Critics of this grotesque tactic are invariably informed that they do not actually understand what critical race theory or modern “anti-racism” really are — and, as such, that they are in no position to oppose its adoption by America’s schools. But no such confusion can be alleged in this case. In Slate last week, Kendi was called forth to “explain critical race theory” for the benefit of those who don’t “know what it is.” Kendi’s explanation makes clear that the framework Deggans used in his essay on Tom Hanks is simply the application of CRT’s core structural claims to the movie industry, along with the verbatim utilization of the “racist”/“non-racist”/“antiracist” categories that Kendi himself has made famous. Want to know what critical race theory does to a person’s mind? Look no further than to Eric Deggans.

Ultimately, Deggans’s approach is a totalitarian one, from which there is no meaningful chance of escape. Had Tom Hanks elected to stay quiet, he would have been deemed guilty of inadvertently endorsing the unequal status quo. Had he rejected Deggans’s premise entirely, he’d have been deemed guilty of explicitly endorsing the unequal status quo. Having chosen to speak up in a way that tracked neatly with what he was told was expected of him, he was deemed guilty of inadequately fighting the unequal status quo. Even if he were to follow Deggans’s advice to the letter, he would still be deemed guilty of something.