I’m a hypocrite. I criticise others for opining on what they merely hear-tell someone has said or written, and I’ve been doing the same vis a vis Critical Race Theory. So the other day I girded my loins and actually read up on it. In Eichmann in Jerusalem Hannah Arendt coined the phrase, “the banality of evil”. Well, I can now report on what I’d always thought might be the banality of CRT. Who ever thought that a) race wasn’t, isn’t, and probably shall always be, a prime determinant of how well one fares in the social pecking order? How could one deny this and be a white supremacist? And who ever thought that b) that determination is an emergent property of individual interactions rather than systemic? Isn’t it just a tad pretentious to assign a banality the honorific of a ‘theory’?

So to make sense of the ‘controversy’ about it, I think CRT has to be something more than these banal observations. I think it has to involve c) the claim that (a) and (b) are injustices, and it has to involve d) a commitment to engage in certain behaviours to rectify them. Though (c) is not itself a theory, it certainly requires a theory. More particularly it requires a theory of social justice. And yet, as near as I can tell, CRT boasts no such constituent. And whereas a call to action, as in (d), can be a constituent of a program, it has never been regarded as a constituent of a theory.

Am I just betraying where I sit on the spectrum? Back in the day when the Philosophy Department was a fun place to work, we had two awards, which were handed out regularly. The banality award, which I never won. And the anality award, which I display proudly on my mantle.

Categories: Everything You Wanted to Know About What's Going On in the World But Were Afraid to Ask, Social and Political Philosophy, Why My Colleagues Are Idiots

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