Posted on March 14, 2012

Wikipedia Editor Responds to ‘Critical Race Theory’ Edit War

Josh Peterson, Daily Caller, March 12, 2012

A Wikipedia article devoted to Critical Race Theory, a controversial legal theory crafted to respond to the alleged role of “white supremacy” in American law, was placed on a temporary editing lockdown over the weekend after bloggers determined that CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien had relied on Wikipedia’s introductory definition of the theory — verbatim — during on an-air debate. A second lock was placed on the article Monday to protect it from politically biased editors who adjusted it following O’Brien’s gaffe.

The flurry began after editor Joel Pollak made a guest appearance on O’Brien’s show to explain a video clip depicting a close relationship during the 1990s between President Obama and the late Derrick Bell, the Harvard Law School professor credited with originating the theory.

During her show, Pollak repeatedly reminded O’Brien that Critical Race Theory was created as a backlash against perceived “white supremacy” in America. O’Brien denied this with equal force.

An editing war ensued almost immediately between pro- and anti-O’Brien partisans, alternatively removing and reinstating references to white supremacy from the Critical Race Theory article.

The article’s current lockdown, instituted by the same Wikipedia editor who froze it over the weekend — until “the media attention cools down,” he said — will last one week.


Such a lock, Wikimedia Foundation spokesperson Matthew Roth told TheDC, is not uncommon when an article becomes the center of a political debate. The popular online encyclopedia is supported by the Foundation.

“That is often an approach when topical media reports turn an article into a contentious editing space,” Roth said in an email. ”In this case, he reverted to the form the article was in before the CNN story.”

That definition did, in fact, mention “white supremacy” in two specific places.

It cites a definition from the UCLA School of Public Affairs, saying Critical Race Theory holds that “existing power structures” are “based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color.”

It also concludes that Critical Race Theory “asserts that white supremacy and racial power are reproduced over time, and in particular, that law plays a role in this process.”


[Editor’s Note: For more on the Soledad “implosion,” see here.]