Lin-Manuel Miranda prostrating himself before the woke crowd for not being woke enough is this week’s entertaining aside, but the real fight is over the nature of truth and traditional liberal values like equality before the law, free speech, and the free exchange of ideas. The battle lines are being drawn and the mainstream media is gearing up for a fight on the wrong side of history. Which side are you on?
Once upon a time, a mere few years ago, Lin-Manuel Miranda was the toast of the town. From Broadway to Hollywood, everyone loved the Puerto Rican born singer and composer behind the smash hit Hamilton. He was praised for taking a dusty old story about a white Founding Father and turning it into a racially diverse, accessible, exciting, innovative commentary on the American dream itself. A performance of Hamilton was even an early scene of the budding Resistance against Trump. On November 16, 2016, shortly after Trump’s unexpected victory, incoming Vice President Mike Pence and his family attended a performance only to be booed by the audience and lectured by the cast. “We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values,” cast member Brandon Victor Dixon, who played Aaron Burr, declared during the curtain call. The media swooned and Resistance was in vogue.
Today, not so much. Mr. Miranda finds himself under fire for the casting of his new movie, In The Heights, adapted from his first Broadway show about life and romance in the Latino community. Though the movie itself features actors of Latino heritage in all the major roles, The Root complained that the actors themselves were not sufficiently dark-skinned to represent the Afro-Latino community in particular. They voiced their concerns in a video segment interviewing the director of the film, Jon M. Chu and one of the cast members, Leslie Grace. The interview was conducted by Felice Leon, who asked, “What would you say to folks who say that In the Heights privileges white-passing and light-skinned Latinx people?” Rather than informing Mr. Leon that one of the leads, Leslie Grace who portrays Nina, is actually Afro-Latino, Mr. Chu conceded the inexplicable point. “I would say that’s a fair conversation to have. Listen, we’re not going to get everything right in a movie. We tried our best on all fronts of it.” Leslie Grace herself, added, “I think that this is cracking that glass ceiling, because I do hope to see my brothers and sisters who are darker than me lead these movies.” On a side note, does she plan to step down from her next big role in favor of a darker actor?
Lin-Manuel Miranda didn’t participate in the interview, but felt the need to apologize, for what I am not entirely sure given that a highly publicized, positively reviewed film with an all Latino cast should be something to celebrate, at least according to the moral compass of the woke warriors, not criticize. “I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, of feeling still unseen in the feedback. I hear that without sufficient dark-skinned Afro-Latino representation, the work feels extractive of the community we wanted so much to represent with pride and joy,” Mr. Miranda posted in a statement on Twitter. “In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short. I’m truly sorry. I’m learning from the feedback, I thank you for raising it, and I’m listening.” He continued, promising to do better, “I’m trying to hold space both for the indelible pride in the movie we made and be accountable for our shortcomings. Thanks for your honest feedback. I promise to do better in my future projects, and I’m dedicated to the learning and evolving we all have to do to make sure we are honoring our diverse and vibrant community.”
Thus, a former hero of the woke movement now prostrates themselves before it for the crime of casting Latinos who were, I guess, insufficiently Latino. Mr. Miranda has a lot to learn, but not about what he seems to think. First, if a Puerto Rican born, minority celebrity who has done more to advance Latino and other minority representation on Broadway and now in the movies than any other composer and performer in recent memory, has to learn and evolve, what hope does a white boy like me possibly have? Second, what is there really to learn except that the woke are like Scrooge counting his coins, only they count color and varying shades of darkness, and if you don’t measure up to their ever evolving quotas, you will be called out? More on both in a moment. In the meantime, if you ask me, Mr. Miranda should be learning that nothing will ever satisfy the woke, ever. If he cast all Afro-Latinos in the film, they would likely have claimed there were no light skinned Latinos. There is no way to win this game, except not to play.
Fortunately, conservative politicians, concerned parents, a few liberal-leaning, right-minded journalists, and others are starting to acknowledge this reality. There is a battle brewing in the press and in our schools. To date, 22 states have introduced laws to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory, the radical, regressive ideology underlying the woke movement, and several states like Florida have actually banned it. Perhaps needless to say, this is not being well received by the progressive intelligentsia. Opinion columnist Charles M. Blow, writing for The New York Times, bemoans the latest Republican “boogeyman.” According to Mr. Blow, “Critical race theory is the political right’s new boogeyman,” and it’s not anything like conservatives are claiming. CRT, you see, “doesn’t diagnose the country as evil, even though it is beyond dispute that some evil people designed the architecture of racial oppression in this country and that there are still some who help maintain it.”
Read that again, if you will, the country isn’t evil, but was dominated by evil people, some of whom are still around doing evil things. The phrase distinction without a difference comes to mind. Mr. Blow is not alone in this belief either as most premiere publications have offered similar, dishonest, more on that in a moment, opinions. “When your priority is to preserve a particular mythology — the United States as a land of equal opportunity — the push to take a critical view of the United States’ racial history becomes a threat.” This is Christine Emba for The Washington Post. “Thus has emerged the conservative obsession with critical race theory (CRT), a mode of pushback that has taken on a life and logic of its own. It is a psychological defense, not a rational one.”
