Critical Race Theory: The New BYU Honor Code?
Dear President Worthen,
I’ll catch a boatload of grief for this. Maybe not from you, but most assuredly from others. You didn’t ask for my input. You don’t even know who I am. But I’m a former student at BYU, so I do have some standing. More importantly, I’m right in what I’m about to tell you. So, ready or not, here it comes. (This’ll take a minute, so grab some munchies and a soothing beverage, and put your feet up…)
Last June, you formed a BYU Committee on Race, Equity, and Belonging, and gave it an important commission. You asked it “to review processes, policies, and organizational attitudes at BYU…to “root out racism,” and to “seek strategies for historic, transformative change at BYU in order to more fully realize the unity, love, equity, and belonging that should characterize our campus culture and permeate our interactions as disciples of Jesus Christ.” (The choice of the word “equity,” and not “equality,” was curious and of significant moment…but I’ll come back to that.) Yours was a noble challenge and opportunity, one that made clear your desire that the Committee understand BYU and its community in a unique way — as this university is very different from every other on Earth — and then recommend adjustments accordingly.
I’m not writing you today out of a belief that the minority experience at BYU can’t improve. I suspect it can. No, I’m writing because what the Committee gave you in response, intentionally or not, was the opposite of what you requested. Both its process and its prescription were cookie cutter, racist Critical Race Theory (CRT), replete with its unflagging condemnation (by implication) of all those at BYU who are white and unquestioning sympathy for those who are not. Crucially, evidence from across the country suggests that going down this path will have the opposite outcome of the one you hoped for. To be sure, the Committee layered its report with scriptural references, quotes from general authorities, pronouncements of empathy, and anecdotal tales of suffering; but, when you strip away the embellishments, the mind and soul of the Committee’s work was divisive and accusatory CRT, and lacked any obvious attempt at truly understanding the unique community you tasked it with exploring, or invoking balance, or applying scholarship.
For example, a dispassionate and detailed reading of the methodology, findings, and recommendations put forth by the Committee reveals the utterly implausible situation that not so much as one positive interaction between a black or indigenous person of color (BIPOC) and a white person at BYU could be documented. The complete absence of such basic balance (dare I say, academic rigor) is fatal to this report. (Importantly, the only plaudits grudgingly offered by the Committee were reserved for the few organizational units within the university that had already begun the CRT journey.)
Even the Committee’s sparse use of quantitative data was suspect and lacked rudimentary comparative or cause-and-effect analysis. (As I’ll show in more detail later, one example of this was its focus on graduation rates by race and ethnicity.)
Now, if I’m going to make an assertion of CRT-focus by the Committee, and state outright that it is both divisive and counter-productive to your mandate, President Worthen, it would seem only logical and fair that I also provide some background on what CRT is, where it came from, what its goals are, what it does to individuals, schools, and communities where it’s been implemented, and provide evidence that the Committee truly has relied on it…and what will happen to BYU if CRT is not stopped in its tracks. Here is that summary.
What Is Critical Race Theory and Where Did it Come From?
CRT has its basis in the first sentence of Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto”, in which he states (against much contrary evidence) that all societies are nothing more than a battle for power between oppressors and the oppressed…no room for middle ground or a more benevolent take on humanity or governments. In their “backgrounder” on CRT (found at https://www.heritage.org/civil-rights/report/critical-race-theory-the-new-intolerance-and-its-grip-america), Jonathan Butcher and Mike Gonzalez explain that CRT ultimately derives from a Marxist construct called Critical Theory (CT), which “can be traced to the 1937 manifesto of the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, colloquially known as the Frankfurt School. One of the first examples of what has come to be called the Western Marxist schools of thought, the Institute modeled itself on the Moscow-based Marx-Engels Institute. Originally, the school’s official name was going to be the Institut fur Marxismus (Institute for Marxism), but, ever desirous of downplaying their Marxist roots, its founders thought it prudent to adopt a less provocative title.”
Butcher and Gonzalez summarize CRT as follows: “Critical Race Theory (CRT) makes race the prism through which its proponents analyze all aspects of American life — and do so with a degree of persistence that has helped CRT impact all of American life. CRT underpins identity politics, an ongoing effort to reimagine the United States as a nation riven by groups, each with specific claims on victimization. In entertainment, as well as the education and workforce sectors of society, CRT is well-established, driving decision-making according to skin color — not individual value and talent. As Critical Theory ideas become more familiar to the viewing public in everyday life, CRT’s intolerance becomes “normalized,” along with the idea of systemic racism for Americans, weakening public and private bonds that create trust and allow for civic engagement.”
They go on to note that, “Critical Theory is the immediate forebearer of Critical Legal Theory (CLT), and CLT begat CRT. [T]here are strong thematic components linking CT, CLT, and CRT. Among these are:
- The Marxist analysis of society made up of categories of oppressors and oppressed;
- An unhealthy dollop of Nietzschean relativism, which means that language does not accord to an objective reality, but is the mere instrument of power dynamics;
- The idea that the oppressed impede revolution when they adhere to the cultural beliefs of their oppressors — and must be put through re-education sessions;
- The concomitant need to dismantle all societal norms through relentless criticism; and
- The replacement of all systems of power and even the descriptions of those systems with a worldview that describes only oppressors and the oppressed.”
