Critical Race Theory Playing Out in Real Time

“People tell me because I have this case against the city I’m all right. But I’m not all right. I’m messed up. I know that I might see some money from this case, but that’s not going to help me mentally. I’m mentally scarred right now. That’s how I feel. [There] are certain things that changed about me, and they might not [change] back. Before I went to jail, I didn’t know about a lot of stuff, and, now that I’m aware, I’m paranoid. I feel like I was robbed of my happiness.” – Kalief Browder

Over the past year, there has been massive backlash in the States and elsewhere, even among a few on the left, over the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in schools. Despite what many conservatives might claim, CRT has never been taught in elementary, middle or high school. It is an legal analytical framework which actually criticizes and challenges the way in which American liberalism has historically addressed racial issues. Unsurprisingly, few of its most vocal detractors understand this, or even want to. But here is a simple way to understand how it plays out in real time.

At the age of 16, Kalief Browder was sent to Rikers Island, a prison complex for adults notorious for its rampant violence, for allegedly stealing a backpack. He was held there without trial from 2010 to 2013 and put into solitary confinement for two of those years. While incarcerated, he was repeatedly beaten by gang members and correctional officers. At least once, he was handcuffed while assaulted by guards. He attempted suicide at least three times. And just two years after he was released, Kalief hanged himself at his parent’s home after suffering from major depression and PTSD.

In contrast, at age 17 Kyle Rittenhouse traveled across state borders to deliberately enter a Black Lives Matter protest fully armed with an AR-15 rifle. There he killed two people and attempted to kill a third. Claiming self defense later, he was able to walk right past the police with his rifle strung across his shoulder. They declined apprehending him despite witnesses shouting to them that he had just shot three people. In addition to this, some of these officers were seen fraternizing with him earlier in the evening.

Rittenhouse was able to drive home across state borders that night. He was not pursued. After he was arrested, he was placed in a juvenile detention facility. He was able to get out on $2 million bail in November, money mostly raised by conservatives through a legal defense fund. After being released, he went to a pub where he met with members of the Proud Boys, a far right, white supremacist militia, where he sang their anthem and proudly flashed white power signs, smiling before snapping cameras. The presiding judge of this trial forbid the use of the word “victim” to describe the two men gunned down by Rittenhouse. But he did allow them to be referred to as “rioters,” “looters” or “arsonists.” 

If this example isn’t enough to demonstrate how systemic racism plays out in real time in America, then perhaps this will. As I write, the murder trial of three white men accused of killing black jogger, Ahmaud Arbery, is taking place in the state of Georgia. These men hunted down Ahmaud and shot him at point blank range. Despite the judge admitting that he found “intentional discrimination” in jury selection (only one black juror was selected) the judge nonetheless allowed the trial to proceed. Throughout the trial, the defense attorneys have made numerous racist remarks.

Of course, there are countless more examples, from Eric Garner to Breonna Taylor to Elijah McClain to George Floyd. Only the ignorant or deliberately obtuse would not see how the system is set up to discriminate along racial boundaries, as well as class.

CRT isn’t meant to divide people. It isn’t meant to derail class consciousness either, and any argument in this regard is horrendously misguided. It is true that race is an invented category intended to maintain class hierarchy. But it is also true that its rancid legacy persists today. And poor working class white people are also adversely affected by this sadistic arrangement of power and disenfranchisement.

CRT is only a tool, however flawed, for understanding how this all works in a systemic way. It helps provide a framework to address disparities, some of which I listed above. To dismiss it as divisive might be risible, if it were not so catastrophic to so many lives.

Kenn Orphan, November 2021  

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3 thoughts on “Critical Race Theory Playing Out in Real Time

  1. Pingback: Critical Race Theory Playing Out in Real Time, by Kenn Orphan – Dandelion Salad

  2. Ricardo2000

    Resistance to CRT is a basic element of US unconsciousness. The US was founded as a racist state and fights long and hard, every day, to stay that way. Jan 06 was a classic white racist lynch mob complete with nooses. Of course the police welcomed them like brothers and sisters as US police were founded as slave patrols. They would have shot down BLM human rights marchers. But these Jan 06 cretins are white, so murderous treason is expected as they are born and bred to be stupid, angry and violent. I am happy seeing trained police cowards confirm their absolute loyalty to racism and dangerous bigots. It will make police reform so much easier.
    Stupidity is no defence. Trumpanzees weren’t lied to by Trump and his gang. They welcomed and cheered Trump because he embraced their racist ignorance like a lover.

    Jackie Robinson, 1972 biography: “I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world…I know that I never had it made.”

    Lyndon B. Johnson: “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best coloured man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

    Isaac Asimov (1920 – 1992): “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that your ignorance is just as good as my knowledge.”

    H.L. Mencken: “As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents… the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

    Get down on one knee for human rights with Colin Kaepernick, or get down on both knees and beg.

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  3. Schrodinger’s Cat

    Kyle Rittenhouse is the Rosa Parks figure of the hate mongering white supremacists. I have little doubt he will be set free and and immortalized which will usher in another level of hatred and killing against people of color and “liberals” in the USA. I just read that Matt Gaetz has floated the possibility of offering Rittenhouse an internship so he can continue to “serve” the glorious USA. The USA is in its final days now. When the Republicans take back the House and Senate in 2022 and the White House in 2024 the descent into complete madness will be irreversible. Though I believe it always was irreversible, since the inception of this country was founded on genocide and slavery. Enjoy the next couple years while you can until it all collapses into an utter dystopian nightmare. For many people it already is, but it is coming for the rest of us now.

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