Immanuel Kant and the Roots of Critical Race Theory

Princeton University professor Allen C. Guelzo, comments on the foundations of CRT in an AEI podcast: as a “reaction against the Enlightenment and against the confidence that scientific reason could discover the answers to things”:

….Kant was appalled at the irreligious conclusions to which reason had driven the Enlightenment. He was determined to find a way around Enlightenment religious lack of faith. So he says, what can we know for certain? Well, if we rely strictly on reason, we discover that reason only works on what our physical senses tell us, and that’s not much. Reason can’t penetrate into the essence of things. Some other tool was needed to reach what he called the thing in itself. So, to brush back the influence of reason, Kant develops a critique of reason, a critical theory, if you will.

….when you see how little reason can penetrate to the real lessons of things and you awake to a new reality. And that reality is that reason has blinded you. That is critical theory…

… critical theory set off a chain reaction of romantic investigations for non-rational explanations of reality.

….some of those non-rational explanations took a form of nationalism. That’s what you find in the philosophy of Georg Hegel. Some of them took the form of out-and-out racism. … Above all, you find non-rational explanations of reality based on economic class, and that is Karl Marx.

…And you might think that economics functions as what Adam Smith called a natural instinct to truck and barter. But in reality, it’s governed by the oppressive relations of class. Especially in the hands of Marx, critical theory uncovers the activity, not of employers and employees, but of an oppressor class and an oppressed class.

And the payoff?

…it promises an emotional burst of revelation and indignation. It allows you not so much to understand because remember, understanding is a function of reason, it allows you to denounce. It allows you to replace the question, is what I know true with a different question, whose interests does this question serve?

…. If the only purpose of questions is to serve the interests of a dominant or oppressive class, then no question that you ask about the truth of a situation or the truth of an event or the truth of a proposition, none of that kind of questioning about truth has any meaning. And any answer you come up with, which doesn’t speak in terms of some hidden structure of oppression, can simply be dismissed as part of the structure of oppression.

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Marc A. Thiessen writes in the Washington Post on “The danger of critical race theory”:

Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, authors of “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction,” state that “critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.”

….Ibram X. Kendi, one of CRT’s leading advocates, openly declares: “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”

This is the opposite of what the civil rights movement stood for. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. did not argue that America was systemically racist; he argued that racism was un-American.

By dispensing with the reason the only solution is violence:

“… If your critical race theory is impervious to questioning and evidence, then fine: I will retreat into my critical race theory and it too will be impervious to evidence and the questioning. At which point then the only solution becomes violence.”

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