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William Tate’s “Toward a Critical Race Theory of Education”: A Critical Analysis

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Published on: November 7, 2022

The following is Chapter 4 of my book on CRT in its entirety, citations and all. I would urge readers to check out the sources.

Hopefully, the previous chapters have clarified that CRT is so much more than an elementary school lesson teaching your first grader they are racist. Critical Race scholars are intent on changing society, and they are using education as a tool, a means to an end to reform the minds of American children so they reject what we consider our traditional values. Americans are awakening to the race-based lessons derived from CRT, while scholars are pushing the boundaries and encouraging those that seek to use CRT to go beyond the mere tenets. They are also rejecting work claimed as CRT just because it includes claims of racism.[1]

As mentioned, several times throughout this book, CRT seeks to challenge the norms of what they call the liberal order. They are looking to prevent reform from the perspective of the so-called oppressors. The authors of Critical Race Theory in Education: All God’s Children Got a Song argue minorities depend on the white supremacist system they are trying to deconstruct, therefore, helping them look beyond their dependence and advocate for social change is difficult. The argument is like the tenet interest convergence because they essentially suggest that all reforms are made only if they benefit the white supremacist system first.

For Americans concerned about CRT and its use in their children’s school, they must understand they are barking up the wrong tree. Challenging the school board because CRT is being taught to their children is the wrong argument to make, because it isn’t. CRT is a tool of societal transformation, and its purpose in school is to use race to solve what they view as educational inequity.

Earlier in the book I mentioned a quote by William Tate where he said that CRT is not meant for the undergraduate student, “it is a framework used in law school and in PhD’s education to better understand how laws are formulated and the influence of law on everyday life.”[2] In this chapter we will examine Tate’s article Towards a Critical Race Theory In Education,[3] published in 1995, where he lays the groundwork for how to make race a centralized theme in all aspects of society, including education. Tate argues that CRT in education “is a radical critique of both the status quo and the purported reforms.” This means that nothing except a complete restructuring of society from the perspectives of CRT scholars will be enough. Tate takes the position that race itself should be the primary perspective in any reform, meaning that viewing everything from a race-based lens should be the priority. This was mentioned earlier in Chapter 3, as he challenged the idea of color-blind reforms because they only solve the most obvious forms of discrimination. Understanding Tate’s essay is essential in understanding CRT’s role in education, and how it transcends lessons on racism in elementary school.

The first argument Tate makes is that race continues to be a major cause of inequity in U.S. schools. This is how CRT wants to have it both ways. On one hand, as mentioned earlier, CRT scholars claim that race is a social construct. Here, however, Tate claims that viewing race from this perspective denies racial realities and the racism people of color experience in their everyday lives. This is an example of putting race first. The problem with this thinking, however, is that putting race first implies there is a problem inherent to Black people. They argue that there are differences between the races, which requires them to restructure society to make things equal. Critical Race scholars, according to Tate, are attempting to theorize race much the same way Marxists scholars have theorized about class issues being a cause of economic inequality. White Marxists, according to CRT scholars, have minimized the race issue by writing within the confines of an existing white supremacist power structure, making any of their work on class inequality with much to be desired.[4]

Arguing race remains un-theorized is suggesting race itself, and the work of other prominent race scholars, has not been used to solve the inequity issue in education (Tate & Ladsing-Billing, 1995). This is where it gets interesting, because some of the scholars they mention are among the first Black Americans to receive PhDs in higher education yet insist that racial inequality be a central issue. Carter G. Woodson, for example, argued that American schools perpetuated inequality and created a sense of inferiority in the African American because all education revolved around the idea of white achievement while ignoring any meaningful accomplishments of Black people. He also argued, according to Tate, that outside interests, seeking to maintain systems of white supremacy, controlled all education for black people.