Of particular note in the context of a potential, and paradoxical, application of CRT at BYU, the authors point out more than once the Marxism-infused hostility of CT and CRT to God. At one point they note that, “The founder of the Italian Communist Party, [Antonio] Gramsci had come to believe that the workers were not revolting and overthrowing the bourgeoisie because they had bought into the belief system of the ruling class — family, nation-state, the capitalist system, and God. What was needed was struggle sessions in which the revolutionary vanguard would teach the workers how to think. But first the norms needed to be torn down.” (CRT in the present day, and those relentlessly espousing it, are the kind of “revolutionary vanguard” imagined by Gramsci. And the ethnic studies classes and training suggested by the Committee for the BYU community will then, logically, be the means of teaching “the workers how to think.”) And later, quoting CRT devotee Duncan Kennedy, Butcher and Gonzalez highlight his enemies list: “The specific enemies have been the central ethical/theoretical concepts of bourgeois culture, including God, the autonomous individual choosing self, conventional morality, the family, manhood and womanhood, the nation state, humanity.” This choice of language and its list of antipathies drips of core Marxism and of its most virulent incarnation, Communism.
Further, the authors note that, “Americans should defend civil rights, and we should actively work to eliminate racism in the U.S. and anywhere it exists — but…these noble aims are not the stated intentions of CRT’s founders. Harvard academic Derrick A. Bell, the recognized godfather of the CRT movement, does not mince words in one of the essays laying out the radical aims of the theory: “As I see it, critical race theory recognizes that revolutionizing a culture begins with the radical assessment of it.”
And then this:
“CRT’s proponents, writes Bell, “are highly suspicious of the [classical] liberal agenda, distrust its method, and want to retain what they see as a valuable strain of egalitarianism which may exist despite, and not because of, liberalism.” This is an important departure from the original goals of the Civil Rights movement, which sought to redeem America’s promise by calling for color-blind equality. “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 [goodbye equality, hello equity], legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law,” acknowledges [Richard] Delgado. The radical egalitarianism obviously clashes with strong protections of property rights and any notion of equal protection under the law. These are not the only liberal rights to be thrown overboard. Freedom of speech is also in CRT’s sights. “Being committed to ‘free speech’ may seem like a neutral principle, but it is not. Thus, proclaiming that ‘I am committed equally to allowing free speech for the KKK and 2LiveCrew’ is a non-neutral value judgment, one that asserts that the freedom to say hateful things is more important than the freedom to be free from the victimization, stigma, and humiliation that free speech entails.” Thus we arrive at today’s cancel culture.
“Even the idea of rights itself — the very concept upon which this country was founded — is a target of CRT. “Crits are suspicious of another liberal mainstay, namely, rights,” observes Delgado, using the informal abbreviation CRT writers sometimes employ to describe themselves. The “more radical CRT scholars with roots in racial realism and an economic view of history believe that moral and legal rights are apt to do the right holder much less good than we like to think…. Think how that system applauds affording everyone equality of opportunity but resists programs that assure equality of results [i.e., equity].”
“The liberal principle that we universally derive these rights from a common humanity and human faculties we all share equally comes under the gun. Classical liberalism is “overly caught up in the search for universals,” writes Delgado. What CRT proponents want is “individualized treatment — ‘context’ — that pays attention to minorities’ lives.” “The concepts of rights is indeterminate, vague and disutile,” in Bell’s words.”
Also, with reference to identity politics that have arisen directly from application of CRT in American culture, Butcher and Gonzalez state the following: “Under identity politics, America is no longer a country where the individual is the central agent in society, who, because of his very existence possesses individual rights. Instead, membership in the official categories becomes the identity that matters when it comes to rights, responsibilities, and everything else. Identity politics has become the new paradigm under which many Americans now operate. Victimhood is what commands attention, respect, and entitlements, seen as compensatory justice.”
And then this with regards to Black Lives Matter (BLM) and CRT: “The jargon of CRT had seeped into American media, and thus into Americans’ collective consciousness, years before the Trump presidency, long before [George] Floyd’s death. [Zach] Goldberg explains: “Starting well before Donald Trump’s rise to power, while President Obama was still in office, terms like ‘microaggression’ and ‘white privilege’ were picked up by liberal journalists. These terms went from being obscure fragments of academic jargon to commonplace journalistic language in only a few years…. During this same period, while exotic new phrases were entering the discourse, universally recognizable words like ‘racism’ were being radically redefined [emphasis added]. Along with the new language came ideas and beliefs animating a new moral-political framework to apply to public life and American society. All the beliefs that are espoused today by the three founders of the Black Lives Matter organizations (Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi) — that America is institutionally/structurally/systemically racist, that its legal system protects the powerful and amounts to racism codified in statutes, that neutrality and objectivity are impossible to obtain, that “objectivity and individuality are privileges,” that the gauge by which to judge America is equality of outcome [i.e., equity], that speech and other rights must be suppressed in order to protect the marginalized — come straight from the CRT canon.
