Posted on October 23, 2020

Research Shows Critical Race Theory Is Actually Making People More Racist

Christopher Schorr, The Federalist, October 19, 2020


Critical race theory and similar academic left perspectives over the last decade stormed the political mainstream through a surge in news and popular media attention. As a result, today politicianscelebrities, and corporations employ “critical,” or woke, rhetoric. Even comic books push critical themes despite hostile reactions from their readers.

On the left, this dynamic fueled the “Great Awokening,” the leftward radicalization of white liberals on racial issues. Liberal whites are now to the left of blacks on key measures of race. Moreover, as evidenced by a recent Hidden Tribes report and the mugshots of arrested Antifa members, the far left is overwhelmingly white.

But how has critical rhetoric affected right-leaning whites? Are white conservatives likewise getting woke to these Marxism-inspired perspectives? Are they rejecting normative colorblindness, the former standard of antiracism? Have they embraced The New York Times’ revisionist account of American history? Do they accept that only whites are capable of racism, that all whites are racist, and that white identity itself is uniquely pathological and deserving of abolition?

To the contrary, it seems that white identity’s renewed salience — its “visibility,” in the language of Peggy McIntosh — is contributing to a defensive response. Conservative whites are increasingly likely to describe being white as “very” or “extremely” important (see figure below). A clear majority of white Republicans, but few white Democrats, describe anti-white and anti-black discrimination as comparable problems in American society.


In my dissertation research, I approach white nationalism and conservatism as rival philosophies competing for the loyalties of right-leaning whites. I consider whether exposure to critical themes in popular media might have contributed to a white identity backlash or “white-lash” on the right. {snip}


I began my inquiry by searching the frequency with which the terms “white people,” “whites,” and “white men” appeared online since the year 2000. I recorded “hits” for articles criticizing white people and identity and for “anti-critical” articles, those arguing against critical themes. {snip}

The figure below displays search results alongside trends in white identification — or “How important is being white to your identity?” — for self-identified “liberal,” “moderate,” and “conservative” whites in the American National Election Studies Time Series.

The proportion of conservatives describing white identity as “very” or “extremely” important (“high identifiers”) increased from 32.1 percent in 2012 to 36.6 percent in 2016. High-identifying liberals increased slightly (23.2 percent to 24.6 percent) as well, while high-identifying moderates decreased (32.7 percent to 29.4 percent). The timeline is truncated because the American National Election Studies first included the white identification measure in 2012; however, the trend lines suggest recent polarization on white identity.


To further probe the effects of critical themes on identity, I asked respondents to rate the importance of certain factors to being “truly American.” Here, critical prime exposure appears to have narrowed the boundaries of the “in-group.”

For example, conservative whites expressed 12 percent greater agreement that only those with “American ancestry” are truly American. High white-identifiers expressed 20 percent greater agreement with this same claim and 8 percent greater support for restricting American identity to those “born in the U.S.” Critical prime exposure also increased conservative “ethnocentrism,” or net “feeling thermometer” preference for whites over minorities by 5 percent.

In most cases, findings were the opposite for white leftists. Exposure to the critical prime thus created a wider gap between the racial attitudes reported by left-leaning and conservative (also low/high white-identifying) whites.


{snip} Insofar as white identity polarization is a reciprocal process, critical race theory and company likely advance the cause of white nationalism.