Tom Licata: It’s time to say ‘no mas’ to postmodern Critical Social Justice

This commentary is by Tom Licata, a resident of Burlington.

“Liberalism” is a kind of political philosophy that evolved out of the Modern Age, which followed the Medieval era beginning roughly in the 15th century.

Tom Licata

Liberalism is at risk of being replaced with a new “illiberal” era known as the Postmodern Age, and its offshoot, which I will call the Critical Social Justice Movement (CSJM). Understand that “liberalism” and this postmodern CSJM are irreconcilable. You can have one or the other but not both.

Postmodernism arose in the 1960s and rejects whether objective knowledge or truth are obtainable. Postmodernism believes that knowledge, truth and reality are mere social or cultural constructions put in place by those in power in order to maintain that power. Postmodernism believes that knowledge is a construct of power, and that this power functions through our discourses (ways in which we talk about things). Thus knowledge can be altered and power structures toppled by changing the way we talk about things. These ideas came from the works of French postmodernists such as Michel Foucault.

Cynical Theories,” by Pluckrose and Lindsay, nicely summarizes this epistemology (how we obtain and understand knowledge):

We begin in the late 1960s when the group of theoretical concepts clustered around the nature of knowledge, power, and language that came to be known as postmodernism emerged from within several humanities disciplines at once. At its core, postmodernism rejected what it calls metanarratives-broad, cohesive explanations of the world and society. It rejected Christianity … science, reason, and the pillars of post-Enlightenment Western Democracy. … [It] aims to deconstruct what we might agree to call ‘the old religions’ of human thought-and replace them with a new religion of its own, called ‘Social Justice.’… It is also evident in their assertions that society is simplistically divided into dominant [primarily white] and marginalized [primarily non-white] identities and underpinned by invisible systems of white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, [and] cisnormativity.

Postmodern ideology views everything through the lens of power, language, knowledge and how they interact with each other. This lens views the world as a kind of zero-sum power-game, detecting power dynamics in every interaction. It’s a worldview that focuses on social and cultural grievances by manipulating identity markers like sex, race and sexuality. It is a culture not of charitable dignity but of retributive victimhood.

Critical theory is an important tool in achieving these ends. Born of Marxist ideology, it seeks to uncover supposed hidden biases or “problematics” in society’s systems. Critical theory picks at the current political order like one would pick at a scab, never letting the bleeding stop or healing to occur. Its aim is the delegitimization of the current liberal political order — i.e., our Constitutional Republic. Its Black Lives Matter cousin, also of Marxist origins, acts as vessel for this soft revolution.

Kimberle Crenshaw, a founder of Critical Race Theory and the progenitor of the concept of intersectionality, in her 1991 essay, “Mapping the Margins,” openly advocates identity politics over liberal universalism. Liberalism — in the spirit of Martin Luther King — seeks to remove the social significance of identity categories and treat people as equal individuals. Identity politics restores the social significance of identity categories. Crenshaw is an advocate of seeing herself and others as “I am Black” as opposed to “I am a person who happens to be Black.” Why? Because the latter achieves self-identification — in effect, “I am first a person.” The former takes on a socially imposed group identity.

And here we witness the outright rejection of the individual and the universal, the human and humanity. In Crenshaw’s worldview the “individual” is merely an aggregation of their various identities (female, black, lesbian), and each group identity possesses their own “truth” or “lived experience,” and hence universal human empathy, or even open debate, is unobtainable. This is a regression back towards tribal animism.

This is important: Capitalized “Social Justice” as a proper noun refers to the specific, dogmatic and increasingly authoritarian definition of social justice. Lowercase “social justice” refers to the more generic form of social justice found in the liberalism of the Modern or Enlightenment era.

When Vermont’s liberal media outlets parrot ‘racism! racism!’ and ‘climate change! climate change!’ know they are merely employing the postmodern techniques of language games where language as the constructor of knowledge and the “making” of the individual are on full display. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Inculcate. Indoctrinate.

It’s time to say “no mas!”

Reified means ‘to make real,’ and this cancerous ideology of postmodern Critical Social Justice has taken root-and-branch in Vermont, embedded within our government institutions and schools, all under the guise of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (DIE).

It’s what President Abraham Lincoln warned of in his 1838 Lyceum Address:

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

God bless the United States of America.

