Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
When Obama wanted to defend his ties to Jeremiah Wright, he began his speech by denouncing America’s “original sin of slavery”. The phrase is widely and unthinkingly used. And its consequences are the 1619 Project and critical race theory. If slavery is America’s original sin, then the purpose of America and her people becomes striving to atone for that primal sin.
Suburban Democrat housewives reading Robin DiAngelo and corporate struggle sessions forcing members to affiliate by race are just striving to atone for America’s “original sin”.
And if they resemble a cult, it’s because civil rights moved from the legal to the spiritual.
Dismantling the legal infrastructure of segregation took on religious and psychological overtones. The legitimacy of ending school segregation was tainted by psychosocial nonsense like the ‘Doll Study’ which found that children preferred white dolls to black dolls. Even then the original sin of civil rights was that its more academic proponents could not properly define rights, and sought affirmative remedies that transformed how we thought rather than what we did.
What we do can be in the legitimate purview of government, what we think is not. And yet over the years civil rights became obsessed with the origins of discrimination in the human mind.
Countless tests were devised, many absurd, (“What color is a gorilla’s skin underneath the fur?” one particularly awkward racist test for racism asked) that were meant to measure our thoughts.
The less racist our society became in function, the more civil rights fixated on a gestalt of psychosocial racism which explained racial disparities by blaming hidden thoughts leading to assumptions that perpetrated systemic racism even as its white perpetrators remained unaware.
The truly dangerous part of this conclusion was that the focus of discrimination had moved from actions to thoughts. Critical race theory is being imposed on everyone from schoolchildren to soldiers because civil rights violations had been redefined from the physical to the mental. Civil rights was no longer fighting separate drinking fountains, but unconscious and implicit biases.
The National Guard wasn’t being sent to open up schools, but to open up the human mind.
When the government tells you what to do, it risks becoming a tyranny, but when it starts telling you what to think, it becomes a theocracy. Critical race theory, like most of America’s experiments in secular theocracy, came out of academia whose experts have failed miserably when it comes to tangible policy results, but excel at telling people what to think.
The original sin of academia is constructing grand theories. The social sciences found the root causes for its grand theories in the interface between society and psychology. Their solutions begin with having the government change how people live and then when that doesn’t work, changing how they think.
The sociologists who wrecked the black industrial communities of the north with welfare refused to accept responsibility for the disaster they helped cause and instead began blaming racial disparities on the hidden workings of society and the human mind.
While academic civil rights was psychoanalyzing America, the civil rights movement had soured from Martin Luther King Jr’s Christian emphasis on national redemption across racial lines to the Islamic tribalism of Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam in whose mythology black people were chosen and white people were a tainted race created through eugenic breeding. America was an evil empire doomed to be destroyed by the arrival of UFOs protecting the master race.
The next generation of activist clergy was outwardly Christian, but had come either directly, like Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s mentor, or indirectly like James Hal Cone, Warnock’s mentor, through the racist ideology of the Nation of Islam. When Jeremiah Wright shrieked, “God Damn America! That’s in the Bible,” he meant it literally with America as Babylon and Rome. To the Black Hebrew Israelites, whose movement has been linked to a number of recent terrorist attacks, America is Edom. The common theme is that America is a mythic evil to be destroyed.
The set of ideas that people associate with critical race theory fuses the two corrupt successors of the civil rights movement, academic racial psychoanalysis and racial nationalism, through the writings of second generation black nationalists who had come through academia, like Ibram X. Kendi, and journalism, like Ta-Nehisi Coates and the 1619 Project’s Nikole Hannah-Jones.
The modern proponents of critical race theory fuse academic beliefs in subconscious systemic racism and black nationalist convictions that America and white people are inherently evil.
That’s where critical race theory becomes critical race theocracy.
This brand of ‘wokeness’ is legitimately theological because its origins lie as much in black religious identitarian movements as in the academic jargon in which it cloaks its racism. The synthesis of the two very different literary genres results in strange poetry, personal confessionals wrapped in bad sociology and worse history, mythic appeals and nonsense jargon, that runs through everything from the 1619 Project to ‘Between the World and Me’.
Critical race theory’s defenders insist that it’s an academic movement, that its proponents are experts, and that it just wants to discuss its ideas, but it operates like a theocracy, silencing and suppressing opponents, critics, and even insufficiently radical supporters. Its entire rationale is built on denying that anyone can legitimately disagree with it or that debate is even possible. A movement that dismisses reason and objectivity as forms of oppressive whiteness has no interest in dialogue, only in terrorizing its way to power as racial nationalists seek to do.
The Nazis decreed theories and creative works off limits because they believed that ideas could not be separated from the race of their creators. Critical race activists agree that theories and works carry the race of their creators in their intellectual DNA. The Nazis banned some works over ‘Jewishness’ while critical race theory activists seek to ban them over their ‘whiteness’.
The most brutal theocracies are those which are the most pessimistic about human nature. The Nazis believed that people were animals who could never transcend their biology, Islamists believe that people must be ruthlessly conquered and ruled to bring peace, and leftists believe that power relations doom humanity to cycles of exploitation without an enlightened tyranny.
