Fighting critical race theory is all the rage this year. Christopher Rufo has done yeoman’s work investigating its prevalence in schools, private corporations, and government agencies; several states have sought to ban its teaching in public schools; and grassroots movements have caused massive upheavals to existing school boards. When asked, Americans overwhelmingly say they don’t want core tenets of this theory taught in schools, and Politico reports that resisting CRT has been a winning issue among voters, including independents and moderate Democrats.
Their apparent political success notwithstanding, foes of CRT warn that the only way to defeat the menace is through political activism, fundraising, and a cascade of litigation. And even then, they fear, the juggernaut that is CRT has become too powerful a force to be overcome in our public schools.
But there is a far simpler solution, and one that promises better success in the long run. It can be achieved through three simple words: “I am non-racial.”
For the past 20 years, CRT has achieved enormous success in placing race at the center of public discourse and convincing otherwise rational people that their race is the most important facet of their identity. If a substantial mass of Americans refused to identify as any race, the whole project would collapse.
Identifying as non-racial is morally right, politically expedient, socially advantageous, and it has the added benefit of conforming one’s identity to the racial reality of America.
The Morality of Being Non-Racial
Most of us, when we were little, were taught to believe that it was immoral to judge people according to their race. We were urged to share Martin Luther King’s famous dream, “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” We understood that the dream was not fully realized in America, but nearly everyone felt committed to working toward that goal.
Critical race theory teaches a contrary vision of morality. It deliberately rejects the goal of a race-blind society. Authors of one textbook on CRT express their “deep dissatisfaction with traditional civil rights discourse.” They wish to replace it with an “explicit embrace of race-consciousness,” especially “among African-American and other peoples of color.”
This particular feature of the theory—the deliberate heightening of race consciousness—has been the most prominent aspect of CRT in schools today. One school district in Oregon has developed a “white identity development” strategy, because, after all, what could go wrong when white people are segregated from others and trained to view themselves as a unique interest group?
CRT has been remarkably successful in encouraging greater race-consciousness throughout America’s institutions. Use of the terms “racist” and “racism” have skyrocketed in the mainstream media in the last 15 years, especially in leading newspapers such as the Washington Post and the New York Times.
The moral choice is clear: Either we are aiming for a society where race no longer matters, or we are aiming for a society where race consciousness predominates. If the lessons we imbibed when we were young were correct, then refusing to identify as any race is the next logical step toward achieving true racial justice and harmony.
The Political Expedience of Being Non-Racial
American policy and public discourse have been focused on race for so long that it is easy to forget that it doesn’t have to be this way. France has long maintained an official stance of color-blindness: a law passed in 1978 explicitly bans most collections and computerized storage of race-based data.
In America, the collection of racial data is still voluntary, though it has become ubiquitous. But the march of CRT would be stopped dead in its tracks if Americans would stop volunteering any answer to the question of racial identity beyond “non-racial.” Imagine how transformative that option would be.
Schoolchildren could not be taught that they are “oppressors” on the basis of their “whiteness” if parents insist that their family opposes categorizing people by race and that their children do not identify as white.
Currently, the “Asian American penalty” means that Asians are significantly less likely to be accepted into elite universities than any other race, and it’s getting worse. California’s recent decision to do away with admissions tests for its UC schools is a barely disguised effort to reduce the number of “overrepresented” Asians admitted there. But the Asian American penalty would instantly evaporate if these students chose to be non-racial instead.
Seattle would not be able to hold training sessions exclusively for “city employees who identify as white” in order to teach them about their “complicity in the system of white supremacy,” if city employees, and all employees, would instead identify as non-racial.
Obviously, not everyone would benefit in the short term from the “non-racial” category. Currently, students, applicants, and workers who officially identify as historically marginalized races reap tangible benefits in admission, hiring, and professional advancement. And it is too much to ask that everyone would be willing to give up those privileges immediately. But in the long run, even those who now stand to benefit from the current brand of racialism will begin to see the benefits of working towards a truly post-racial society.
The Social Advantages of Being Non-Racial
Over the same period that CRT has achieved institutional hegemony in America, race relations have gotten much worse. As Charles Murray has shown, in just seven years—between 2013 and 2020—“Americans’ perceptions of race relationships had gone from solidly optimistic to solidly pessimistic.”
Correlation is not always causation, but in this case it is. Racial discord is not an unintended consequence of CRT; it is its lifeblood. As reductionist history, CRT teaches that America’s past and its essence are tethered to the unremitting march of white supremacy. As a reductionist political agenda, CRT teaches that underprivileged races must seize and redistribute the property and power hitherto accumulated by whites.
This teaching not only stokes racial competition, enmity, and grievance. It cannot survive without them. Just as Marxism is sustained by class conflict, CRT feeds off of racial conflict. If total racial harmony were ever achieved in this country—if all Americans of every race were ever to clasp hands in brotherly love—CRT would wither away and die.
