Kevin McGary, President of the Frederick Douglass Foundation of California, and co-founder of Every Black Life Matters
We Are Not Helpless
What do you see as the accurate definition of Critical Race Theory?
Critical Race Theory, as its name suggests, is a theory, so by definition it’s an amorphous term. Even if you would ask the academics that initiated it, you would probably get different responses.
What I can say is that if you look at the outcome that its proponents want, it focuses on labeling who is the oppressor and who is the oppressed. It views the world through the prism of a power dynamic where hegemonic forces align and control society based on race and their goal is to tear down that perceived hegemonic framework.
What is your view on Critical Race Theory’s claims that America is plagued by systemic racism?
I agree with the premise that there is racism inherent to the system, but I take issue with the direction they see it coming from.
There is a long history of racism in this country going back to slavery and segregation. Both those systems were started and elongated by people who hated blacks.
But that is only part of the story.
From the founding of the nation through the Civil War, there were two factions in this country, one that supported slavery and another that abhorred it. To look at the abolitionist movement and hundreds of thousands of white people who literally put their lives on the line to set blacks free in the Civil War and then to say that all whites are colonizers and oppressors is ridiculous.
I think if you want to look at systemic racism, a good place to look is at a person like Margaret Sanger, who advocated for a system designed to limit the black population and which bears much guilt for hurting black family life.
People like Lyndon B. Johnson, who put social welfare policies in place that made blacks permanently dependent on government entitlement programs, also helped create a situation that is systemically racist, but that’s not what Critical Race Theory proponents talk about.
I am all for teaching the good, bad, and ugly of American history, but leaving these points out of the Critical Race Theory’s historical critique betrays how politically motivated their position is.
What do you feel is the effect of the propagation of Critical Race Theory’s ideas on blacks in America today?
The effect is that it infantilizes and demeans blacks. These are mostly a group of upper-crust whites saying that I as a black person can’t get anywhere because they have all the power and that in order to change that, they have to abdicate or be brought down so that I can get a little of that power, but that without that, I will never go anywhere.
It’s not true and it’s demeaning. If Fredrick Douglass and Booker T. Washington and a lot of other great American blacks would have thought this way, they never would have even tried to get out of their plight.
We are not the helpless people that these academics seem to think we are. We are resilient and we possess the power to overcome the challenges we may face.
What do you think are some ways that would be helpful to address some of the racial tensions that received a great deal of attention over the past year?
What would be helpful would be to have conversations about the real plight of black people. There is real racism and we don’t have the equality and inclusion that we should, but in my opinion a lot of this is because of the policies of the American left, the same people who pretend to be our greatest defenders.
The same goes for education.
People like Nancy Pelosi send their own children and grandchildren to private schools, but they won’t support school choice, which could open those opportunities up to a lot of blacks and Hispanics who could benefit from it.
Her attitude is that we need to keep our public school platforms so that blacks and Hispanics can go there, and school choice would take away from that.
The message is that they, white-privileged liberals, have education opportunities open to them, but blacks should remain dependent on what the government offers them.
This is abhorrent.
We should be encouraging blacks to have healthy and flourishing nuclear families for children to grow up in.
We need educational choice to help level the playing field and help more blacks compete with other ethnic groups.
What is happening is that blacks are used as pawns. We are looked at and viewed as a dependable voting bloc and not as respectable citizens who can become successful members of society.