CRT: the shape of the argument

a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space. .

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Three years already?

Yep. This piece begins the fourth year of a mystical möbius. The blog traces a process.

I had confidence it was true three years ago when I wrote:

  • Orange (modern, rationalist, ‘merit’ values) projects its shadows onto ‘models.’

In the past three years (especially this last year) I’ve observed it seems more true than I’d even imagined. 

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A very fraught discourse

A month ago I wrote “Smoking gun confession to treat the fact that it is no accident that the phrase critical race theory [CRT] is a meaningless political circus in most public discourse at this point. Conservative think tanks and Republican spokespersons have purposefully fouled the stew concerning CRT. My piece on these poisonous political technologies was based on reporting by Marisa Iati (here), and, later, affirmed/expanded through detailed reporting by Benjamin Wallace-Wells (here). 

Many anti-CRT and anti-antiracism voices reflect political technologies [PT] especially in reducing and conflating the diversity and nuance in the CRT/antiracism space. Basically, CRT has been oversimplified, reduced, and conflated into a cartoon cutout.

Not monolithic 

CRT is a rather large and diverse body of work. White supremacist ideology [Wsi] is the central critical lens, e.g., the core tenet and common denominator, that all CRT work utilizes. However, the interpretation of the meaning, degree, effects, and implications of Wsi are wildly diverse within CRT. So, what is the shape of CRT argumentation?

Weak vs Strong Thesis CRT claims

So, CRT brings the Wsi lens to the identity and social contracts discourse. CRT claims can be globally divided into two non-continuous positions. The graphic is explicit and clear:

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The global—Weak Thesis [WT] vs Strong Thesis [ST]—divide of CRT is essentially the reconciliation/redemption vs revolution binary. 

CRT ST is more a rhetorical framing. In pragmatic terms, anyone literally/practically holding this ST position is probably through talking. It does form the counterpoint to the far more pragmatic WT claims. While the ST is a single absolute claim, the WT claims form a spectrum, again, from weak to strong. Let’s take in this graphic:

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The spectrum of CRT Weak Thesis claims range from the weak end on the left above, e.g., Wsi is present in everything to varying degrees; to the strong end on the right, e.g., Wsi is central to everything. So, while Wsi is in everything to some degree, the WT forms a spectrum from Wsi as central to everything to Wsi as farthest from central to everything. 

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This is very important for at least a couple of reasons. 

First, the political technologies reduce CRT to a strawman. The PT arguments and claims focus on the strong claims and fail to address the weak claims. 

Second, the present chaotic discourse misses the chief problem dynamic at work in this, that is, misunderstanding. It’s a bit of an intuitive leap. I have a graphic that helps explain what I mean. First a quick anecdote.

Systems 

Chatting with a clergy colleague this week about something unrelated to this, they described a school system they had experienced when growing up that faithfully perpetuated the myth of progress: 

“A lot of us were fed a narrative where life was always supposed to be improving.”

My colleague went on to describe how that myth is increasingly failing people and yet the residual myth of progress artifacts have been internalized and so create hopelessness in the have-nots; and, in contrast to celebrity-level success, a sense of lack even in those who have. My point here, systems create artifacts in everyone/everything they touch. 

Terminology

Systemic Racism = Wsi and its artifacts both historical and extant.

ISR = Internalized Systemic Racism

Of course, ISR is on a spectrum. For David Duke and Richard Spencer, for instance, ISR is fully conscious and willful. On the other hand, most people are on a mostly unconscious basis with our own ISR giving it power through unconscious bias, e.g., it operates out of our shadow.  

Antiracism fail: not seeing/owning our own ISR

This graphic describes the weakest Weak Thesis claim and points directly at a key problem-dynamic in racism/antiracism, e.g., ‘who me?’

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tl;dr

Recognizing that the very nature of systems (e.g., they rub-off on us) means that White supremacist ideology is present in everything and everyone in the U.S.A. to some degree. Knowing that Wsi is present to and present in everyone as an abstraction represented by a model is rational assent and affords a one-step remove. In other words, recognizing the presence of racism in everyone is not antiracism.

I make a first step toward antiracism when I recognize and admit the presence of ISR in me. People who loudly OPOSE RACISM often create major problems because they have not made that key initial step. People who loudly OPOSE CRT/ANTI-RACISM can certainly do the same.

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Now, let’s set that in context:

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Next week: post-truth and epistemology (how we know stuff). Come and see. 

[this post approx. 850 words (3 min. read)]

Your thoughts? 

I never know what I’ve said until I hear the response. What did you hear me say? 

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One thought on “CRT: the shape of the argument

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