ills that have befallen the black community. This then links to the theory that all oppressed peoples share a common disadvantage and suffer in precisely the same way by similar forces. Yet if one is prepared to lump Islamophobia with racism and sexism, on what basis do they exclude antisemitism except as they define it. As if Muslims or Blacks would accept a Jew defining them? And to make matters worse these misplaced and inaccurate theories have precipitated the largest amount of Jew-hatred since Hitler and Stalin.
Every single empire, every people black, white, Christian, Muslim, Asian, and Western, and many years ago Israelite, has at some stage been colonial and oppressive to some degree. Some have managed to overcome disadvantages by being proactive. Others have fallen back on dependency and made a virtue out of failure.
There are pockets of racism. But does this mean that every institution in the USA is staffed by people who hate and discriminate against minorities or majorities? The changes that have taken place over the past fifty years have been enormous. Huge swathes of the Black population are now wealthy members of the middle and upper classes right up to the presidency. How can the USA be systematically racist if it voted twice for Obama and where black men and women are heads of some of the biggest companies and institutions in the land?
It is true that the promises made at the time of Independence, the Civil War, and the Second World War, to all citizens, were not kept. Just as progress advanced slowly and unevenly after Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson. Public attitudes often take too long to catch up with morality.
Jim Crow, practical segregation into ghettos with limited funding and opportunity have been exacerbated by penal laws and systems from legislators, including black ones, struggling with crime, drugs, and integration, which have ended up targeting minorities. But the USA now, overwhelmingly and despite pockets of resistance, accepts integration, intermarriage, and embraces the philosophy of rectification. Instead of trying to be a melting pot, it has come to accept and even encourage minorities to adhere to and celebrate their own cultures even when they either help or inhibit advancement.
The challenge is how to address poverty and disadvantage. But one cannot treat all minorities as poor and all the same. Is the black son of a Nigerian prince not privileged? Should he be given a place at Harvard rather than a poor white or a brilliant Asian? Should black millionaires be given reparations? Some cultures and people within societies respond violently to disadvantage and prejudice and others do not. Should we reward them both in the same way? Then why be law-abiding if one can get away with crimes because of one’s race? All blanket solutions have failed. One cannot expect all humans to be the same. Only civil law can and should treat everyone as equal. And black mayors have been no more or less successful than white ones.
The issue is not confined to the USA. In Britain, a Government Commission to examine white privilege was set up, and it has just reported back. It was headed by Tony Sewell, born in London to Jamaican immigrants in 1957 of African origin.
Mr. Sewell reminds us of how racist Britain was in the 1950s. There were signs in windows with rooms to let saying “No Dogs, Jews, or Blacks.” But now, 50 years later, he says, “Britain has come a long way.” It has absorbed a higher proportion of immigrants from all around the world, of all races and religions, than in any century in its history.
I recommend the film series “Small Axe” by Steve McQueen (no, not the Hollywood actor), which graphically describes the racism endured in the 1950s by Caribbean immigrants. Racism in the UK police continued into the nineties. But things are continually improving.
Sewell took a fact-based, as opposed to an activist political approach to the issue and avoided the pitfall of seeing it through the prism of white advantage. Precisely because there are poorer disadvantaged whites too. And because there are differences between all racial and ethnic groups in education, health, prosperity, and crime often influenced by culture, geography, country of origin, wealth, and education.
He argued forcibly that Britain, for all its limitations, is not institutionally racist and where it discovers any example of it, the system sets out to combat it. In return for his objectivity, he has been abused by all those NGOs and academics who have a vested interest and make a living out of racism. He has been called a race traitor, an Uncle Tom, a Nazi propagandist, and a member of the KKK. Anyone who tries to modulate the narrative is condemned as racist. And in the USA, any such opinion automatically condemns one to suffer retaliation from the woke mob.
I was brought up in a house where, as Martin Luther King said, people “were not judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I never heard a word from my parents disparaging anyone of a different race or color. What I must apologize for I cannot comprehend. And I refuse to. But I do strongly insist on the removal of anyone who is racist from any public position whatsoever. But if we are really honest, we should do this to those who hate Jews too. But by now we Jews know this will not happen.
The politicization of racism has become a scam to raise huge amounts for vested interests. It is all about money and has less to do with truth. America, for all that it has done positively for so many, instead of being a source of pride is excoriated. Patriotism, once its strength, is now seen as a betrayal. This campaign smacks of Marxist dogma, doublespeak, and dishonesty. Every society including our own has been guilty in some way of prejudice and preferences. The challenge is how to improve and repair, positively, not negatively. To look fairly at the abuses on all sides. No one is perfect.
I sense a reaction bubbling up beneath the surface. I hope I am right. Although the advocates of Critical Race Theory will do whatever they can to suppress it. The fact is that forcing people to think that there is only one way to think has never succeeded in the long term. In the end, it is our duty to change laws where necessary. That is what matters, not censorship. If Safe Spaces are necessary, they should exist for everyone, including Jews, not only the “holier than thou.”
Rabbi Jeremy Rosen has worked in the rabbinate, Jewish education, and academia for more than forty years, in Europe and the US. He currently lives in America, where he writes, teaches, lectures, and serves as rabbi of a small community in New York.