by UnHerd
Friday, 16
July 2021
Seen Elsewhere
16:21

Why elite parents are supporting Critical Race Theory

They want their children to maintain their privileged position
by UnHerd
Credit: Getty

Critical Race Theory, or CRT, has dominated headlines in the US for months. Unsurprisingly, it is a fiercely partisan issue. In the blue corner, there’s MSNBC host Joy Reid stating that opponents of CRT are “steeped in white nationalism” and therefore must be held in the highest contempt. In the red corner, Tucker Carlson calls CRT a “civilisation-ending poison” that will “hurt your children”.

These are admittedly the two extreme ends of the spectrum, but even beyond the primetime polemics, there is clear division. For most liberals, the so-called ‘threat’ of CRT, like cancel culture, is wildly overblown — a mostly trumped up fear by conservatives to excite their base. Meanwhile, conservatives, who are themselves divided over how to tackle the issue, fear that the teaching of CRT at schools is undermining American values and leading children astray.

As all sides of the debate have dug their feet in, new and refreshing takes have been few and far between. But there is one exception: writer, Malcom Kyeyune, who this week articulated a genuinely novel perspective on what CRT — and the activism against it — says about both American conservatism and society. Rather than viewing CRT as an ideological ‘battle of ideas’, Malcom suggests that we should understand it through a materialist lens:

Teaching kids ”wokeness”, or ”CRT”, or whatever we wish to call it is undeniably a case of these schools doing the job they are paid by the parents to do. If you get into Harvard by being woke – and today it seems that few even on the right would actually deny that you do – the schools that charge 50.000 dollars a year to help kids get into Harvard are going to make those kids woke. These brave parents standing up to the new crazy ideology invariably seem to be a fairly small minority; the rest of the parents just shrug and accept that if wokeness is what it’s going to take for the kids to remain in the elite, then wokeness is what it’s going to take..
- Malcom Kyeyune

Why elite parents support wokeness:

“Wokeness” in today’s America is arguably the primary sorting mechanism for the elite. Given that elite parents by and large want their own kids to remain inside the elite, a sorting mechanism has to have some accessible way of stacking the deck, where preparation and foreknowledge conspire to help some at the expense of the hoi polloi. Being able to ”cancel” people under various pretenses is not so much an anti-social bug in a system of elite selection; it is a necessary and vital feature; cancelling someone is the same as taking them out of the race.
- Malcom Kyeyune

CRT is a signal that American elites are increasingly desperate to hold on to their political and economic power, at any cost:

If one accepts Turchin’s thesis of elite overproduction as pointing to something real, and elite competition as one of the driving causes of political and social instability in the United States, then one should also acknowledge that the elites’ preferred solution to this crisis of overproduction is a haphazard, desperate, and widely unpopular turn toward centralisation and increased complexity at almost any cost. The benefits of that process will go to a smaller and smaller slice at the top end of American society — precisely the sort of people who happen to be in favour of things such as CRT, by the way — while the costs will be borne by everyone else.
- Malcom Kyeyune

Culture war issues are often dismissed as shallow distractions from real problems. However, the fight over CRT is useful in exposing the ways in which these conflicts often have a material base. Conservatives would do well to remember that a ‘battle of ideas’ isn’t always the best approach — and that, contrary to appearances, the behaviour of their political opponents is often much more coherent than it may seem.

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J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

This is a really interesting perspective on CRT. I hope Freddie Sayers can persuade Malcolm Kyeyune to participate in an Unherd interview.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

Very good.
I was struck by this:

widely unpopular turn toward centralisation and increased complexity at almost any cost. The benefits of that process will go to a smaller and smaller slice at the top end of American society … — while the costs will be borne by everyone else. 

The trend toward hyper-regulation doesn’t lead to a safer society in the long term. It leads to a stagnant one, where innovation is stalled.
With a powerful bureaucrat class who create nothing worthwhile.
Never forget:
“Regulatory complexity is a subsidy from small business to big business”

Last edited 1 year ago by Brendan O'Leary
Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
1 year ago

“Regulatory complexity is a subsidy from small business to big business”.

Certainly can be true. And regulatory complexity can even discourage entering a given line of business in the first place.

But hey, as you say, looking on the bright side it does make ‘work’ for the bureaucrats and regulators!

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

Don’t forget all the unproductive compliance staff that businesses are forced to hire because of increasing requirements.