To make the case that the word “racism” has been “radically redefined”, I ask you to recall that, for a very long time, it was understood as mistreatment, or unequal treatment, of people based on their race. Thus, anyone of any ethnicity could be guilty of it. Nowadays, the definition has been changed to serve the interests of CRT. Here’s one that is taught in a text at Vanderbilt University: “The systemic subordination of members of targeted racial groups who have relatively little social power in the United States (Blacks, Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asians), by the members of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power (Whites). This subordination is supported by the actions of individuals, cultural norms and values, and the institutional structures and practices of society.” All white people in America, and only white people, can be racist based on this CRT definition of racism. (This concept is further entrenched where CRT is taught in some schools with the claim that “prejudice + power = racism”; therefore, blacks CANNOT be racist” by definition, regardless of how they might regard or treat people of other races.)
To summarize, I quote James Lindsay from his explanatory article on CRT published in January 2021 (found at https://newdiscourses.com/2021/01/what-is-critical-race-theory/): “Critical Race Theory does not continue the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement as many incorrectly believe. It is against liberalism and the liberal order upon which Western societies are founded, and it rejects both equality and neutral principles of constitutional law (these were the backbone of both the abolitionist movement that ended slavery and the Civil Rights Movement). It also rejects legal reasoning and Enlightenment rationalism. This makes Critical Race Theory unreasonable, illiberal, against equality, and anti-American, by definition.” This, plus CRT’s malice toward God, make it difficult to imagine any set of traits more antithetical to BYU’s mission.
What Are the Goals of Critical Race Theory?
Ostensibly, in academia, CRT advocates have pushed their agenda as a means of obtaining equity for minorities, even though it means increased segregation by race, weakened admissions requirements, and bifurcated standards on campus (all of which are expressly recommended by the BYU Committee in its report, by the way). A thorough understanding of CRT and its origins, however, reveals an entirely different and sinister motive. As Butcher, Gonzalez, and Lindsay all make clear (and it’s worth noting that even the most zealous CRT devotees present CRT in essentially the same terms), CRT has nothing to do with “rooting out racism” (your mandate to the Committee) or finally achieving equality and equal treatment. It, instead, has everything to do with overthrowing the founding principles of this nation and replacing them with Marxist dogma, governance, and practices, using racial envy as the primary vehicle and academia as the principal platform. With its focus on identity politics, cancel culture, suppression of speech, diminishing God, and reducing whites to racists by virtue of simply having been born, CRT is patently averse to the country’s founding principles and the institutions created to help achieve and then maintain liberty and equality for all.
Is it any wonder, then, that both Christianity and white Americans are coming under withering assault, putting BYU squarely in CRT’s cross hairs? (Talk about your basic intersectionality…)
What Does CRT Do to Communities, Schools, and Individuals Where It’s Been Implemented?
Where CRT has been implemented in K-12 schools and universities, it has resulted in divisiveness, stigmatism of whites, heartache, neighbors turning against one another, school systems turning on their constituents, mistrust, lawsuits, and, wait for it, increased racial segregation (usually by design), and lower minority student performance. Myriad examples of this exist, far too many to include in this letter. I provide links to just a few here:
The Child Soldiers of Portland (Oregon) — https://www.city-journal.org/critical-race-theory-portland-public-schools?wallit_nosession=1
Loudoun County (Virginia) — https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2021/mar/17/loudoun-county-teachers-blacklist-dox-parents-crit/
Subversive Education (North Carolina) — https://christopherrufo.com/subversive-education/ (note the logo on the “EdCamp Equity” materials)
Democracy Prep (Las Vegas) — https://www.nevadacurrent.com/2021/01/21/las-vegas-charter-school-sued-for-curriculum-covering-race-identity/
Pre-university Prep Schools (California and New York) — https://www.city-journal.org/the-miseducation-of-americas-elites
California’s Recommended Ethnic Studies Curriculum for K-12 — https://www.city-journal.org/calif-ethnic-studies-curriculum-accuses-christianity-of-theocide
Illinois Teachers Shamed for Color of Their Skin in Taxpayer-Sponsored ‘Antiracist’ Training — https://thefederalist.com/2021/03/05/illinois-teachers-shamed-for-color-of-their-skin-in-taxpayer-sponsored-antiracist-training/
Failure Factory (Buffalo, NY) — https://christopherrufo.com/failure-factory/
Princeton Theological Seminary Separates Students by Race to Create ‘Safety’ in Mandatory Anti-Racism Training — https://www.yaf.org/news/video-princeton-theological-seminary-separates-students-by-race-to-create-safety-in-anti-racism-training/
Addressing the impacts of CRT on K-12 education in the US, Butcher and Gonzalez note that, “Districts around the country have integrated CRT into school curricula. Both of the nation’s largest teacher unions support the Black Lives Matter organization, with the National Education Association specifically calling for the use of Black Lives Matter curricular materials in K–12 schools.” And finally, “As of this writing, the California Department of Education and state board continue to revise the curriculum in anticipation of a March 2021 release, even if the material is not yet required for graduation. In a review of the draft materials, Williamson Evers, former U.S. Education Department official and member of the California State Academic Standards Commission, wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The revised model curriculum in California portrays capitalism as oppressive and gives considerable weight to America’s socialist critics.” He further says, “The proponents of critical ethnic studies are so insulated by Marxism and identity politics that they miss insights from other fields.” (See my link to California’s Recommended Ethnic Studies for K-12 included above for more detail.)
