Has Lamppost Education Initiative Sold Out Black People? Addressing Dr. Abdullah Ali’s Poor Critique of Critical Race Theory.

Black people in America are suffering under immense oppression.

Black-Americans have such minimal wealth that at current trends even two whole centuries from now they will continue to lag in terms of household wealth in comparison to whites.[1]

In an empirical study titled “The Prison Boom & Lack of Black Progress, University of Chicago economists Neal and Rick, after examining Black and white income inequality, unemployment rates, and the increasing number of Black men in Chicago who are in prison, concluded: “the Great Recession has left most Black men in a position relative to white men that is really no better than the position they occupied only a few years after the Civil Rights Act of 1965.”[2]

In a study of the impact of the Fair Housing Act intended to outlaw racial discrimination, sociologist Douglass S. Massey notes that, due to practices such as redlining, racial steering, and block-busting that developed in the Post-Jim Crow era, “the level of Black-white segregation has hardly changed.”[3]

Studies have found that applicants with more “Black-Sounding” names on resumes (i.e. Jamal, Lakeshia) were less likely to be called back for an interview than applicants with more “White-Sounding” names(I.E John, Emily) even when credentials were identical.[4]

Even more troubling, a study found employers to be more likely to hire a white person with a criminal record than a Black person without one, even when qualifications were the same.[5]

 

Lamppost Education Initiative Joins the The Muslim Anti-Critical Race Theorists 

As Black people are subjected to the prison industrial complex, placed systematically in polluted neighborhood through racist city-planning, and continue to be at the bottom of the socio-economic hierarchy, Dr. Abdullah Ali of Lamppost Education Initiative decided to pen a timely article titled How Islamic is Critical Race Theory? where he concerns himself with how critical race theory  “solidifies the otherization of “whites.” [6] That’s right folks!

Those oh so  poor white people, that Black critical racist theorists such as Derrick Bell  are ‘otherizing”  through their academic works on institutional racism must surely be happy that they have such a brave advocate in the form of Dr. Abdullah Ali and Lamppost Education Initiative.  In How Islamic is Critical Race Theory?  Dr. Abdullah Ali writes:

 

A critical race theorist would never accept the notion that he/she is being racist against white people. That’s because the theorist has convinced him/herself that only whites can be racist due to the fact that only whites have power. That is to say that racism can only be racism if and when you have the power to oppress others. And, since only white people have this power according to the critical race theorist, only they can be racist. [7]

In this statement, Dr. Abdullah Ali ignorantly assumes that all critical race theorists are Black or people of color.  They aren’t. From the beginning of his critique, Dr. Abdullah Ali indicates that he has not done his due diligence in terms of researching what he is critiquing. He is critiquing a caricature of what he thinks critical race theory is. Indeed, the authors, Richard Degaldo and Jean Stefanic, of the one and only book that Dr. Abdullah Ali cites titled Critical Race Theory: An Introduction are not Black. [8]

So one is puzzled as to why Dr. Abdullah Ali believes all critical race theorists are just some Black or other people of color folks who won’t acknowledge their alleged racism against whites.  In reality, Dr. Abullah Ali has essentialized critical race theorists as just a bunch of Black and people of color folks who just wont acknowledge they can be racist towards whites.

Critical race theorists such as Richard Degaldo, who is Latino, in works such as Racism, Capitalism, and The Search for Reform will tell you that “[t]oday, more Black children attend segregated schools than before Brown came down.[9]  The real assertion of critical race theory, as opposed to the caricature that Abdullah Ali attempts to refute posits that structural racism goes beyond mere interpersonal interactions and attitudes.

Works within critical race theory such as Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva indicate that even if Whites collectively improved in their interpersonal interactions with Black folks and stopped displaying racist animosity toward Black folks, this alone  would not be enough to remedy the years of wealth, opportunity, and material gain garnered through years of Black codes, jim crow, and other manifestation of institutional racism.[10]

Does Critical Race Theory reinforce biological determinism? 

