Trump Issues Executive Order Against Critical Theory
In a bold move, President Trump issued an executive order this week banning certain types of “racial sensitivity” training from certain federally funded contractors and grant recipients.
In laying the groundwork for this action, the order states that certain groups and trainings “are pushing a different vision of America that is grounded in hierarchies based on collective social and political identities rather than in the inherent and equal dignity of every person as an individual.”
“This ideology,” the text continues, “is rooted in the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country; that some people, simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors; and that racial and sexual identities are more important than our common status as human beings and Americans.” The memo then lists a series of fairly horrific examples of such identity politics. The Department of the Treasury recently held a seminar that asserted “virtually all White people, no matter how ‘woke’ they are, contribute to racism,” and instructed discussion leaders to avoid narratives that promoted the concept of “color-blindness” or the idea that “people’s skills and personalities” should be what distinguishes them. Another example is the federally funded Argonne National Laboratories, which claims that “racism is interwoven into every fabric of America,” or a Smithsonian Institution graphic that says things like hard work, rational linear thinking, or the nuclear family are characteristics of “whiteness,” not characteristics that unite all Americans.
The President denounced such training, saying it perpetuates false stereotypes, divisiveness, insecurity (for the Military, who understandably would feel confusion over defending such a horrible place), and had no place in a country like America. “Therefore,” the document reads, “it shall be the policy of the United States not to promote race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating in the Federal workforce or in the Uniformed Services.”
In issuing this Order, Trump (knowingly) took on the whole of critical theory—a Marxist-inspired school of philosophical thought that seeks to understand the world through the structures of oppressor versus oppressed. Women’s studies, gender studies, and now racial studies are all fields dominated by critical theory, but so, too, are history, literature, and much of the social sciences. A good source on critical theory is apologist Neil Shenvi, whom I’ll summarize quite a bit next. Critical theory, according to Shenvi, essentially teaches that your individual identity is less important than your membership in a particular group, your status as either “oppressor” or “oppressed.” Furthermore, critical theory sets itself up as nondebatable. Notice how the Smithsonian denounced the concepts of “rational linear thinking”? Evidence and argument aren’t important, especially if you’re a member of an “oppressor” group. So what does matter? Shenvi quotes authors Margaret Andersen and Patricia Collins: “Here are Anderson and Collins: ‘The idea that objectivity is best reached only through rational thought is a specifically Western and masculine way of thinking—one that we will challenge throughout this book.’ What do they propose to take the place of rational thought? Story. Narrative. Personal testimony. Lived experience.”
In other words, “You can’t argue my experience.” And indeed, how does one argue with the emotional impact that certain experiences have had on certain people? You can’t, at least not without coming across as a completely insensitive and callous jerk. Critical theory actively shuts down debate, while simultaneously asserting the truthfulness and validity only of its own mechanism of argument.
But as President Trump points out, critical theory—the narrative of oppressor and oppressed—has no place in a country that is committed to the ideal that “all men are created equal.” Without denying the reality of American slavery and racism, Trump insists that we cannot continue to assert that one entire segment of society (non-minority males) is, by their very birth, inherently racist. Such an assertion is just as racist as other, historical ones asserting the superiority of the white male. Furthermore, there are arguments that the very concept of “race” is artificial, created in the 18th century to justify conquest. Emma Bryce summarizes for LiveScience, “if you compare the genomes of people from different parts of the world, there are no genetic variants that occur in all members of one racial group but not in another.” The very language of critical theory is deeply “racist” in that it perpetuates discussions around harmful and outdated concepts.
Trump will likely face a barrage of criticism for it, but his Executive Order was a first step toward establishing that such harmful, divisive language has no place in a country such as ours, and asserting the importance of individual contributions instead of group membership. If we, as a country, truly care about belonging, inclusion, and forging a path forward, we will put such divisive and stereotypical theories behind us.Nicole M. King
is the managing editor of the Howard Center's quarterly journal, The Family in America: A Journal of Public Policy.Copyright © 2020 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/post/racial-scapegoating