In an attempt at balance, I searched diligently for examples of positive results stemming from CRT’s implementation. I found none, either quantitative or qualitative. (Google: “No results found for “positive results from critical race theory”.” And I entered all kinds of combinations of the words, “positive,” “results,” and “critical race theory” in the process…and got nothing.) The best I seemed able to find were writers (like Nick Covington at https://medium.com/human-restoration-project/a-teachers-case-for-critical-race-theory-137c058e8351) who recite the need for CRT (usually, as if it should be obvious to one and all), quote the usual pro-CRT characters (such as Robin DiAngelo, Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Ibram X Kendi), blast — and label as racist — any who dare oppose CRT, explain ad nauseum that CRT’s impact can’t be measured empirically (after all, objectivity and facts are explicitly rejected by CRT)…and then nothing. And they never reference the hundreds of thousands of black Americans who have graduated from US universities and gone on to exceptional post-academic careers without the “help” of CRT.
I did find an in-depth study that tried to demonstrate positive CRT results that could be quantified. In her scholarly 2018 article, “Can You Really Measure That? Combining Critical Race Theory and Quantitative Methods” (found at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.3102/0002831218798325), researcher Jenna R. Sabian noted repeatedly how extremely difficult it is to resolve the struggle between quantitative analysis methods and assessment of CRT effectiveness. She discussed at length a study of something known as “Community Cultural Wealth,” (CCW) and noted its potential for contributing to a quantitative assessment of racism and CRT. But, in the end, she confessed that, even in 2018 after several decades of CRT growth, it was still a stretch: “The work on CCW is theoretically robust and experientially rich. I presented this study to contribute to the empirical base, but I am cognizant of the tensions involved in doing so. If CCW can be measured, is CCW an appropriate “variable” for statistical modeling, and do correlational analyses oversimplify the framework’s complexity? These are understandable concerns.”
In the end, the greatest disservice done by CRT, and its assertion that racism is everywhere, is to our children, their education, and the cause of racial harmony. This was summarized well by Katharine Birbalsingh, a British education reformer, and the founder and headmistress of Michaela Community School, a very disciplined, highly successful, mostly black free school established in 2014 in London, England. In a debate filmed at the Battle of Ideas in London in 2018, she said the following in her opening remarks: “Are we [as British society] seeing racism everywhere? Yes, I think we do. Or at least we see it in far more places than it deserves to be. We prefer the simple explanation of, “it’s racist!” to the messy complexity of the obstacles that hold everyone back in some way or another. The best thing you can do in life is to ignore these obstacles, and plow on ahead as if they don’t exist. As we say at Michaela, my school, “work hard, be kind.” That’s what we want our kids to be. We want them to persevere, even when it’s difficult…especially when it’s difficult. And as I say to the kids all the time, ‘When you trip over those obstacles, you pick yourself up, and you keep on going.’ Sadly, if you see racism everywhere, it makes it almost impossible to do that [emphasis added].” (https://www.worldwrite.org.uk/video/black-and-white-vision-are-we-seeing-racism-everywhere/)
So, here we are. Unmeasurable results (at best), at the cost of vicious attacks on Western society’s founding principles, pervasive anti-White racism, frequent division and animosity created between students and their parents, hostility between parents and schools, and students themselves turned more cynical and devolving all of life down to racism, to their own detriment — all thanks to CRT. This scheme’s “oppressor vs. oppressed” mentality is classic Marxism, and is meant to disrupt and devastate…because that’s how revolutions happen.
Evidence that the Committee Relied on CRT
There is substantial evidence supporting my claim that the Committee chose CRT as the process, path, and prescription for its response to your mandate, even if out of honorable intent. It starts with the fact that it several times repeated its CRT-based framing of your mandate for change as consisting of three parts: (1) unquestioning acceptance of the unproven and unprovable trope that “systemic racism” exists; (2) the belief that racial “equity” (identical outcomes, in this case, in education) trumps “equality”; and, (3) the conviction that racism already exists in abundance at BYU and that the Committee’s job was to “find” it.
That CRT was already beginning to take root at BYU is inarguable. For instance, note here an excerpt from a “Statement on Inclusion and Diversity” issued by the university’s Undergraduate Education team in June 2020 and included in the Committee’s report: “We are committed to providing our students with a general education that trains students to recognize their own prejudices, develop empathy, serve in their communities, and give voice to those who are treated unjustly. We recognize that we have an opportunity and obligation to do more to prepare our students to meet these challenges and to be forces for good in the world. To accomplish these goals, we are firmly committed to building on and expanding our diversity requirement in our General Education program. We are developing plans to better prepare our students to understand systemic racism, confront their own biases, and work toward racial equity at the university.”
This is verbatim CRT dogma. It echoes the CRT concepts of “systemic racism” and “racial equity” (NOT equality), and includes the indictment that all students (meaning the white ones) are racially biased and need to be trained “to recognize their own prejudices” and to “confront their own biases.” That the Committee used these, and the mandate to “find” racism, as both pillars and guideposts in the school’s quest to purge the BYU community of racism, is enormously concerning, not least because it will likely lead to increased segregation by race, deeper racial antipathy, destruction of the unity it professes to seek, and will very likely reduce minority student success at the university, all while drenching the white student and faculty population in destructive CRT-anointed anti-white blather. We know this because it is already happening in abundance as noted in the prior section at universities, colleges, and K-12 schools across the country, with devastating consequences for academic quality, racial harmony, freedom of speech, student self-image, friendships, civility, and unity.
