The fight against Critical Race Theory is nothing less than a battle for national survival, according to Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson.
Jacobson made his comments during a June 23 luncheon at the Carolina Country Club in Raleigh. Sponsored by the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, the talk explored the historical roots of CRT, its prevalence in academia and K-12 education, and what to do about it.
“If you wanted to rip this country apart, what would you do differently than what they are doing? That’s why it’s a fight for national survival,” said Jacobson, who has served at Cornell since 2007. “[CRT] is setting people against each other based on race and based on skin color. It’s setting students against each other, students against teachers. It’s setting students against their country.”
Critical Race Theory teaches that racism and sexism are foundational to American history, culture, and government while portraying the white race as inherently oppressive. Jacobson emphasized that CRT often goes by other names, including anti-racism; diversity, equity, and inclusion; or social, emotional learning. The common thread, he said, is an obsessive focus on race.
Jacobson shared his experience at Harvard Law School in the early 1980s when the push to begin identifying people “by ethnic and racial groups as opposed to individual” began to take shape. The more politically moderate students graduated and went into business law, Jacobson noted, while the more radical students who studied critical legal theory went into academia.
“They began to develop theories over 30 years that have resulted in Critical Race Theory, while the rest of us were asleep at the wheel,” Jacobson said.
“It is truly astounding how deeply this highly racialized view of the world, this highly racialized view of academics, this highly racialized view of mandatory activism and mandatory training, has become,” he said. “It’s not every place, and it’s called different things at different places, but it’s almost everywhere.”
“I can’t think of a single good thing that has been accomplished on the campuses from this obsession with race,” he added. “I think everybody in this room is against racism. You want people to be treated equally. You want equal opportunity. What’s going on in campus is the opposite of that is. It is stratifying people. It is teaching people that they can’t speak up for fear of being called racist, which can end your career, or the false accusation can end your career. And people are bullied into silence.”
As for solutions, Jacobson several ideas. The first is to shine a light on CRT wherever it is and whatever name it goes by.
“When people find out about it, there is pushback. And what frightens the people who are advocating this, who are funding this, is that the push back is multiracial, multi-ethnic, and cuts across party lines,” he said.
Jacobson’s second recommendation was to exert outside pressure on institutions of higher education, principally through the influence of alumni and donors.
“The pressure should not be to fire somebody or ban something. The pressure should be to open up the campus,” Jacobson said. “The pressure should be to create a campus atmosphere where alternative views can be heard without people being mobbed, without people being targeted. We need to create that culture of respect that does not exist on many campuses.”
A third recommendation centered on cutting of public funding for CRT programs, and a fourth was to fund alternatives on campuses.
“Use your donation to try and improve the campus rather than just throw it in there and hope it’s put to good use,” he said.