Regarding Critical Race Theory and Intentional Racist Laws

Continuing the discussion from Critical Race Theory Boogeyman:

I respectfully abided by the OP in that thread’s direction that I not hijack his thread. My question remains as to a solution to the issue he raised. Were laws which harm minorities today intentionally enacted and do they remain enacted simply to harm minorities with no or little other purpose?

Thanks for moving this discussion over here.

I would say that a lot of the new voting laws have been enacted to harm minorities. The stated purpose is to reduce election fraud, but given the tiny amount of actual fraud, and the large number of people affected by the voting law changes, it’s clear that the effect is meant to be discriminatory. For example, it is well-known that Black people often vote after church on Sunday and at least some drafts of the election law changes tried to eliminate Sunday voting. I don’t know if they were successful.

Well, for many years, the law said “Vote on Election Day or else have a good excuse for why you were out of town and sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury.”

I guess we need a baseline example of what is a good or neutral law versus the departure. The departure was “early voting” in 2008. Can a legislature not semi-reverse that without being accused of racism or the dreaded “structural racism”?

Let’s say they expand early voting (because that makes it easier for anyone to vote). Then, when it’s clear that Black church-goers are voting after church on Sunday and that leads to some election losses, the legislature decides just to change that part of early voting – I’d say they would be rightfully accused of racism.

Other laws, such as locally-funded school systems, can lead to racially-disparate outcomes, if Black people tend to have less money than White people. So, in NJ, schools were funded at the township level, and rich townships kept their schools fully funded, while poorer areas continued to have problems with school funding. I think it’s fair to ask, should schools be funded that locally? Maybe it should be at the county level or state level, so money can go where it’s needed, rather than where it already is. It’s the kind of insidious law that can put historically poor minorities at a disadvantage to the historically wealthier majority.

BTW, here’s an essay by the American Bar Association that discusses it:

Sorry for the triple post. English-only laws may be good examples of laws with racist intent.

On the township part, some parents shop for the town when buying their house to give their kids a better chance in life but not to have to use private schools. We were such parents. People have different priorities.

Two towns: One town is effectively built around the school system had an excellent track record, the next town over has the same income level, slightly lower median wage per household but better commercial ratables so the same level of funding is available. One town is always near the top in the state and thus as NJ, tops in the country say around 97th percentile. The other is more like 80th percentile, still excellent but a big difference.

I think bringing the state into play is more likely to hurt the excellent and efficient school system than help the other. One of the secrets to the overachieving town was parent participation, not money. Hell the #1 issue in my old town was almost always the school system.

Throwing more money at the actually crappy school systems has quite often not helped as the problems are far deeper. Crime rates, school safety which can also lead to scaring off better teachers, single vs. 2 parent homes make a difference. Parental interest is huge.

Places where money has proven to help:
The school lunch programs are proving to work really well and that should be state and not town payed for. I think school breakfast programs are also shown to help.
Full time Kindergarten and Public Pre-Schools are a big help. Poor towns can’t afford, so a good place for the state to help out.

In NJ there is a large amount of money from the state to the schools that are in towns of lower income levels. It has not proved to be a panacea at all.

I think, rather than looking a baseline, it makes more sense to look at the fundamentals. Ideally, in a democracy, voting will be as easy as possible and as secure as possible. (Security meaning that there are no fraudulent votes.)

From there we can see that, if you want to make voting easier, then you need to show it won’t make the system less secure—that voter fraud won’t increase. If you want to make voting harder, then you have to show how it would make the system more secure.

The problem here is that there is no evidence of increased voter fraud. That is why all of these voting restrictions seem to be about changing the vote, making it a less accurate assessment of the people’s will. They are trying to fix the measurement, putting their thumb on the scale.

So then you look at “How would that work? Why would Republicans think that restricting the vote would help them?” And that’s where the racism comes in. We can see that the result of these types of restrictions disproportionately affect African American voters. We can see that areas with more AAs are the ones where the restrictions get worse (i.e. making it harder for them to get ID in places where such is required).

That is why we can surmise that this is systemic racism. Systemic because it’s part of a system, and racism because it disproportionately affects non-white people. None of it is based on some idea of what specific rights someone has to vote.

