On September 22nd, the Trump Administration issued an executive order banning the use of training programs rooted in Critical Race Theory (CRT) for federal employees. At the very least, this act prompts an honest look into the ideas that compose CRT. After all, ideas are often several generations removed from their principle sources, leaving individuals who adopt them unaware of their ideas’ true origins. And a close look at today’s CRT quickly reveals its Marxist past.
CRT and other related frameworks are all part of the most recent evolution of Classical Marxism. Although Marxism’s stamp can be found on many ideas, the ideology always leans heavily on two core principles: an “oppressor vs oppressed” mentality and the utilization of deconstruction over debate.
The “oppressor vs oppressed” paradigm is perhaps the most fundamental tenet of Marxism. In fact, the first sentence of section 1 of The Communist Manifesto asserts that “[t]he history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” 1 Marx and Engels proceed to outline many such class struggles from various historical periods. And they strongly assert that each society’s structure can be boiled down to two competing interests: a power-hungry cabal of exploiters and a powerless mass of victims.
In the language of CRT, this philosophy is translated into the terms “white supremacy,” “anti-racism,” “race-hierarchies,” and other neat dichotomies that bake the concept of division into struggles between whole groups. This is why Professor Ibram Kendi classifies all ideas as either fostering or hindering equality: “There is no such thing as a not-racist idea, only racist ideas and anti-racist ideas.” 2
Note the logical conclusion of this groupish kind of thinking: injustices are not actions between individuals but relationships between groups. By offending, conflicting with, or otherwise performing an undesirable action upon another individual, you are not just doing an injustice to that person; rather you are attacking an entire sector of society.
Marx and his followers were never interested in logically debating their opponents. Instead of playing by the rules to demonstrate how their ideas were more reasonable than those they opposed, Classical Marxists wrote their own rules: “Socialist and Communist publications contain also a critical element. They attack every principle of existing society.” 1 In other words, they do not debate; they deconstruct.
Deconstruction is a form of argumentative strategy whereby, instead of crafting an argument within the agreed upon rules of debate, an individual rejects such rules entirely—thereby defining his own “logic” and “reason.” This has always been the sharpest arrow in the Marxist quiver, and it can be found in such works as The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones or Caste 3 by Isabel Wilkerson. The goal of both of these works is to reimagine the way we consider our complex history. Note that these authors do not directly confront American history as it exists today and has existed for the past 244 years. Instead, they reframe America’s history as one centered around the brutalities of slavery, oppression, and racism. Both Hannah-Jones and Wilkerson deconstruct the context and progress of the American story. They transform the narrative of the American story into a nihilistic monolith—thereby leaving nothing worthwhile in their opponent’s arsenals. But deconstructing the history and culture of America in order to reimagine her as a constant stream of evil is just as dishonest as pretending that no such evil ever existed.
The point here is not the worthiness of the conclusions arrived at by the aforementioned authors. Instead, the point is that deconstruction is a strategy that allows the user to arrive at any conclusion they choose, regardless of how well their premises match reality. Deconstruction requires no logic, data, or evidence, because each of these can be whisked away as a vestige of “the system.” This strategy is egregious, because history is not constructed – it is learned. And by deconstructing away American history as a story of vice and evil, these authors leave very little desirable ground for a shared history.
Yet without some sense of a shared history, it is doubtful whether a republic can remain healthy. In a society structured around democracy, it is essential that we retain some sense of togetherness. I therefore leave you with a few closing thoughts.
As we move forward towards what will almost certainly be a chaotic election, it is important to recognize that despite our differences, there is much to unite us as Americans. It is important to remember that our history is complex and has its warts, but that there is nonetheless much to celebrate and be grateful for. Lastly, it is important to understand American culture as a flawed but fundamentally good framework, one which still has much good to give to people of every race, ethnicity, gender, or creed. In looking at the ideology currently dominating the political left, it is important to recognize this for what it is: a collection of old Marxist ideas rebranded with modern American distortions of race.
- Marx, Karl. The Communist Manifesto. London ; Chicago, IL: Pluto Press, 1996.
- Kendi, Ibram X. How to be an Anti-Racist (p. 20). New York City, NY: One World, 2019.
- Wilkerson, Isabel. Caste: The Origins of our Discontents. Random House, 2020.