For at least the last 18 months and perhaps much longer, debate continues concerning critical race theory (CRT), especially around its use in public schools. All that glitters is not gold. Derrick Bell became one of the primary architects of critical race theory in legal studies in the 1970s. He wrote his seminal book, Race, Racism, and American Law on the subject. Other contributors included Richard Delgado, and Kimberlé Crenshaw, an early adherent to CRT.
The rightwing dragged it up again after the Black Lives Matter protests. Though the theory is decades old, it started receiving widespread attention last fall following the summer of Black Lives Matter protests. Conservative Christopher F. Rufo stated to Fox TV’s Tucker Carlson. It needed banning and wiped out in all public domains.
Then-President Donald Trump appended an executive order narrowing bias and diversity training in federal government offices. GOP state lawmakers, along with a smattering of democrats within their legislatures, created bills to prevent schools from teaching racism that holds America responsible for racial and gender-based oppression.
About 25 states began legislation limiting or restricting CRT. Rightwing zealots believe that anything with racism in it needs cleansing, according to Dr. Camika Royal, an associate professor of Urban Education at Loyola, a CRT scholar herself.
The now-deceased Bell viewed social class conflict and their conquests involving the black struggle historically as fleeting. Bell said that society is divided between white oppressors and the oppressed Blacks. He leaves out social class conflict and the gigantic conquests blacks made.
Bell saw the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 school-desegregation decision, Brown v. Board of Education, only as a way for whites to enhance America in the eyes of third-world countries. He gave little or no credit to the Black women, men, and children, who gave their lives, blood, sweat and tears for the civil rights and Black rights struggles.
Critical race theory minimizes the historical Black experience. It sees the race clashes of whites against blacks and not the clashes between the masses of Black people with big business corporations’ upper white echelons of social class as the foundation of society’s struggle. It trivializes the gains that Blacks made. CRT sees critical historical movements as a fleeting moment in time.
Bell labels these gems as “short-lived victories that slide into irrelevance as racial patterns adapt in ways that maintain white dominance.” He concludes that struggle does not merit it. He says that coercing white workers will show success in governing white workers’ inborn racist nature. We need not retreat or trivialize from his anti-historical view.
Bell presupposed that whites only supported black rights if it were in their interests— a term called “interest convergence theory.”
The international fight against police brutality of blacks through the George Floyd movement shows a lot. It shows that white privilege and white supremacy do not reign supreme, contrary to Bell’s ideas and worldview on race.
No, I do not argue with the rightwing position. Working people, specifically the Black masses, need to wage struggles against the deepening economic and social crisis that inhibit us from learning the comprehensive history— good, bad and indifferent. No one is born a racist, white supremacist, sexist or homophobic.
We need to understand the gains and losses of battles in the past and not trivialize them or make them fleeting. We need to build our confidence. The rich history provides us with the spirit of struggles yet to come. The account gives us tools to eradicate racism, white supremacy, sexism, and homophobia— the struggle continues.
Former Coppin State University professor, Dr. Ken Morgan is human rights activist. He can be reached at: [email protected]