Marx, White Moral Panic and a White Liberal’s Rosary

Derrick Bell, the father of Critical Race Theory

by James C. Sherlock

A couple of days ago Dick Hall-Sizemore published CRT and Virginia History here.

Dick is an excellent essayist. That one was the exception that proves the rule.

He indicated early in the more-than-1,500 word piece that he would discuss “the legitimacy of this antagonism regarding CRT.” I actually looked forward to hearing his point of view on that subject.

But he never got around to it.

He may actually have forgotten that was what he set out to do. Instead he recited the history of racism in Virginia from the perspective of a white man from Richmond.

He named me several times. Yet he ignored my well-documented position that CRT-driven educational policies threaten the futures of young black students. He wrote instead that people like me either ignore or deny the history of racism.

That was, of course, a classic straw man fallacy. This one has the singular disadvantages of being false and he has ample reason to know it.

He offered a universally understood  history lesson without identifying a single specific current application of CRT or, indeed, a specific solution to anything.  He only used the word “education” when quoting me.

Devoid of a defining position on anything, it served as a Rorschach test for many commenters who tried to insert meaning.

My position. I oppose the current dogma of CRT in education because it defines black children as unable to attend school regularly and on time, behave while there, participate in class, study, learn, do homework and pass tests within current standards and curricula and, specifically with white teachers.

CRT “educators” suggest that black students can’t read because theirs is an oral tradition. Those same “educators” overtly deny that black children and their parents have agency in the outcomes of their education, but rather are at the mercy of systemic racism.

That is the most racist view of black children on current public display. It is also demonstrably untrue. I have two words for all of them — Success Academies.

VDOE. If anyone thinks any of that is an exaggeration, he needs to read more about the work of the VBOE, VDOE and their various advisory panels.

For a master class in the racism of the well-intentioned, go to the VDOE Virginia is for Learners website. Block out several hours and click on every link and sub-link below the subjects FUTURE-READY LEARNING, EDEQUITYVA, VIRGINIA’S ROADMAP TO EQUITY, EDEQUITYVA RESOURCES, ABOUT and NEWS.

I can’t do it justice.

Critical Theory and Marxism. From Mr. Hall-Sizemore:

“Just because researchers with a Marxist bent developed CRT does not make CRT Marxist any more than Christians engaging in slavery and using the Bible to justify the practice makes slavery a Christian doctrine.”

Thanks for the throw away line on Christians, but the major thing historians and philosophers agree on about critical theory is that it is Marxist in origin.

Go to Wikipedia, Critical Theory, first sentence:

“Critical theory is a Marxist approach to social philosophy that focuses on reflective assessment and critique of society and culture in order to reveal and challenge power structures.”


“Post-modern critical theory analyzes the fragmentation of cultural identities in order to challenge modernist-era constructs such as metanarratives, rationality, and universal truths, while politicizing social problems “.

“A metanarrative  in critical theory and particularly in postmodernism is a narrative about narratives of historical meaning, experience, or knowledge, which offers a society legitimation through the anticipated completion of a (as yet unrealized) master idea.

Does any of that ring a bell?

How about the Critical Race theory iteration of critical theory?

Speaking of bells, Harvard’s Derrick Bell was the creator of critical race theory. He used it in court as a criminal defense strategy. It offers that society is divided between oppressors (whites) and victims (blacks). Bell replaced the Marxist focus on class with one on race, but maintained every other aspect of critical theory. And convinced not a few judges.

What we are seeing in education from the VDOE and people’s republics like Albemarle County is a combination of CRT and Brazilian Paulo Freire’s Critical Pedagogy. Again to Wikipedia:

“Freire includes a detailed Marxist class analysis in his exploration of the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized. In the book, he calls traditional pedagogy the “banking model of education,” because it treats the student as an empty vessel to be filled with knowledge. He argues that pedagogy should instead treat the learner as a co-creator of knowledge.”

“It is not enough for the student to analyze societal power structures and hierarchies, to merely recognize imbalance and inequity; critical theory pedagogy must also empower the learner to reflect and act on that reflection to challenge an oppressive status quo.”

Classic Marxism is seen in thesis, antithesis and synthesis.

