Marxism is the new false flag to plant upon critical race theory

Marxism is the new false flag to plant upon critical race theory
© Greg Nash

On March 15, Christopher F. Rufo, one of the architects of the anti-critical race theory movement, tweeted, “We have successfully frozen their brand — ‘critical race theory’ — into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category.” In a subsequent tweet, he added, “The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory.’ We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.”

One of those “cultural constructions” is Marxism. But this Red Scare rhetoric ignores that critical race theory — which the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund describes as a framework that “recognizes that racism is more than the result of individual bias and prejudice” and “is embedded in laws, policies and institutions that uphold and reproduce racial inequalities,” — can be applied in ways that celebrate the free market. 

Consider, for example, the issue of school choice. Critical race theorists note how redlinin­­g, discrimination in mortgage lending practices and predatory lending have resulted in many people of color dwelling in neighborhoods blighted by de facto segregation, disinvestment and poverty.  

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That leads me, as someone whose thinking is informed by critical race theory, to regard the idea that parents should be forced to send their children to their neighborhood school as a perpetuation of injustice. How, I think, can one both condemn the systemic racism that led to families of color being trapped in under-resourced communities and then blockade the door to prevent those families from sending their children to school outside those communities? How can one decry the bigotry that coerces nonwhites to live in disenfranchised neighborhoods and then coerce nonwhites to send their children to schools in those neighborhoods? 

Ask me to analyze why the public school system is so inequitable, and I sound like one of the forefathers of critical race theory, Derrick Bell. Ask me for one possible solution to the problem and I sound like Milton Friedman.

Or consider regulation. You know what group of people unwittingly apply critical race theory when they observe that an awful lot of professional licensure rules serve not to ensure the quality provision of services, but rather, to allow those with more privilege to keep those with less privilege from competing with them? Libertarians.   

For example, the libertarian law firm Institute for Justice observed in its report “Barriers to Braiding that although stylists who braid hair without a cosmetology license don’t pose a threat to health and safety risks, “higher barriers to entry may constrain opportunity, as most states that require more hours of training have fewer braiders in proportion to their black immigrant and African-American populations.” 

Wow — that finding is awfully consistent with the critical race theory tenet that “Although individuals can indeed be racist, racism and its outcomes are perpetuated in society through social processes above and beyond individual actions including through cultural norms, institutional rules, and laws and regulations.”  And yet, the legal remedy the Institute for Justice seeks on behalf of the Black hair braiders it represents is not a Marxist one — it’s the removal of barriers that keep the racially marginalized from participating fully in the capitalist system. 

And who are those folks lamenting that “Black Americans are significantly more likely to be arrested for a drug crime, even though rates of drug use and trafficking are roughly equal across all races” and noting “Studies have shown that our systems and institutions, though neutral in explicit policies, produce racially unequal outcomes” — information regarded as indisputable by Critical Race Theorists? The Prayer & Action Justice Initiative, a Christian criminal justice reform group that counts among its partner organizations the National Association of Evangelicals, National Day of Prayer and American Bible Society. 

Do those sound like folks who share Marx’s view of religion as the “opium of the people?” 

The fact is, critical race theory offers a framework for making sense of society’s injustices — it doesn’t prescribe a partisan way of fixing them. Critical race theorists can tackle that challenge from a perspective like that of Milton or Marx or Moses.   

And the people lying to you about critical race theory know it.

Shannon Prince is a lawyer at Boies Schiller Flexner and a legal commentator. She is the author of "Tactics for Racial Justice: Building an Antiracist Organization and Community."