(On a personal note, as I started reading the report, I mentioned to a friend that, if the administration follows the Committee’s lead, this will not end until the very name of Brigham Young University has been changed, since many in the CRT community see our second president as a racist. And guess what, minutes later I came across the Committee’s ‘concerns’ about the names of buildings on campus and its recommendation that you “consider” changing them, in the name of racial harmony. Nailed it. You do know they’ll go after the school’s name and argue for removing the Brigham Young statue outside the administration building, right?)
Let me quickly illustrate a critical logic problem presented by the Committee’s (and Undergraduate Education team’s) claim of “systemic racism”, which, by definition, includes the fallacy of irredeemable white racism. If they really believed systemic racism existed at BYU, the solution would have been simple…simply expel all white students and fire all white faculty, administrators, and staff, and then have you, the president, resign as the last white man standing, with mea culpas aplenty as the door hits you on the way out. No other cure would have been needed or even possible if all whites were already incurably guilty simply by virtue of their skin color. If, instead, racism were defined as it has been for decades as mistreatment of others because they’re of a different race than oneself, then fine, go look for it; but you can’t then claim that the racism is systemic, because neither Committee members nor anyone else can know the heart, mind, and soul of even one other person sufficiently well to make that castigating judgment. And if racism is not systemic, then this whole thing, at least on this excruciatingly critical and central point, is an exercise in logic futility.
Alas, in shallow, unapologetically illogical CRT fashion, the Committee apparently decided to go ahead and use both definitions of racism, and hoped nobody would notice. (Running fast and loose with whatever truth seems most useful at the moment is standard fare for CRT devotees after all. By its proponents’ own admission, ambiguity is ever at the heart of CRT; see “A Lesson on Critical Race Theory” at https://www.americanbar.org/groups/crsj/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/civil-rights-reimagining-policing/a-lesson-on-critical-race-theory/, wherein the author notes that “[CRT] cannot be confined to a static and narrow definition but is considered to be an evolving and malleable practice.” Cool.) So, for white students at BYU, the Committee saw them as racist, just because of their skin color, and, by then looking to “find” the other kind of racism that it assumed surely existed, it judged them once again. Convenient, no? The perfect starting point for a practical application of — dare I say it — prejudice, followed by a conviction of guilt without evidence or trial. Doesn’t sound like “the unity, love, equity, and belonging that should characterize our campus culture.”
This is of a piece with another basic tenet of CRT. In their backgrounder, Butcher and Gonzalez quote Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose, who state the following: “CRT results in people looking for [emphasis added] “power imbalances, bigotry, and biases that it assumes must be present,” which reduces everything to prejudice, “as understood under the power dynamics asserted by Theory.”
This is a monumentally critical point when considering what the BYU Committee presented. The false assumptions, the imbalance of research, the lack of truly meaningful and explanatory quantitative data, and the failure to document even one positive interaction between a BIPOC student and a white student are evidence that the Committee’s report hues strongly to the above notion explained by Lindsay and Pluckrose.
Yes, the Committee provided a website where anybody interested could comment. But the full force of its efforts was focused on “10 meetings with various stakeholders, including Black students and alumni, as well as other students of color, admissions officials, Honor Code officials, those working on redesigning general education courses, and others. We also met in smaller cohorts with students [Which students? Any white students?] and other members of the university community. As committee members, we also received hundreds of email messages with stories and observations related to this issue. We have heard heartbreaking stories from individuals who have felt the pain of racism at BYU, and we have felt to mourn with those suffering from these wounds.” It all sounds important and empathetic, and, in certain ways, it undoubtedly is. Equally certain is the fact, shown by the totality of the report and its data collection process, that it was done from the predisposed position of “people looking for power imbalances, bigotry and biases that [the Committee assumed] must be present.”
And that brings me to one other point on the Committee’s reliance on a CRT-guided process…its reliance on stories. As Butcher and Gonzalez note, “Of the three critical schools of thought …CRT is…the most explicitly political. Its use of story-telling — easy to understand fictional vignettes that seek to portray in every-day life terms the “systemic racism” that CRT scholars insist exists in America — is but one of the ways that CRT scholars seek to effect change.” And elsewhere they noted Lindsay’s observation with respect to how Michael Brown’s death in 2014 revealed the use of “stories”: “Brown’s death mainstreamed Black Lives Matter and, in many respects, many of the core claims and assumptions of critical race theory throughout 2015 and 2016…. Its fundamental claim was that America was systemically racist and that this could be seen most clearly in the American police, criminal justice, and penal systems…. That none of this was true was irrelevant [emphasis added…and remember that the officer who shot Brown was exonerated on three different occasions, twice by local grand juries and once by the Obama Justice Department] as Black Lives Matter mainstreamed the idea that ‘lived experience’ and ‘lived realities’ are more important arbiters of ‘truth’ than truth itself. These beliefs are central to the core assumption of critical race theory that ‘counterstories’ and narratives are more important than facts and truth where systemic racism (and other systemic oppression) is concerned. (This — storytelling, counterstory, and narrative related in service to ‘politically Black’ identity political goals should be forwarded over truth — is usually listed in the top five cornerstone assumptions of critical race theory.)”
