The Flawed Foundations of
Critical Race Theory

Kevin Narizny
Lehigh University


    What is critical race theory?

  • Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, 3rd ed. (New York: New York University Press, 2017).

    "Unlike traditional civil rights discourse, which stresses incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law" (3).

  • Freddie deBoer, "The Selfish Fallacy," Freddie deBoer Substack (17 June 2021).

    "For many or most of the people defending critical race theory today, the tradition is just the vague assertion of the prevalence of racism, dressed up in a little academic jargon -- because this conception is far more convenient for them than grappling with what CRT actually is."

  • Samuel Kronen, "The Trouble with Critical Race Theory" Areo (11 September 2020).

    "How do we get from a niche academic discipline to calls to defund the police, lamentations over the existence of America itself and expressions of loathing towards white people?"


    Critical race theory and identitarianism have become deeply embedded in contemporary leftism. Why did that happen, and is there an alternative on the left?

  • Adolph Reed, Jr., "Antiracism: A Neoliberal Alternative to a Left," Dialectical Anthropology 42.2 (June 2018): 105-115. [Lehigh University library link]

    "Antiracist politics is a class politics; it is rooted in the social position and worldview, and material interests of the stratum of race relations engineers and administrators who operate in Democratic party politics and as government functionarites, the punditry and commentariat, education administration and the professoriate, corporate, social service and nonprofit sectors, and the multibillion-dollar diversity industry" (111).

  • Walter Benn Michaels and Adolph Reed, Jr., "The Trouble with Disparity," Nonsite (10 September 2020).

    "The correct understanding of the problem is that it's not black and brown workers who are at risk, it's low-wage workers, especially those who have to go to work during the pandemic. ... Racism helps explain why so many low-wage workers are black and brown. But it doesn't explain their low wages. And all the antiracism in the world wouldn't make the slightest contribution to raising those wages."

  • Oliver Traldi, "A Liberal Who Remembers," Areo (11 March 2018).

    "Lefty friends keep asking me if -- or telling me that -- I'm a conservative now. But I'm just a liberal who remembers what they've forgotten."


    Ta-Nehisi Coates famously said, "There's nothing wrong with black people that the complete and total elimination of white supremacy would not fix." What are alternative viewpoints?

  • David Bernstein, "America Is Not a White Supremacist Nation," Areo (9 June 2021).

  • Zach Goldberg, "Exposing the Group Disparities = Discrimination Fallacy," Zach's Newsletter (28 May 2021).

    "[A] number of European ancestry groups (e.g. French Acadian, Portuguese, Dutch) average socioeconomic scores that are either comparable to or not statistically distinguishable from members of most low-performing non-European ancestry groups. ... The point is not that discrimination can't contribute to disparities, but that large disparities exist, emerge, and persist even in its absence."

  • John McWhorter, Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America (New York: Harper Perennial, 2001).

    "Another truism about black education is that the burdens of societal racism hinder all but a lucky few black children of all classes from doing well in school. This apparently sympathetic notion has transmogrified into nothing less than an infantilization of black people. ... Only Victimology makes black thinkers so ominously comfortable portraying their own people as the weakest, least resilient human beings in the history of the species" (103, 113).

  • Toure F. Reed, Toward Freedom: The Case against Race Reductionism (London: Verso, 2020). [Lehigh University library link]

    "Postwar liberal orthodoxies have failed to redress racial disparities. The culprit, however, is not the sway of a metaphysical racism ... [L]iberal policymakers have generally ignored the impact on African Americans of issues such as deindustrialization, the decline of the union movement and retreat of the public sector" (156-57).

  • Glenn Loury, "Unspeakable Truths about Inequality in America," Quillette (10 Feburary 2021).


    Activists claim that elite universities are beset with "systemic racism." Are they?

  • Randall Kennedy, "How Racist Are Universities, Really? Hyperbolic Accusations Do More Harm Than Good," Chronicle of Higher Education (12 August 2020). [Lehigh University library link]

    "The fact is that this moment of laudable protest has been shadowed by a rise in complacency and opportunism. Some charges of racism are simply untenable. Some complainants are careless about fact-finding and analysis. And some propose coercive policies that would disastrously inhibit academic freedom."

