Higher Education

Ray Carter | October 7, 2022

Critical theory generates real harm, Oklahoma physician warns

Ray Carter

As the principles of critical theories—which include Critical Race Theory, among others—have seeped out of academic settings in colleges and into workplaces and public-school classrooms, the real-world harm generated by those theories’ implementation is becoming apparent, said a local speaker who has focused on the issue.

Robert Reynolds, an Oklahoma City oncologist, said the tenets of various critical theories are in direct conflict with philosophical liberalism, which has been the dominant view held in U.S. society throughout the nation’s history as well as much of the world in recent centuries. Philosophical liberalism’s key elements include individualism, free thought and free speech, treating people equally, merit, representative government, and the rule of law.

“Those are the core ideas of our society that came out of the discourse around knowledge,” Reynolds said. “We think those things are true. So we take those ideas and then we build a health care system and a criminal-justice system. We built a social system around these things. But they’re based on the idea of objective truth—and that is racist (to critical theorists). And they’re based on the idea that language describes reality, and that is racist. And they’re based on the discourse around knowledge in the West. And then they’re based on (classical) liberalism. It’s all a system of oppression (to critical theorists), and therefore systemic racism is the fundamental organizing principle of our society.”

In a speech to attendees at an Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee luncheon, Reynolds noted that the various critical theories all share the basic premise that “we can’t know the truth about the world,” including the truth about ourselves.

Those who embrace various critical theories therefore reject the idea of objective truth, leading to claims of individuals professing “my truth” rather undeniable fact.

Critical theories also emphasize separating people into various identity groups—whether based on race, gender, sexuality, or other categories—and labeling them as dominant groups or oppressed.

Yet, at the same time, Reynolds noted adherents of critical theory also reject the reality of those categories.

“Because there is no reality, these identity groups that they talk about don’t really exist,” Reynolds said. “So, that is to say, that there really aren’t men and women, there really isn’t masculine or feminine, there isn’t black and white, or fat, or I could go on. These are ‘socially constructed identities.’ It’s an interpretation of a million possible interpretations of reality.”

Critical theory also teaches that language is “socially constructed” and not designed to communicate truth, but to instead exert power by defining reality for others.

To those who embrace critical theories, he said, “When you speak, it’s an act of oppression. You’re projecting power. You can’t know the truth so you can’t say anything true about the world.”

As a result, he said those who embrace critical theory tenets—a group that includes the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) departments at many schools and businesses—are “consumed with controlling language and narrative, because they believe it creates reality,” Reynolds said.

In many instances, he noted critical theories lead people to declare speech is “violence.”

“They’ve changed the meaning of the word ‘violence,’ or they’re trying to, so that speech is violence,” Reynolds said. “And just as you have the right to keep me from harming people physically, if speech is violence you also have the right to silence people from speaking.”

Reynolds noted that belief can lead individuals to commit true acts of violence against those who merely voice opinions with which the attacker disagrees.

When critical theory tenets are put into practice, it often results in harm even to those who preach it, he said.

Reynolds highlighted videos released by the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion department at the Los Angeles public school system in which officials informed listeners that there are no “good” or “bad” foods when it comes to personal diet. In the video, one speaker declared that her food choices were being judged “based on a false standard of health.” Another video declared that “fat phobia” is part of a “system of oppression” that creates “false hierarchies of food.” Viewers were advised to “approach food with neutrality in mind” rather than declaring some foods, like vegetables, better for your health than desserts. One speaker declared that the only bad foods are those “that contain allergens, poisons, or contaminants, or food that is spoiled or is otherwise inedible.”

“The idea that you should try to be healthy, that you should try to make good food choices, that you should try to exercise—that those are good things and what we should strive to do, it’s a false reality (to critical theorists). It’s a system of oppression,” Reynolds said.

He noted that childhood obesity and associated health problems have been on the rise, yet efforts to encourage children to embrace healthier living are rejected by those who embrace critical theory. Reynolds said that will result in real-world harm that is not merely socially constructed rhetoric. He noted one of the speakers in the Los Angeles school video was severely obese.

“I’m a physician,” Reynolds said. “She’s going to die early.”

In Denver, he noted that city officials recently announced they will allocate millions in federal COVID funds to provide $12,000 in annual “basic income” to homeless individuals. But the Denver Post reported that the homeless-aid program is “reserved exclusively for women, families, and people who are gender nonconforming or nonbinary.”

Those choices are clearly driven by embrace of critical theory concepts, and their implementation will mean some homeless people in Denver will be ignored to placate critical-theory adherents, Reynolds noted.

“The city council is going to go to a heroin addict, a schizophrenic on the street, and then they’re going to assess his identity group, and it’s going to be a white man, and they’re going to walk off,” Reynolds said. “And then they’re going to go up to a black trans person and say, ‘Here’s $12,000.’ They’re equally desperate.”

Reynolds noted that critical theories also deprive people of the understanding that they can exert control over their own lives and outcomes.

“In the West, we believe that we have agency, that I have the ability to create and control my life. By working hard, by studying hard, that I can move forward in the world and live a good life,” Reynolds said. “They believe that’s not true. That is white supremacy (to them), that idea.”

Viewing themselves as members of a socially constructed collective, Reynolds said critical theorists believe that “the world acts on them” and they have no individual role or responsibility.

“In critical theory and all these theories, the world acts on you,” Reynolds said. “It’s stamps you with an identity and then it places you in a social system that determines your outcome.”

Even as many people are harmed by embrace of critical theories, Reynolds noted that those who push for adoption of those policies simultaneously demonstrate that they do not truly believe in their philosophical underpinnings.

“Here’s how you know it’s a hustle,” Reynolds said. “The whole theory is based on the idea that truth is socially constructed, that you can’t know the truth. And then, low and behold, the DEI department says they do know the truth.”

Reynolds said one way for citizens to combat critical theory in schools and workplaces is to simply refuse to play along—and to explain why. When people are confronted with the practical reality of how systems operate under critical theory concepts, he said most people from all parts of the political spectrum want nothing to do with it.

“This is really unpopular,” Reynolds said. “When you describe this system to people, it polls about 5 percent. All of the Democrats that are our friends, are really good people that kind of support it, they don’t understand it. And when it’s explained to them, they reject it.”

[For more stories about higher education in Oklahoma, visit]

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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