Here’s another slant on The Elect as a religion. In Magic, Science and Religion, the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski distinguishes these three things, and the distinctions might be summed up in this manner: science is the pursuit of (extrinsic) natural ends by natural means. Religion is the pursuit of supernatural ends by supernatural means (prayer, for instance, calling upon another being or beings to effect desired change); and is in some sense at least an end in itself. So science is instrumental and natural; religion is supernatural. Magic is intermediary: it is like science in choosing natural means instrumentally, while like science its ends are supernatural. Unlike the priest, the magician does not pray (though he may, and will, use language -- magic words, and spells -- to effect what changes he desires); like religion, magic is something to which people resort when purely natural measures come up short.

Malinowski’s account is richer than this (and incurs certain problems; does he perhaps conflate science with technology? In what sense is religion really not the instrumental pursuit of extrinsic ends?) but that is the gist of it.

One could say that The Elect is more magic than religion. Prayer is notably missing.

The Elect do entertain millennarian hopes (they wish for equity, bye-and-bye, on some day of racial reckoning), but they do wish to shame racism directly in the here-and-now (through degradation ceremonies such as privilege walks, genuflection, cancellation, etc.) Their vision of any secular pathway to equity and the end of racism is fuzzy (creating a federal Department of Antiracism?); but while they do harangue, the one thing they do not do is pray some higher being or beings to effect the desired change. (This is a religion absent any Higher Power, as well as absent redemption; but such things are not unknown among actual religions.) MLK’s religion allowed him to say that the arc of (secular) history bends toward justice in the long run; the religion of The Elect has given up on history and progress in the usual senses. Does this all amount to supernatural ends by natural means, i.e., magic (rather than religion)?

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I'm trying to educate myself on CRT, but I'm having a hard time finding out what is meant by it apart from those foundational articles.

Where could I find the current architects of CRT in schools and their writings? Is it all under the term of Critical Pedagogy?

I'm just trying to set straight in my mind what is being done in schools in the name of critical race theory.

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What’s an academic to do? After George Floyd’s murder we got letters to sign in support of BLM, etc.—one version for ‘BIPOCs’, the other for ‘White Allies’. Then we got letters to sign with a litany of confessions of anti-Asian sentiment, accursing ourselves of not knowing of any Asians other than popular entertainers and mispronouncing Asian names. Then a cadre of students petitioned to have a law professor fired because, in a blog not on the university server, he had opined that the claim that Covid wasn’t a lab leak was ‘Chinese cock swaddle’. Now, because we’re hiring, all members of my department are required to complete two online diversity trainings. Meanwhile another department has a reading group on _White Fragility_. I won’t even describe the bs I had to write in a proposal for a course to satisfy requirements for ‘Ethical Inquiry’ and ‘Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice: Level 2: Global’. OK, yeah, K-12 is worse. At least this bs doesn’t impinge on what we do in class or in our research. But because this stuff is just peripheral time-wasting no one but cranks like me are moved to object.

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*this being the article. I liked that particular quote, but it’s not the “this!”

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This is what needs to be said from all sides and from both races. It’s illogical to pursue any other strategy.

“In other words, the issue here is not whether schoolkids should learn about racism. A certain kind of person loves to stand and breezily say that there are swarms of people out there who don't want kids to know about racism – and they say this with admirable oppositional poise but not a shred of evidence.”

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I was introduced to concepts like white privilege and systems that have disproportionately negative impact on Blacks in the 1990s and they were helpful. More then helpful. It opened my mind and heart in being able to hear and see injustices. However what I have seen over the past 5 years is something that has gone amuck and instead of helping anyone it will hurt. I am beginning to see it as a form of classism which fits right in with you using the term “elite”. When it crossed the line of becoming truly dangerous was when I heard how it was revealing itself in math and science.

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Wow! Just when you thought you were alone . . .

I have mentioned favorably the writing of Helen Pluckrose (co-author of Cynical Critical Theories -- which I regard as one of the more important pieces of literature in the debate about CRT). She is a founder of a group called Counterweight. Its home page is https://counterweightsupport.com/ I don’t have any particular vested interest in this organization, but I do notice they have an extensive list of partner organizations. The list includes Free Black Thought which defines its mission thus:

. . . a small group of scholars, technologists, parents, and above all American citizens determined to amplify heterodox black voices that are rarely heard on mainstream platforms. We seek to . . . honor independent black thinkers who do not regularly appear on CNN giving the “black” perspective, or write the books pushed by Amazon and adapted by HBO.

“Listen to black voices” is a demand heard constantly these days, but what is really meant is “listen to the right black voices.” We believe that black people have never been a monolith and have never had just one narrative or perspective, as the mainstream elite media would have you believe.

