Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 02/03/23
Nobody’s victim. An accomplished speech-language pathologist, writer, podcast host, actor, director, musician, hip-hop artist (not to mention husband and father), Leonydus Johnson has emerged as major advocate for individualism and a society where, as Martin Luther King Jr. dared dream, people “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” That idea, Johnson asserts via his provocative podcast Informed Dissent, is in direct opposition to Critical Race Theory which holds that guilt and victimhood are inherited traits that traps people in circular divisive dynamics based on skin color. While many progressives have deemed him a traitor to his race, Johnson has not backed down. In fact he has doubled down via his new book Raising Victims: The Pernicious Rise of Critical Race Theory(Salem Books) due out next Tuesday (02/07).
JWK: What brought you into this whole CRT debate?
Leonydus Johnson: It was mainly social media that drew me in. I never intended on having any kind of position in politics or any kind of position in cultural commentary or anything like that. I was just putting out my ideas, my thoughts and opinions on social media and it resonated with people and ended up accidentally building a following on Twitter and Facebook. I was encouraged to start a podcast once I started building up a certain number of followers and people were interested in what I was saying. Then the book followed. It was just one of those things. It kinda happened one thing after the other where God kinda opened the doors and led me down a path I didn’t really anticipate going down.
JWK: What kind of reaction have you received to your ideas from both black people and white people?
LJ: It’s kind of a mixed bag. It depends on who you’re talking to. I get a lot animosity. I get a lot of hate particularly from progressives and a lot from other black people who see it as a sort of “race traitor” kind of thing. There’s this sense that you need to be committed to the racial element and you need to be committed to the racial narrative. If you don’t do that then you’re seen as an “Uncle Tom,” as an outcast or somebody who’s “against the cause” or whatever it may be. I’ve gotten a lot of that.
I’ve gotten a lot of animosity but I don’t want to say that that’s all that it’s been because there has been a lot of support. There has been a lot of people who have gotten on board, both black and white. So, it’s been both. It just depends. It depends on what perspectives people have and where they’re coming from as far as the conversation goes. People who are more conservative are, obviously, more on board with the things that I’m saying. The people who are progressive are very much against it. That’s not really reliant on race. That’s more reliant on political ideology.
JWK: How do define Critical Race Theory and what do you think is wrong with it?
LJ: Critical Race Theory is one of those things that has an elusive definition. Even the people who support it can’t really give you a straightforward definition. That’s one of its defense mechanisms. When you criticize it people will say “Oh, that’s not actually Critical Race Theory. You don’t really know what it is.” But, if you read some of the founders and the people who really put together this theory, the basic elements of Critical Race Theory (are) that racism is endemic in our society (and) it’s woven into the fabric of our institutions. It’s basically in our everyday interactions, in our normal way of interacting in the world. It’s everywhere…and, because of that, we need to deconstruct our society, we need to deconstruct our culture, deconstruct our institutions and, basically, rebuild things from the ground up where white supremacy and racism are not infiltrated into these things. That’s the essence of Critical Race Theory – that racism is everywhere at all times, it impacts us in ways that we can’t even see and causes racial disparities whether somebody’s intending to be racist or not.
JWK: Why is that not true?
LJ: For one thing, the basic elements of Critical Race Theory are that racism operates in systems and institutions and it can operate invisibly without the awareness of even the people within those institutions. That just can’t happen…Think back to Jim Crow, which I think most people would say was an example of systemic racism and institutionalized racism. If a person in a restaurant, for instance, decided not to segregate – decided that they weren’t going to go along with the law – then the system would not have been able to segregate on its own. It relied on the person actually consciously making a decision to segregate or not. That person wouldn’t say “Well, I didn’t know that this would have an impact on racial groups in different ways.” They wouldn’t say that they don’t recognize that segregation impacts people differently. It wouldn’t be a surprise. It wouldn’t operate invisibly. So, it requires people in the system to actually engage in discrimination, engage in segregation and actually cause outcomes to be different.
But what Critical Race Theory is saying is that these systems operate invisibly, they operate clandestinely and you don’t see it – and even the people within them, they’re not even aware of it – and they cause racial disparities outside of that whether somebody’s intending to cause racial disparities or not. Logically, it’s not feasible. It’s not something that happens. And then if you just look beyond the logic of it – if you look at the statistics, if you look at the actual data – it just doesn’t match up. Yes, there are racial disparities. Yes, there are differences between racial groups depending on what you’re looking at but to chalk it up to racism when there are so many others variables – culture and different things that you can look at – that can explain these disparities that just aren’t looked at. So, logically it doesn’t make sense, statistically it doesn’t make sense and just from a common-sense level it doesn’t make sense.