9 thoughts on “Tom Licata: It’s time to say ‘no mas’ to postmodern Critical Social Justice

  1. The Vermont legislature has recently been flooded with an avalanche of “social justice” bills……Bills premised on charges of structural and systemic racism…..Bills based on “charges” of racism as opposed to “evidence” of racism in Vermont. When asked about specific examples of structural or systemic racism in Vermont, witnesses before the legislature have been unable to cite specific examples.

    Perhaps, it’s time for the legislature to take the time to read, think about and debate Tom Licata’s essay on postmodern social justice before acting on more legislation based on “charges”.

    A Legislature driven by ideology and unproven “charges” is not what the vast majority of Vermonters expect or want from their government.

  2. Rejecting this in Vermont will never happen. This state is already done for and someone convince me that there is any way to turn it around.

    • It can happen, as soon as voters are sick and tired of listening to all the false claims of these groups. How does such a small state have the most per capita social justice warriors and nonprofits that pay no taxes? We always hear from the defeatists who have surrendered to the man. Accordingly, we should all just curl up in a ball and let these virtue signalers rule us into oblivion and steal our tax money that gets funneled back to the sympathetic progressives that started it all. No!

  3. We only need to demand what they are asking for to call them out on their lies.

    Fire 50% of all state workers
    Fire 50% of all hospital workers
    Fire 50% of all teachers
    Fire 50% of all legislators

    Replace them all with minorities from other countries.

    Let us see hoe that plan works at election time! We’ll quickly discover whom the real racist are!

  4. Um, so this means we shouldn’t ever bring up in history classes the killing of 6 million Jews by the Nazis; the pogroms against the Blacks of Rosewood, Tulsa, Wilmington, New Orleans and St. Louis, etc.; or the means by which the native population of North America was reduced from 4-8 million or so in 1776 to 285,000 in 1895?

    • This is a common straw man argument brought up by those who promote CRT: they say that people who are opposed to CRT are opposed to teaching the history of racism.

      It’s a straw man because those who are opposed to CRT say nothing of the sort.

      There’s a big difference between teaching the facts of history and adherence to a doctrine regarding race. One can be 100% for teaching uncomfortable facts of history and yet at the same time opposed to a doctrine that teaches that race is the most important thing about a person, and that racism is the key organizing principle for interpreting society.

      Listening to NPR yesterday, I learned that it’s amazingly hard to fire bad (racist) cops. That’s a problem. If there’s a problem within police structures or politics that needs to be addressed to get bad cops out, then good people everywhere can agree that this problem needs to be addressed. They don’t have to adhere to the doctrine of CRT to agree this should be done; they just have to be good, decent people, as many of us are, regardless of the judgments CRT places on us because of the color of our skin.

    • Wrong *again* Chuck…it’s not history that’s the problem but attempting to place blame that’s the issue here.

    • cgregory, you might have come back at me and said that there are laws being considered or passed that prohibit teaching material that, in a phrase, “makes students uncomfortable.” In that case, one might construe teaching the history of slavery as making some students uncomfortable.

      Personally, I think the arguments against those sorts of laws miss the intent of the laws, which is to stop the practice and indoctrination of things like CRT. We have examples of teachers segregating students by color and taking CRT to heart (in practice, not just in theory); we have examples of workplaces indoctrinating workers with CRT and asking the people with the wrong color skin to atone for their skin color. These sorts of ideas/practices trickle down into institutions of learning when the proponents of these theories get a little too enthusiastic. Debate the merits of the theory– appropriate for upper levels but not for elementary schools– yes (but alas, CRT allows for no debate: if you criticize it that just proves how unconsciously racist you are.) Indoctrinate as a means to “purify” America? No.

      We should teach the history of slavery and of the Holocaust, absolutely. I can’t help but think, though, that those on the left who cry “censorship!” are missing the elephant in the room of the deliberate, ongoing, and violent censorship of medical and scientific voices that disagree with the “Critical Covid Theory” (CCT) expressed by Dr. Fauci and put into practice everywhere in America, so that many dare not say what they think no matter how much scientific evidence is behind it. Thus they accuse the right of the exact thing they’re doing.

      Teaching CRT uncritically to elementary students (elementary students aren’t equipped to have a critical debate) would be like having Chinese students recite Mao’s messages every morning. Some truth to Mao? You bet. The whole truth? No. Some truth to CRT? Of course. But in the view of many, it lacks perspective and balance, and in practice often turns into indoctrination by enthusiastic proponents.

      • “The closer to the truth, the better the lie, and the truth itself, when it can be used, is the best lie.”
        — Isaac Asimov

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