Anti-Racism: It doesn’t mean what you think

On May 8, 2021, Columbus Academy published this statement, in which it repeatedly described its approach to anti-racism as “not partisan in nature.” Unfortunately, this does not align with what occurs in their classrooms every day.

In the same statement, Columbus Academy admitted students are taught “the underlying concepts embedded in ‘critical race theory.'” It also admitted Critical Race Theory has infected all aspects of education at Columbus Academy, including math and science classes.

So what is Critical Race Theory and how do its teachings differ from traditional concepts of racism and anti-racism?

Historically, “racism” meant “a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” If it’s been more than a decade since you’ve been in school, that’s probably your definition too.

Critical Race Theory, however, has a radically different definition. At its core, it states that racism is “prejudice plus power,” which means that members of a group that aren’t in “power” cannot be racists—only members of the dominant group can be racists. Some definitions are even more explicit: “The marginalization and/or oppression of people of color based on a socially constructed racial hierarchy that privileges white people.” As Ibram Kendi puts it, “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination.”

In other words, only Whites can be racist. And more ominously, actively discriminating against Whites (or “White adjacents”) is a useful tool to achieve equity for non-Whites.

For those who believe Critical Race Theory, “colorblindness” is inherently racist. They see racism as baked into the status quo of society—it’s the air that we breathe. They believe that if you’re not actively attempting to dismantle racism (also known as “decolonializing,” “decentering Whiteness,” or any number of other synonyms), you’re perpetuating racism and you are, therefore, racist. To them, there is no neutral.

There’s also no defense against an accusation of racism: “The heartbeat of racism is denial.” There’s no room for debate or dissent. To question their teachings makes you racist according to the inherent assumptions of this ideology. What’s the right thing to do if someone calls you a racist? According to Critical Race Theory, the only option is to apologize, thank them, and pledge to do better in the future.

If this strikes you pretty much exactly the opposite of what we’ve traditionally thought about “racism,” you’d be right. And that’s why Columbus Academy’s claim that its stance against racism is “not partisan” is so misleading.