JWK: What are some of the other variables that you believe come into play to explain some of these differences?
LJ: I think about the gender pay gap as an example that’s come up recently as far as when people take something and they try to make correlations match causations. The racial disparities operate similarly. The reason for the gender pay gap is not because women are getting paid less than men for the same job. It’s because they’re making different decisions. They’re not working as long hours or they’re not going into same careers. That accounts for the gap.
It’s the same thing for racial issues. For instance, if we’re talking about police shootings which is a hot button topic, you look at police shootings and you say “Oh, well, black people are being killed by police at a much higher rate than white people and, therefore, that’s an example of systemic racism.” But what you don’t account for is that the violent crime rates are much higher among the black population than they are among the white population. Once you account for those violent crimes rates – and the differences in culture and behavior – then those disparities disappear.
So, the disparities aren’t enough to say that racism is the absolute cause when there are other things underlying it. That’s just a couple of examples. You can look at single motherhood and the lack of fathers in households that cause cultural issues and different outcomes. You can look at study habits in schools and the involvement of parents in the home to look at disparities in grades in the schools. That’s kind of a broad brush but it’s just giving an example of the different variables that could account for the different things that just don’t get examined.
JWK: Do you think CRT is intended to be divisive?
LJ: I think it’s intentional. I think it has to be intentional. The promoters of CRT will disagree with that. They’ll try to say that it’s just intending to analyze the effects of racism on our institutions but what they do is they intentionally infuse race into every conversation and they elevate it to a point where we’re looking at different people as either victims or as oppressors. In that sense, it has to be divisive because we have to separate the world into groups of who is doing the oppressing and then who is being oppressed. And all of that is based on race. It’s based on racial heritage.
So, while they might say that they’re not intending to divisive – or they don’t intend any kind of division – it’s inherently and intrinsically divisive at its root. I mention in the book that it’s very Marxian in its approach because it does divide the world into the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the haves and have nots, the victims and oppressors and, again, it does that based on race. CRT (proponents) will say that race needs to be de-emphasized (and) we need to not treat people based on their racial heritage but turn right around and do that exact thing and divide the world into racial groups and assign value to them based on their race.
JWK: You talk about something called the motte and bailey tactic. What is that and how is that used?
LJ: The motte and bailey tactic is a very common tactic used by progressives in the political arena. Typically, what happens is they’ll promote a very controversial topic – something that’s very difficult to defend – and then, when somebody criticizes that, they’ll retreat to something more mild and pretend that that encapsulates their entire argument.
A good example of that is Black Lives Matter. We had the riots in 2020 after the George Floyd incident and Black Lives Matter causing billions of dollars in damage and causing all these problems and then the corruption and everything else going along with it. If you criticized any of that then the response would just be “Well, you don’t believe that black lives matter?” – like “We just want people to think that black lives matter.” That’s an example of that.
Where it comes from is the motte and bailey castle where the motte is this very fortified structure and the bailey is kind of this courtyard that’s more difficult to defend. So, if somebody attacks the bailey then everybody retreats to the motte where they’re much, much better protected and it’s much more fortified. It’s that exact same concept in argument where you’re out in the bailey and you’re pushing these concepts of Critical Race Theory, as an example. Critical Race Theory (says) “Racism is endemic in our society! It’s everywhere! White people have all of this privilege! Every white person is racist!” and all of these ideas. And then, when attacked, they’ll retreat to the motte and say “Oh, we just want justice” or “We just want to teach true history” or something like that. That’s an example of that – because nobody would disagree with what they’re saying in the motte, right? Nobody would disagree with teaching “true history” or promoting justice. It’s the more extreme ideas that people have a problem with.
JWK: Of course. Everyone agrees that black lives matter – but those that have usurped that principle have attached a lot of ideas that that go well beyond the basic inarguable concept that black lives matter.
LJ: Right, exactly, but once you attack those ideas then they retreat to “Well, you just don’t believe black lives matter” as if that’s the argument. It’s a very common tactic and once you recognize it you’ll see everywhere because it’s used very frequently. Even with the gender stuff that’s happening now, if you have any issue with something like drag queens sexually dancing in front of children or whatever it may be then they’ll say that you just want transgender people to have no rights or whatever. It’s a very disingenuous tactic but it’s used very frequently, particularly by progressives.
JWK: You also talk about how language is very important in the cultural discussion – particularly changes to it. For instance,the idea of a colorblind society used to be seen as an ideal to be strived for. Now, it’s almost become offensive to some people to suggest that society should be colorblind.
