Letter to the editor: How Critical Race Theory is implemented is crucial

On June 10 and June 17 you published a flurry of rejoinders about Critical Race Theory. Both Steve Jackson and Julian Roy took very wide swings at it — one against, one in favor. I agree with my colleague at Middlebury College, Prof. Kemi Fuentes-George, that any course about race debates in the U.S. must include Critical Race Theory. I disagree with your columnist Joanna Colwell that those of us who see big problems with CRT are refusing to face “real history,” perhaps because we have been deceived by Koch Brothers-financed propaganda.

What matters to most Addison Independent readers will be less the theory than how it is implemented. Activists inspired by CRT and its spin-offs want institutions ranging from the college to the town of Middlebury to public schools to Porter Hospital to launch ambitious new efforts to fight racism. Whether these efforts will diminish racism or backfire is an important question. The devil is in the details. We won’t have the necessary public discussions if these are shut down by racial accusations.

To that end, I would encourage everyone who cares about this topic to read both the theorists and their critics. The two most influential anti-racism thinkers at present are Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo. The many skeptics include John McWhorter, Adolph Reed Jr., Coleman Hughes and Randall Kennedy. No one should adopt Kendi’s “How to be an Anti-Racist” as gospel truth without looking at some of the pushback.

My own favorite question is, if you interpret almost every issue as racial, aren’t you actually entrenching racial classification? Racial categories are inevitably paranoid, as sociologist John L. Jackson points out, because they assume that people with the same skin tone have far more in common than is actually the case. Because of this paranoid basis, racial indictments have a tendency to leap from specific, verifiable instances — such as the 2020 murder of Georgia runner Ahmaud Arbery — to huge unsustainable generalizations.

The underlying challenge is, how can we learn to avoid stereotyping the people we meet, without classifying everyone into pre-conceived victim and victimizer groups, which end up enforcing boundaries and reinforcing the stereotypes?

David Stoll

Prof of Anthropology

Middlebury College

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