Posted On August 5, 2021

On Accusations Against Voddie Baucham and Fault Lines, part 1

by | Aug 5, 2021 | Theology

On July 30th, Joel McDurmon posted a blog article titled “Voddie’s Fault Lines Worse Than Before: Fake Quotations AND Plagiarism.” McDurmon previously posted a series of videos critiquing Voddie Baucham’s book, Fault Lines, that had not captured my attention despite my having written a review. However, this particular article appeared far more serious in its magnitude. I’ve already posted some of my findings on my Twitter. However, as I’ve experienced before, publishing on Twitter often comes with a lesser ability to explain oneself fully and control the message.

In this post, I will focus on page xvi of Fault Lines, which contains the block quotation in question, and how it lines up with Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, 3rd ed., by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic. Other questions such as Baucham’s alleged plagiarism of James Lindsay, whether Fault Lines remains useful for apologetics, and the response by Baucham’s publisher, Salem Books, will have to come later given the long length of this analysis and the availability of my time. Here, I will primarily interact with Baucham and Delgado/Stefancic only.

Bottom line up front: Baucham’s misquotation and misrepresentation of Delgado and Stefancic is a serious error, not a minor formatting mishap.

The Nature of the Block Quotation

In his post accusing Baucham of misquoting critical race theory scholar Richard Delgado, McDurmon posted an image of page xvi of Fault Lines, which mostly consisted of a block quotation. McDurmon even explains in the post what a block quotation means. According to the format, everything from “Racism is Normal” to “law’s master narratives” in this image is from Delgado. Many who are reacting to McDurmon’s allegations seem to be in denial or just confused about this, so I’m going to jump in and provide images of other pages, as McDurmon is correct about the formatting.

Because I signed up for the “launch team” for Fault Lines, I was given a PDF upon pre-ordering the book. Do note, as someone may wonder if I don’t say so now, that I paid full price for the book. The “perk” if there was one was a PDF copy of the book prior to the print edition’s arrival. You’ll have to forgive the “Launch Team” watermarks in the screenshots. I’m leaving my own highlights from my reading of the book in there, as I think they’re important to see how at least one reader took the text.

The following images are from that PDF with my mark-ups from when I read and reviewed the book. The blocks of text with thicker margins on both sides are block quotes.

I can understand that someone looking only at page xvi can be confused about whether the page consists mostly of a block quotation. Hopefully, these two other images help. The block on page xv starting with “CRT recognizes that…” is no less formatted as a block quotation than the Richard Delgado block quotation on page xvi. Pay particular attention to the right-hand margin, which is indented left. The indentation indicates a block quotation. Further, I have not found any other portion of Fault Lines where this formatting with subheadings in a block quotation is utilized.

But even if this isn’t taken to be a block quotation, there are serious problems.

The Block Quotation is Misrepresentative

The sign of trouble on Fault Lines page xvi that I may have previously noticed and ignored as a formatting error is that the various footnotes attached to the block quotation jump around different page numbers in Richard Delgado’s (and Jean Stefancic’s) book, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction. However, the reality is worse than merely jumping around Delgado’s work and being confusing. Let’s walk through the problem.

Initial Sloppiness

In the first paragraph of the block quotation, we find a subheading not written by Delgado/Stefancic, “Racism is normal,” followed by verbatim words from Delgado/Stefancic, “the usual way society does business, the common, everyday experience of most people of color in this country,” without the quotation marks. If this is meant not to be a block quotation, this is a problem because the words of Delgado/Stefancic are not distinguished by quotation marks. If this is a block quotation, Delgado/Stefancic didn’t write the subheading. We cannot have it both ways.

In Delgado/Stefancic, we find the following paragraph which Baucham does not indicate is omitted.

Second, most would agree that our system of white-over-color ascendancy serves important purposes, both psychic and material for the dominant group. The first feature, ordinariness, means that racism is difficult to address or cure because it is not acknowledged. Color-blind, or “formal,” conceptions of equality, expressed in rules that insist only on treatment that is the same across the board, can thus remedy only the most blatant forms of discrimination, such as mortgage redlining or an immigration dragnet in a food-processing plant that targets Latino workers or the refusal to hire a black Ph.D. rather than a white college dropout, which stand out and attract our attention.

This here is sloppiness. But we soon get misrepresentation.

Misrepresentation

The next paragraph is given the subheading “Convergence theory.” Again, this is not a straw man but also is not from the page being cited. We then get a quotation within quotation marks:

Racism advances the interests of both white elites (materially) and working-class whites (psychically), large segments of society have little incentive to eradicate it.

Did you notice that the sentence is grammatically incorrect? That’s because Delgado/Stefancic actually said:

Because racism advances the interests of both white elites (materially) and working-class whites (psychically), large segments of society have little incentive to eradicate it. [emphasis added]

Missing “because” is rather sloppy.

Following this, we get one of the linchpin arguments of those opposing Baucham: that what we now understand to be Baucham’s explanation of the above sentence is a misrepresentation. (By the way, all block quotations from here on out contain original emphasis.)