LJ: Yeah, again, it’s that disingenuousness because what people do is they pretend that they don’t understand what people mean when they want to be colorblind or they want to move to a colorblind society. They pretend that they mean that they literally can’t see color, that they can’t see the differences between people and they just want to ignore race completely or ignore racism and let racism flourish and all of these other ridiculous ideas.
Colton Hughes said something I thought was pretty profound. He made a comparison to somebody calling somebody warmhearted or coldhearted. It’s just not what people mean. People don’t mean it literally. It’s figurative speech. It’s a metaphor. When somebody says that they’re colorblind they don’t mean that they’re literally colorblind. It means that, yeah, they see the differences between people (but) they just don’t matter. They’re not going to make judgements about you based on your skin color or your whatever it may be.
JWK: It does seem like that today if you dare cite the Martin Luther King quote that he dreamed of a nation where people “will not be judged but the color of their skin but by the content of their character” some people are a bit taken aback. I mean they don’t really want to criticize Martin Luther King but, on the other hand, they don’t really agree with that sentiment.
LJ: Yeah, they don’t. If you bring that up as something that, you know, “Hey, Martin Luther King said this so this is what we should be moving towards,” they’ll attack you for it. They consider that to be offensive which is interesting because I think that kind of gives insight into what CRT is and what the goals of progressivism are because it doesn’t really seem like they want to fix problems. It doesn’t seem like they want to move into a society where he have racial harmony. It seems like they want to perpetuate the problems. They want to continue to cling to these issues.
Booker T. Washington noticed this even in his time. The way he put is that there were people who didn’t seem to want the patient to get well. They wanted to continue to promote the disease. They wanted to continue to make money or (gain) influence off of it. They wanted to perpetuate it indefinitely because they were benefiting from it. I think that we’re seeing that today.
I’ve made the point multiple times that CRT actually rose itself because the Civil Rights Movement had mostly accomplished what it had set out to accomplish. The CRT founders say that the Civil Rights Movement “stalled out.” They say that they needed to come in and “fix” the racism in the institutions because the Civil Rights Movement had largely failed to what it set out to do. What I see when I read that from them is that they needed a way to continue to do what they were doing before. They needed a way to continue to maintain their identity as racial activists and continue to benefit from that even when it wasn’t necessary anymore. That’s what CRT is. It’s this ideology that has (emerged) from this need to continue to benefit from racial grievance.
JWK: Just speaking off the cuff here, it almost reminds me of the Military Industrial Complex. When the Soviet Union fell and the Cold War ended, NATO and other groups that relied on that conflict for their identities and to justify their existence, instead of really embracing and supporting a free Russia seemed to want tensions to continue. I’m not saying there’s nothing left to accomplish but it seems to me that the Civil Rights Movement has largely won. Almost nobody argues with the ideals it espoused. Even beyond race, gay marriage is legal and people, for the most part, accept that as a settled issue. All of these liberal causes have been won – and virtually nobody in mainstream society has a problem with that. Just about everybody believes in equal rights for everyone. But then the Woke come along and they need new fights so they twist liberal ideals and pursue new causes that become more and more ridiculous.
LJ: Right, yeah. I think that’s spot on. There’s a concept coined by a philosopher – and I’m forgetting his name right now – but the name of it is St. George in Retirement Syndrome. Basically, the analogy is that St. George was a dragon slayer and he went out and he slayed all the dragons in the land and he was this big hero. He had all this status and fame. He slayed all the dragons! All the dragons were gone so he was able to retire – but he lost his sense of identity in retirement. He started to forget who he was. He felt like he needed to get back out there and slay dragons so that he could rediscover himself but there were no more dragons to slay. Then one day he looked out the window and guess what he sees? A dragon! So, he goes out and he slays it. He so excited! He’s slaying all of these these dragons! Dragons that bark! Dragons that quack! Dragons that have antlers! Even dragons who claim that they’re villagers! So, he’s slaying all of these fake dragons now. Eventually he’s seen swinging his sword at thin air proclaiming that it’s the largest, fiercest dragon of them all.
It’s that kind of sense of needing to perpetuate this identity and to continue to reap the benefits of it – whether it’s psychic benefits or financial benefits or whatever it may be. You have to continue to perpetuate it even if you have to create false problems to do it. You’re absolutely right. You see that with a lot of different movements. You see it with the Feminist Movement, you see it the LGBT Movement and, yeah, you see it with the race stuff. At one point there are real problems that need to be addressed but once those problems are solved people continue to perpetuate and create new problems in order to continue that path. So, yeah, I think it’s a real thing.
JWK: By and large, the media and academia seems very supportive of the Woke version of things and they have lot of influence as to what’s put into the culture and is taught to the kids. So, that’s a lot to overcome if we want change things.
