Critical Race Theory as Applied Post-Modernism

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Helen Pluckrose:

"In 1989 over in Critical Legal Studies and Critical Race Theory, Kimberlé Crenshaw began developing her concept of Intersectionality. She described this as contemporary politics linked to Post-modern theory. The cultural constructivism of Post-modernism, Crenshaw felt was useful, in regarding gender and race as cultural constructs. But there had to be some objective reality if anyone was to achieve anything. The existence of oppressive cultural constructs around gender and race were decided to be what was objectively real. Furthermore, liberalism she claimed, was inadequate, despite the massive evidence that it was in fact very successful. Liberalism was too universal to be politically productive, and it was time for a more intense focus on identity politics.

In that same year, Mary Pavan was attempting to reconcile deconstructive approaches with feminism. Like Crenshaw, she argued that the methods were useful, but there did need to be a recognition of an objective reality. How can we advocate for women, for equality for women, unless women are a category of people that objectively exists? She advocated a toolbox approach in which Post-modern techniques would be used when helpful and not, when not.

Meanwhile, in expansion of gay and lesbian studies, Judith Butler was claiming that actually women don’t need to be a category of people that objectively exists. In fact, claiming categories to objectively exist is the problem. Queer Theory was born. It drew extensively on the work of Foucault and can be argued to be the purest form of Post-modernism currently in existence. However, Queer Theory avoided the fate of deconstructing itself into oblivion by making the deconstruction of categories a form of activism. Queer theory reifies queerness and a whole range of queer identities but deconstructs anything normative. In this way, it’s felt, people who don’t fit within masculine men attracted to women or feminine women attracted to men—don’t feel the pressure to do so. We can just deconstruct those categories altogether.

Just like that, post-modernism had become energized and politically actionable. We called this phase applied post-modernism.No longer was it aimlessly pulling reality apart and denying objective truth to exist, it was now objectively true that social reality was culturally constructed by specific systems of power. Post-modernism now had goals it acknowledged and justified its departure from the original post-modernists explicitly, often claiming that they were privileged white men who had little need to affect change in the world. This new form of Post-modernism was much more user-friendly. Consequently, it could break the bounds of the academy in the way the original Post-modernism could not. The dying radical Left adopted it for this reason. While much of Post-colonial Theory and Queer Theory remained largely incomprehensible to the layman, Critical Race Theory and Intersectional Feminism were written in clear language from the start. This is probably due to its foundation in legal theory rather than philosophy. Thus, activism for gender and racial equality was able to draw on its ideas. Critical race theory is rooted in some very strong scholarship by liberal humanist and Marxist scholars, which pointed out that white identity had been formed at the expense of Black identity. It is essential to note that Critical Race Theory is originally an American phenomenon, and the evidence that America was a racially divided society with Blacks as second-class citizens until very recently is indisputable.

However, with its recent descent into Post-modern discourse analysis, and conceptions of society as entirely underlain by systems of white supremacy operating in mysterious ways, Critical Race Theory has become quite unhinged. It threatens to undo much of the progress that has been made on racial equality. Using methods which assume racism to be present in any interaction between a white person and a person of racial minority, results in always finding it and further entrenching the belief in an ever-present white supremacy. Things that have been listed as racist microaggressions include complementing a black person on their eloquence, saying that you do not see people in terms of race, or that you believe the best person for a job should get it. It’s is clear what a minefield this is.

Of course, the people most affected by being trained to read everything in this way are racial minorities. " (