Notable & Quotable: Critical Race Theory

The pedestal for a statue, now removed, of former Chief Justice Roger B. Taney in Baltimore, Aug. 16, 2017.


Win McNamee/Getty Images

Benjamin Wallace-Wells writing for the New Yorker, June 10:

It is interesting—and slightly ironic—that critical race theory, with its invocations of structural racism, should be so central to the policy debate right now: part of its teaching is that the patterns of American society can’t be easily dislodged by a change in manners, and that if you are snapping your fingers to make the past disappear you are only doing so in tandem with the rhythms of the past.

Jeannie Suk Gersen writing for the New Yorker, June 8:

During the nationwide grappling with racial injustice that followed the murder of

George Floyd,

I saw a striking


discussion among professors of constitutional law. . . . They were debating whether much of the Supreme Court case of Dred Scott v. Sandford should be excised from constitutional-law courses. In the case, which Scott brought in federal court to assert his freedom from enslavement, the Supreme Court held, in 1857, that Scott did not have the privilege to bring the suit because, as a Black person, he could not be a “citizen” within the meaning of the Constitution.

Matthew Steilen,

a law professor at the University at Buffalo, launched the Twitter thread and advocated for editing the case down to a minimalistic page or so, to omit text that is “so gratuitously insulting and demeaning.” He wondered whether assigning that material is asking students “to relive the humiliation of [Chief Justice Roger] Taney’s language as evidence of his doctrine of white supremacy.”

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Appeared in the June 12, 2021, print edition as ‘Notable & Quotable: Critical.’