And that’s precisely how the Committee conducted its research and framed its results, whether their accumulated vignettes were fictional or factual, recurring or a single incident in passing.
To illustrate this further, in spite of your guidance that the Committee perform both quantitative and qualitative analyses, all of its recommendations are quickly seen to be resting on the latter. This becomes clear upon digging a little deeper, for instance, into the report’s Table 1. Here, the Committee relied on graduation rates by race and ethnicity as one supposedly rock-solid indicator of BYU’s aberrant level of racism. But graduation statistics apparently didn’t tell the story the Committee wanted told, so, in true CRT fashion, they displayed and briefly discussed the numbers — without any sort of comparative or explanatory investigation or analysis — and then based their recommendations almost en toto on “stories” as noted above. Yet, even modest scrutiny tells a very different tale. Below is Table 1 from the Committee’s report, showing 6-year graduation rates by race and ethnicity at BYU:
On the surface, this data tells a sordid, racist tale of inequity and of maltreatment of the BIPOC student population, with blacks, for instance, achieving a graduation rate more than 20% below that of whites. But when you put this BYU-specific data up against national graduation figures over a similar time period (see https://nces.ed.gov/programs/raceindicators/indicator_red.asp), BYU’s performance is revealed to be a good deal more encouraging:
You, President Worthen, and the BYU community should be applauded, not criticized, for these results. Is there room for improvement? Of course. Yet, compared to the full range of its peers nationally, BYU is actually doing well. And if graduation rates are to be used as a critical pillar upon which to gauge the level of racism present in the university’s community, BYU’s efforts would appear to show that, despite there being room for improvement, the school is less racist than the majority of other universities, not more! And for this, the Committee wants the school to rename its buildings, impose what will likely be anti-white indoctrination as a requirement for graduation, and layer in heavy doses of “diversity” structure to the administration (structure that, in other universities, ends up doing more to promote CRT and Marxist indoctrination than in elevating BIPOC student achievement)?
If the school wants to raise graduation rates for BIPOC groups, then creating separate admission requirements, reducing the emphasis on merit (a core tenet of CRT), and diluting the focus on academics and scholarship should not be among the “solutions” undertaken. Indeed, if those are implemented, as proposed by the Committee, it is almost certain that BIPOC graduation rates will decline from their current levels, decreasing “equity” in the process, as BYU outcomes gravitate downward toward the mean of its peers who have predominantly already wandered into CRT land to one degree or another.
What Will Happen to BYU if CRT isn’t Stopped in its Tracks, Right Now?
Before diving in here, there’s a general point to consider. CRT is not only deceptive and divisive, as I’ve tried to demonstrate above. More centrally, it is wholly incongruent with the mission and governing principles of a university that is sponsored by a church that has forever, loudly, and correctly claimed that this nation, the United States of America, and its Constitution were created by righteous men whom God raised up for this very purpose. CRT’s core pillar is an utter and complete repudiation of those men, the Constitution, and all of the country’s founding principles. Indeed, the nation’s very existence, according to CRT, is racist, fraudulent, and colonialist to the core, and must be undone by any and every means necessary. The introduction of race into the CT equation (as explained at length above) happened relatively recently when its Marxist protagonists finally accepted that class envy didn’t work in a country that has proven to be a beacon to freedom, prosperity, and upward mobility, through all income levels. Left without the standard stones of class and economic oppression to stand upon, race has become the last rock in the stream for Marxist apologists…and they’re playing it hard. Thus, at the very least, adoption of CRT and its practices is tacit agreement with Marxism’s overall objective — the dismantling of this country and its founding principles.
So, what will happen to BYU if CRT is allowed to move forward unabated as prescribed by the Committee? Will racism diminish at the university? (No…it will only increase, by CRT design.) Will BYU be seen as an academic haven? (No, because it will become less of one as it lowers its academic standards.) Will high-achieving BIPOC students flock to the school in record numbers? (Possibly, but there’s no guarantee, especially since achievement is anathema to CRT.)
And what of the existing faculty and student body? How will they be affected and react in response? Unless I miss my guess, the BYU community is walking on eggshells right now. Here’s a major university where, because of its standards and the fact it’s already under a microscope 24/7, the Committee’s report has brought fear out from the shadows and given it free reign, especially among faculty and administration. Being blatantly accused of bigotry and racism — with nary a word of anything good or progress achieved — will do that to people in a closed system. And that’s precisely what CRT always does. That’s how CRT likes it. Identity politics, check. All the right people guilty and therefore malleable, check. Censorship, check. Cancel culture, check. All good. Everyone’s on-board and strapped in. Let’s cross the Rubicon!
But there will be victims and devastation along the way if you choose this path. For one very recent example, check out this story of Georgetown University firing a professor for agonizing over black students’ grades, and penalizing another simply for not speaking out (https://www.newsweek.com/georgetown-fires-professor-agonizing-over-black-students-grades-opinion-1576636).
Or this one at a university in Vermont, where a professor objected to the anti-white sentiment being promoted on campus: (https://www.theblaze.com/news/students-defend-professor-concerned-about-anti-white-sentiment). The turmoil and “us vs. them” warfare are real and exceedingly damaging.
For the record, in both instances, CRT doesn’t care. Revolutions are messy.