No idea if they themselves are members of this group, but it sounds a lot like what McWhorter and Loury frequently argue. I’m going to look into it, and the others on the list; but I suspect I am not alone on this one either, and so other readers of this site might be interested likewise. So let me contribute to the bibliography. The list is available at: https://counterweightsupport.com/partner-organizations/ There is an impressive number of organizations!

Looks like tere are more of us out there, Horatio, than are dreamt of by the New York Times . . .

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Understand this: the real left—not the minions of the obvious woke and elect—are way ahead of us. They’re like the magician who shows us the pledge, then directs us to the turn while already knowing the secret hidden in the prestige. So the question we should be asking is not how did they gain the upper hand today but what’s coming? What can’t we see? Don’t fool yourself into complacency because part of society is now reacting negatively to CRT or cancel culture. They are merely elements of The Turn. Their “prestige moment” has already been planned. Anyone have insights into their diabolical scheming? What say you Scribe McWhorter? I’ve peaked behind the curtain and it’s a scary sight.

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"this kind of thought should certainly not be the fulcrum of a school’s entire curriculum, as has been reported at schools like Dalton and others in New York."

Given what poor listeners most people are, how much credence are we to give to these "reports", though?

I happen to think there is a way of presenting the ideas of CRT without making anyone feel guilty (in fact, just the opposite), and without making it appear that blacks have no agency (in fact, just the opposite). Granted, this takes some skilled teaching.

It would be ironic if a pointless squabble over the existence and extent of tribalism were to exacerbate tribalism.

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For CRT, I just leave out the "critical" (too much gravitas) and call it "race theory", which seems both accurate and odious enough.

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To follow up what arrow63 said about Adam Harris’ article in the Atlantic, today (20 June) Weekend Edition had a report by Barbara Sprunt and Lulu Garcia-Navarro that takes essentially the same line: CRT is just an obscure theory buried in ‘90’s law school, and dredging it up is just a Republican ploy to stifle all uncomfortable discussion. One can hear the report at https://www.npr.org/2021/06/20/1008449181/understanding-the-republican-opposition-to-critical-race-theory

I wrote the following response and sent it to NPR. Perhaps it is worth sharing with the Substack readership:

I am a long-time NPR listener and subscriber. I must note that today’s report on Critical Race Theory by Barbara Sprunt & Lulu is a bit tendentious.

First, there is indeed a continuity between CRT as first articulated in law school by Derrick Bell, Kimberle Crenshaw and others, and the current trend of KenDiAngelo anti-racism/white fragility. The link is well documented in Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, Cynical Critical Theory (Pitchstone 2020).

Second, opposition to CRT is by no means the monopoly of the Republicans and the mean-spirited. One can hear this articulated all the time in the exchanges between John McWhorter and Glenn Loury on The Glenn Show. Likewise on Bret Weinstein’s Dark Horse podcast. The criticism, in other words, cannot be reduced just to Christopher Rufo and Donald Trump.

Third, CRT is not just buried in esoteric grad school offerings. “Critical Pedagogy” is the latest name for the result of a Long March among educators; it reaches out of universities to K12, and indeed outside of schools to corporate sensitivity training as well. The organization FAIR (Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism) documents numerous instances, starting with places like the Brearley School and the Dalton School.

WE Sunday should follow up by talking to Helen Pluckrose or John McWhorter or Bret Weinstein. None are right-wing. Each has some serious criticism of CRT and its current role in education. To do so would be to move closer toward the whole truth than this morning’s report did.

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I don’t know what educators across the country are actually doing or trying to do (and in fact I think this is a problem with our school system—I’m not sure *anyone* knows), but I do know what a group of progressive educators-in-training were talking about a few years ago when I was getting my Master’s in English ed. The words “critical race theory” came up a lot; the idea that it was a specific branch of legal theory did not. At one memorable lecture, my classmates posed angry questions to a renowned prof of education as to why her book on bringing critical literary theories into the 7-12 ELA classroom didn’t include CRT. Her answer, that it did include post-colonial theory, was met with further anger, which clearly bewildered her. But what she did not say was “post-colonialism is a literary theory that is motivated by some of the same concerns as CRT, which is not (yet) a literary theory, and is therefore not in my book about literary theories.” I think most of my classmates probably didn’t know that CRT is a theory for a different discipline. That said, if they did know, they probably didn’t care. “English” as a school subject already has fuzzy and ever-expanding boundaries and a fraught relationship with its university-level corollary, so frankly, I understood my classmates’ frustration, even if I didn’t share it. To many of them, CRT simply means turning a critical eye to depictions of race in literature, just like feminism means turning a critical eye to depictions of gender. I think that way of thinking flattens and diminishes the ideas it is meant to promote, but then again, maybe flat ideas are more easily delivered. And I do think that “turning a critical eye to X” is a legitimate thing for English teachers to teach.