“The same educational process which inspires and stimulates the oppressor with the thought that he is everything and has accomplished everything worthwhile depresses and crushes at the same time the spark of genius in the Negro by making him feel that his race does not amount to much and never will measure up to the standards of other peoples.”[5]

Woodson goes onto argue that all education in America, concerning Black people, operates from the perspective that Blacks are inferior. He refers to white education for Blacks as the worst kind of lynching possible because it teaches the Black man nothing of substantive value for which he can use to help advance his people (Woodson, 1933). This brings up some interesting points. First, taking a race first approach to solving inequity issues puts forth the idea that there are racial differences leading to disparities in achievement. The entire premise of CRT is to challenge the notions of western society through a race-based lens that rejects color-blindness and meritocracy. The very idea that Black people have the same equality of opportunity based on the idea of merit is something challenged by CRT scholars. Who are the CRT scholars? Radical Marxists who are using Critical Theory to tear down the fabric of modern society. Conservatives believe in the concept of color-blindness because it presents the best opportunity for all people to reach their fullest potential based on their own individual efforts. It is judging people by their character and not the color of their skin. CRT scholars want to reserve the right to judge people on skin color when it suits them because they are the ones arguing for a society of racial preferences. Conservatives oppose such a society because they believe in equality of opportunity. To argue for equality of outcomes ̶ ̶ based on racial preferences ̶ ̶ is to argue that some people are not as capable as others.

How did Carter G. Woodson achieve his PhD in such a racist system? Would society be any different today had Woodson put forth the idea that anyone, with hard work and dedication, could achieve what they had despite their race? These are important questions, as Carter G. Woodson’s work is an important part of modern CRT scholarship.

W.E.B. Dubois is another among the first Black Americans to achieve a PhD. Mainstream CRT scholars recognize Dubois for putting forth the idea that African Americans are contending with a double consciousness. On one hand, they are forced into conformity with the white supremacist system while struggling to come to terms with their own identity (Tate & Ladsing-Billing, 1995). Again, conservatives must ask the question; how would things be different today if this individual would have praised the attributes of hard work and dedication being individual qualities that anyone can possess?

The bigger problem with CRT scholarship is that it ignores the fundamental truths of individualism by attacking it is a social construct which benefits white people alone. Even Cornel West, in his book Race Matters[6] acknowledges the advancements in racial relations by highlighting the successes of Black Americans in American society. Black people can and do succeed based on their own individual efforts towards the goals they wish to accomplish.

“Racial progress is undeniable in America. Never before have we had such a colorful menagerie of professionals in business, education, politics, sports, and the labor movement. Glass ceilings have been pierced—not smashed—by extraordinary persons of color. Overt forms of discrimination have been attacked and forced to become more covert.” (West, 1993)

While this quote from West highlights the progress made, the tenets of CRT are present. For instance, he denotes the idea of colorblindness solving only the most obvious form of discrimination in the last line. He is suggesting that systematic discrimination has become a hidden aspect of society. The bigger problem is that CRT scholars insist on taking the race first approach based on the very misguided view that “black people in the United States differ from all other modern people owing to the unprecedented levels of unregulated and unrestrained violence directed at them” (West, 1993). First, the twentieth century represents perhaps the bloodiest in recent history, as leftist dictators murdered tens of millions of people under a political ideology which purported to be in pursuit of an egalitarian society. People were exterminated in communist societies not on racial or religious reasons, but, because they believed human nature could be changed by targeting the social classes that produced, allegedly oppressing and depriving others of material goods.[7] Critical Race Theory is based on the idea that one social class is oppressing another, and as mentioned earlier, race is being used because white Marxists have not taken the issue of class inequality far enough.

Another issue ignored by CRT scholars, one they would claim is used to distract from our system of institutionalized discrimination, is the fact that Africans took part in the slave trade just as much as Europeans.[8] Slavery, as terrible as it was, existed across the world, and still does in many countries. America was one of the first nations, if not the first, to make slavery illegal. To argue Black people in America are, somehow unique in their experience with oppression, is to ignore the slavery that still exists, and the millions murdered by communist regimes on the same grounds of equality that CRT scholars are supposedly pushing today.

