Finding The Path Forward In A Divided Nation

by Hektor David Esparza

“Donald J. TRUMP YOU’RE FIRED!” Wouldn’t it be nice If the story going forward from this glorious statement was all about frolicking in the halls of congress with AOC and The Squad, cheering them on as they boldly write new policy that makes America a cleaner, greener, safer place to live for everyone? But that is clearly not the story going forward. Over 70 million of our fellow Americans wanted a second term for the now terminated Don. They liked what that horrible man-like creature was doing and wanted more of it.

How many of these Americans supported his open and repeated approval of actual white supremacists, of encouraging violence against journalists, and of all his other atrocious actions and behaviors? And how many otherwise decent people voted for him out of fear of what they were told the “radical left” would do to America?

And how in the hell did we get to a place where outright, unapologetic racists felt bold enough again to present their astonishingly terrible ideas and repugnant beliefs for all to see? An often-heard attack against the left from many respected leaders on the right reads: “The radical left hates America and wants to destroy it.” Of a piece with that stance and not so long ago, President Trump issued an executive order banning training, at the federal level, of the school of thought known as Critical Race Theory.

But who is this “radical Left,” a solid contingent of prominent Republicans keep harping about? What do they believe? Are you a radical leftist? Am I? Maybe.

What is Critical Race Theory anyway?
And what has it got to do with civil rights and liberal thought today? That depends on whom you ask. If you ask CRT proponents the answer might be that it is a school of progressive thought; a lens which allows one to see the gross, systemic, social injustices rampant at every level of American life. From the grocery store, to the church, to the educational and criminal justice systems. Racism, they say, is absolutely everywhere. By and large, they are not wrong.

If you ask a CRT detractor, they might say it is a pernicious perspective which asks all peoples of color and LGBTQIA2S folks, and Muslims, to despise all white heterosexuals as indomitable oppressors and villains. By and large, they too are not wrong.

Extremism is what allows for both seemingly contradictory statements to be true. Seeing racism everywhere, even where it is not, is nearly as harmful as denying racism exists where clearly and egregiously, it does.
There will always be extremists in any movement. The trick is to not give them too much power. Passages from books like the hugely successful “White Fragility,” by Robin DiAngelo and “How To Be An Antiracist,” by Ibram X Kendi are cited by conservatives and moderate liberal critics as evidence that modern Critical Race theorists are promoting a myopic disdain of whites and proffering it as serious sociological theory. It is no stretch to say these best-selling authors teach that all white people in America— not following their lead— are racist, and must strive under their harsh, exacting tutelage to not be racist. Kendi’s work states that it is impossible to simply not be racist. That if you’re not actively “anti-racist” according to his definition of that term, then by default, you are a racist. And if you’re white and deny that you are racist then, according to DiAngelo, you are showing your “White Fragility,” because white people in America have been conditioned into a white supremacist worldview. The ones who refuse to admit it are fragile.
I have never won a debate I began by insulting a person’s character and intelligence. Anytime I have used those tactics it inspires whomever I am debating to double down on whatever position I am trying to persuade them to abandon. If I’m obnoxious enough about it, it inspires animosity toward my perspective, myself, and any group of people I’m associated with. Which is exactly the opposite of what I say I’m trying to accomplish.
Imagine being told that your tribe— people that you know and love— is entirely made up of racists. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that’s not true. Deny it and you are called fragile. Admit it and you are expected to renounce your white privilege, regardless of your socio-economic status, and confess your complicity with structural white supremacy. Racism is evil. To accept an extreme version of CRT is to say that all people of a certain skin color are evil by default. How do you think they are going to react?
CRT advocates say people of color cannot be racist because they lack the institutional power to enforce any prejudice they may hold against whites. Increasingly that is growing less true in many environments. And even if it were 100% true that people of color cannot possibly be racist for said reason, does that make it okay in the slightest, to vilify people because their skin is white?
As an indigenous person of color, I abhor racism and every other form of bigotry with every fiber of my being. As a person who can think for himself, I respect other people’s prerogative to think for themselves too. As an American and free person, I find it galling that anyone should presume to tell me what to think— or what I actually think— about anything, let alone something as personally significant as the topic of racism.
When you say that everyone but you and your crew of like-minded folks are devils, it comes into sharp focus, that you are now the devils. When you find yourself disappointed the rumor is not
true that celebrity X said something racist you can be sure your moral compass is broken.
Are you now or have you ever been a member of the communist party? Are you a witch, a devil worshiper, a racist? Probably not. But for whatever motive reason deep inside the human psyche, accusing and condemning others is sadly something our species is inclined to do over, and over again.
All this time we thought we each had the moral agency and ability to not be bigots without the help of these pointy-headed academics. Most people don’t need a book or special training to not be racist.
Do we still have a long way to go in ending systemic, institutional racism and other forms of bigotry in America? You bet we do. Is Critical Race Theory the best tool we have to push forward our cause and inspire others to join us?
It is if you don’t mind risking the rise of another white-nationalist with autocratic tendencies to the highest office of our land. But please consider this: Maybe next time he will not be a loathsome blithering idiot, but a competent and effective aspiring despot ushered into power by white folks who don’t appreciate being told they are less worthy humans because of the color of their skin.
The choice is ours.