This except from the essay “Intimidation Masquerading as Virtue is Chilling Free Speech” by Chanel Pfahl


Brief overview of CRT

In the simplest of terms, CRT is a particular way of looking at race relations in society. The term was originally coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, in the 1980s, and its goal was to examine the ways in which racism continued to present itself in America despite the advances that were made during the civil rights movement.

Though slavery in the United States was officially abolished in 1865, Jim Crow laws (enforcing racial segregation), and other discriminatory practices, such as prohibiting black people from living in certain neighbourhoods, remained for nearly another century. The US, and Canada, to a lesser extent, have a history of racism that cannot be denied, and exploring the ways this history might have lingering effects on people of colour today is therefore a noble endeavour.

CRT does this in a flawed, counterintuitive way, however. It rejects the “common humanity” approach to achieving social justice – the very approach that has allowed us to overcome racist attitudes and race-based discrimination in the West to the degree that we have. Further, it is explicitly opposed to liberal principles like individual rights and civil liberties. Derrick Bell, the first African American tenured law professor at Harvard, and one of the founders of CRT, stated in his 1987 book that “progress in American race relations is largely a mirage obscuring the fact that whites continue, consciously or unconsciously, to do all in their power to ensure their dominion and maintain their control”. Indeed, for CRT supporters, racism is viewed as the ordinary, permanent state of affairs in our society.

This cynical view is shared by contemporary CRT advocates like author Robin DiAngelo. In her book White Fragility, which sat on the New York Times Best Seller list for a year in 2020, she claims that “anti-blackness is foundational to our very identities as white people” (p.91) and says “to be less white is to be less racially oppressive” (p. 149). She even argues, in this paper, that “raising white children to be white is a form of child abuse”. Beyond revealing her own racist attitudes, which she also projects onto every other white person, DiAngelo’s “insights” are not overly illuminating. Are Canadian taxpayers aware that they have been paying for her to share her views at “antiracist” events, like this one just last month?

According to CRT, racial identity is of primary importance when it comes to determining one’s position in society. Rather than saying “you are black, I am white, but most importantly, we are both human beings, and we should therefore be treated equally”, it says “you are black, I am white, and as such you are an oppressed victim, and I am a privileged oppressor; your experience of the world is completely different from mine, and the way to bring about positive change is to draw attention to the ways in which we are different”.

Indeed, based on the CRT framework, treating everyone the same regardless of skin colour (i.e., “colourblindness”) is actually a form of covert racism, as this approach does not “centre” racial identity. This is directly opposed to the unifying message of Martin Luther King, who famously stated his dream for his four children to see the day when people would be judged not by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.

In fact, even racial segregation is being brought back into fashion by proponents of CRT. They say it is for the “safety” of people of colour — a space to be free from white people, or from “whiteness”, as they like to call it. Have a look at this Chicago church that decided that they were “fasting from whiteness” for Lent this year… and proudly advertised it on their front lawn!

Language games breed self-censorship

With many elements of postmodern thought baked into the theory, CRT is more concerned with “dismantling” abstract “systems of power” through “deconstructing” language than it is with actually finding material solutions to real-world problems using evidence-based analysis. This manifests, notably, as an obsessive focus on what words we should and shouldn’t use (if we are to avoid “harm” and “microaggression” accusations, or worse).

How does knowing the current “accepted” term, say between “racial minority”, “coloured people”, “racialized people”, “Black”, “BIPOC”, and “people of colour” translate to any change for this particular group of individuals? It doesn’t.

But when it becomes such a grave, racist offence to use the “wrong” words, most people would rather not mess it up. This hyperfocus on language, which does not present any real world benefit for black people, simply keeps us guessing, and stops us from saying what it is we think. It is chilling free speech.

At the same time, this insistence on politically correct terminology provides incentives for certain ambitious types to master these language games and become self-appointed members of the thought police. Generally, it is white, university educated, middle and upper class women, who have discovered that between being accused of using the wrong words — i.e., “perpetuating white supremacy” — and accusing others of using the wrong words, while benefiting from a sense of moral superiority, the latter is preferable.

It isn’t clear whether they ever stop to wonder “who is this helping, anyway?” — they simply stay up to date on the latest woke beliefs, and enforce them onto others, ruthlessly at times, while claiming to be the compassionate and inclusive ones. They probably actually believe it.

These ideologues are encouraged not only by the innocuous sounding language that covers up this divisive ideology – like “equity”, “anti-racism”, “inclusion”, etc. – but also by the complex-sounding explanations below the surface. Of course, the underlying ideas are deceptively shallow and straightforward, but being able to virtue signal by using words like “hegemony” or “intersectionality” and cite academic papers (ignoring the fact that rigour is severely lacking in these fields) is addictive for some.

Escaping the burden of proof

“Anti-racist” or “CRT” activists claim that racism permeates our society at every level in a subconscious and/or systemic way. This is tremendously useful for anyone who champions the ideology, as it allows for an easy way out of having to show evidence for their claims. After all, the alleged racism is hidden, so how are they supposed to prove its existence? Why should they be expected to? (And also, you must be racist if you think proof is required.)

If you are brave enough to ask them to substantiate their beliefs, or voice genuine disagreement, many will immediately disengage, label you or accuse you of “harm” for your truth-seeking ways.