The next big issue in Tate’s essay is the one of property and its relation to education. Critical Race scholars base their arguments, as Marxists generally do, on the idea that capitalism is the root cause of inequality. Again, this brings up individual capabilities because capitalism rewards hard work and individual initiative. CRT advocates, however, argue that capitalism perpetuates “whiteness” in the sense that only capitalists enjoyed the benefits of American society because America’s form of government protects property rights, not human rights (Tate & Ladsing-Billing, 1995). While it is true that our government was established to protect property rights, it is important to understand that human rights cannot exist without the fundamental right to own property. Protecting property rights ensures the expansion of human rights.

If each man has a right to his own person, to be in control of his own life, then he must possess, within his own reach, the means to provide the necessary resources to do so.[9] This is the basic idea behind property ownership. All human rights depend on this one idea that each man is responsible for his own life. Without protecting of property rights, all other rights would fall to the wayside, and society would devolve into a collectivist state, with no one having any rights at all.

“The human rights of the person are, in effect, a recognition of each man’s inalienable property right over his own being; and from this property right stems his right to the material goods that he has produced. A man’s right to per­sonal freedom, then, is his prop­erty right in himself.” (Rothbard, 1959)

Derrick Bell, a leading proponent of CRT, argued that because Black people were viewed as property, the United States government had no incentive to address human rights for the African American (Tate & Ladsing-Billing, 1995). Looking at this at face value you can see the fallacy because slavery in the United States ended, and it became illegal for one person to own another.

Richard Delgado, author of Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, authored an article entitled When a Story is Just a Story: Does Voice Really Matter?[10] He argues that property relates to education in the sense that the curriculum is decided by the property values of the school and its surrounding communities. In other words, the school districts in wealthier communities are offering better curriculums and learning opportunities while schools in the poorer inner-city neighborhoods are limited.

There is a truth to this. Property taxes fund school districts, wealthier communities paying higher taxes would likely see more curriculum choices. This isn’t a race issue, as CRT scholars would claim. In fact, to make it a race issue shows the racist attitudes of CRT scholars, as there is an assumption that poor inner-city children are always black, or rather, that all white children have access to the wealthier school districts. That is simply not true.

CRT advocates also argue that there are no examples of Black students achieving high levels of success in the public schools (Tate & Ladsing-Billing, 1995). Poor white children may suffer in academic performance because of a lack of access to necessary resources, but poor black children suffer because of institutional, systematic racism (Tate & Ladsing-Billing, 1995)? The reason for this isn’t based on any objective truth, but because CRT scholars are insisting on the “race first” approach to viewing the problem.

There are problems with American education. I am not even going to argue that, in some circumstances, many of these problems don’t hit minority communities the hardest. Some of the poorest, inner-city communities after all, have been controlled by tax and spend Democrats for decades. They have destroyed their communities through excessive government spending that was supposed to solve the problem of inequality in education. This highlights the bigger problem of allowing the government to fix anything. They produce nothing of value. All the money they spend first comes from the productivity of the taxpayers. This is an issue that goes unaddressed by CRT scholars because one, they are by nature collectivists in thinking, and two, they are insisting on a race first approach. Taking this approach, CRT scholars are using the following definition of racism ̶ ̶

“Culturally sanctioned beliefs, which regardless of the intentions involved, defend the advantages whites have because of the subordinated positions of racial minorities.”  (Tate & Ladsing-Billing, 1995)

Here again, we see the idea of interest convergence in this definition by suggesting that any reforms which are made are because they benefit the white majority first. It is also clear any reforms that fall short of a total restructuring of society, based on the race first premise, are unacceptable to Critical Race theorists. It truly is a case of wanting their cake and eating it, too.