  • Thesis is the status quo;
  • Marx believed that, in order to change the social conditions, there must be an opposition to the current social conditions —  antithesis; and  
  • The battle between the thesis and antithesis results in the synthesis, which Marx defined as social progress and social progressive change.

Dick, do you now recognize Marxism in critical race theory, critical pedagogy and the Virginia Department of Education? Thank you.

Richmond as a cautionary tale. When a white Richmonder of a certain age talks about hatred and bigotry, you should listen. Because if that man didn’t play the game, he at least had box seats to the watch the games of some of the most virulent racists in America.

From the perspective of a young man coming to the University of Virginia in 1962 from an integrated Catholic high school in D.C., some of the scions of the oldest Richmond families, many bearing the burden of three last names, showed the ill effects of a couple of hundred years of inbreeding.

On race, they were in a class by themselves.

The woke rosary. Finally,  Dick is certainly no racist. And I don’t think he supports many of the current dogmatic pillars of CRT in education. Indeed he wrote that he is “suspicious of (the intellectual) framework … of CRT.”

But for some reason he felt it necessary to recite for us the rosary of white liberals, which is the story of the history of racism. Like all rosaries, it circled back to the beginning.

  • It began with accusing those who deny that “racism is the driving force in society” of denying that racism ever existed or still exists; 
  • it moved on to write that the author himself is suspicious (but never critical) of CRT; and
  • it ended where it started, with accusing people like me who criticize CRT of denying or ignoring racism.

Like all religious devotions, it probably made him feel better.

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14 responses to “Marx, White Moral Panic and a White Liberal’s Rosary”

  1. DJRippert Avatar

    ” … from the perspective of a white man from Richmond.”

    “When a white Richmonder of a certain age talks about hatred and bigotry, you should listen. Because if that man didn’t play the game, he at least had box seats to the watch the games of some of the most virulent racists in America.”

    “From the perspective of a young man coming to UVa in 1962 from an integrated Catholic high school in D.C., some of the scions of the oldest Richmond families, many bearing the burden of three last names, showed the ill effects of a couple of hundred years of inbreeding.”

    You got it, Captain.

    The “plantation elite” in Virginia either go to ridiculous lengths to make up for their legacy of racism (Northam) or try to pretend that racists like Harry Byrd had a lot of positive qualities to offset his virulent and aggressive racism.

    The “plantation elite” have been the problem in Virginia for centuries.

    They do not represent the majority of Virginains.

    They need to be relegated to the ash heap of history lest they cause the Commonwealth any more misery.

  2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Mr. Dick’s essay was very good. He was honest in his thinking as his life experience allows him to see it. The subjects covered are a tip of an ice burg that is complex and interwoven. It cannot be broken down into oppressors vs. victims, or by race, and even good vs. evil. I have been thinking on this subject a great deal. It actually takes me back to Peter Prime’s philosophy class at VPI. Always looking for answers and I end up finding more riddles to solve.

    I am with Captain Sherlock on the alarm raised by the Critical Race Theory. I see it as a direct assault on individuality and identity. It seeks to melt down the individual and their identity in a multi pronged approach. Identity. Are we more than just receptacles of what has come before us? I believe our powerful sense of individuality drives a person to claim our identifies for ourselves.

    CRT seeks to bring forth a powerful sense of guilt from so called oppressors and the victims leverage that guilt to reconstruct social and economic institutions all in the name of equity. It is trading one set of shackles for another.

    I have guilt for the things I have personally done to others. When possible I have attempted to atone for my bad deeds. I often find my self wanting in this area.

    But I do not have a profound sense of guilt for what others have done. I could not control that and I see only a path of humiliation and retaliation to attempt a remedy.

    Yet I empathize profoundly with Mr. Dick’s experiences. I am not responsible for what has happened in this world. But I am responsible for what can happen right now in this world. Here I find a common ground with Mr. Dick and with Captain Sherlock. What we do now matters. We are responsible for now. I think we can work together to chart a course of constructive benevolence that will serve society well.

    Professor Prime assigned this book by James Baldwin and Margaret Mead. The book left my mind twisted in a knot but also a sense of wonderment at the possibilities of what can be done in the present.

  3. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Google “Soviet Negro Republic” and see just how much this piece aligns. Everything old is new again.

