A Brief Overview of Critical Race Theory

If you pay attention to American news, chances are you’ve encountered news regarding critical race theory. But what is critical race theory? Let’s find out.

What is critical race theory?

Critical race theory (“CRT”) is an academic movement made up of civil rights scholars and activists in the United States who seek to critically examine the law as it intersects racial issues. They also seek to challenge the mainstream liberal approaches to racial justice.

It should be noted that CRT is a movement that emerged as a reworking of theories present in critical legal studies with emphasis placed on race. The term “critical” in CRT means that CRT is rooted in critical theory, a social philosophy arguing that social problems are influenced and created by societal structures and cultural assumptions than by individual and psychological factors.

CRT offers the following:

– A different perspective of the world

– Helps people recognize the effects of historical racism in modern American life

– A way to examine how laws and systems uphold and perpetuate racial inequality

Major themes in CRT

1) White privilege

As discussed by CRT scholars like Lipsitz, white privilege refers to the social, economic, and political advantages experienced by white people in contrast to non-white people.

2) Social Construction

In the context of CRT, “social construction” suggests that the notion of race is a social construct, not a product of biology or genetics.

3) Internalisation

This refers to internalized racism whereby victims of racism begin to believe that they are inferior to white people and the culture of white people. This is the result of how authority and power in all aspects of society contribute to the feelings of inequality.

4) Revisionist interpretations of American civil rights law and progress

It is essentially the criticism of civil rights scholarship and anti-discrimination law. For example, Derrick Bell argued that the civil-rights advancement of black people coincided with the self-interests of white people. Another example is wherein Dudziak found that civil-rights legislation was passed not because people of colour were discriminated in the U.S., but because the U.S. wanted to improve its image in the eyes of third-world nations.