It’s based on there not being any legitimate security reasons for these laws to be enacted. Absent security concerns, voting should be as open as it can be. Anyone going against that clearly must be trying to make the vote a less accurate representation of what the people want.

And that is also an ideal of democracy: that the vote accurately represent the will of the people. That is why we want the vote to be as easy as possible while being as secure as possible.

No party should be able to pass laws that would disproportionately affect people of a certain race. Heck, they shouldn’t be able to disproportionately affect any group. That’s the only baseline I can see.

Is the intention to “harm minorities,” or is the intention to disenfranchise voters who are likely to vote Democrat? Or does it not make a difference?

Its my understanding that according to CRT, questions of intention are largely irrelevant. What matters is their effect. What CRT is about is getting rid of the idea that racism is confined to white robed people burning crosses, and instead realizing that is has become a structural problem of society.

I think that this confusion about intention is what makes many white people view CRT as a direct attack on them. If you assume that racism requires intention, then someone saying that you take advantage of a racist system implies that you are a bad person. But, that would be like saying that an skilled athlete is a bad person for accepting an NBA contract that isn’t available to people who were born 5’7".

In general CRT isn’t about blame so much as recognizing sources inequality in society and trying to correct them on an institutional level.

I think Buck_Godot answered this better than I could. And, I was also confusing racist intent with racially disparate outcomes – see? This CRT stuff is tough!

Right – we shopped for our house based on the school system as well. To be clear, in my post, I wasn’t saying that state- or county-funded school systems was the way to go. I was trying to say that CRT may look at these types of laws to see if they are justified and whether there are better ways moving forward. Many minority-majority school systems are worse than majority-majority – let’s take a look at why that is. Is there some systemic or historical racism that has led to this outcome? Is there a good way to rectify it? I think, but I’m not sure, that’s what CRT tries to accomplish.

They are pretty much the same thing, if you are talking about intention. Whether the effect is actually what they think it is is a different question. Making it hard to vote can also discourage the elderly and they are generally Republican.

I am enjoying this, but more pressing issues in real life await. I’m not ignoring anyone. I’ll be back hopefully tonight but possibly tomorrow. Many thanks for this very respective and informative back and forth.

No, it most certainly wasn’t. Early voting in the modern sense started in California in 1978 and many states adopted it long before 2008.

That Geogia’s law was specifically designed to lower black voting is subject to debate only in the way that global warming is. The Brennan Center says, “Georgia’s Proposed Voting Restrictions Will Harm Black Voters Most” and a New York Times article (not an opinion piece) explains “Why the Georgia G.O.P.’s Voting Rollbacks Will Hit Black People Hard”.

If you are suggesting that systemic racism doesn’t exist, I suggest you read one of the many threads already on the topic. All I will say here is that I am a historian so I’ve done thousands of hours of research on American history. No matter how racist you think the past was, and no matter how exaggerated you think people are making it out to be, the truth is that it was far worse. Unimaginably worse. Worse on every level, with the government codifying the harm in thousands of seemingly innocent laws.

That’s my understanding too.

Say that with voting laws you have a requirement for providing 2 kinds of ID at the polls. People who don’t possess multiple forms of ID are lower-income, and primarily minorities. (This is a hypothetical, though I wouldn’t be shocked if this was a real thing somewhere.) In this case CRT would call those laws racist. The people writing the laws may not have intended to discriminate against minorities or anyone else of lower-income, but the effect of the laws is to disenfranchise those people.

To me, personally, I see it as a way to identify how the law is leading to outcomes that harm minorities, so that laws can be repealed or amended, or new laws put in place. It’s not meant to point out that people are evil or show how one side is bad or root out how certain people are sniveling racists when nobody’s watching. It’s a tool to examine the laws and other institutions and find ways to improve them. It’s a Geiger counter rather than a witch hunt.

I am no expert but I do not think that the last part is true. Critical Race Theory is not about proposing solutions, but like any theory, an explanation of why things are the way they are. We should strive for equality and CRT can help show were inequalities exist where they don’t at first glance appear to be as well help weight the merits of any law in regards to the disparities they produce.


I stand corrected.

Perhaps I should have said

In general CRT isn’t about applying blame so much as recognizing sources inequality in society, and so is useful to those who wish to correct them at the institutional level.