And in case you still harbor doubts regarding the subversive and intentionally-demeaning nature of deep-seated CRT and its ‘sensitivity training,’ check here (https://www.city-journal.org/seattle-interrupting-whiteness-training) for a prime example in Seattle city government’s use of “whiteness interruption” training.
Or, if you haven’t done so already, pay particular attention to the articles I listed earlier regarding subversive training in Wake County, North Carolina public schools and the activist indoctrination that is now replacing actual education in K-12 schools in Buffalo, New York. You can almost hear members of Antifa gleefully chattering in the shadows about the heaven-sent new recruits that will be joining their ranks out of those school systems. And one can but imagine the anticipation they harbor as they await the outcome of the potential CRT-based reforms at BYU. One wonders if they’re not already plotting to paint over the “Enter to learn, go forth to serve” placards at the university’s entrance with, “Enter to reprogram, go forth to subvert.”
Am I way out of line there, teasing silliness for effect? Hard to say, actually, because recent history is all on my side. And it doesn’t bode well for an impressionable, eager-to-show their anti-racist bona fides student body that is already being molded by the hefty and inexhaustible CRT propaganda pointed straight at them from the outside, even before the race-related events of last Summer. Parents of thrilled, enthusiastic incoming freshmen will be traumatized by the changes in their children once they’ve been through the CRT indoctrination mill. BYU will have become just another entry in the Woke University ledger, and all the worse, as it will have fallen from a much higher perch than most others in academia.
So, What to Do?
In the very likely event that you truly are committed to rooting out racism, and seeking “strategies for historic, transformative change at BYU in order to more fully realize the unity, love … and belonging that should characterize our campus culture and permeate our interactions as disciples of Jesus Christ,” (can’t bring myself to include “equity” there…it is the furthest thing from equality), I have just a few suggestions for you.
First, recognize that you haven’t gotten what you paid for with this Committee’s work…in fact, you’ve been handed just the opposite. My general suggestion is that you step back and dump everything that remotely smacks of CRT, that you avoid anti-whiteness training and courses at all costs, and that you do not bifurcate the admissions process or water down Honor Code requirements. Additionally…
1. Scrutinize every source document, interview, assumption, and finding the Committee used in generating its February 2021 report. The “stories” of individual BIPOC students should be viewed in particular detail and followed up to ensure understanding, scope, relevance, and the degree of prominence in the context of the students’ full BYU experiences. The “bad” has obviously been cherry-picked toward a pre-determined outcome, rendering the report largely useless except as a point of anecdotal reference. Wherever the Committee uses the word, “many”, find out how many and analyze the criticality of that number. Exercise particular caution when reading declarations that begin with the words, “BIPOC students…”, because they provide virtually no analytical or explanatory value or actual magnitude. All you can know from such statements is that at least two students said something or other…and that’s it.
2. As you review each detail and student story, ask yourself the critical question, “Is this really a result of racism?” I’ve known numerous students who’ve left BYU early because they were having a hard time acclimating or fitting in, and all of them were white. Having an imperfect university experience is not always a result of someone else’s racism, or because a minority is “the oppressed” and a white person or the institution is “an oppressor.”
3. Reject Recommendations 1–5 and 8 and 9. The structure and imperatives called for here fall into the “when you’re a hammer, everything’s a nail” category, continuing the Committee’s effort to see racism everywhere, and they very likely shoot far beyond what is needed to improve student harmony among races at BYU. These seven Recommendations are meant to cement CRT into BYU culture, making it extraordinarily difficult to extricate once its damage becomes ever more visible. In particular, far from elevating unity, the components of “Faculty, Staff, and Administrative Training” in Recommendation 4 will sew discord and contempt, demean white staff, and represent little more than an attempt to reprogram professionals who are already leading largely exemplary lives. Much the same logic goes into my suggestion that you reject Recommendation 5, except the added danger in this case is that you have students under your stewardship who are young, impressionable, and idealistic. The Committee’s intent to reprogram screams out here and is particularly galling. Most of these students are white, yet most have come from integrated backgrounds. Most already know how to get along with, and have a good number of friends among, BIPOC populations. The “whiteness interruption” components that would surely be part of both the faculty training in Recommendation 4 and any required new coursework that fulfills Recommendation 5 are not needed generally, in most cases will be demeaning, and will be divisive, not unity-creating.
4. Reject Recommendations 10, 11 and 13–15. Implementing these, especially 13 and 14, will do more to reduce student performance at BYU than any of the other Recommendations. Indeed, there are many reasons for maintaining high admissions standards, prominent among which are the benefits they afford BIPOC students. As Katharine Birbalsingh noted in the aforementioned discussion in London, “High standards are hard to keep…it’s really hard to do it in a sea of a society that is constantly looking at you, accusing you of racism. It’s particularly hard when you’re white…[When black parents complain and accuse me, a black woman, of racism, I tell them] No way. I’m not listening to this, and I’m not lowering [the school’s] standards for your child. It’s really hard as a white person to do that, and the vast majority of heads in this school are white. It’s not their fault. They feel uncomfortable because society makes them feel uncomfortable about the color of their skin. This does not help black children [emphasis added].”
