We are working through Critical Race Theory (CRT) so we can have an informed opinion on the topic. In our last podcast, we discussed the fist tenet of CRT, which is that Race is a social construct. I recommend listening to the podcast for all of thoughts on this. For my purpose here, I want to expand on that “social construct” piece.
What does it mean when we say it is a social construct? It means it is part of the structure of society…
Construct is to build, and social is society. I don’t think I need to explain the term construct here, as we are all intelligent people. Society, though, is a term that is getting a bit confused these days. Society is a very complex topic that tends to get put into a single box. Society is really just the order in which a group of people live together. BUT…within that order are huge systems like government, religion, culture, economics. Those systems have different relationships with the people of different societies.
For this conversation, lets give an example of a good and bad social construct. Let’s use a fence for both examples. We have all heard the term that good fences make good neighbors. What they saying is trying to communicate is that if we respect each other’s boundaries we will get along better. My house is where I keep my family safe. Ignoring that boundary would result in confrontation. A negative example of a fence is school district boundary being rewritten to keep a certain group of people based on income, race, etc. relegated to certain schools. Both fences are social constructs, but how they are used has a dramatic impact.
My life lesson on the last podcast was to consider what boundaries we had in our own life that is causing problems. Have we built a fence somewhere that needs to come down?
The problem with this is that many of the fences aren’t always at the forefront of our mind. I’m not on the “unconscious bias” bandwagon, but everyone has unchallenged assumptions. (Yes, I am willing to use the word “everyone.”) I like to take the conversation out of the “bias” discussion and move it into the “assumption” conversation, because, for me, it moves it out of the personal realm into the idea/principal realm. When a topic is is personal, it is difficult to work through. If it is a seperate idea, or a principal in a book, then we can challenge it without feeling attacked.
Back in college I was a Religious Studies major, which is an interdisciplinary degree. Every religion class was a mix of different degrees, psychology, sociology, etc. What I noticed was that I could tell which major each student was in based on their operating assumptions. The psychology majors assumed everything had to do with psychology. Many of them struggled when those assumptions were challenged. There were some uncomfortably tense discussions in some classes.
This is why I think CRT is such a hot topic. It is challenging some age old assumptions and that makes us uncomfortable. I also think that CRT has some assumptions that need to be challenged as well. There is no system on this side of Heaven that does not need to be challenged.
I have had to deal with a ton of unchallenged assumptions. I have many more that I will need to work through as well. These assumptions put up fences that seperate me from others. Some good, some not good. That is the point of the challenge, to determine if the assumption is good or not. It is a difficult process and causes emotions to flare up. It is a worthy effort though. We must look inside of ourselves and challenge everything. We must stand on sure ground. If it has not been tested, then it is not sure.