July 8, 2021 Editor

Opinion: Nikole Hannah-Jones just proved the correctness of critical race theory

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Opinion by

Contributing columnist

July 8, 2021

photo above: Nikole Hannah-Jones during an interview in Brooklyn on Tuesday. (John Minchillo/AP)

WN: The highlighted article is all tragically true.


Nikole Hannah-Jones, and the epic failure of the University of North Carolina to recruit the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist to its faculty, just proved the correctness of critical race theory. The controversial legal doctrine has been vilified by conservatives but, as this episode illustrates, it also challenges those liberals who worship at the altar of “diversity.”

According to some leading critical race theorists, integration — the traditional progressive route to racial justice — does not actually work for minorities. In this view, white supremacy is so embedded in most American institutions that people of color will never be accepted as equals — even when they are formally granted entry.

UNC demonstrated that point after its journalism school offered Hannah-Jones, an investigative journalist for the New York Times, a prestigious professorship. The MacArthur “genius” learned that her initial appointment would be without tenure. She said she knew of no “legitimate reason” why “someone who has worked in the field as long as I have, who has the credentials, the awards, or the status that I have, should be treated different than every other white professor who came before me.” After a threatened lawsuit and huge public outcry, the university’s Board of Trustees voted 9 to 4 to extend tenure to Hannah-Jones.

But this week, Hannah-Jones announced that she was instead accepting a tenured position at Howard University, a historically Black school. This wasn’t just a “drop the mic” moment. Hannah-Jones’s rejection of a majority-White institution whose leaders clearly did not value her worth — and her embrace of a Black institution that did — embodied critical race theory’s foundational principles.

The doctrine was first articulated during the 1980s as a way of understanding why, decades after the civil rights movement, African Americans still experienced discrimination in virtually every aspect of their lives. Columbia University law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term “critical race theory,” has argued that the law can often be interpreted in a way that benefits the ruling class, no matter what the law actually says.

Or, as Hannah-Jones wrote this week, “We have all seen that you can do everything to make yourself undeniable, and those in power can change the rules and attempt to deny you anyway.”

People of color in majority-White spaces often find themselves having to do “diversity” work that is not part of their job description. This can be draining and frustrating, making it difficult to refute the wisdom of Hannah-Jones’s observation that “for too long, powerful people have expected the people they have mistreated and marginalized to sacrifice themselves to make things whole.”

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Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.