This means whites are incapable of righteous actions on race and only undo racism when it benefits them; when their interests “converge” with the interests of people of color.

Several points need to be made here:

  1. From directly above the block quotation, the overall context here is what Richard Delgado believes are “the four key presuppositions” of CRT. It doesn’t matter here that Ashleigh Shackelford said “All white people are racist.” It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen videos of white people at CRT protests apologizing and prostrating themselves for the crime of being white. This is a representation of Richard Delgado alone (oddly omitting Delgado’s co-author and wife, Jean Stefancic).
  2. We now know that Baucham stated during a speech at a church on January 31st of this year that he asserted very specifically that Delgado used the word “righteous,” and indeed Delgado did not. The word appears nowhere in Critical Race Theory: An Introduction. Baucham also spoke on January 27th and made similar emphasis upon “righteous,” but he wasn’t as specific in attributing it to Delgado.
  3. The word “righteous” has a particular theological meaning to Baucham’s readers. But without any examples of how Delgado and Stefancic understand the term “righteous,” because they never wrote it, it is improper to use such a strong theological term to explain what they mean.
  4. Delgado and Stefancic provided their own elucidation of their sentence in the book as follows:

    Consider, for example, Derrick Bell’s shocking proposal (discussed in chapter 2) that Brown v. Board of Education—considered a great triumph of civil rights litigation—may have resulted more from the self-interest of elite whites than from a desire to help blacks.

    So in fact, Delgado/Stefancic illustrate how underlying incentive to eradicate racism works (or does not work). This was not a soteriological declaration, but Baucham asserts that it is.

  5. We now have Delgado’s reaction to this, thanks to a writer from Faithfully magazine asking the question:

    I think the writer whose work you are referring to was confusing me with someone else or just making things up, either of which is a bad idea when you are writing for an audience that values integrity and truth-telling!

    Nicola A. Menzie of Faithfully writes further:

    As for Baucham’s false assertion that CRT paints whites as being “incapable of righteous actions on race,” Delgado pointed to several white individuals who disprove the peculiar claim, including his own wife, and the white legal scholar Alan Freeman, “one of the earliest, and best, of the race-crits.”

    He noted that “[m]any of the early abolitionists were white, as were many of the Freedom Riders, Mississippi Summer volunteers” and that “[h]istorian Peter Irons, author of Justice at War, was the one who uncovered the military’s lies that led to Japanese WWII internment and an apology and reparations to the victims of it.”

It could not be more clear that Baucham’s sentence misrepresents Delgado and Stefancic.

Departing Delgado/Stefancic’s List

The third paragraph of the block quotation contains another subheading—“Anti-Liberalism:”—followed by a verbatim quote of Delgado/Stefancic without quotation marks. (Again, I must ask Baucham’s defenders, is this supposed to be a block quotation or not?) This quote, as stated in Baucham’s footnote, came from page 3 of Delgado/Stefancic rather than pages 8–11. But why the departure?

Pages 8–11 of Critical Race Theory contain a section called “F. Basic Tenets of Critical Race Theory.” I’ll summarize them here. Quotation marks indicate quotes from Delgado/Stefancic.

  • “First, racism is ordinary, not aberrational—’normal science.’ the usual way society does business, the common, everyday experience of most people of color in this country.” Baucham covered this one.
  • “Second, most would agree that our system of white-over-color ascendancy serves important purposes, both psychic and material, for the dominant group.” Baucham covered this as well but misrepresented Delgado and Stefancic in doing so.
  • “A third theme of critical race theory, the ‘social construction’ thesis, holds that race and races are products of social thought and relations.” In other words, races are the product of societal dynamics, not genetics, and can change independently of genetics. On page 88, Delgado and Stefancic note, “Irish, Jews, and Italians were considered nonwhite—that is, on a par with African Americans. Over time, they earned the prerogatives and social standing of whites by a process that included joining labor unions, swearing fealty to the Democratic Party, and acquiring wealth, sometimes by illegal or underground means.” Baucham skipped this.
  • The fourth element Delgado and Stefancic cover in this list is “intersectionality and antiessentialism.” Baucham addresses intersectionality on the page that follows, but he skips over this when putting forth a list supposedly constructed by Delgado.
  • “A final element concerns the notion of a unique voice of color.” Baucham presents this in the final section which contains the “forward knowledge” quote that has become the second linchpin of his present woke critics. We’ll address this in a moment.

Recall that Baucham opened the section in question with this introduction:

According to Richard Delgado, the worldview of CRT is based on four key presuppositions:

In sum, Baucham presents this list on page xvi of Fault Lines has having been constructed by Delgado, and yet it’s not Delgado’s list! In the third item of Baucham’s list, he’s gone back to a different page, outside of Delgado’s list, to import it in. He also skips over one item in Delgado’s list. Baucham is free to state that CRT “questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.” But Delgado didn’t put this in his list of tenets. It is improper to insert this into a list and then imply by block quotation—or just subheadings if you still want to run with that—that Delgado made the list, effectively stating that Delgado would says, “these are the four key presuppositions of critical race theory.” (By the way, the term “presupposition” also appears nowhere in Delgado/Stefancic.)