I think the idea of “banning CRT” in schools is ridiculous and repressive. But I also agree with John that to deny that “CRT” is being taught is disingenuous, and unlikely to help us out of the national nightmare. There are definitely teachers out there who think of what they are doing as teaching CRT; I know because I went to Ed school with them.

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I find myself troubled by this popularr CRT even though I am removed from K-12 schools at the moment. My children are in their low- to mid-30s. Both of them, in a variety of urban American schools, received lots of multicultural elements in their education: attention to immigrant communities and stories, to slavery and segregation, to civil rights and diversity. (As a cultural anthropologist who did fieldwork overseas, I sometimes wished there was more attention to international and global concerns. But I understand the importance of focusing on American history and cultures, and I was generally pleased with what they were learning and the focus on diversity and tolerance.) At the risk of sounding like the classic old-timer complaining "it was good enough for us back in the day," I wonder why the racial reckoning of the past year means throwing out the old ways of educating kids about their country and its history rather than improving on them. If CRT is, as I suspect, a means of foregrounding power, then I hope that power is treated with the nuance it deserves. Also, at a gut level, I don't think it is wise to encourage kids to feel either guilty or victimized (or, for that matter, left out).

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McWhorter is right. Whether or not one has read Bell, Delgado, or Crenshaw (those who originally discussed the issues in CRT) is beside the point. CRT has not spread as widely as it has because it offers one single, coherent narrative for which proponents then argue, step-by-step. It does not; they do not. (Kendi or DiAngelo are innocent of references to Foucault or Marcuse, for instance. Bell and Delgado likewise; though Kendi mentions Crenshaw and DiAngelo, Bourdieu. That does not mean there is no connexion with either the early law review stuff or Left Bank postmodernism. Lindsay and Pluckrose, Critical Cynical Theories, nail this one.)

Rather, one of the factors that makes CRT go is that the fabled Long March Through the Institutions has succeeded so well, for so long; and CRT coheres with a pre-existing body of expectations. I have in mind victimhood culture, strong cultural determinism (including positionality, and denial of agency), cultural relativism, epistemic relativism, belief that tolerance is itself repressive, the death of the author -- not forgetting free-floating white guilt. These developments belong not merely to the universities but to the general society as well. They have been a long time building.

If this is correct, a grim implication follows: CRT already won before it began.

Philosophers distinguish among various kinds of what might be called truth-tests. Among philosophers ourselves the main two are correspondence and coherence; there is also the pragmatic. Truth tests are not confined to the Quad; the Man on the Clapham Omnibus uses correspondence and coherence too, and adds things not specifically in the philosophers’ tool kit: e.g., “the worst that can happen must be true” (my spouse could be cheating? then xe is! there might be a Deep State puppetmaster? then there is!). Some of the add-ons annoy philosophers, as well as cognitive psychologists (they get classified as fallacies; as types of cognitive bias) but the coherence tests may be equally annoying.

Ever notice all the memes about Quotes -- and how many people love to toss them round? There is the coherence test at work in its basest form: yeah, sure, this sounds just so obviously true. (Because it coheres with my prior outlook.) When Kendi says “The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination,” do people buy that because a) because they’re all budding Kendi scholars and grasp the intricate System and b) what he says corresponds well to facts of the matter? Of course not. CRT represents a mish-mash of ideas, probably accepted because in some way one or another of them coheres with patterns of expectation already laid down long ago by the Long March.

This of course annoys those of us -- I take it fans of McWhorter, Loury, etc are among this crowd -- who expect statements not only to be self-consistent but also to correspond to facts of the matter.

Does this lead to a counsel of despair? Not necessarily. It is still important to call out “correspondence failure.” But in doing so it is equally important to recognize that what makes CRT go is not mere irrationality, but a kind of “bounded rationality.” It is important not just to call out substantive misstatements but also to cut at the roots, in “Cynical Theory,” that the Long March has put so firmly in place, and which seem to lend basic plausibility to what is in effect nonsense.

If this is so then McWhorter is spot-on when he writes here that to “insist that ‘CRT’ must properly refer only to the contents of obscure law review articles from decades ago is a debate team stunt.” (Even if it is slightly amusing for a linguist to point out essentially what Popper said about getting too deeply involved in mere verbal disputes: “Words don’t matter.” Well, sometimes they do. But I think McWhorter is right: “sanewashing” the label CRT is one case where really they don’t.)

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Brilliantly written, Professor McWhorter. What's always been so interesting to me, the white guy growing up in 1960's Mississippi, is this: the Elect's propensity to condescension and sanctimony (in those simple binary, unthinking terms you speak of) toward those of us who actually KNOW what racism--on the ground--was and is about. The members of the Elect I've had the pleasure of knowing invariably have learned what they know about racism from their college professors at nearly all white colleges in carefully insulated parts of the country. And from the pages of the New York Times, written by similarly educated simpletons.

