Critical Race Theory: First Day

one critique is that it uncovers what exists but not how we put it into action

The question — what is my race:

what the students said:

  • multicultural —
  • EuroAmerican White Mutt
  • African American or Black — the more I read and the workd I do in my writing — am I Black or am I African American. Because I was born here — I am Black. There is no understandings of being African. I am Black.
  • Latina, but if you ask me more — Mexican American
  • I identify as White… I think I am more regional based – New England
  • I am White — it doesn’t mean anything to me where my family came from in Europe. Until my grandfather left Boston, MA — my family had lived there for 100’s of years.
  • White — German
  • White/Caucasian — Norwegian — never ventured out

How did you know you were your race?

Questions to Consider:

  • What role does race play in your life? (i.e., friendships, community, places you go, activities/hobbies)
  • Are your daily experiences filtered through a racial lens? (i.e., is race a conscious aspect in what you do? How so?
  • For general discussion: Students will be asked to provide specific examples.
  • What is race? How would you define it?

Definitions of Race

  • Winant (2000): An unstable and “decentered” complex of social meanings constantly being transformed by political struggle; A concept that siginifies and symbolizes sociopolitical conflicts and interests in reference to different types of human bodies.
  • Shuford (2001): A construct (or set of normalized practices) for defining and identifying people by socially imposed racial categories, and allocating social, economic, and cultural position.
  • Kornblum (as cited in Muir 1993): An inbreeding of populations that develops distinctive physical characteristics that are hereditary.

What is Critical Race Theory?

“Racism has been a normal daily fact of life in society and the ideology and assumptions of racism are ingrained in the political and legal structures as to be almost unrecognizable. Legal racial designations have complex, historical and socially constructed meanings that insure the political superiority of racially marginalized groups;

(2) As a form of oppositional scholarship, CRT challenges the experience of White European Americans as the normative standard; CRT grounds its conceptual framework in the distinctive contextual experiences of people of color and develop through the use of literary narrative knowledge and story-telling to challenge the existing social construction of race; and

(3) CRT attacks liberalism and the inherent belief in the law to create an equitable just society. CRT advocates have pointed out the irony and the frustrating legal pace of meaningful reform that has eliminated blatant hateful expressions of racism, yet, kept intact exclusionary relations of power as exemplified by the legal conservative backlash of the courts, legislative bodies, voters, etc., against special rights for racially marginalized groups (Bell, 1988; Crenshaw et al.,

1995; Delgado, 1987; Matsuda, 1987).” (p. 261).

Lynn, M., & Parker, L. (2006). Critical race studies in education: Examining a decade of research on U.S. schools. The Urban Review, 38(4), 257-290.

How did the readings define critical race theory?

What were the core tenets of Critical Race Theory?

According to Matsuda, Lawrence, Delgado and Crenshaw (1993), there are six unifying themes that define the movement.

1. CRT recognizes that racism is endemic to American life.

2. CRT expresses skepticism toward dominant legal claims of neutrality, objectivity, colorblindness, and meritocracy.

3. CRT challenges ahistoricism and insists on a contextual/historical analysis of the law … Critical race theorists … adopt a stance that presumes that racism has contributed to all contemporary manifestations of group advantage and disadvantage.

4. CRT insists on recognition of the experiential knowledge of people of color and our communities of origin in analyzing law and society.

5. CRT is interdisciplinary.

6. CRT works toward the end of eliminating racial oppression as part of the broader goal of ending all forms of oppression (p. 6).

(p. 261)

Lynn, M., & Parker, L. (2006). Critical race studies in education: Examining a decade of research on U.S. schools. The Urban Review, 38(4), 257-290.


From handout:

What Is Critical Race Theory?

  • A collection of activists and scholars interested in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001, p. 2)
  • Embraces a movement of eft scholars, most of them scholars of color, situated in law schools, whose work challenges the ways in which race and racial power are constructed and represented in American legal culture and, more generally, in American society as a whole (Crenshaw, Gotanda, Peller & Thomas, 1995).
  • A body of legal scholarship, a majority whose authors are both existentially people of color and ideologically committed to the struggle against racism, particularly as institutionalized in and by the law (Bell, 1995).
  • A major goal of CRT is the elimination of racial oppression as part of the larger goal of eradicating all forms of oppression (Tate, 1997, p. 234).
  • Bell, D. (2005). Who’s afraid of critical race theory. In J. Stefancic & R. Delgado, The Derrick Bell Reader (pp. 79-84). New York: New York University Press.
  • Crenshaw, K., Gotanda, N., Peller, G., & Thomas, K. (Eds.), Critical Race Theory: Key Writings Formed the Movement (pp. 20-29). New York: The New York Press.
  • Delgado, R. & Stefancic, J. (2001). Critical Race Theory: An Introduction. New York: New York University Press.
  • Tate IV, W. F. (1997). Critical race theory and education: History, theory, and implications. Review of Research in Education, 22, pp. 195-247.