The Australian Senate has just voted to keep Critical Race Theory (CRT) out of the national curriculum after the new proposed curriculum gave “priority to teaching the culture, perspectives, and history of indigenous Australians across all subjects, including maths.”
Not unexpectedly, those who voted against the motion accused the majority of embracing a “far-right hatred” agenda.
Proponents of CRT invariably use euphemisms to describe this theory.
They use terms like “diversity,” “inclusion,” and “equity” to promote its assumed salutary nature. But these apparently non-threatening words cannot mask the real objectives of the theory’s proponents and its widespread use throughout academia.
Even a glance into the education and political circles today reveals the encroaching influence of Critical Race Theory (CRT).
CRT has been taught in universities since the 1990s. However, in the last couple of years, the theory has spread throughout the education system, seduced progressive politicians, and threatened to consume our institutions and way of life.
It also appeals to progressive academics, policymakers, and trendsetters because they believe that it has the capacity to reshape society.
A theory formulated from the Marxist idea that the world is divided into an entrenched set of classes that exploit the less fortunate groups and hinder an individual movement between them, CRT substitutes race for class and claims that all racism stems from European hegemony and white privilege that is endemic in the current society.
A review of CRT literature reveals the existence of scores of articles that describe and promote this theory.
A word that typifies the approach taken by promoters of CRT is “decolonisation.” An example can be found in a paper entitled The potential of critical race theory in decolonizing university curricula, published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Education.
Ideally, academic freedom and freedom of speech should be unrestricted, and, certainly, they should not be confined to an examination of mainstream ideas. However, here the word “decolonisation” refers to the assumption that Western knowledge and values are inherently discriminatory, hence the need to purge university curricula of these supposedly turgid Western influences.
The paper unapologetically states that “CRT is transdisciplinary and can illuminate the hegemonic and appropriating capacities of ‘Western’ disciplines and critique the dissonance that currently exists between indigenous and ‘Western’ ways of knowing.”
Then CRT as an academic approach seems to be in a different category because it ostensibly manipulates the concept of academic freedom to eliminate any scholarship that is incompatible with the theory.
Hence, the question must be asked whether the notion of academic freedom should encompass research that is intolerant of conservative views and ideas and seek to reshape a society that supports and possibly funds this research.
Further, the use of the word “decolonisation” in scholarly discourse is troubling because it conflates the notions of research and scholarship with activism and politics.
Academic research would thus no longer focus on the objective and unbiased dissemination of knowledge and discussion of ideas but would aim to provide the tools for the reshaping of society.
Those who teach and promote CRT assume that non-white people are entitled to compensation for past discrimination, slavery, and disenfranchisement. While it is true that, in the past, humanity routinely violated the principle of equal treatment, served the interests of advantaged members of society, and promoted flawed theories of racial superiority, CRT is not an appropriate tool to promote restorative justice.
Compensation should instead be limited to remedying identifiable instances of discrimination.
If not, disadvantages would be imposed on current members of society who themselves have not contributed to discrimination and may even have used their abilities or influence to promote harmonious relationships between different racial groups in society.
Indeed, if it were argued that living people should be held liable for discriminatory acts committed by their ancestors, then the point in time at which discriminatory acts occurred becomes irrelevant: it would no longer be necessary to make a causal connection between the act of discrimination and the transgressor.
The most important problem posed by CRT is that the theory rebuts the assumption that “race” is irrelevant in the distribution of benefits and the imposition of burdens.
Christopher F. Rufo provides an example. In a recently published paper, he states that “In the name of equity, UCLA law professor and critical race theorist Cheryl Harris has proposed suspending private property rights, seizing land and wealth, and redistributing them along racial lines.”
He also indicates that proponents of CRT in the United States have called for the creation of a permanent Federal Department of Antiracism, which would have “the power to nullify, veto, or abolish any law at any level of government and curtail the speech of political leaders and others who are deemed insufficiently antiracist.”
In the CRT world, society should embrace the idea that race is a distinguishing characteristic and entitles preferred races to benefits, which are not available to others.
But in Australia, surely, this restoration of the relevance of race, with its capacity to stereotype people, constitutes a violation of Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act 1975(Cth)?
If a person’s race were to be considered in the distribution of benefits and the imposition of burdens, it would facilitate racial segregation and result in the abrogation of free speech.
Perhaps, it might be possible for ethnically European Australians to then rely on the contentious Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth)—which makes it unlawful to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone because of their race—to seek relief?
CRT has the capacity to promote “race hate” in society. This may be one reason why former High Court Justice Ian Callinan confidently asserted that any attempt to justify the adoption of different law for different groups should be resisted.
CRT subverts the proper functioning of a cohesive society and undermines the function of universities, which according to the wise words of Cardinal John Henry Newman, should be “the education of the intellect.”I
Gabriël A. Moens is Emeritus Professor of Law, The University of Queensland. He served as Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Law at Murdoch University and has taught extensively across Europe, the United States, Asia, and Australia. He writes short stories and has published a novel about the origins of COVID-19, A Twisted Choice (Boolarong Press, 2020).
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.