There is also a moral relativist aspect of CRT where truth does not exist as an objective reality, but something that is moldable to the situation and the people involved. For instance, Tate suggests that universalism over particularity prevails in our legal system. This means that simple concepts like right or wrong, and what we consider traditional morality, are viewed from a perspective that does not consider historical or socially constructed contexts. The legal truths we speak to are transcendent truths, meaning from a CRT perspective, our ideas on morality expand beyond the normal limits of what morality should be. In other words, while we view topics like equality of opportunity as being universally moral, CRT scholars view it as a relativist position, meaning that it is a morality that is only true from our hegemonic position. Looking at things from a moral relativist position, there is no difference in moral judgments or opinions pertaining to issues like equality. Equality of outcome is just as moral as equality of opportunity because there is no absolute morality which defines a universal truth. Only the truth which governs the dominant culture.

Much of this is influenced by the fact that many researchers are changing the approach to CRT research in education. Many scholars are rejecting the traditional, quantitative methodologies in favor of a qualitative approach.[11] This simply means that they are favoring a path which allows them to ignore hard, scientific data so they can focus on a method where feelings and experiences matter more. A qualitative approach to research generally means that multiple possible truths are accepted as opposed to just one. This goes right along with one of the tenets discussed earlier known as storytelling. This will be explored more in a later chapter as there are many topics from CRT academics apply these research methods.

CRT scholars also challenge the notions of multicultural education because it merely sought to assimilate Black Americans into the mainstream culture, or what was referred to as the melting pot. Critical Race Theory itself, as mentioned earlier, is a theoretical framework for analyzing society because the civil rights movement had failed to address the deeply ingrained institutional racism in American society. Here we find a major contradiction as Tate suggests the civil rights movement awakened a desire to reject the standards of white America and claim what he refers to as “an authentic Black personality” (Tate & Ladsing-Billing, 1995). This is why we hear so many people on the left, rejecting the notion that Black Americans could be conservative. This authentic personality revolves around the idea of victimhood, oppression, and rejecting ideas of whiteness. When any Black person attempts to defend the principles of Americanism or free-market capitalism, the left attacks them as Uncle Toms, or not authentically Black, because there is an assumption that all Black people think and feel the same way. How much of a failure was the civil rights movement when it resulted in an attitude which rejects what they refer to as the mainstream white culture and advocates an authentic Black personality? To expect all Black people to fall in line with this type of thinking is the epitome of collectivism and oppression.

When it comes to multicultural education, Tate argues that too much of it revolves around insignificant trivialities like ethnic foods and cultural traditions, meant to make others feel assimilated, instead of an aggressive academic approach to achieving social justice. While multicultural education, according to Tate, revolved around what was or wasn’t included in the curriculum, another approach known as multiculturalism was being developed. While multicultural education focused on reforms, multiculturalism focused on the idea of bringing various cultures together in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Tate refers to this approach, believe it or not, as traditional liberalism, and challenges it on the notion that it doesn’t go far enough in creating “radical new paradigms” in pursuit of social justice and does little more than support the status quo. Here again, we see the idea that anything short of a complete restructuring of society, based on the radical views of CRT scholars, which are proven to be Marxists, is insufficient. While people view CRT as something being used in elementary school to push racialized politics on unsuspecting kids, it is something that is a “radical critique of both the status quo and the purported reforms” that the left holds in such high regard (Tate & Ladsing-Billing, 1995) in education.

While we are constantly hearing accusations of white supremacy, no one is discussing the idea of natural law, or equality in the eyes of God. American society is built on the idea that each man is best suited to determine his own future and pursue that which is best for him. Black people do not differ from whites except in the minds of those pushing racial politics. Critical Theory scholars, because they are Marxists, are looking for any way to challenge western society. They are the ones suggesting that society needs to be structured where there is a guaranteed outcome because one group of people is more able than another. White supremacy is a myth because the idea of natural law, equality under God, equal opportunity and even individualism are truths which go beyond “whiteness.” Black people are as individual in their thinking and beliefs as white people. The tenets of individualism, and the reality that we are all created by God, are truths that transcend any theoretical perspective. These are truths that are rejected not only by CRT scholars, but by Marx himself. The rejection of natural law is the foundation of Marxist thinking.