  • Jonathan Kay, "Workers vs. Wokeness: Recognizing Campus Social Justice as a Luxury Good," Quillette (17 November 2020).

    "The whole episode shows how bizarrely eager university administrations are to inflate the conceit that their own campuses are beehives of bigotry. ... [T]his self-flagellation has become the stuff of everyday stakeholder management: As in all markets, the customer is always right, and what these customers want is the belief that they are surrounded by racism."

  • Glenn Loury, "I Must Object," City Journal (Summer 2020).

    "This is no reasoned ethical reflection. Rather, it is indoctrination, virtue-signaling, and the transparent currying of favor with our charges. ... I can only assume that the point here is to forestall any student protests by declaring the university to be on the Right Side of History."



    How effective is diversity training based on critical race theory? Should organizations train faculty, staff, and students to recognize and report microaggressions, and should microaggressions be punished?

  • Musa Al-Gharbi, "Diversity Is Important. Diversity-Related Training Is Terrible" (originally published by Heterodox Academy, 16 September 2020).

    "[U]niversities are institutions that regularly claim to embody and inculcate such values as evidence-based reasoning, respect for facts, commitment to truth, etc. Universities are doing a bad job at modeling those values for students insofar as they force upon them ... pedagogical materials that are demonstrably ineffective or even counterproductive."

  • Scott O. Lilienfeld, "Microaggressions: Strong Claims, Inadequate Evidence," Perspectives on Psychological Science 12.1 (2017): 138-169. [Lehigh University library link]

    "Based on the literature reviewed here, it seems more than prudent to call for a moratorium on microaggression training, the widespread distribution of microaggression lists on college campuses, and other practical implementation of the MRP [Microaggression Research Program]" (163).

  • Maja Graso, Tania Reynolds, and Steven L. Grover, "Allegations of Mistreatment in an Era of Harm Avoidance: Taboos, Challenges, and Implications for Management," Academy of Management Perspectives 34.1 (2020).

    "We argue that victimhood sanctification and prioritizing employees' subjective experiences are incompatible with the impartial study of mistreatment and with fostering organizational harmony."

  • Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev, "Why Diversity Programs Fail," Harvard Business Review (July-August 2016).

    "The numbers sum it up. Your organization will become less diverse, not more, if you require managers to go to diversity training, try to regulate their hiring and promotion decisions, and put in a legalistic grievance system."



    Did the election of Donald Trump as president represent a racist backlash against Obama and a regressive shift in attitudes in American society?

  • Musa al-Gharbi, "Race and the Race for the White House: On Social Research in the Age of Trump," American Sociologist 49.4 (2018): 496-519. [Lehigh University library link]

    "[It is] a logical error to assert that because Trump's 'racist' rhetoric was not disqualifying, Trump voters therefore supported him primarily due to his racial appeals. ... [T]he white supremacy thesis not only lacks empirical support, it is confounded by the very data it seeks to explain" (503, 505).

  • Daniel J. Hopkins and Samantha Washington, "The Rise of Trump, the Fall of Prejudice? Tracking White Americans' Racial Attitudes via a Panel Survey, 2008-2018," Public Opinion Quarterly 84.1 (Spring 2020): 119-140. [Lehigh University library link]

    "We find that via most measures, White Americans' expressed anti-Black and anti-Hispanic prejudice declined after Trump's political emergence, and we can rule out even small increases in the expression of prejudice."





    Critical theorists openly argue that academic research should serve their political goals. Does this bias their understanding of the issues?

  • Chris C. Martin, "How Ideology Has Hindered Sociological Insight," American Sociologist 47.1 (March 2016): 115-130. [Lehigh University library link]

    "Fidelity to any narrative entails a lack of skepticism—final conclusions have already been reached. This attitude is fatal to science" (126).

  • Jarrett T. Crawford and Lee Jussim, The Politics of Social Psychology (New York: Routledge, 2018).



    What are the intellectual foundations of Critical Race Theory, and what does it have in common with other forms of critical theory?

  • Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity (Durham: Pitchstone, 2020).