There have been many attempts to question the unchallenged narrative of European dominance in human civilization by many scholars of color, who have chronicled their findings in papers, professional journals, magazines and books. And for the most part, many of these works have gained little to no attention in the academy and have done even less to change the accepted narrative that continues to be taught and universally believed that advances the erroneous tale of the superior achievements and discoveries of Europeans.
When Dr. Ivan Van Sertima released his landmark book, “They Came Before Columbus,” forever putting to rest the long held lie that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America, it still did little to change the fictitious European portrayal or cause the academy to do corrective historiography. When Van Sertima testified before a congressional committee in 1987 to share his evidence of the hundreds of years of Africans who had regularly traveled to and from the Americas and engaged in trade and commerce with the indigenous Americans long before Columbus landed on the shores of Caribbean Islands, one Congressman’s response was, “Well, Columbus was the first to hold a press conference.”
This kind of belligerent dismissive arrogance seems to reflect the attitude and actions of some Whites when it comes to any legitimate scholarship that attempts to challenge the faulty, flawed historical narratives that place Europe at the center of all intellectual, scientific, mathematic and cultural achievements in the world. The documented scholarship and multiplied volumes refuting this narrative is so overwhelming that it would take up too much space to list in this blog. The real question is why there is such resistance to any legitimate scholarly attempts that call these claims of European dominance into question? Why is it that no alternative suppositions are allowed to be examined or even considered, once the false white narrative has been exposed? Are we to believe that European scholars are above scrutiny and their scholarship beyond error? Is the white community saying they are the only ones allowed to investigate, inquire, explore or refute the legitimacy of any and all scholarly work in the academy?
Recently, there has been an all out attack on any legitimate scholarship that presents an alternate view or intellectual position on a host of academic subjects. Many of the attacks have come without sufficient explanation and/or with little academic credence. One such example is the recent attack leveled against “Critical Race Theory.” Nearly a dozen states have passed legislation either banning, restricting or limiting the study or teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the public school system. Republican members of congress have introduced legislation restricting the spread of Critical Race Theory as “a divisive ideology.”
What has been most disturbing about the attacks is the cluelessness of those who oppose CRT. Many of those in opposition cannot tell you what Critical Race Theory is or what it means? You, who are reading this blog and have perhaps formed an opinion about it, do you know what it means? Do you know where it came from?
One of my passions for years has been reading and studying the constitution and race. Because of this in the late and 80’s and early 90’s I became aware of the subject “Critical Race Theory.” My understanding of it was as a legal construct and framework used to examine the flawed suppositions that our legal system was based. It was a framework that legal scholars used to identify the inherent flaws in our constitution, our legal and judicial systems and identify how they racially advantaged whites and disadvantaged blacks. These scholars unpacked and examined legal cases beginning with the suppositions of the framers and the earliest rulings of the supreme court to challenge these suppositions, findings and decisions; recognizing that the framers had a huge blind spot when it came to race.
As I understood it, Critical Race Theory was legitimate legal scholarship from renowned and respected legal scholars who were bringing their perspective into the discussion of the constitution, the judicial system and legal rulings when the legal system was applied to African Americans. The agreed father of this scholarship was Derrick Bell who authored the landmark work, “Race, Racism, and American Law,” in 1971. His scholarship has been joined by legendary jurist A. Leon Higginbotham Jr., who authored, “In the Matter of Color,” which examined race and the American legal process during the colonial period and Mary Francis Berry, the author of “Black Resistance/White Law: A History of Constitutional Racism in American.” These scholars, along with many others, examined the American judicial system to challenge the inconsistent reasoning and flawed decisions which they show promotes and sustains white supremacy.
There are two key elements of Critical Race Theory that most if not all proponents of CRT agree upon. The first is the understanding of how white supremacy and its subordination of people of color have been created and maintained in America, through “the rule of law” and “equal protection,”under the law. The second is a desire not merely to understand the unholy alliance between law and racial power but to change it.
Someone will ask, why would anyone question such fundamental principles of our constitution and legal system and claim that it has an inherent “white supremacist” leaning? I’m glad you asked. Let’s examine one example.
The Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It was based upon this fundamental foundational principle that Dred Scott brought his case to the Supreme Court seeking, as a black man, the basic precept of equal protection under the law. But when he did, the court ruled that Dred Scott, because of his “race,” had no standing in the court and was not allowed to even file a claim for redress. The actual statement from the decision, authored by the Chief Justice, designated African Americans, ‘‘as beings of an inferior order and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.’’
Within the legal system of America is the precept of inferiority. It is a concept that imposed itself on the American legal system and judicial thought unchallenged and attached itself specifically to the African American community. Higginbotham describes it like this in his book “Shades of Freedom.”
“The dominance of the precept of inferiority has to do with the fact that ‘inferiority‘ is fundamentally different from all the other precepts. Most of the other precepts,…defined or enforced certain tangible rights of the slave master or obligations of the slave…By contrast, the precept of inferiority did not define any specific right or obligation. Instead, ‘inferiority‘ spoke to the state of mind and the logic of the heart. It posed as an article of faith that African Americans were not quite altogether human. What’s more, ‘inferiority‘ did not owe its existence to the legal process. Although the law came to enforce the precept, it did not create it…When the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and, presumably, all its attendant conditions, it did not eliminate the precept of inferiority. Even much later, when the law abolished state-enforced racial segregation, it still did not eliminate the precept.”
This is just one example of the kind of legal scholarship that Critical Race Theorists have used to show how the legal system of the United States enforced by law white supremacy and black racial inferiority. Can anyone say such topics should be dismissed out of hand because they raise the issue of white supremacy and challenge its legitimacy? If you disagree with its positions and/or suppositions is that not something that should be legitimately argued in an appropriate arena of academia, instead of outlawed by Federal and State legislators or dismissed by Religious Denominations? What is it that White America is afraid of when it comes to discussing these issues that have had such a powerful impact on the lives of African Americans.
Recently Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Price winning journalist and editor of the landmark New York Time Magazine “1619 Project,” is being blocked from receiving tenure at the University of North Carolina because of here role as editor of the project. Why is it that after decades of false, misleading and inaccurate scholarship, that Europeans cannot withstand any academic scrutiny or accountability. Has Europe’s position as the unchallenged authority on all subjects given it a divine arrogance that has made it believe it is above examination or investigation?
Where is this White-lash coming from that says, “You are not allowed to say anything that might be construed as negative or demeaning about me…even if it’s true.” And if you do, we will cancel you. Here are two passages from the wiseman that I believe we should all consider.
The first is Proverbs 28:26 MSG, which says, “If you think you know it all, you’re a fool for sure; real survivors learn wisdom from others.”
The second is found in Proverbs 15:31—32 CEV, it says, “Healthy correction is good, and if you accept it, you will be wise. —32—You hurt only yourself by rejecting instruction, but it makes good sense to accept it.”
No one has all the answers. The more we probe, reflect and discuss our challenges and problems, honestly, accurately and fairly; even the difficult ones, the closer America will arrive at becoming a “more perfect union.”