5. Recommendation 19 may have merit, but the devil is in the details. The definition of racism must be clear, or accusations of “living while white” will likely inundate whatever process is in place. Further, the kangaroo court environment that sprang up in academia under President Obama’s sexual assault claims rules must be avoided at all costs, and that will be difficult as university administrations across the country have shown the propensity to believe the accuser with little to no evidence or corroboration, and then immediately destroy the life of the accused. Due process would be critical here, and the Committee mentions it not at all. (But then, that makes sense, doesn’t it? CRT doesn’t believe in individual rights and due process…)
6. Recommendation 20 is a call for segregation, regardless of the Committee’s attempt at preemptive protestation. If, in the ongoing consideration of how to use building space and best serve the student population, it makes sense to re-locate the existing Multicultural Student Services office, then cool. But if moving it to the main floor is done principally to showcase the BIPOC student population or in an attempt to raise its importance through optics, you could be setting up the white population for even more criticism, either because they pay too little attention to the new space or because they pay too much (regardless of how well-meaning either effort might be). Whatever the path, one thing is clear: The Committee believes “melting pot” bad, “racial siloes” good. Any short-term “benefit” ostensibly achieved by virtue-signaling through Recommendation 20 may end up being more than offset by group separation and conflict over time.
7. Recommendation 21 can be interpreted as a direct call for a two-tiered Honor Code. If implemented for dress and grooming, other elements of the code would likely be challenged later on. Extreme care should be taken here, and you should probably reject this out-of-hand.
8. Reject Recommendations 22, 23, and 25. Favoring people because of their race is antithetical to basic fairness and equality. It sounds so good when a professorial candidate is hired because of her darker skin color, and everyone gets to take a bow. It comes across entirely differently if you’re the last white candidate standing and are rejected solely because…you’re white. The Committee appears to presuppose that a colorblind society — and university — are inferior to those that penalize whites because of their skin color (a core tenet of CRT), rendering these three Recommendations racist by definition.
9. I agree with Recommendation 26, when such advancement is based on merit, and not withheld because of race.
10. Do not change building names. There is abundant positive heritage, history, and goodwill embedded with the existing names, even if some of those people weren’t perfect. This is the slippery slope of all slippery slopes. If you adopt the Committee’s recommendation here, you’ll be gutting a meaningful part of BYU’s history to start with, and simultaneously signaling a willingness to gouge its heritage further at the future whims of the CRT class. (Indeed, if you give this traction, Brigham Young himself will soon enough fall, as will President McKay, an outspoken opponent of Communism, and President Kimball, who ‘surely should have given blacks the priesthood years earlier.’ You get my point, right? CRT will not rest until the campus is fully woke…at which point it will, of course, stop being BYU.)
Beyond the above, there are other things the university might do to further the causes of racial harmony and minority student success. Here are three possibilities for starters:
1. Engage the very hard and admittedly expensive long-term effort of investing money, structure, and person-power in BIPOC learning communities on a pre-university basis, both in the US and, where feasible, abroad. Something akin to an Enduring Scholarship Initiative might be sponsored by the Church (and actively solicit donations thereto) and administered by BYU to identify geographical locations where BIPOC students would benefit from enhanced instruction and attention to help them prepare for a successful secondary education (hopefully at BYU, but if not here, then elsewhere). This would require significant expertise, planning, organization, determination, and monetary investment; but what an amazing impact it could have in helping bring students up to BYU’s academic standards, rather than lowering those standards. This might be done in partnership with the NAACP, in some ways similar to the San Francisco employment program co-sponsored by that organization and the Church.
2. While I’m opposed to over-reliance on uncontextualized, narrow “stories” vs. hard data, and I find anti-whiteness indoctrination despicable, the valid stories of concern by BIPOC students at BYU certainly have a valuable place. Those messages can be applied to help fine-tune the university’s focus on the Savior’s message of love, acceptance, and fair treatment without demonizing everyone else. Content from their lived experiences, as well as those of white students, could readily be woven into or appended onto existing coursework (probably in certain religion classes) that relates Jesus’s teachings to the present day, and could thus be seriously helpful in increasing love and tolerance all around.
3. Fight the temptation to turn BYU into Woke University #203 in the US. You’re president of a major and highly successful university, not a Dr. Seuss pre-school. Everyone under your stewardship is an adult, and cares deeply about him or herself and others. Mistakes are made and should be corrected. Sometimes they can’t be fixed and students leave school. That’s a hard part of life. But they’re adults just the same. And who’s to say they aren’t just as virtuous and bright and well-intentioned and anti-racist as anyone in the CRT crowd (quite possibly more so)…or in BYU’s current administration? Teach, but don’t condescend or pander. Adjust, but don’t mis-judge or otherwise assume malevolence. Go forward with faith and with them, letting the founding principles of this great nation serve as both template and platform. This is America. It’s all so much within your reach and BYU’s capability!
In closing, I submit something that will drive CRT mad, but not intentionally so. The Savior taught that we — all of us — belong to one race, the human race. Acting like it — both as individuals and as a university — should be a primary goal of all BYU stakeholders. The Civil Rights movement believed that principle; most of your BYU community aspires to it; and Christ exemplified it in word and deed. There is no finer, more just, more equal, or more effective way forward…CRT notwithstanding.
With my thanks and deepest sincerity,
Kevin Ray Hadlock