Critical race theory is infused with the academic pessimism of the Left, the identitarian racial pessimism of black nationalists, and the spiritual pessimism of black nationalist theology. It exists in a perpetual state of struggle and its exceptionalism is rooted in its victimhood. It needs white people as an ultimate enemy whose existence gives it its negative meaning.
Whiteness abstracts white people as a perpetual enemy for a racial and a spiritual struggle.
America’s fall into the grip of this racist theocracy obsessed with a struggle against whiteness, driven by racial paranoia and moral despair, is a direct legacy of the intellectual and moral failings of the aftermath of the civil rights era. These failings were as much white as they were black. While the black family disintegrated in the grip of the welfare state, white elites lost their religion and built an alternative culture whose meaning came from politics and pop culture.
Wokeness is just the horrid synthesis of white secularism and black nationalism, of a society where music is worship, politics is religion, self-medicating is meditation, and activism is faith. The endless narcissistic refractions only produced a victimhood culture whose great crusade is enforcing conformity through the only means possible in a fragmented society that has lost its moral and intellectual underpinnings: online bullying and political terrorism.
Kingian civil rights is inaccessible to a secular society with no concept of forgiveness or humility. It’s also inaccessible to people whose warped version of religion teaches them to hate others.
To paraphrase John Adams, “Civil rights was made only for a moral and religious people, it is wholly inadequate for any other.” Critical race theory is the inadequacy of a political society trying to come to grips with moral and religious questions, but with no other tools than power and the abstractions of a scientism that is suited to studying distant galaxies, but not people.
The Founding Fathers, now the enemies of critical race theory whose statues are being torn down, were humble enough to limit the ambit of government to the realm of government. And they made it clear that it was not their role to tell people what to think or to believe.
America held together through conflicts that should have torn the country apart because we fought over the nature of government, not over the nature of man. The Confederate statues that have occasioned so much ire were the legacy of a country that was able to knit together its wounds as former enemies forgave and honored each other in the aftermath of its worst war.
Even when we were a moral and religious people, we did not go to war over what was in our souls. The leftist theocracy terrorizing millions of Americans is particularly unfit to judge souls, but the intellectual failures of academia and the moral failures of elite culture and leftist clergy has localized the failures of the black community in the psychosocial gestalt of systemic racism.
The only way to save black people then becomes controlling how everyone thinks.
Liberal theology had made the civil rights movement into the epochal moral event of America as their ancestors had made the civil war the defining event that transformed the soul of the nation. This was exactly the brand of moral narcissism that Lincoln found so frustrating about the abolitionists long before their distant descendants put on black and began toppling his statues.
Civil rights became a force that gave white liberals meaning. And that was another way of saying that civil rights became a religion. The devolution of civil rights legislation from inhibiting state discrimination based on race to enforcing state discrimination based on race was the trajectory of a theocracy based on the same sort of realpolitik that corrupts religions.
The Founding Fathers removed government restraint while the new theology of civil rights imposes government restraint, first over actions, then over ideas, and finally over thoughts.
Equality has made way for equity and the human mind is the new lunch counter. The only way to achieve civil rights is, as in the Soviet Union, Communist China, Cuba, and every leftist tyranny, by removing civil rights from all and distributing them to the most deserving. The hypocritical corruption of the system demands not just tyranny, but theocracy, not just control over bodies, but over the minds whose owners might question this self-serving arrangement.
What was once a supremely achievable goal, the end of government restraint, has made way for the usual unachievable utopian goal of an ideal society of the supremely enlightened.
The paradoxes of critical race theory come from its paradoxical intellectual origins through the social science academics who believe that everyone can be reeducated and the black nationalists who believe that white people are inescapably evil. They compromise by believing that white people are inescapably evil and must be constantly reeducated anyway.
It’s a compromise that allows white leftists to pursue meaning through civil rights and black nationalists to pursue racial identitarianism while leaving out non-misanthropes of all races.
Ending this nightmare will require confronting the corruption of civil rights. Positive rights lead to tyranny and negative rights to freedom. When we define rights as things the government does for us, rather than things the government stops doing to us, we all end up as slaves. Civil rights cannot and should not be used to achieve equity by chasing racial disparities. That sociological and theological rabbit hole inevitably takes us into the realms of psychology and sin.
Those are places where the government does not belong and should not be allowed to venture.
Critical race theory is less a theory than a theocracy, but both a theory and a theocracy can be torn down by attacking its fundamental assumptions. The failure to challenge theories leads to theocracies. If we want to defeat this theocracy, we need to start with its fundamental assumptions about white evil and black victimhood, and about an original sin that passes not only from fathers to sons, but from plantation owners to recent immigrants.
America and Europe did not invent slavery, but they were the first to comprehensively destroy it. The presumption of guilt that traces every Third World blight or domestic inadequacy to some combination of colonialism, imperialism, and other nonsensical ‘ism’ is false and wrong. We do not need to constantly redeem ourselves for doing what no other civilization managed to do.
We already have.
There is no room for a racial theocracy in America, not in our colleges, our institutions, or our military. Its existence is a declaration of war on not only our past, but our present and our future.
Destroying a village won’t save it and destroying civil rights in the name of civil rights is a farce.
When civil rights isn’t regulating how you treat others, but how you think about them, and how you think about the theories that explain why they’re the victims, that’s an uncivil theocracy.