‘Critical Race Theory’ is going nowhere!

By M Ahmedullah, 25 April 2023

‘Critical Race Theory’ is here to stay and spread its roots sideways and below the ground. The theory is a special creation from black people’s efforts to develop critical thinking tools to theories about and destroy narratives and structures of their long pain and sufferings.

In the wake of the racism controversy following the Diane Abbott letter to The Observer newspaper, there have been attempts to discredit the Critical Race Theory. I know that no theory is perfect – they all involve generalisation with inevitable inclusions and exclusions – and some theories can be completely or partially false but still provide practical guides to people and society in conducting their affairs.

Critical Race Theory has been a valuable, critical tool for black people of African origin, in the first instance. The theory has been empowering, enabling black people to make sense of their history and how structures, laws, religions, traditions and cultures combined to justified and perpetuated their enslavement and the violence and racism they have suffered over many centuries and, in many respects, racism continue to be their daily experience.

Critical Race Theory has provided black people with the tools to theorise about their history and the world and, through that, understand the discrimination and bad treatment they faced and continue to face, including several centuries of industrial-scale enslavement, transportation across the Atlantic Ocean to new lands where they were forced to work hard labour in plantations that made money for their white masters. Many died enroute and suffered terrible abuse, including black women who got raped, when working in the plantations.

Critical Race Theory allowed black people to develop conceptual frameworks for understanding their experiences, the structures and traditions behind their predicaments, including their experiences of racism and discrimination. The theory has played a role in helping black people develop new empowering narratives, explanations, structures and theories to redefine impositions imposed on them and define the definers. Many of us who are not of African black origin have also found it infinitely useful in understanding all kinds of domination, prejudice and discrimination – how they work, get justification and are perpetuated, as well as how they can be dismantled.

If you look into human history, you will see that, from the beginning of humanity, some groups have always dominated, discriminated against, delegitimised, disempowered and exploited others. They have done this through physical violence, the threat of violence, interpretations, explanatory theories and myths development. As such, some people have always suffered at the hands of others from prejudice, discrimination and exploitation based on their racial and non-racial identities and weaker positions.

As far as I can understand, of all the people who have suffered the most in human history, because of their skin colour, from prejudice, discrimination and exploitation were black people of African origin. They have suffered these from nearly all groups in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. No other groups of people have ever been the victims of so many other groups in human history, around the world.

There has always been slavery around the world, including Bengalis being enslaved by the Arakanese, Portuguese and Dutch, and used for domestic labour, public and private works and on nutmeg plantations in the Banda islands. In addition to enslavement by Europeans, many black Africans were enslaved by Arabs and sold in Baghdad, India and other places over several centuries. And some white Europeans were also captured and enslaved by the Romans and the Ottomans, for example.

However, the slavery that black African people suffered was totally unique and unprecedented, and the scale was industrial. Black Africans were captured and taken to the Americas in their millions and made to work in plantations by several European nations. They were packed in wooden ships like sardine cans, and many perished at sea and were thrown overboard. As a result, a large number of black people living now in the Americas and Europe are descendants of enslaved black Africans, and they have the surnames names of the slave masters of their ancestors.

European racists and exploiters developed all kinds of theories to explain and justify their inhumanity towards black people while, at the same time, they were dispossessing and annihilating native peoples of the Americas, New Zealand and Australia. As a result, most native peoples in Australia, New Zealand and the Americas are dead, and those still alive don’t have a voice.

As the Critical Race Theory provides special tools for understanding, destroying and redefining exploitative and racists structures, narratives and justifications, it will not be easy to discredit, damage or destroy the theory. The theory not only provides tools for understanding history and racism and structures of discrimination and domination, but it also generates moral strength and moral energy from the redefinitions and the new perspectives on history and present-day reality.