“The likelihood that you’re going to have a book in kindergarten or third grade called ‘Critical Race Theory’ is extremely remote. That is not what happens.”
My appearance on Point of View with Chris Berg: “What happens is they take the concepts of Critical Race Theory, and they maybe call it something else …. But the concepts are the same, which is that the country, the nation is systemically racist. That race is the center of inequities in our country. And that people who have a certain skin color are either advantaged or disadvantaged because of that and have certain obligations.”
On July 14, 2021, I appeared on Point of View with Chris Berg, a television show in the midwest market, to discuss “What Is Critical Race Theory?”
We had over 12 minutes to discuss the topic, which is like flying first class with plenty of leg room compared to most TV hits which are 3-5 minutes, at best. We discussed not only what Critical Race Theory is, but how it manifests itself in education, particularly K-12.
We also discussed the claim that the U.S. is “systemically racist,” something repeated with near-religious fervor by those pushing CRT variants such as “antiracism” and “equity” training. Needless to say, I disagreed that the U.S. is systemically racist, a position I have stated publicly before
We ended with a discussion of our CriticalRace.org website.
(Auto-generated, may contain transcription errors. Time stamps are approximate.)
Chris Berg, Host of “Point of View” (00:00):
Professor Jacobson, welcome to the “Point of View.” It’s great to have you with us. This Critical Race Theory conversation is such a hot topic. And I’m going to be blunt with you. I hear a lot about it, but I don’t know anybody who’s really defined it really well. So let’s kind of start with the foundation today. How would you define for our audience Critical Race Theory? What is it?
William A. Jacobson, Cornell Law Professor and President, Legal Insurrection Foundation (00:20):
Well, there’s two aspects of it. One is the academic aspect of it, and it started with Critical Legal Studies and then Critical Race Studies. And it is an academic discipline which sees race and racism as embedded into American society, and that you cannot have non-racial, non racist sort of legal principles, that the idea of colorblindness, the idea of meritocracy, is in itself racist. And you need to look at the systems and the structures that create different impacts for different racial groups. So point number one is that critical race theory is an academic discipline and academic theory and an academic area of study.
But it has become more over the years, and it has essentially migrated more into the popular culture. And it deals with so-called concepts of “anti-racism” and “equity.” But the overlying theme is that race is the center of our society and that the society is systemically racist, and that you need to address our problems that way. How it manifests itself in education is a different story, but that is essentially what Critical Race Theory is. It’s making race the focal point of understanding our system.
Chris Berg (01:39):
You put together a website, CriticalRace.org, again for our audience that is CriticalRace.org. We’ll get to that in a moment, but let’s start with some things you said, because you said a lot there. Do you believe, or do you see areas within the United States of America where the system is racist?
William A. Jacobson (01:56):
Well, I think that you have to be very precise. I don’t think our system is racist. In fact, our system is anti-racist. We have laws that prohibit racism. We have traditions since the civil rights movement of banning racism. So the system is not racist. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t racism. And so these are two very different things.
I think that the concept of the American civil rights movement was that all Americans of every race, particularly in that context, black Americans, need to be able to participate fully in the American system. So they did not necessarily see the system as racist. What they saw was that black Americans were not being allowed to fully participate in it. So I do not believe that our system is racist. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t racism. They’re two very different concepts.
Chris Berg (02:52):
So let’s kind of explain that a little bit because, and I know it’s no longer as prevalent as it used to be, but for example, let’s go with red lining. Or you look at incarceration rates of black Americans versus white Americans? And how would you explain that in the context of a racial system?
William A. Jacobson (03:08):
Well, red lining is illegal. It has been illegal for quite some time, and I don’t know that it’s a continued practice.
Chris Berg (03:20):
Again, I’m not suggesting today, but there’s obviously been historical systems that have been racist within our system. Correct?
William A. Jacobson (03:27):
There have been particular practices that have been racist. But that doesn’t make [today’s system racist], at least since the early 1960s. And you can go back to Jim Crow and earlier, and maybe make a different argument. But at least since we passed federal civil rights legislation, the system has not been racist. Whether we are properly and fully implementing those anti-racist policies is a different question. On the issue of incarceration, I wouldn’t call that systemic racism. There may be particular laws and particular ways of treating offenses, which have a disparate impact. So for example, one thing that’s frequently pointed to is that the levels of imprisonment for crack cocaine were significantly greater or more harsh than for non-crack cocaine. And that could be an issue, and it might be that those need to be normalized and those need to be addressed.
So I distinguish between a particular practice or a particular policy, which may have a disparate impact on different communities. That doesn’t make us systemically racist. And you can understand those issues by changing the drug laws, for example. So I don’t accept that we are systematically racist. And remember that the nature of Critical Race Theory as it is implemented, ]is that racism] is so endemic to our system, that it cannot be erased by changing laws; it cannot be erased through colorblindness; it’s baked into our nation’s being. And that’s something that I don’t accept.
Chris Berg, Host of “Point of View” (05:06):
It seems like the word “meritocracy” has been gone now for quite some time, and I’m not quite sure why. So I hope that we can sort of bring that back into the conversation. Let’s talk about Critical Race Theory inside of a classroom. I know a big conversation right now is kind of at the K-12 level. You’re focused predominantly on universities, but I know you’re looking more into the K-12. So let’s hypothetically say that a Critical Race Theory program was put into an education system in North Dakota or in Minnesota, walk us through what that curriculum looks like. And why is that good or bad for the students?
