Critical Race Theory was not a thing when I went to elementary or secondary school. I learned that the civil war was fought to emancipate Negroes (yes, that is what they were called then) and that America entered WWII to free Jews from Nazi death camps.
It wasn’t until college and later, that I tackled the reality that the authors of our beautiful Declaration of Independence were slaveholders. For them, the phrase “All men are created equal” meant just that: All men—not women—and, by the way, all men were white men of European ancestry. Native Americans whose land they appropriated and slaves from Africa (or Ireland) whom they used to make their appropriated land fertile and profitable were less than men—heathens and animals to be exploited. I’m ashamed to acknowledge that I was well into my twenties before I knew about America’s imprisonment of Japanese citizens in concentration camps right here in America while we were fighting Nazis in Europe.
It wasn’t until I was a homeowner that I learned of the egregious redlining that barred Black Americans from purchasing homes in certain neighborhoods, even when they had the income to do so. It was so much easier to assume that they lived in slums and ghettoes because that’s where “their people” lived.
I came late to the understanding of how racism has been at the heart of social constructs that gave me cradle-to-grave privileges, while forming a legal framework to lock others out of an inheritance of wealth. But at least I was taught (or was that indoctrinated?) about socialism, communism, and Marxism. These subjects were taught as a frame of reference to contrast our own democratic ideals. I learned that not everything about any of those -isms is inherently bad. Nor is everything about our democratic republic ideal. How can we know who and what we are if we aren’t allowed to know who others are and how they live? In other words, I learned how to analyze ideas and situations.
I suggest that Critical Race Theory is a misnomer. It should be Critical Analysis Theory. When difficult topics, (be they about race, regulation, health, conservation, or any other topic under the sun) are explored in a clear, reasonable, analytical manner, we understand problems and issues at a deeper level and are then able to formulate constructive solutions.
Defunding the police is another concept I had to look up. It sounded crazy. A society without someone policing the rule breakers is anarchy. I don’t want to live in a bloody anarchy. I can see what anarchy has looked like in the 20th century by seeing the horrors of the Ivory Coast, the Congo, and a host of other countries that were set adrift after European exploitation.
But what is at the heart of this movement? Dictionary.com defines it this way: Defund means “to withdraw financial support from, especially as an instrument of legislative control.” The call to defund the police seeks to use the power of money to produce systemic change that previous, incremental efforts at reform have not yielded, according to many activists, researchers, and some leaders.”
In other words, those who seek to defund the police are looking for ways to reallocate or reform police and city budgets to produce healthier outcomes for everyone. How about Systemic Reformation of The Police? This idea is worth exploring. It may work. It may not. But at this point, when the lives of black (and Asian and Jewish and Muslim and…) people are being literally snuffed out, we need to explore all options.
I think both Critical Race Theory and Defund the Police suffer from poor branding. As we know, marketing is everything. If the message your brand triggers produces fear and antipathy, try some new branding.