Posted: Jul 01, 2021 7:36 pm
by Seabass

Opinion | I've Been a Critical Race Theorist for 30 Years. Our Opponents Are Just Proving Our Point For Us.

Some 25 states have already enacted or are considering laws to ban teaching what they call “critical race theory” (“CRT”) in public schools, a concept that school officials around the country deny they even teach. A parents’ group in Washoe County, Nevada wants teachers to wear body cams, just to make sure. And Ted Cruz just charged that CRT is “every bit as racist as the klansmen in white sheets.”

As a law professor closely associated with the critical race theory movement for more than 30 years, I am astonished. Most academic work never gets noticed at all, and ours is being publicly vilified, even banned. While we wrote footnotes and taught our classes, did our ideas become the new orthodoxy in American society and the foundation of K-12 education, as our critics charge?


CRT is not a racialist ideology that declares all whites to be privileged oppressors, and CRT is not taught in public schools.

But over the past nine months or so, first slowly in right-wing media conversation and now quickly in state houses and even mainstream newspapers, conservative activists have branded all race reform efforts in education and employment as CRT—a disinformation campaign designed to rally disaffected middle- and working-class white people against progressive change.

If you understand what CRT actually is, though, it’s easy to see that it has nothing to do with the cartoonish picture of reverse racism that its critics depict. And, more importantly, CRT is a pretty good lens for understanding why the campaign against it has been able to spread so fast.

CRT, in the real world, describes the diverse work of a small group of scholars who write about the shortcomings of conventional civil rights approaches to understanding and transforming racial power in American society. It’s a complex critique that wouldn’t fit easily into a K-12 curriculum. Even law students find the ideas challenging; we ourselves struggle to put it in understandable terms. We embrace no simple or orthodox set of principles, so no one can really be “trained” in CRT. And if teachers were able to teach such analytically difficult ideas to public school students, it should be a cause for wild celebration, not denunciation.

The common starting point of our analysis is that racial power was not eliminated by the successes of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. That movement succeeded in ending the system of blatant segregation reflected in the “Whites Only” and “Colored” signs that once marked everyday life in America—but in its wake, in the 70s and the 80s, racial-justice reform in countless institutions was halted by old-guard resistance.