Critical Race Theory holds that American society is irredeemably racist in favor of the white majority. The thinking is that in a racially oppressive society, though you may also have in common with another your sex, your likes or dislikes, your religion, your political ideas, even your disposition, ethnic commonality or skin color matters beyond anything else. For this reason, only someone of your ethnicity can ever really understand you or grasp your deep-down motives for your actions.
Given the overarching, omnipresent racial-ethnic oppression, what matters isn’t so much facts as they happened but a narrative that takes precedence if something could have happened in the given circumstance. The idea is that the oppression makes things happen on its own because it so overwhelms everything else, and justice needs to take this into account in determining guilt. This is how people arrive at the notion that blacks can’t be racist or, indeed, guilty of much of anything. A black can never overcome the all-dominating oppression. It’s all white people’s fault. Whites can’t escape their guilt by being innocent in their own lives; they’re part of the white system and therefore guilty of pretty much everything.
The narrative part of CRT is what concerns us here. It was adduced by apologists for Rigoberta Menchú, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for political activism, largely with her autobiography I, Rigoberta Menchú. Purportedly about her life growing up Maya in the mountains of Guatemala, Menchú made herself out to be a poor girl who overcame the horror of her family being murdered by racist Guatemalan soldiers when she was a child. Her family actually was murdered, but when it happened, Menchú wasn’t a little girl; she was grown and educated and committed to Marxism. Her autobiography was more on the order of Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father, an amalgam of things that did happen and things that didn’t, with a whole lot of imagination mixed in.
Menchú did face horrific racist oppression and suffered in her personal life from it, but the book was largely fabrication. Nevertheless, it could have happened, so the Nobel Committee, aggrieved by the crimes of white people everywhere against nonwhite peoples everywhere, fell in love with it. There was good reason at the time of the committee’s deliberations to believe that the story was a hoax, but it was just too fitting-the-moment to pass up. No doubt the committee felt obligated to go with Menchú even if she did take liberties with the truth.
Why does it matter? Because facts matter. They matter because they reflect the moral choices made by all the actors in a given situation. Had Menchú presented her story as a novel, no problem; it’s the province of novels to work with the what-if aspect of the human imagination, to explore possibilities and reveal hidden truths. Biographies, on the other hand, are supposed to be facts as best as they can be discovered, leading to conclusions grounded in the actions of moral beings responsible for themselves. Mixing up the two results in confusing fact with fiction. When this happens, anything goes.
Why does this matter today? Because it’s creeping into Chicago politics — and from there into America’s politics via the justice system — through the Jussie Smollett case. Smollett lied about being attacked by white racists. He set it all up and carried it out, hiring two men to “beat him up” and leave a noose around his neck. Chicago police investigated and discovered that the whole thing was a hoax. State’s attorney Kim Foxx arranged for the charges to be dropped and Smollett’s record expunged.
Foxx defended her actions by saying that what mattered was changing the narrative of the school-to-prison pipeline for blacks, and putting Smollett in jail would have continued that narrative since Smollett’s black. That Smollett actually did what he was charged with didn’t matter. The facts had to yield to the narrative.
That was a dangerous precedent. “Could have happened” is no basis for justice, and we need to squelch this effort to undermine the legal system. Almost anybody could have murdered, or stolen from, or raped, or hit over the head, somebody else. This mode of thinking would make us all guilty ahead of time because we could never escape the “could have” cornerstone.
CRT has been seeping into the justice system since the eighties and has arrived full force in Chicago. It must be expunged before it corrupts American justice entirely.
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