For Ms. Emba’s sake, I will try to take a rational approach here: Critical Race Theory is even worse than conservatives have described it. The real question prompted by CRT is not simply whether or not a country or some subset of a country is “evil.” That concern is an offshoot of the underlying tenets of CRT, which are far more threatening than rebranding the original Blame America First Crowd to Hate America First. In this sense, Mr. Blow and Ms. Emba are technically correct, CRT does not in and of itself claim America or any other country is inherently evil; it does far more than that.
Richard Delgado, one of the original founders of the movement, and Jean Stefanic published, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction in 2001. In it, they outlined five “basic tenets” of CRT. First, that race is socially constructed and not a biological fact. Second, racism in the United States is the rule, not the exception, and almost every person of color regardless of wealth, social status, or other privilege experiences it. Third, the legal system in America serves the interests of white people, almost exclusively, whether it appears to be an advancement like the landmark Civil Rights Act or not, minority interests are never served. Fourth, minority groups undergo a process known as “differential racialization,” where varying degrees and kinds of negative stereotypes are placed upon them by white people for white people’s ends. Fifth, people of color cannot be confined to a single oppressed group, via “intersectionality” they are oppressed because of race, color, ethnic group, gender, and whatever else. Sixth, white people have no business talking about racism or related interests; only “voices of color” are qualified to comment.
While some of these tenets don’t sound particularly noxious on their own, obviously there is a social component to race and of course we should be conscious of the voices of those who actually suffer racism, when you combine them together the truly scary aspects emerge, unmistakably. First, white people are defined as inherently irredeemable. They will not come out and say this directly but if a huge advancement in minority rights like the Equal Protection Amendment is to be seen as serving white people’s needs and if white people are continually rebranding minorities with different, harmful stereotypes, what other outcome is there? Second, the only solution to the racial question is to put minorities in charge, permanently. Again, this is not stated directly, but if white people can’t be trusted even when they try to do good and we should privilege voices of color above others, what other conclusion can you reach? Third, and perhaps most perniciously, there is no objective truth, only what the oppressed say it is and that is ever changing.
Andrew Sullivan, writing on Substack, covered this aspect well in a recent post, correctly identifying that CRT is a threat to traditional liberal values like free speech and free debate to arrive at objective facts and conclusions. The woke replace these bedrock principles and substitute their own opinion as fact. I’ll give you a popular example: The much lauded, Pulitzer Prize winning 1619 Project which declares that the United States was founded on and designed to preserve the institution of slavery, and that slavery is present in everything today, down to causing traffic jams.
This is fundamentally distinct from believing America is an imperfect country founded by imperfect people who made tragic compromises to preserve the union, which would be the traditional view. It used to be said that the promise of America’s Founding took time to fulfill and fulfilling that promise is the work of generations, ongoing today. This was the well from which civil rights icons like Frederick Douglas in the 19th century and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 20th drew from. The authors of the 1619 Project, however, completely discard this narrative by disregarding any and all facts that support it. It doesn’t matter to them that the Declaration of Independence declares that all men are created equal or that the Constitution makes no mention of slavery and instead invests power in “we the people.” Nor does it matter that there were Founders who opposed slavery or that slavery was already banned in several states, or even that slavery was prevalent around the world in general at the time.
These incontrovertible facts are irrelevant. The only thing relevant in their minds is that slavery existed and, though the practice was banned over 150 years ago, minorities today, whether or not their own ancestors were slaves or slaveowners, get the final say in the matter. They’ve decided that 1776 wasn’t the most important year of America’s Founding. They say, despite all evidence, that it was 1619 and your opinion doesn’t count. They are the privileged ones now, and if you are white you need not comment, even if the facts are on your side.
As I mentioned, this view is distinctively different from taking a critical view of American history in the traditional sense of the phrase. A critical view of American history would accurately depict some of the Founders as slaveholders, would describe the horrendous nature of the practice and its impact on black communities, include the many, many debates over slavery that dominated the early years of the Republic, and would in general tell history with the warts and all. It would also, of necessity, analyze how the Founding documents ultimately provided the foundation to free the slaves and ultimately underpin the civil rights movement in the 20th century.
Critical Race Theory, however, does none of that. It is not concerned with an accurate history in the least. Instead, it’s chief concern is upending traditional liberal values and substitute the will of people of color for the will of the people in general. Hence, one the heroes of the Critical Race Theory movement, a darling of Netflix and the Biden Administration, Ibram X. Kendi, says, “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” Mr. Blow and Ms. Emba can forgive us if we take him and the entire movement at their word, rather than the propaganda and lies they and their allies in the media are spewing. Or, perhaps, they should ask Lin-Manuel Miranda if he’s dark enough for their tastes.