To answer the OP directly:

My understanding and personal development of the basic ideas behind critical race theory are thus: the entirety of human society has been developed in a way such that distinguishable minorities will always be worse off than the majority, even if no one intends to discriminate against them. It is inherent in the fabric of society that people will defer more to those that they know they have things in common with compared to others.

So when there are laws that are passed that make life more difficult for those that are less advantaged, those laws are automatically racist in some sense. If the difficulty created is in causality a long ways away from the mechanism of the law, then it’s not really the law that’s racist, it’s the entirety of society that makes life difficult for minorities that’s racist. For instance, in a discussion on this topic with a friend from high school, I mentioned an arcane segment of tax law that wasn’t possibly ever intended to make life difficult for those with lesser means, but to be fairer to certain of those of large means. However, the fact that it causes a reduction in tax revenue from what there would be otherwise means that it makes life in general more difficult for everyone else, and this has a tendency to be felt more by minority groups because of how society is set up. Now, this sort of thing can be counter-balanced by simply raising taxes on the wealthy, to disproportionately affect those of greater means, but the underlying law has a very minor anti-minority tinge to it, as harmless as it may seem when considering the tax law as a whole.

Basically it’s not news to anyone at all that minorities tend to be less well-off than majority groups, and it’s not news that minorities tend to vote Democratic, and it’s not news that less well-off people inherently have a more difficult time voting for various reasons. Unless it were already impossible for minorities to vote, any attempt at making voting harder is going to have a greater impact on minorities, and thus people who tend to vote Democratic, than on the majority. You don’t need to introduce race into it, and it fundamentally isn’t even necessarily about race - it’s about those in power trying to maintain power (which is the main source of the inequality to begin with). Race is just the most visible way of being able to tell people are minorities of some sort, so that’s why it’s critical “race” theory; I suspect it could be applied to any minority that is obvious upon meeting someone. For instance, plenty of laws make it more difficult for people who don’t speak English, and even if accommodations are made for those who don’t, having to use those accommodations will make things less accessible, even if you’re trying not to discriminate against them.

I’m a bit hesitant to post in this thread because I don’t know a ton about CRT and don’t really agree with the premise that inspired this thread - that raciat laws are necessary for institutional racism to exist but here goes…

I think the intent is just self interest on the part of the GOP and they win elections if fewer black people vote. However there are two important elements that make voter disenfranchisement of non-white people an example of structural racism:

The first is that its just more acceptable to a lot of the most powerful people in our society to make laws that hurt the rights of non-white people. It’s impossible to figure out what decisions would have happened anyway but the overall picture probably doesn’t happen if it isn’t acceptable to screw over black and brown people. We can also see that while some controversial practices like gerrymandering are generally acceptable even if race isn’t a factor, the most extreme examples of denying people democratic rights don’t tend to happen if white people are expected to be equally or disproportionately affected.

The other is that this process is self-reinforcing. A bunch of predominantly white people get to arbitrarily decide how difficult it is for everyone else to vote and as a result they have at least some ability to keep people who want to oppose this practice from getting the power to reverse it.

Going a bit meta, one thing I noticed in previous discussions is that there is a very good example of racist or anti-intellectual efforts made about the issue when conservative governors signed new laws to ban the teaching of CRT.

Besides banning the teaching of Asian CRT researchers’ work, a lot of the CRT work is also coming from other minorities that managed to get influential in academia. What I’m saying here is that there is another sinister reason why this is being the focus of many right wingers. Preventing people involved in CRT from teaching is more than just an inconvenience, it is a threat to the livelihood of minority professors and teachers that can run afoul of the new laws.

To me it is not a coincidence that just when minorities are getting significant academic power and are watching the watchmen (and not the TV show, although it was one of the reasons why the Tulsa Massacre came to be known by many) is that then the governors and right wing sources have to go Orwellian and declare that slavery is freedom, that is to declare that CRT is racist when in reality it looks at how laws can be unjust for minorities, either by race, ethnicity or culture.

And again, several new laws are so wide in their scope that not only CRT teaching is banned, but also the teaching of anything that deals with racial justice. As someone at FARK commented, June 19th is a new American holiday… were teachers in several conservative states are banned from explaining their students why it is a holiday.