Dr. Abdullah Ali claims that critical race theory essentializes white people by reinforcing biological determinism.  He writes that critical race theory ‘enforces biological race and behavioral determinism” by suggesting  that “to be white is to be “privileged” and “racist.” [11]

These is not a single critical race theorist who bases their analysis of structural racism upon biological behavioral determinism.  One wonders is Dr. Abdullah Ali critiquing The Iceman Inheritance: Prehistoric Sources of Western Man’s Racism by Michael Bradley or the Nation of Islam’s theology of Yacub?  Critical race theorists do not make their analysis based of structural racism upon  biological determinism. Rather, the assertion is that years of slavery, Black codes, and jim crow, and defacto forms of  racial discrimination has continued to significantly reduce the quality of life for Black folks in education, health, and economics.

Moreover, the social structural in America socializes white people into maintaining this unjust racialized hierarchy.  As  Bonilla-Silva has indicated in Racism Without Racists, you can still have a system of structural racism and immense racial inequality in a society where white people themselves may not be individually racially prejudice against Black people.

Structural Racism in America manifests as a system of white domination that economically, socially, and judicially controls, dominates, and subjugates Black folks, Native-Americans, and other non-whites. Structural racism in America allows for whites to control and dictate the standard of living of Black folks and to yield such control in ways that are detrimental. For example, in the Chicago neighborhood of Altgelds Gardens white city-planners intentionally placed Black communities near garbage instructors and toxic waste dumps.

An angry Black man advocate can call a random white person on the street a “White devil oppressor”, but it won’t result in a power dynamic in which Black folks have the ability to mass-incarcerate white folks, exploit white folks through predatory loans, or systematically place white folks in toxic neighborhoods. Beyond potential hurt feelings, it has no systemic structural impact.  Similarly, Dr. Abdullah Ali cannot show a single structural impact to the “otherization of whites” he absurdly claims is fostered by Black critical racist theorists against whites in the areas of employment, economics, or education..etc.

Does Critical Race Theory Essentialize White People? 

Dr. Abdullah Ali asserts that critical race theory “is essentialist because it lumps all “whites” together into a shared experience vis-à-vis “coloreds” such that there is no distinction between the English, Scottish, French, German, Russian, Slav, Irish, Italian, Swede, Jew.”[12]

Only someone with no real engagement with critical race theory would possibility make such an uninformed statement about critical race theory.  Works such as Whiteness as property by Cherl Harris,[13]  Whiteness and Ethnicity of White Ethnics in the United States[14]  How the Irish Became White by Ignatiev[15] have thoroughly addressed how European immigrants in America sought to unify around the ideology of whiteness in order to reap social benefits and subjugate Black people.

Lamppost Education Initiatives Obfuscates The Oppression of Black people

Why are Muslims discussing whether or not critical race theory is Islamic as opposed to discussing whether the immense Black-white wealth gap is a just social arrangement according to Islam and if not, what is the Islamic agenda to deal with it? Why are we discussing whether or not critical race theory is Islamic as opposed to discussing whether or not the fact that the current mass-incarceration of Black men is a just social arrangement according to Islam and if not, what is the Islamic agenda to deal with it? Why are we discussing whether or not critical race theory is Islamic as opposed to discussing whether racially discriminatory city planning that has confined Black communities to polluted neighborhoods is a just social arrangement according to Islam and if not, what’s the Islamic agenda to deal with it?

Lamppost Education Initiative should be thoroughly ashamed at the miseducation they are directing towards Muslim communities through their decision to publish the article How Islamic is Critical Race Theory? Black intellectuals in critical race theory who are seriously seeking to analyze the oppression of Black people post jim crow are portrayed by Dr. Abdullah Ali as folks who just wont acknowledge they can be racist towards white folks and in doing so, otherize white people.

