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On Critical Race Theory

On Critical Race Theory

I think it’s worth saying a word about “systemic racism,” now that recent politics has brought critical race-theory into the public eye.

The concept of systemic racism is a creation of critical theory, of which critical race-theory is a branch.

What critical theory is is a very, very complicated question, but to get a gist of how it feels, think of it as Freudianism applied to politics. Lots of assertions about unconscious motives and complexes, but applied to the sociopolitical world, rather than merely the individual. Unacknowledged this, invisible that, etc.

If you listen to descriptions of “systemic racism” today, what you hear are descriptions that often have almost nothing to do with race at all. They describe nested and interlocking social systems that necessarily give advantages to some and not to others. What critical theorists emphasize is that because these systems have existed for some time, they are by definition “unearned” at the level of the individual. Insinuated in this assertion is that they are therefore unjust, and that we ought to go about tearing them down and replacing them with institutions that are more equitable.

Another, simpler way of describing what is being attacked here is “legacy.”

All of these systems are things that we inherit, NOT as a matter of “unearned” luck, but as a byproduct of choices that people in the past made, often explicitly in the hope that it would benefit particular people in the future (namely their descendants). It is only unjust if we believe that past generations have no right to pass on anything to future generations… in which case, would we have a right to exist? And if it’s considered a matter of luck, ask yourself how it could be possible for YOU to be born to another set of parents, when who you are is in part directly derived from who those parents were?

You could not have been anyone else.

In short, critical race theory is essentially a convoluted new description for the concept of legacy, using emotionally and morally loaded terms to insinuate badness in the foundational mechanism by which we improve ourselves across generations.


What I have written here is a very brief and basic summary of a more complete argument made in Letter to Anwei, which deals with moralistic appeals to equality (specifically to those of John Rawls) in chapters 5 and 6. Holy Nihilism also addresses some of these matters as they relate to beauty and goodness, but the relation is a little less direct.

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