William A. Jacobson (05:37):
The likelihood that you’re going to have a book in kindergarten or third grade called “Critical Race Theory” is extremely remote. That is not what happens. What happens is they take the concepts of Critical Race Theory, and they maybe call it something else. They may call it “anti-racism,” which is a very popular term. They may call it “equity.” They may call it “socially responsive learning.” But the concepts are the same, which is that the country, the nation is systemically racist. That race is the center of inequities in our country. And that people who have a certain skin color are either advantaged or disadvantaged because of that and have certain obligations.
And so you might hear terms about “white privilege.” You might have charts on the wall of privilege circles. You might have other things like that. But if your kindergarten teacher is talking about systemic racism, if your kindergarten is talking about white kindergarteners having white privilege, if those are the concepts being brought into the classroom, that is how Critical Race Theory manifests itself in everyday education.
Chris Berg (06:55):
…I want to flush out some of these other concepts. that I want to get your take on. I’m sure you’ve heard of where there was some CARES Act money for farmers. And if you’re a minority farmer, your loan plus 20% would be forgiven. But if you’re a white farmer, they weren’t doing that. Secretary Vilsack, the Secretary of Ag says he’s going to continue to fight that and move that forward. Is there any legal standing for them to be able to do that one, and just your take on that?
William A. Jacobson (07:22):
No, but that is a perfect example of so-called “anti racism” in practice. The federal government is discriminating against white farmers in order to remedy what they view as past discrimination. But of course those white farmers didn’t discriminate against anybody. These are things that took place in the past. I don’t see how it’s going to be upheld. It violates the Equal Protection Clause of the constitution. It probably violates federal civil rights law. So you cannot discriminate against people on the basis of race, except in extremely narrow circumstances, which the court found were not applicable, in order to remedy past discrimination. But that’s a perfect example of “anti racism policy” actually being held by a court to be racist.
Chris Berg (08:16):
You hear a lot about equality and equity. What is the distinction between equality and equity in your eyes?
William A. Jacobson (08:23):
Equality is what’s required by law. It is treating each person equally without regard to race. Equity is equal outcomes, but we know people perform differently both individually and as groups. And sometimes there will be unequal outcomes. And that is in their view, not equitable. Well, the only way to make outcomes exactly equal for different groups is to discriminate. So that is what the federal government has tried to do. That’s what is happening now in higher education. So that is the battle, the traditional constitutional concept of equal protection of the laws versus discrimination in order to achieve an equal outcome. And that is really one of the great battles of our time. And that’s what we see playing out in education and elsewhere.
Chris Berg (09:19):
Because now you see the Department of Education is saying, “Hey, if you want to teach Critical Race Theory in schools, we’ll give you some more federal dollars.” And what’s behind all of this? I guess is my question. Like what’s the purpose of having this infiltrate and permeate so many aspects of education?
William A. Jacobson (09:33):
Well, I think there’s two aspects. One, there are people who actually believe this. They believe that equal outcomes is a necessity for society. They believe that our system has racism baked into it, is irredeemably racist. And they feel the need to fight that. So we can have differences of opinion, and we can have differences as to what the law and the constitution allows, without necessarily ascribing nefarious motives to people. I think a lot of the people behind it are actually true believers. They actually believe that.
But I think there’s also developed essentially an industry behind it, an industry of diversity consultants and an industry of administrators in higher education and in school systems. There are a lot of people who have a financial interest in pursuing this, and I think that plays out itself. So I think that there’s a disagreement as to what our society should look like in terms of equality versus equity, but there are also very strong financial interests behind having a version of Critical Race Theory taught in elementary schools and in higher education,
Chris Berg (10:47):
I’m taking a look here at your CriticalRace.org website. I’m going to just click on North Dakota for our audience’s sake, but if people want to go there and for example, they click on there, and it says North Dakota State University, University of North Dakota, what are they going to, what kind of information are they going to get from going to your website?
William A. Jacobson (11:04):
The first thing that people need to understand is that the website is not a list of schools to avoid. It is not a blacklist or anything like that. It is simply gathering public information as to the programs at schools. Some of the schools may not have very much that borders into Critical Race Theory. Some may have none. So it is a resource where we research the school’s website, and we generally do a deep dive on the website.
And that’s what I think is the beauty of our map is. Everything is sourced. Everything is linked, and probably 98% of it is what schools are telling themselves and are telling their students. So it’s an enormous time-saver for people. You could go to a particular university and spend hours going through their website, trying to find it. And a major university actually has a very complex website. There may be schools that have their own websites within a university. So we do a lot of that work for you. And we tell you what they are saying, and you can click on it, and you can look at it. Some schools have mandates of training. Some schools have mandates of coursework, others have voluntary programs. And so it’s a resource for prospective students and parents of prospective students to go to a particular school and find out what is happening at that school.
Chris Berg (12:31):
Great stuff. Professor Jacobson, thank you so much for the time and the insight. Like I said, we’d love to have you back as this conversation is going to continue. So thank you, sir. We appreciate it.DONATE
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