Critical race theory was pioneered by African-American legal scholar, Derrick Bell as mechanism to address the very real racism that Black folks faced in a post-jim crow world. Derrick Bell was a former lawyer in the NAACP who sought to end school segregation and decades lived in horror upon realizing that schools were just as segregated. Derrick Bell produces what is arguably the best account of understanding the ulterior motives that went behind the decision of the Supreme Court to declare the unconstitutionality of school segregation,

Sure, not all of the scholars of critical race theory are Muslim.  Still, critical race theorists make valuable contributions towards understanding the political plight of Black folks post-jim crow. Muslims, especially Black Muslim, should be involved in addressing the systemic oppression facing Black communities and can garner important insights through studying critical race theory.

Muslims certainly should not be involved in insinuating that a field designed to analyze structural racism facing Black communities post-jim crow is somehow otherizing or essentializing of white people based upon their complete misunderstanding of the theory.

As Black folks are being oppressed, the focus of Lamppost Education Initiative. is to publish an article on how critical race theory harms white people via essentialism and otherization. They posit this critique after a poor reading of critical race theory.

The political insights are most pertinent to Black folks in neighborhoods directly impacted by the legacy of jim crow. What is quite revealing is that when Lamppost posted their article How Islamic is Critical Race Theory on twitter, they tagged multiple personal accounts of non-Black Muslims and did not tag a single personal account of a Black man in a neighborhood directly impacted by the legacy of Jim Crow. It should be very clear who Lamppost Education Initiative is catering to and who their audience is. Its certainly not Black folks.

Oh Muslims! Remember the legacy of sister Safiya Bukhari!  Remember the Legacy of Malcolm X! Remember the egacy of Albert “Nuh” Washington. Strive hard against the mainstream American Muslim establishment’s attempt to detach Islam from the Black struggle against White Supremacy.


 

[1] Joshua Holland(2016), The Average Black Family Would Need 228 Years to Build the Wealth of a White Family Today,  The Nation, https://www.thenation.com/article/the-average-Black-family-would-need-228-years-to-build-the-wealth-of-a-white-family-today/

[2] Derek Neal & Armin Rick, The Prison Boom and the Lack of Black Progress after Smith and Welch, (2014), https://www.nber.org/papers/w20283.pdf

[3] Douglas S Massey & Nancy A. Denton, (1993)  American Apartheid, Segregation and the making of the Underclass, 225

[4] Marianne Bertrand et al(2003) Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination Mullainathan, National Bureau of Economic Research, https://www.nber.org/papers/w9873

[5]  Devah Pager (2003) The Mark of a Criminal Record Devah Pager Northwestern Universityhttp://www.princeton.edu/~pager/pager_ajs.pdf

[7] Abdillah Bin Hamid Ali(2019), How Islamic is Critical Race Theory? https://lamppostedu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/how-Islamic_critical_race_theory.pdf

[8] Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic(2001) , Critical Race Theory, An Introduction

[9]  Degaldo(2014), Rodrigo’s Equation: Race, Capitalism, and the Search for Reform, https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/wflr49&div=6&id=&page=&t=1560471802

[10] Eduardo Bonilla-Silva(2003),  Racism without racists by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva,

[11] Abdillah Bin Hamid Ali(2019), How Islamic is Critical Race Theory? https://lamppostedu.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/how-Islamic_critical_race_theory.pdf

[12] IBID

[13]Harris(1993), Whiteness as Property, https://www.jstor.org/stable/1341787

[14] MCDermott(2005), Whiteness and Ethnicity of White Ethnics in the United States, https://www.jstor.org/stable/29737719

[15] Noah Ignatiev, (1995), How the Irish Became White by Ignatiev

 

Comments

  1. Abdallah does not have a CRT background, nor is he engaging with scholars of race at UCB right around the corner from Zaytuna and Graduate Theological Union. Also, GTU where he obtained both of his advanced degrees, does not offer courses on race, though it is “progressive.” It is white and Christian centric, religious focus and does not have much of a staff, and does not employ experts on race/racialization. It seems he has questions, thoughts, and experiences that could be better informed if he engaged and continued to think through things. I hope those around him with knowledge intervene.

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