The Hedgehogs of Critical Race Theory

They start with important truths—slavery was wicked—and get carried away into monomania.


The world’s hedgehog population tends to expand in times of stress and change. Lately it has exploded in the U.S. Hedgehogs are thick on the ground, all of them advancing One Big Thing or another—each peering through the lens of a particular obsession. At the moment, the biggest One Big Thing is race—the key, it seems, to all of America, to the innermost meanings of the country and its history.

It isn’t really true. Race is one of many big things in America. It is hardly the most important. Americans need to desanctify the subject of race—to mute its claims, which have grown absolutist and, as it were, theological in their thoroughness, their dogmatism.

Critical race theory has spread across the U.S. like—forgive the expression—a virus, coming to infect primary schools and high schools and universities, foundations, art museums, big corporations, the military, local, state and federal government bureaucracies. It’s everywhere in the West Wing. President Biden, who spent almost 40 years following the ways of an amiable political fox in the Senate—exchanging pleasantries and now and then doing legislative business with Confederate mossbacks like Strom Thurmond and James Eastland —has, in his old age, signed on with the monomaniacs of the left.

The hedgehog’s trajectory may begin on the side of undeniable and important truth—for example, the truth that slavery was a great wickedness in America (as it was elsewhere in the world), and that race prejudice has been a chronic American dilemma and a moral blight that has damaged and scarred the lives of millions of black American citizens over generations.

All true—a truth to be acknowledged and addressed. But hedgehogs, who deal in absolutes, are liable to get carried away. Their truth changes shape as it coalesces into a political movement and gets a taste of power and begins to impose itself programmatically. Its ambitions swell, it grows messianic, it embraces civic idiocies (defund the police!) and beholds the astounding impunity with which it may run amok in the streets and burn police cars and shopping malls, as it did last summer, and the ease with which it may take over city councils and mayors’ offices and turn so many of the country’s normal arrangements upside down.

It was said in the era of Joe McCarthy that he and his followers saw a communist under every bed. The single-minded ideology of critical race theory sees racism in every white face—a racism systemic, pervasive, inescapable, damning. All white people are racists. The doctrine devolves to the crudest form of what might be called racial Calvinism: Americans are predestined—saved or damned, depending on the color of their skin. This doctrine merely reverses the theory of white supremacy, which damned black people—and consigned them to oppressive segregation—because of the color of their skin.

Source: The Hedgehogs of Critical Race Theory