May 27Liked by Aaron Ross Powell, Akiva Malamet

Very informative. Thank you.

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Is any "Moral Panic" ever justified? If it were, it wouldn't be a panic would it. Hence, you've already begged the question in the headline. But ok.

Critical race theory is just a conveniently ambiguous cultural signifier that allows pundits to characterize as a "moral panic" any reaction that falls beyond a flat acceptance widespread changes to how institutions handle race post 2020.

It was a major tactical error to let CRT become the placeholder for all the race-crazed insanity that has infiltrated every public institution in north america. But say you think that attacking the cultural movement that, in practise, unite everything from Kendi to police abolitionism is necessary. But what then should we call it?

Say you think that ubiquitous concepts like "white privilege/white mediocrity/white women's tears" are facially racist, political poison that don't deserve official sanction. Say you don't think it's fair that mandatory social justice statements in higher ed hiring practices become the norm, or that endless affirmative action rebranded under the name of DEI is bad for society. What if you think that objective standards, individual merit, empirical validity, and math aren't rooted in white supremacy and that to assume that they are would have the worst outcomes for the people that need the most help? What are you supposed (allowed to) to rail against in that situation? More to the point, how do you form a viable political coalition to impede these very real top-down cultural changes many people see as harmful?

I can't say very well I'm against "social justice", can I? I can't sat I'm "ANTI-anti racist", that doesn't sound very good, either. I can't say I'm anti-"equity"-- another term perniciously ill-defined both by its detractors its defenders, the latter of whom are legion.

My best bet is to try to find the philosophical underpinning that lends the flavour of legitimacy to all of these ugly trends. CRT is one candidate for this job, as it is the one most steadfastly defended by both by above-the-fray pundits, breezily insisting there's nothing wrong with race in the schools, and Kendi-Ite corporate race zealots.

Depending on the charge, you can either say it's an either esoteric legal framework, never taught k-12. Or revert to the "just teaching about slavery, bro" posture, where anyone remotely concerned is charged with being racist, granting further license for bracing new approach to rooting out their ilk.

Either way, you shift the burden of proof onto small-c conservatives, who don't see the Summer of 2020 as revealed truth, and just want people to be treated as individuals.

For defenders it's very convenient indeed that there is such an impotent and misguided "moral panic" at CRT in specific, when the problem is actually much more general.

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Your generous and naive view of CRT is undermined by their own writings, and you may want to revisit it. "Critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law."

— Angela Harris, leading critical race theory scholar

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Some of the original criticism of CRT came from left liberals. (See: "Beyond All Reason" by Farber and Sherry, Posner wrote a good review in TNR in '97.) When the original CRT proponents explicitly reject Enlightenment liberalism it's hard to understand why so many current left liberals want to defend it and its methods. From a lay perspective it appears that most things that are interesting in the field can/could be arrived at from a traditional liberal perspective. As a Gen Xer with a Zoomer teenager in a diverse community I find it interesting to talk with him about some of this stuff. The teenagers understand that lots of the race stuff is dangerous and so shy away from actual discussions of anything even remotely controversial. Being wrong or even just inarticulate has consequences. That are frequently out of proportion for well meaning young people who are figuring out their way in the world. How can there be any surprise that there might be an over-reaction on some of the push back? Hoffer's aphorism about movements and rackets applies.

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Every moral panic is justified when a myopic or acute point is extrapolated and made to appear as though it's chronic or systemic....and it isn't. There is FAR less racism than there every was. There is FAR more equality than any other time in human history.

We've made more progress in the last 50-70 years through education and discourse than any other time in human history, and now you want to destroy that progress with divisive, RACIST, bigoted ideologies. Good job.

How about we try NOT to force equality of outcome on people, because this is a SURE FIRE way of creating an opposition against your own ideology...unless that is exactly what you want.

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Fascinating episode. Before I listened to this, I was independently working on my own piece about the anti-CRT/LGBT moral panic happening in Tennessee, where I equated it to the Satanic panic given how much emphasis has been on the influence and "indoctrination" of children. https://campaignkev.substack.com/p/moral-panic-in-tennessee-threatens

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Good post

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Good point about White Backlash and January 6th. Let's go back even further than BLM and consider Trump's election. I've always maintained that Trump's campaign was a backlash against Obama's Presidency. Why else would Trump kick the whole thing off with The Birther conspiracy theory? And in March of this year Trump kicked off his campaign in Waco promising fire and retribution. Remember, a year after Waco Timothy McVeigh blew up the Federal building in Oklahoma city with two tons of ammonium nitrate. Apparently sixty thousand pounds of the same substance was stolen from a railway car somewhere between Wyoming and California one month after Trump's Waco stunt.

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