Americans grow weary of racial politics. This chapter shows that CRT scholars take a “race first” based approach to solving inequity in education and other American institutions. Many people feel that this is a deliberate attempt to play what they refer to as the race card. At the end of Toward a Critical Race Theory of Education, Tate and Ladsing-Billing (1995) provide a quote that lends one to believe that is what they are doing. They attribute the quote to a book by Tony Martin entitled, Race First: The Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association.[12]

Marcus Garvey was a Black Nationalist, born in Jamaica in 1887, who sought to create independent Black states across the world.[13] He could be equated to W.E.B. Dubois and Woodson G. Carter in the sense that he was highly successful in his endeavors, despite his status as a victim of white supremacy, and received a higher education degree in Law from London’s Birkbeck College (History). He believed Black people were oppressed, and the only way to overcome that oppression, according to History.com, was to produce what the white man has produced. Until this is done, Blacks would never be equal with white people. Could this be why CRT scholars, and the left in general, are trying to tear down our institutions? So, they can rebuild them in their own image? If he believed Black people would never be equal, doesn’t that place the belief of white supremacy on his shoulders?

Garvey sought to liberate the Black race because he believed they are the only group in history to experience this kind of oppression (Martin, 1976). Again, readers should note that men have been enslaving and oppressing each other since the dawn of time. In fact, other Black men have committed some of the worst atrocities committed against Black men in the Twentieth Century. The movie Tainted Hero’s[14], for example, portrays the truth of Nelson Mandela’s attempts to eradicate all of those opposed to his communist ideology and Black consciousness philosophy. As mentioned earlier, this murderous rampage was driven by the same Marxist underpinnings driving the Critical Race Theory ideology.

The whole concept of white supremacy is based on a belief, one that isn’t shared by most white people, mind you, that Blacks are somehow inferior. CRT scholars base all their research on this notion that education maintains the white power structure and the inferiority of the Black man. Is this really what they believe? Or are they indeed playing the race card? According to Martin (1976), Garvey sought to use and take advantage of what he referred to as “the disabilities of race” into a means of liberation with a “thorough aggressiveness.” Garvey believed the world treated being Black as a crime and his intent was to turn it into a virtue (Martin, 1976). Taking a race first approach means using race as a weapon in any way possible, and this is the quote alluded to earlier.

“In a world of wolves, one should go armed, and one of the most powerful defensive weapons within the reach of Negroes is the practice of race first in all parts of the world.” (Marcus Garvey, 1919, from Toward a Critical Race Theory of Education)

Garvey also believed, according to Martin (1976), that white and Black people were equals while advocating for a separate but equal status. If he really believed this, why the need to create a movement based on perceived inferiorities? Today, most white people believe Blacks are the same as us. We get lambasted and ridiculed by CRT advocates for such a belief. To hold any other view than society needing to be restructured along the lines of guaranteed outcomes, racial preferences, and the idea that Black people are oppressed is the new form of racism. In fact, according to a book entitled White Logic, White Methods: Racism and Methodology,[15] our concepts of color-blindness and equality of opportunity are well-hidden and refined attitudes of white nationalism, put in place to mask our efforts to prevent minorities from advancing in our nation.

The aim of Critical Race Theorists is to make race consciousness the driving factor in solving society’s inequality issues. Therefore, Americans cannot avoid accusations of racism. America could concede to the tenets of Critical Race Theory and the scholars behind it would still accuse of being racist because we are merely appeasing minorities to make ourselves feel good. This is another reason we cannot stop CRT. Whatever methods are necessary to affect change, based on the race first ideology, are the methods they will employ. These people are Marxist radicals, and their intent is social change by any means necessary.

