Key Essentials of Critical Race Theory

What is critical race theory?

Critical race theory (CRT) is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. It examines how the legacy of slavery and segregation in the US is embedded in modern-day legal systems and policies. And is the idea that racism is not a matter of individual bigotry but is systemic in America.

“The problem is not bad people, the problem is a system that reproduces bad outcomes,” says Mari Matsuda, a law professor at the University of Hawaii – an early developer of critical race theory.

What does CRT tell us?

  1. The theory interrogates the role of race and racism in society. It critiques how institutionalized racism perpetuates a racial caste system that relegates people of color to the bottom tiers.
  2. critical race theorists say they are mainly concerned with institutions and systems.
  3. Most critically, critical race theory recognizes that racism is not a relic of the past.
  4. Instead, it acknowledges that the legacy of slavery, segregation, and the imposition of second-class citizenship on Black Americans and other people of color, continues to permeate the social fabric of American society.
  5. Critical race theorists acknowledge the stark racial disparities that have persisted in the United States despite decades of civil rights reforms, and they raise structural questions about how racist hierarchies are enforced, even among people with good intentions.

Who created critical race theory?
Derrick Bell, a pioneering legal scholar who died in 2011, spent decades exploring what it would mean to understand racism as a permanent feature of American life. He is often called the godfather of critical race theory, but the term was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw – a law professor at the U.C.L.A. School of Law and Columbia Law School. – in the 1980s.

Origin of CRT

CRT’s origin is unique. It finds its genesis steeped in two movements—critical legal studies (CLS) and radical feminism—and began in the mid-1970s.

The Five Tenets of CRT
There are five major components or tenets of CRT:

(1) the notion that racism is ordinary and not aberrational;

(2) the idea of an interest convergence;

(3) the social construction of race;

(4) the idea of storytelling and counter-storytelling; and

(5) the notion that whites have actually been recipients of civil rights legislation.

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