All affordable – if you’re big enough.
All affordable, until it isn’t.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brendan O'Leary
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago

Quite. The great bureaucracies – late Rome, the Ottomans and the last centuries of Imperial China – always ossify and collapse.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

What difference does it make to see CRT through a different lens. It is still a crock of ..it. The elite can ride the crest of the wave, can change states or change countries. This does not make them right or on the right side of history.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago

Short answer to the headline: because of peer pressure? After all, if everyone is falling over themselves to go “woke”, then it takes guts to hold out. Add to this the increasing recourse to ostracism, job loss and legal harassment on the part of “wokeism’s” enforcers, and the picture is broadly complete. You might as well ask, “why did so many people revert to Catholicism / Protestantism when Mary / Elizabeth Tudor ascended the throne?” Or “why did so many Russians / Germans fall in with the totalitarian regime?”

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

Fantastic bit of cynical Irony in the article there.

The problem though, is if you make they kids woke to allow them to remain in a position to better exploit the underclasses, then what happens when the fad of racial self hate abates, and the generation still is conditioned to believe it?

Last edited 1 year ago by Galeti Tavas
Brendan Newport
Brendan Newport
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I have to agree with this answer too.
It seems that the elite parents will have burdened their children with a doctrine that renders them unable to function in society, and particularly in higher education and then work. At the same time, being perpetually accused from infant years onwards of being exploiters or (if black elite) victims is likely to leave such children prone to long-term mental illness.
I posit that CRT will hobble the children of elite parents, both black-and-white, allowing children from lower classes who might manage to avoid being indoctrinated, able to leapfrog over them.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
1 year ago

Very interesting analysis of what is going on.

If Harvard is woke, and if wokery thus gets your children into Harvard, wokery will be what the parents will demand of the (expensive, exclusive) schools they are paying for this outcome.

However, it doesn’t explain why Harvard is woke in the first place, when (in theory only, of course) wokery should undermine the existence of (expensive, exclusive) Harvard, and the privileged position of the (high pay, high status) Harvard professors.

Not to mention that wokery is all about the ruthless extinction of the rational faculties that Harvard was founded to nurture.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago

American parents are gaining increasing awareness of CRT. The next step is require schools and colleges to publish their syllabi online, each containing a ‘universality’ statement rather than a ‘diversity’ one. Parents and students have a right to know what they are paying for in advance. I’m doing a doctorate degree and have been fortunate so far in that only one class has touched heavily upon CRT. At the heart of all its claims and pretensions, CRT is an ideology that tacitly approves of the idea of white genocide.

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

…Congratulations Julian, you’re the first person I’ve come across who’s been prepared to mention the white elephant in the room, in writing. Critical Theory, applied to race, is the purest form of racism imaginable.
If racism continues to manifest, through successive generations of white people (and only in white people), and it does so systemically, then, notwithstanding economic reparation of the non-white, and individual whites’ acknowledgement of this flaw, the final solution for eliminating systemic racism, can only be the elimination of white people.

Last edited 1 year ago by Bernard Hill
Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago

I have just finished reading the original article.
Yes, the author definitely needs the Freddie treatment as I did not understand it all (it is VERY long and with plenty of references to things I know nothing about). Still, the bits understood are very thought provoking and the idea that society gets more and more complex as time goes by, until it collapses, certainly resonated with me.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 year ago

Are people really so calculating?

By the time your children are old enough for university, how many parents have the energy and guile to game the system like this?

My God, those that do must have miserable lives.

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
1 year ago

Some people are, but ignorance and longer-than-average exposure to academic environments, which are anti-western bastions of the self-hating leftists enforcing “correct” thinking, are more significant reasons.
The few leftists I still talk with naively think of CRT as black history month on steroids – as if that would make a difference.

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago

I don’t think the parents think in these terms, but the school may do.

Chris Scott
Chris Scott
1 year ago

Many people who lived under Nazi, Fascist, Soviet, and all the other authoritarian regimes never actually believed in the doctrine that was being espoused. I think the way forward is to pay lip service to the ideology, wave the odd flag, attend meetings and the regular self-flagellation nights so it will look good on your CV, a little 1984-ish, I know, but for the ‘professional’ classes it’s the way forward. For the proles, well … Like all revolutions, it will come to be detested by following generations and I’m confident that they will take the appropriate action.