The more that this hyper-racialized theory takes hold in our country, the more it drives a wedge between us and our in-laws, nephews, nieces, and neighbors.
Renouncing racial identities does not mean renouncing other social, religious and political identities that can actually draw us closer together. Those who choose to be non-racial do not have to give up celebrating Chinese New Year, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, or Ethiopian Timkat. It simply means refusing to be subsumed under a contrived category that has always been more divisive than cohesive in America.
The Reality of Being Non-Racial
Although there is much to criticize in CRT, it contains some kernels of truth. In particular, it recognizes that race is “socially constructed (the idea of biological race is ‘false’)”; nevertheless, race has always been very “real” as an instrument of power.
Indeed, whatever scant biological reality might once have been attached to the idea of dividing humanity by races centuries ago, when peoples were divided by continents, race has never been a scientific way of categorizing the people who inhabit the United States. Take, as Exhibit A, the uniquely American and invidious “one-drop rule,” whereby a single ancestor from Africa could condemn a person to chattel slavery or to a subordinate caste. Racial categories in America have never been anything more than cynical attempts to advance one group’s interests over others.
Yet this acknowledgement of the unnaturalness of racial distinctions potentially posed a problem for CRT. Did it not follow that “it is theoretical and politically absurd to center race as a category of analysis or as a basis for political action,” if that category was nothing more than an artificial construct?
It is on this question that CRT takes a sharp turn against the traditional liberal order. Believing that systems ostensibly founded on the rule of law or meritocracy are actually blinds for consolidating and protecting structures of racial privilege (even if the racial categories benefiting from that privilege are arbitrary and artificial), CRT openly advocates distributing wealth, power, and privileges according to race (even if the newly privileged racial categories are based on no less arbitrary and artificial distinctions).
Hence, according to this logic, it makes perfect sense for Harvard to claim blue-eyed Sen. Elizabeth Warren as a diversity hire—even if her racial identity is based on no more than family lore and DNA evidence showing that her bloodlines can boast between 1/64 and 1/1032 indigenous ancestry. Today, we’re seeing one-drop redux in America. But now that single drop is being used to confer social, political, and economic advancement instead of stigma and exclusion.
According to this logic, even Rachel Dolezal’s choice to pass as black makes sense. If something as meaningless as a single drop can determine one’s racial status, why insist even on that single drop?
By refusing to identify as any race, we can stop this madness. Choosing to be non-racial conforms to racial reality in this country. Most Americans, looking backwards toward their ancestors, see a mélange of nationalities, ethnicities, and races. Looking sideways, our own families are more racially diverse than ever before. And peering into the future, racial categorizations in America will become ever more absurd with every generation. It’s high time that our self-identities matched our objective reality.
Of course, we can expect that the same people who agree that race lacks any objective reality will also resist any attempts to banish self-identifications by race. And won’t it be ironic if the folks who insist that individuals be given the option to select “non-binary” when asked to choose between male and female are the same folks who object to the choice of “non-racial” when asked to choose a mere social construct?
Being Non-Racial in Practice
Our local school district’s anti-racism policy is just one example of the sort of policies being adopted across the country. It requires staff to “collect, review, and provide an annual report to the School Board on data regarding racial disparities in … student achievement.” The report must “also include evidence of growth” in reducing “equity gaps.”
Obviously, one way to reduce disparities between racial groups is to improve the academic achievement of historically under-performing races. However, parents beware: This aim can be achieved equally well—and at much less cost and effort—by diminishing the academic achievement of historically “over-performing” races. The goal of boosting one or more races’ standing—not in absolute terms, but only relative to the standing of other races—is wholly unrelated to, and potentially at odds with, the vocation of educating all children.
It may seem unfair to suppose that teachers and administrators might try to meet their “equity” goals by sacrificing the educational achievement of any portion of their students. Then again, it seems even more unfair that teachers—who have a hard enough job educating our youth—are now expected to single-handedly fix entrenched social problems that no one else has been able to solve.
Forcing schoolchildren to confess to “white privilege” is the poisonous fruit of CRT, and it’s understandable that such ripe, juicy stories receive the most notice. But the noxious weed invading our schools spreads underground, and parents could cut it off at the roots if they took the simple expedient of refusing to allow their children to be classified by race from the outset. The beginning of the school year is an excellent opportunity to make this change.
Parents, remember, whenever you are asked to identify a race for you or your children, the most ethical and judicious answers are “Decline to answer,” “Other,” or “Non-racial.” Teach your children while they are yet babes: You are non-racial. Inoculate them early against the disease of racialism that has infected the schools, the universities, and the workplace. Don’t let anyone else saddle them with a racialized identity that will haunt them throughout their lives.