  4. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    “I want you to look at me because you’re seeing a walking impossibility,” she said. “My father came to this country with $1.75 — from a different culture, a different country, achieved the American Dream. And now I stand before you as an immigrant to say thank you for letting my father in, because it changed the trajectory of our lives…God bless this great country. Let us keep America America, because there’s no place else to run to.”

    Do you want the antidote to Critical Race Theory? Do you want the answer to the Big Lie at the heart of the Democratic Party that America is racist, evil, spirit-crushing and the heart of that darkness is the Republican Party? That statement made by Winsome Sears to the team that counted convention votes on Tuesday, as reported in Wednesday’s Washington Post, stands in stark contrast.

    Dick’s litany of America and Virginia’s sins was correct and, as was made clear in that summary of CRT Nancy found, was intentionally not counterbalanced with any signs of progress or redemption. The thing people forget about Marxism is that is is a valid lens on history and even more it is a power political tool for generating class warfare to seize power. It holds sway now in its third century because it accomplishes its purpose (not to be confused with its stated purpose.) So it must be engaged intelligently and disarmed by dealing with the real problems it seeks to exploit.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      “The thing people forget about Marxism is that is is a valid lens on history and even more it is a power political tool for generating class warfare to seize power.”

      Apparently, so is simply denying the processes of democracy.

      Logs in your eye, there Bubba.

  5. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    I took the definition of CRT that Jim Sherlock provided in a response to one of my comments on this blog. That definition depicted CRT as holding that, in order to understand power and social relationships, one has to look at those relationships through the lens of race. His position has been that should not be used. My argument is that, in order to understand modern Virginia history and social relationships, one has to use race as reference point. It seems that his definition or depiction of CRT has changed.

    I went to the VDOE website he indicated. I admit that I did not spend sevral hours on it. I can take only so much education jargon and general blather. But, I saw nothing on there that indicates that it is VDOE’s position that “black children as unable to attend school regularly and on time, behave while there, participate in class, study, learn, do homework and pass tests within current standards and curricula and, specifically with white teachers”, as Jim claimed. If that were indeed VDOE’s position, it would be outrageous.

    It is not clear if Steve was referring to me who “intentionally” did not counterbalance my “litany” of Viriginia’s history with the progress that had been made. The purpose of the essay was not to compare the past with the present. However, I did acknowledge that progress has been made. And in past posts, I have explicitly made that point.

    Finally, I hope the America of today and tomorrow will be as welcoming of immigrants as the past America was of Winsome Sears’ father.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      On reflection you did and that may have been a cheap shot on my part. Within the CRT movement, “progress” is not recognized and indeed is actively resisted. If you read that ABA piece that Nancy referenced (and I’ve seen this elsewhere) they even discount Brown v. BOE as actually being progress. Please do keep making that point.

      Trump married an immigrant. I’ve found that most people welcome legal immigrants and celebrate their accomplishments, because most families include some one or two generations back. No question, there is a nasty nativist streak in some which must be challenged.

    2. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      When it comes to the topic of CRT this website has devolved to the John Birch Society position. And yes, they live.

      1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock

        See if you can identify all of the classic logical fallacies in your short musing.

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          Marx, Marx, Marx. Always the Commies and the conspiracies.

          1. JAMES Avatar

            You appear finally acknowledge the Marxist origins of critical theory but seem convinced that it will work this time.

            I oppose this iteration because it has never worked for the benefit of the countries that have tried it, and in this case it will fail the most vulnerable. Snark won’t cover that up.

    3. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Dick, I specifically titled a section of my essay “My Position”. So not hard to find. You redefined it “his position is it (race) should not be used” in order to criticize it. The straw man fallacy is turning into a bad habit.

  6. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    You are a prisoner in a room with 2 doors and 2 guards. One of the doors will guide you to freedom and behind the other is a hangman –you don’t know which is which.

    One of the guards always tells the truth and the other always lies. You don’t know which one is the truth-teller or the liar either.

    You have to choose and open one of these doors, but you can only ask a single question to one of the guards.

    Why ask… just listen…

    “Students in our universities are inundated with critical race theory. This is a Marxist doctrine holding that America is a wicked and racist nation, that even young children are complicit in oppression, and that our entire society must be radically transformed,” Trump said.

    1. WayneS Avatar

      If I ask the other guard if this is the door to freedom, what will he say?

      But what was your point?

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