My objection to critical race theory

Here is a concise explanation of why object to Critical Race Theory, intersectionality, and so on. Following Lindsay and Pluckrose, I will use the shorthand “Theory” to describe these ideas or mindsets.

1. Humans have two bases for hierarchies: prestige and dominance. In a prestige hierarchy, such as the international rankings of chess players or tennis players, people lower down appreciate and admire people higher up. In a dominance hierarchy, such as a violent gang, people lower down fear and resent people higher up.

2. Prestige is positive and dominance is negative. Participating in a prestige hierarchy tends to involve skill development, greater prosperity, and peaceful cooperation. Participating in a dominance hierarchy tends to involve violence, coercion, and repression.

3. When we examine a cultural institution, we may see elements of both prestige and dominance. For example, we may wear a mask during the current pandemic because we appreciate and admire those who recommend doing so. Or we may wear a mask mainly because we fear law enforcement or social pressure. Another ambiguous example is a corporate hierarchy. You may think of the CEO as a leader who enjoys the trust and respect of employees, investors, and consumers. Or you may think of the CEO as an autocrat exercising power over those constituents. In truth, there is some of both.

Government is an interesting example of an ambiguous case. If the way to become head of state is to use force, and the head of state rules by decree, then intuitively this is a dominance hierarchy. If the way to become head of state is to inspire followers, and the way to inspire followers is to have good ideas for policy, then intuitively this is a prestige hierarchy.

4. The idea of Theory is to expose the dominance that lies behind existing institutions that supposedly operate as prestige hierarchies. For example, STEM fields appear to be a prestige hierarchy, but Theory looks at the disparities in STEM positions by race and gender and sees a dominance hierarchy.

5. Today, Theory has taken this idea to extremes. It does not see our existing institutions as having any basis in prestige. Instead, it interprets all cultural institutions as serving a dominance hierarchy. In this view, the sole purpose of the SAT score is to perpetuate the oppression of blacks, so SAT scores should be eliminated. The sole purpose of police is to oppress blacks, so the police should be de-funded. The sole purpose of the use of the scientific method is to oppress indigenous people, so that the status of the scientific method should be lowered and instead other ways of knowing should be accorded more respect.

6. In going to these extremes, Theory is wrong. Many cultural institutions really do promote prestige and minimize dominance. They are good institutions. Where they fail to live up to our highest ideals, they can and should be reformed, not eliminated. We can improve the policies to recruit and train police, but not if we de-fund the police.

7. Even worse, Theory is dangerous. Because it thinks only in terms of dominance, its adherents seek to dominate. When the “Woke” encounter people who do not share their outlook, they use coercion, including mob intimidation, “canceling,” and brainwashing “training.” The movement has none of the tolerance for dissent that is the essence of a liberal society.