“Critical Race Theory”: A triumph of marketing and branding

It is politically incorrect to question the real meaning of "Critical Race Theory." And that's the way its proponents like ie.

It takes courage and clear thinking to question the all-pervasive indoctrination of Critical Race Theory. But what does the phrase actually mean?

As there is now an inexorable push to make Critical Race Theory a required part of America’s educational system, pushback is  required.  Kudos to Andrew Gutman,  the Brearly (NY) School father who stood up, in no uncertain terms, to the relentless indoctrination to which his kid had been subjected (for $50,000+/year).

Twice poisoned

As Candace Owens notes, CRT is a double poison, taking time from teaching academic skills and at the same time producing a generation of non-thinking, malleable sheep.

There is a great deal at stake.  America is already a second-rate nation educationally.  Wasting students’ time with CRT is obscene and unconscionable, a violation of education’s most basic trust.

What does it mean?

As a body of doctrine, CRT can mean many things, all leading to white supremacy and oppression as the root of all the nation’s ills.  But people hear the phrase so often without definition that they regard it as a thing in itself.  It becomes a motto, a slogan, a buzzword.

So let’s examine the buzzword itself

It turns out that “Critical Race Theory” (note quotes) is a brilliant stroke of branding and marketing.  It’s just specific enough to be vague yet credible. It means a lot of things to a lot of people — ambiguous, yet technical and impressive.

It rolls off the tongue with important-sounding words that don’t make much sense, when you really look into them.  It triggers numerous associations, the way “Joy” (the detergent) resembles joy (the emotion).

How it’s defined vs. how it’s used

The following is a critical (note word use) examination of the slogan per se and the way in which the section and arrangement of words in itself (and endlessly repeated) sends a clear message, irrespective of the abstract, legalistic meanings attributed to the phrase

Brands and trademarks

In business, vast amounts of effort go into creating memorable brand names which can then legally be protected.  Your brand name can be descriptive (EverReady) or suggestive (Reebok).

The most easily protectable are the “fanciful” (that’s the legal term) ones, the made-up names, as with prescription drugs.  Sometimes I think they’re just scrambling Scrabble tiles (Xeljanz), but sometimes one is a hit, for good reasons.  Viagra suggests both  virility and Niagara Falls, a romantic spot.

CRT is a slogan, a brand name for a lot of different things.

How well does it convey the brand promise?  How memorable is it?  (I’m assuming the grammatical analysis that posits race theory but not critical race as a syntactic unit.)

Let’s examine each word.

First, critical.

Three everyday meanings: (1) ‘disparaging,” He was critical of my report.; (2) ‘immensely important, pivotal, very serious’ It was a critical moment. (3) a scholarly, academic meaning: ‘evaluative, usually with respect to a standard or criterion,’ e.g.,  when one professor critically reviews another’s book.   This post is critical in this sense.

Any of the three meanings is possible: “CRT” could be considered disparaging, immensely important, or evaluative (that is, “race theory” is being “critiqued with respect to some criterion”).

So which is the most likely meaning?

You can’t tell for sure without empirical testing.  I would rule out (3).  It’s pretty much confined to the academics and literati.  Maybe some people believe it’s (2), ‘a very important race theory.’

But my guess it’s (1) race theory that’s critical (implied: of White people and their behavior, because that’s the essence of CRT).  If someone is also aware of (3), then critical also has an academic, scholarly connotation of intellectual rigor, which by the way, it completely lacks.

Next, race.

Attempts to define the word are innumerable, and that is exactly the point here.   Mere use of the word lights a match and forces attention, followed by a range of emotions, depending on the person.  But it is impossible to gloss over this word.  Its central position and powerful connotations add strength to the (putative) trademark

Finally, theory, my favorite – and the most ingenious — piece of the branding.  They called it a “theory”!

“Theory” presented as fact

Now it really sounds scientific.  We are to think that armies of academics are busily grinding away in their offices, gathering data to support or refute this “theory.”

But they are not doing that.   There is no data showing specific examples to support CRT.  The proponents are presenting the tenets of CRT as fact – no other causes for today’s problems are allowed, much less discussed — and this constitutes dishonest, outright brainwashing.

If it’s really a theory, then we should be debating it, as just described.  But any debate about this theory is verboten.  It will never be proved valid or invalid.

More like a religion

It doesn’t have to be.  CRT is much more like a religion than an intellectual endeavor.  Like religion, it reduces everything to a simple cause-and-effect story.  Everything happens for a reason, and it’s always the same reason.

As a public service, I provide the following honest re-brandings of the most successful slogan since “Black Lives Matter.”

Let’s replace “critical race theory,” as least in our minds, with the following alternate but more realistic…

Universal White Racism Doctrine

Oppressor and Victim Narrative

Ubiquitous Racism Hypothesis

White Guilt Exploitation Manifesto

Endless Prejudice and Conflict Model 

Racial Hierarchy Dogma

Do you think CRT would have gotten this far if it had been called by any of the above?

To return to the original question about the power of this particular brand name: the slogan presents a vacuous, nebulous amount of brand promise, as it mashes together a range of descriptive and suggestive meanings.

It means no one thing but implies “something academic and intellectual about race,” when in fact it’s the exact opposite. It is flat-out mendacious when it calls itself a theory.

Overall grade B+

…because you can fool some of the people all of the time…