Inside A “Critical Race Theory” Workshop
For those unfamiliar with the term, “critical race theory” (CRT) is a modern academic concept that talks about how whitey is evil and how all the “people of color” are being harmed by white people, a society of systemic racism, and the evils of capitalism and the oppression that accompanies it.
Critical theory emerged out of the Marxist tradition and was developed by social scientists and philosophers in Germany during the mid-twentieth century. It is a type of theory that aims to critique society, social structures, and systems of power, and in doing so, to foster egalitarian social change.
Critical theory as it is known today can be traced to Marx’s critique of economy and society put forth in his many works. It is inspired greatly by Marx’s theoretical formulation of the relationship between economic base and ideological superstructure, and tends to focus on how power and domination operate, in particular, in the realm of the superstructure.
Over the years the goals and tenets of critical theory have been adopted by many social scientists and philosophers who have come after the Frankfurt School. We can recognize critical theory today in many feminist theories and feminist approaches to conducting social science, in critical race theory, cultural theory, in gender and queer theory, and in media theory and media studies.
Now just apply to the modern day version of racism, which is basically “EVERYTHING’S RACIST! IT’S ALL WHITEY’S FAULT!” and you have contemporary CRT. Not only is this being taught in colleges, but high schools and even elementary schools are now “teaching” CRT to young children.
As part of Portland Community College’s “whiteness history month” in April, a CRT workshop was held for instructors to compare notes, ideas, and syllabi. The workshop was hosted by PCC art and law instructor Ann Su. What follows is a series of videos from that workshop.
First off, a brief description of CRT. Note the part about “neo-marxist critical legal studies” and the “critique of capitalism”.
One of the participants, Laura Horani, who evidently teaches ESOL (English for Speakers Of Other Languages), explains how it’s culturally insensitive to hold eye contact, and how she accidentally offended her class by reading a sentence regarding such. First smiling became racist, now making eye contact is racist, too.
Horani is also featured in a different story, mocking people who use the phrase “I’m for one race, the human race”.
Su goes on to try to tie “social construction of knowledge” into CRT, and says “Who’s been writing all the text books? From what perspective? The perspective that’s been represented has been the mythic, white male, ya know. At least in this country, in Eurocentric underpinnings. White, male, gen-tried, like, money, property, land owners, all those things. Even though on its face, it looks neutral, just like our laws look neutral, embedded in that is a presumption of experience. You know, culturally, historically. So understand that that can feel marginalizing to people that have not been part of that.”
Back on the ESOL track, they talk about how “accent reduction” is “cultural genocide”. Horani explains “There’s no neutral with CRT. No discipline is neutral or safe from being infused with racism… I think a lot of instructors get into the field [of ESOL] to help students assimilate. And then that is so complicated, right, because, and people that talk about accent reduction, I’m like ‘cultural genocide! stop it!’… I don’t tell my students anymore that ‘learn English and you can do anything in the U.S.’ cause, honestly, that’s just not true”
One of the participants later says “There’s this myth of America as being the place where everyone has an opportunity, the streets are paved with gold kind of thing,” and another reaffirms that by saying “That myth of meritocracy”. They all start laughing over the concept of “meritocracy”, then they immediately contradict themselves by saying that, in some ways, it’s true for immigrants from countries with caste systems that the U.S. is land of opportunity for them.
Other highlights include the college instructors praising students who plagiarize art; Saying that CRT should “be taught to people when they’re coming, as part of being integrated, because the race thing is so confusing, for people coming into this culture, because it’s like, what we say is going on and what they see is going on are two completely different things”; How to incorporate CRT into arts: “All the different aspects of identity” as it relates to CRT and art; And pondering how people know a square is a square;
Portland Community College president Sylvia Kelley can be reached at 971 722 4365.