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What I’ve been unable to avoid seeing in my very very limited use of one social media platform, as Juneteenth approaches, is what looks like a really smugly expressed, widely shared and likely to some degree actually coordinated talking point along the lines of: “It’s kind of funny [or ‘ironic-‘] how some people want to [think it’s ok to] celebrate Juneteenth, while banning any teaching of how it came to be celebrated [or what it means]. One version I saw was addressed in the now apparently fashionable posture (among woke white people and pretty transparently racist or hostile non-white people) to (implicitly) all those dumb/ignorant/racist/denialist/pitiable/repugnant/embarrassing/laughable “yt people” who are assumed, as a benighted and backwards mass, to constantly cluelessly or hurtfully assert and inflict on nobly-enlightened, endlessly-insulted but righteous Black folks, these tediously stupid and offensive thoughts, as their default but no less horrible obviously inferior way of existing and behaving.

I’m not on Twitter (and decided late last Summer that even reading posts by a handful of smart, sincere heterodox left of center thinkers - and trying to avoid jumping down rabbit holes of retweets and replies - was simply ruining my mood and making me unproductively angry). I’ve not looked more than a handful of friends Instagram pages and can’t see most things having never signed up. My rule with FB is: use it for volunteering and to follow positive group events; and to post the occasional supportive like or reply to someone i care about whom I’m unlikely to text, email, or call; it’s also a way for an old friend or acquaintance to get in touch. I’ve learned the hard way that even very occasionally looking at an aggressively nasty, stereotyping woke post, let alone replying however mildly only invites the ugliest kinds of attacks.

I’m assuming some public figure of influencer on the angry, self-righteous identitarian left (maybe the same one our author paraphrases?) sent out this obviously cynical, manipulative, bad faith, and just plain dumb sort of non sequitur talking point: that all these dumbass insufferable “yt people” want to pose as respecting Juneteenth - but because they are all white supremacists who are trying to “ban” critical race theory, it obviously follows that they are disingenuous malign morons who are trying to ban any mention of slavery or Jim Crow and scrub anything less than purely celebratory from all educational instruction and training. Every time I look up - a post by a friend or acquaintance; a post by someone within a group that’s mission I mostly strongly support: this is the level of cynical, intentionally misleading, bad faith rhetoric I see. Howlingly ridiculous assertions, like: “It’s vastly more dangerous for a Black person to be subjected to a simple traffic stop than for a “yt” person to commit mass murder - that’s how horrible this racist country is!” Or: “Every time I step out my front door I know it’s possible - even likely - I could be murdered by racist police!” Or: the embarrassing sort of strawpersons(?) or non-sequiturs we’re treated to when someone claims, gloatingly, that if you do so much as tacitly accept Juneteenth as a holiday you can’t logically dare to oppose any aspect of CRT. Opposing CRT means you want to prevent all students from ever hearing that slavery existed, let alone learning any sort of honest, balanced history of racism in the US. These people posting and copying such talking points are not dumb - certainly not most of them. They’re almost uniformly privileged people in upbringing and stratospheric expense of education they’ve been able to access.

A very small number of people posting these sorts of things are white men (always with a piteously apologetic tone that they’ve dared say a word when they’re so obviously without standing and knowledge and are categorically at essence of and from such a shameful and inferior status). But it’s almost always women. If you have the temerity to threaten their status and standing and the purity of the echo chamber, no matter how gently and politely and reasonably, the price is both a full-on frontal attack - smearing and name-calling - and comprehensive reputational destruction behind your back in as hyperbolic and misleading a manner possible to as many people as they can reach. I don’t know if there is a strong degree of insecurity in someone challenging bad arguments or a low level of actual knowledge and experience with the claims they’re making? If there is a rage at anyone challenging the sanctity of this core identity and source of meaning and sense making and communal status that accepting and spouting these claims have come to represent to them. I don’t know if when white women do this there is partly a need to protect their status intersectionally as valid and visible sources and enforcers of woke verities? If there is both an internal status/standing insecurity, as well as a more practical need to ensure they compensate for their own identity vulnerabilities, lest the witch hunters turn on them next? Whatever, the response is from what I have seen an enraged but also tactical, methodical almost sadistic desire to harm anyone who disagrees. Whether it’s coming from woke men or women who aren’t of color or at least aren’t Black, it’s like an extreme in-group empathy turned inside out and directed with a vengeful hatred at any who marks themselves as outside the bounds of their all-defining community of righteous groupthink. I’m generalizing and being a little hyperbolic myself, but this is the sort of reaction at its most vehement that I see and hear from friends and acquaintances and members of groups with which I’m normally supportive when someone challenges and threatens the narrative.

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