Perhaps like many of you, I first came across Critical Race Theory (CRT) about 18 months ago, when one of my dear friends explained that she couldn’t support the BLM protests because they endorsed CRT.
I believed then, as I believe now, that most of the people protesting George Floyd’s death hadn’t given a second thought to CRT. Sure, there were bound to be a few radicals ranting about capitalism, but ordinary people didn’t care about academic theories. They had seen a video of a police officer killing a human being; their grief and anger had nothing to do with communism. They wanted justice, not a coup!
But later, when BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors said that she and fellow activists were “trained Marxists,” I was genuinely alarmed. I’ve studied the horrors created by Marxism in Venezuela, Cuba, and the former Soviet Union. I’m not a fan.
So I started reading. I read over 50 articles about Critical Race Theory (CRT), aiming for an even mix of liberal and conservative sources. I chatted with Dr. Kelly Hamren, a Liberty University professor whose dissertation focused on atrocities driven by Marxist-Leninist ideology in Russia. Finally, I went straight to the original source and read a few journal articles by Kimberlé Crenshaw, one of the lawyers who helped coin the phrase and develop the theory, and Derrick Bell, one of the earliest influences on CRT.
I thought, read and prayed, and I’m going to share what I’ve learned in a series of articles. For now, I’d like to lay some groundwork.
It’s hard to cut through the bias.
CRT started out as a legal theory developed by civil-rights lawyers in the late 1980s. It draws from Marxist frameworks that go further back, but I’ll get to that later. If you want to study the source material itself instead of other people’s summaries, it’s not exactly something you can skim while drinking your morning coffee as small children climb onto your lap for a cuddle.
But shorter articles summarizing CRT are pretty biased, even though they claim objectivity. Liberal sources define CRT as essential for justice while conservative sources define CRT as inherently divisive and unfair. Both make assumptions and present them as truth. Unless you’re a legal scholar who happens to own the necessary textbooks, it’s hard to fact-check critics and supporters alike.
The Case of Voddie Baucham
One example of how tricky this “understanding” can be is in Voddie Baucham’s book and sermons. Baucham is a Black pastor who became one of the biggest Christian critics of CRT, and I think he identifies some valid problems with both the theory and recent activism.
I listened to some of his sermons on Youtube back in the summer of 2020 and took notes. Some of his claims were easy to corroborate. It’s true that Michael Brown never said “Hands up, don’t shoot!” This became a main rallying cry of BLM protests in Ferguson, and it was based on a lie.
On the other hand, in one of his sermons Baucham says he’s reading a direct quote from a Critical Race theorist: “whites are incapable of righteous actions on race.” When I first heard that sermon, I thought Wow! That’s absolutely damning! If that’s CRT, it really is evil! But I couldn’t corroborate that claim elsewhere. It just didn’t line up with what I read from Critical Race Theorists themselves.
Nearly a year later, Lamb’s Reign blogger Joel McDurmon compared Voddie Baucham’s quotations to the CRT book he was referencing. He took photos of both books and highlighted the relevant lines, and it’s incontrovertible that Baucham misquoted Critical Race theorist Robert Delgado. Delgado did not say that whites are incapable of righteous actions.
His book, Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Impending Catastrophe, contains additional misquotes. Some critics feel that Baucham seriously misrepresents CRT’s arguments, to the point of outright deception. More conservative outlets say Baucham’s mistakes aren’t that important, but agree that his citations are sloppy and he misquotes Richard Delgado.
As a Christian working hard to understand the pros and cons of CRT, Bauchan’s misinformation is personally frustrating, and it also illustrates why I, like many of you, have had such a hard time defining the tenets of the theory to make my own judgment of it.
In future columns, I’ll discuss the history of CRT as well as the origins of concepts like white privilege and structural racism.
Leah Blankenship Brown grew up in Danville attending First Baptist Church. She writes a blog at www.what-the-blank.com.