“the way black people forward knowledge”

Let me set the stage here by quoting the next paragraph of Baucham in question in full.

Knowledge is Socially Constructed: Storytelling/Narrative Reading is the way black people forward knowledge vs. the Science/reason method of white people. Minority status, in other words, brings with it a presumed competence to speak about race and racism. The “legal storytelling” movement urges black and brown writers to recount their experiences with racism and the legal system and to apply their own
unique perspectives to assess law’s master narratives.

The final two sentences of this paragraph, starting with “Minority status,” are verbatim from Delgado/Stefancic. Again, we have a consistency problem if we’re going to argue that we’re not looking at a block quotation.

More importantly, we get the second linchpin of Baucham’s woke critics: the “forward knowledge” sentence. Let’s examine the context of the verbatim quote in Delgado/Stefancic:

A final element concerns the notion of a unique voice of color. Coexisting in somewhat uneasy tension with antiessentialism, the voice-of-color thesis holds that because of their different histories and experiences with oppression, black, American Indian, Asian, and Latino writers and thinkers may be able to communicate to their white counterparts matters that the whites are unlikely to know. Minority status, in other words, brings with it a presumed competence to speak about race and racism. The “legal storytelling” movement urges black and brown writers to recount their experiences with racism and the legal system and to apply their own unique perspectives to assess law’s master narratives. This topic, too, is taken up later in this book.

At the outset, Delgado/Stefancic are not exclusively talking about “black people” but rather many non-white races. Second, it is an oversimplification at best.

In Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, the term “science” appears 12 times, and  the term “reason” and forms thereof—e.g. “reasoning”—appear 32 times. The closest we get to this concept of “the Science/reason method of white people” appears as follows on page 92:

Indeed, one aspect of whiteness, according to some scholars, is its ability to seem perspectiveless or transparent. Whites do not see themselves as having a race but as being, simply, people. They do not believe that they think and reason from a white viewpoint but from a universally valid one—“the truth”—what everyone knows. By the same token, many whites will strenuously deny that they have benefited from white privilege, even in situations like the ones mentioned throughout this book (golf, summer jobs, extra-credit assignments, merchants who smile).

If we look at this fairly, we have a positive side and a negative side. On the positive, some CRT scholars say minorities have a particular ability to tell stories to help white people understand their perspectives. On the negative, CRT scholars say white people believe they engage in objective reason without the influence of race and do not receive societal privileges on account of their race. It’s not hard to see how someone who holds to CRT could, in fact, say that white culture has an overemphasis on reason and science. In fact, as Neil Shenvi pointed out in his response, the Smithsonian has gone this far by means of an infographic. But again, the context of this page of Fault Lines is Delgado, and this black storytelling versus white reason and science dichotomy is an oversimplification of what Delgado writes.

Here’s the weird thing: Baucham does a good job interpreting this very same “Minority status” sentence elsewhere in Fault Lines. On pp. 92–93, we read:

It would be more accurate, though, in light of the broader assumptions of the Critical Social Justice movement to use the term “minority gnosticism,” since the same argument is applied to all “oppressed minorities.” In fact, it is their “oppressed” status that, according to CSJ, gives these groups their special knowledge. This is a central tenet of Critical Race Theory. “The voice-of-color thesis,” writes Richard Delgado, “holds that because of their different histories and experiences with oppression, black, American Indian, Asian, and Latino writers and thinkers may be able to communicate to their white counterparts matters that the whites are unlikely to know.” Thus, according to CRT, “Minority status . . . brings with it a presumed competence to speak about race and racism.” This makes sense, since “Critical Race Theory builds on the insights of two previous movements, critical legal studies and radical feminism, to both of which it owes a large debt.” Specifically, the debt CRT owes to radical feminism is the towering influence of standpoint epistemology, the hallmark of Ethnic Gnosticism.

This here is much more accurate and fair, making the “forward knowledge” sentence all the more unnecessary.

Conclusion

As is prone to happen on social media, discussions have been all over the place. Assertions get ignored because of where they came from, loyalty to one’s own side becomes a punching bag, and factual findings get mixed up with the assumption of motive because we all know people’s attention spans are limited and we have to get our point across quickly.

My point here is this: even ignoring whether the “forward knowledge” quote is in fact plagiarized from James Lindsay, and dismissing whether the block of text in question is a block quotation or a series of subparagraphs, the content of this text is misrepresentative of Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic. Whether the general assertions reflect other critical race theorists does not matter because the block of text is about what Delgado says are the “presuppositions” of the “worldview of CRT.”

The burden to correct these errors—or to correct findings such as what I have found here—belongs jointly to Voddie Baucham and Salem Books. Unfortunately, we have now seen a strong indicator that this will not occur.

Lord willing, I will address at least the plagiarism allegation and the reaction by Salem Books in part 2.

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