Saul Alinsky wrote in Rules for Radicals[16] that the higher level of morality was a willingness to corrupt oneself for the greater good. This chapter has shown that an absolute morality, from a CRT scholars point of view, does not exist. Therefore, there is also no objective definition for corruption. While many people, including many devoutly religious Black people, believe that lying is immoral, CRT scholars have no problem lying in pursuit of their objectives. Alinsky states corrupted means do not corrupt the ends, and that those unwilling to corrupt themselves for the greater good do not care about humanity.

To take concepts like color-blindness and suggest that it is just a means of hiding white people’s racist attitudes is a twisted concept that leaves no room for meaningful reform. It is a corrupted method which will corrupt the ends because it is not based on objective reality, but subjective perceptions of it. Equality of opportunity based on individual merit and effort is the only way to achieve true equality. Engineering society to guarantee outcomes based on perceptions of racism will invariably lead to more inequality. Like Marcus Garvey said, CRT advocates won’t be satisfied until they have created what the white man has created. Whatever that means.

Much of CRT revolves around the idea of private property. This is a direct tie to its Marxist origins as Karl Marx, in The Communist Manifesto, states in the simplest of terms that Communism is for the abolition of private property.[17] He doesn’t just mean anyone’s property; he specifically means the property of the bourgeois. Marxist economics posits the idea that the hard work of the proletariat produces capital, which is used by the oppressor to keep the laborer in a state of subordination. The property, therefore, belongs to everyone. It is the property of the oppressor, or the so-called rich, which the Marxist intends to target.

In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so: that is just what we intend. (Marx & Engels, 1848)

[1] Dixson, A. D., Rousseau Anderson, C. K., & Donnor, J. K. (2016) Critical Race Theory in Education: All God’s Children Got a Song. Routledge

[2] 2021 Louisiana legislative session: A return to (somewhat) normal – Louisiana Budget Project (labudget.org)

[3] Ladsing-Billing, G. & Tate, W. F. Toward a Critical Race Theory in Education. From Critical Race Theory in Education: All God’s Children Got a Song (2016). Routledge

[4] Roediger, D, (1991) The Wages of Whiteness. London, Verso.

[5] Woodson, C.G. (1933Miseducation of the Negro. The Associated Publishers

[6] West, C. (1993) Race Matters. Beacon Press.

[7] Courtois, S., Werth, N., Jean-Louis, P., Paczkowski, A., Bartosek, K. & Jean-Louis, M. (1999) The Black of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression. Cambridge Massachusetts, Harvard University Press.

[8] Stern, S. It’s Time to Face the Facts About the Atlantic Slave Trade. History News Network, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

[9] Rothbard, M. N. (1959, April 1) Human Rights are Property Rights. Foundation for Economic Freedom.

[10] Delgado, R. (1990) When a Story is Just a Story: Does Voice Really Matter? Virginia Law Review, 76(1), 95-111

[11] Decuir-Gundy, J. T., Chapman, T. K. & Schutz, P.A. (2018) Critical Race Theory, Racial Justice and Education. From Understanding Critical Race Research Methods and Methodologies. Edited by Decuir-Gundy, J. T. Chapman, T. K. & Schutz, P.A. New York, Routledge.

[12] Martin, T. (1976) Race First: The Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Massachusetts, The Majority Press.

[13] History.com Editors (2009, November 9) Marcus Garvey. History.com.

[14]  Tainted Heroes Full Documentary – YouTube

[15] Bonilla-Silva, E. & Zuberi, T. (2008) White Logic, White Methods: Racism and Methodology. New York. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

[16] Alinsky, S. (1971) Rules for Radicals. New York. Vintage Books.

[17] Marx, K. & Engels, FThe Communist Manifesto (1848)

Check Out The Book, Now available in paperback.  

Also, check out Without a Shot Indeed: Inducing Compliance to Tyranny Through Conditioning and Persuasion.

Article posted with permission from David Risselada

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