LJ: It’s tough. I’ve kind of bemoaned where we go from here as far as the media goes – not just with the race stuff but with pretty much everything. Pretty much everything that comes through the mainstream media is problematic. Whether they’re outright lying or concealing or leading people in a certain direction, it’s a problem. I’ve thought about why it is the media has become this way. I think it’s just a reflection of the culture. I think that it’s supply and demand. People demand the media to be this way. They demand to have their biases stroked and to have their ideas reinforced and the media gives them that, particularly on the left (but) it’s true for the right too. I don’t want to leave the right out. I think the only way it changes is if the culture changes. I think the culture has to change.
JWK: How do you change it?
LJ: Anytime there’s a cultural change there has to be a paradigm shift. That’s not something that happens overnight. It has to be people changing their beliefs over time. It has to be a large movement – and we saw that. The Civil Rights Movement is a great example of that – as a paradigm shift moving toward racial equality where people start to change their beliefs and really change the culture and change the way society operates…It’s going to take the Church being involved. It’s going to take just regular everyday people being involved in stepping up and saying what is true and what they believe – and not being afraid…because one the things you see, John, is that people are afraid to speak out – and it’s not for any lack of reason because some people do lose their jobs.
JWK: It seems to me that it may not be so much that people need to change their beliefs as they’re afraid to speak out and express what they believe. They imagine the enemy as being larger than it actually is in numbers.
LJ: Yes, progressives are very good at that. They’re very good at making themselves seem like they’re much more numerous than they are. The activists are very, very loud and the people who just want to live their lives and just get through the next day don’t say much. Like you said, they’re afraid. They are afraid. I’ve heard from many, many people who tell me that exact thing, who say that they’re afraid to speak out or they just don’t know what to say or they don’t know how to address it because they don’t to be labeled a racist. They don’t want to be attacked. They don’t want to lose their job. And, again, that’s not for lack of reason because those things do happen. The other side is very good at bringing the mob after people who don’t tow the line. I’ve gotten plenty of that myself.
JWK: What have they done to you?
LJ: Social media attacks, mainly. I’ve done pretty well at not involving my personal life in the political realm but I’ve had plenty of social media mob attacks come after me. You know, people unhappy with the way that I say things, my ideology or the way that I present things. They just come at you and attack you, calling you names and trying to get other people to dog-pile on. It’s a pretty frequent thing but it is what it is. But, again, there’s strength in numbers. I like to point that out because a lot of times people feel isolated and that’s why they’re afraid. They don’t want to speak out because they feel like they’re the only person that would be saying this and nobody would come to their defense and then they would be on their own.
JWK: That’s why it is important to gain more presence in the media so that people can see that there are people who agree with them.
LJ: I agree. Yeah, the more people that you have that are speaking out and pushing for these sort of ideas that are pushing against the prevalent cultural ideas of Critical Race Theory and pushing for ideas like colorblindness and a post-racial society – if more people are willing to stand up and speak truth – then that creates more courage. I remember there was a video a few months ago of a ride at an amusement park or maybe it was a fair. I’m not sure. But the ride was about to fall over. Everybody around was kinda (paralyzed) by the Bystander Effect. Everybody was kinda just watching and not really doing anything. One person ran up and tried to hold it in place and once that one person ran up then all of a sudden you see another person and another person and then all of a sudden, before you know it, there’s a whole group of people there keeping that ride from falling down – but it took that first person to run up there to be that person that has that courage to stand up for what’s right for that courage to spread. That’s what it’s going to take to cause in the paradigm shift in our culture.
Everybody’s Champ. Based on one of the greatest sports comebacks of all time, Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World is set to hit theaters on April 28th. The AFFIRM Films/Sony Pictures release tells the true story of George Foreman who, fueled by anger stemming from his impoverished childhood, went on to become an Olympic gold medalist boxer and heavyweight champion of the world when he defeated the then-undefeated Joe Frazier in 1973. The next year he would lose the title to Muhammed Ali who was living out his own historic comeback via the famed Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire.
After retiring from ring, a near-death experience took Foreman from boxing ring to the pulpit. When, as a minister, he saw his community struggling spiritually and financially, he decided to mount an inspiring-but-improbable effort to regain his title when he was already 38. He went on to make history by reclaiming the champion’s belt and, at the age of 45 and twenty years after losing the title to Ali, becoming the oldest world heavyweight boxing champ in history in 1994. The promising film stars Khris Davis (Judas and the Black Messiah) as Foreman and co-stars Academy Award-winner Forest Whitaker as Foreman’s trainer and mentor Doc Broadus. You can check out the trailer below.
John W. Kennedy is a writer, producer and media development consultant specializing in television and movie projects that uphold positive timeless values, including trust in God.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11