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Critical race theory

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A totally not-racist CRT protester in 2021[note 1]
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Not to be confused with CRTWikipedia monitors.

Critical race theory (CRT) is an analysis of how society views race and how it intersects with systemic institutions in the United States. This in turn became the perfect new boogeyman for the far-right to scare white people with in the early 2020s. It has also become a Republican campaigning point in many states, with five states actually banning it in schools, and others at least trying to push for the same in their own states.[2] In Florida, the people voting for it to be banned couldn't even define what it was to begin with.[3] Now, the far-right is using it to claim that any acknowledgement of white privilege is "racist" as a form of "virtue" signaling.[note 2] White Christian fundamentalists in the United States (who of course have aligned themselves with the right) say it "divides people" and is "against the gospel", alienating non-white Christians.

What it is[edit]

In academia, especially in the Humanities and Sociology, "theory" can be thought of as a lens through which one can make sense of the world. Critical Legal Studies is one such theory, where researchers review the effects of laws based on a person's wealth or status. We generally hold that the ideal Law should be one that applies to everyone equally. However, some laws are inherently biased towards or against people based on wealth; both poor and rich people are required to respect anti-vagrancy laws, but for obvious reasons, rich people tend to be mostly unaffected by such laws.

An offshoot of CLS is Critical Race Theory, swapping wealth for race. Just because a law is written in a way that is not prejudiced in regards to race doesn't necessarily mean it actually is unbiased in application. A classic example would be laws regarding crack versus powder cocaine, or most historical drug laws for that matter. Crack and powder have the same active ingredient, and while there are some actual differences in their effects,[note 3] the sentencing guidelines for each were nowhere near to being in line with these differences. No points for correctly guessing that the version more popular with Black people received harsher sentences than the version more popular with White people.

Conversely, methamphetamine, a drug mostly associated with "white trailer trash", has even harsher guidelines for punishment than crack.[4] Because apparently "E pluribus unum" is Latin for "Fuck the poor".[citation NOT needed]

The question of whether poverty or racism is the bigger issue in society does not negate the fact that both are problems that need to be solved, especially since they are often intertwined to the point where working on one tends to solve the other.


The seeds of critical race theory was developed in the late 1970s to the early 1980s by professors such as Derrick BellWikipedia (the first tenured Black professor of law at Harvard Law School)Wikipedia and other law professors such as Richard DelgadoWikipedia and Kimberle Williams Crenshaw.Wikipedia These professors emerged from the turbulent civil rights battles of the 1960s believing that the advances of the civil rights movement at the time did not, unfortunately, fully address the heart of the inequality of African-Americans. In particular, they came to see desegregation and other programs enacted during the 1960s designed to increase minority participation in various institutions meaning little to the cause of racial equality as long as whites retained full power and control over decision making processes.[5][6] Although many of the most visible problems of racism (eg "Whites Only" signs in establishments) had disappeared by the late 1970s, the proponents of critical race theory believed (not unreasonably) that racism was still very prevalent in American society, and (more controversially) that the civil rights ideology of liberal advocates of the 1950s and 1960s, that a colorblind society could be advanced using litigation and legislation, ended up largely being a failure.[6]

During the Ronald Reagan era, the legal climate shifted away from the Earl Warren court era, which was known for rulings backing civil rights causes, to a more formalismWikipedia oriented approach,[6] best exemplified by Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia and his "originalism" legal philosophy.[7] In the eyes of the critical race theorists, Reagan-era formalism had at its core a racist and white supremacist agenda bent upon undermining the gains of the liberal civil rights movement, simply because the supposed "color-blind" formalist and originalist legal frameworks that were being advocated in reality maintained a status quo that was oppressive to minorities.[6] This viewpoint was reinforced by various legal decisions in the 1980s and onward that the "race-crits" saw as oppressive to minorities. For instance, some of these professors were working on laws to regulate hate speech on campus. These laws were not only derided as "political correctness" by opponents, they tended to be struck down by courts for violating the First Amendment guarantee of free speech.[5][6]

In summary, although the principles of critical race theory are somewhat nebulous, the basic overall arc is to examine how seemingly neutral laws might have a disparate impact on minorities.[5] (The extent to which some CRT proponents have done so, however, has troubled some critics.) Law professor Douglas E. Litowitz paraphrased some of the key tenants of critical race theory, as advanced in an introductory essay to a book written by Delgado called Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, as follows:[8]

  1. Racism is "normal" in our society. Racist assumptions about minorities pervade our mind-set and are reinforced in the media and popular culture. Race is encoded not merely in our laws, but in our cultural symbols such as movies, clothes, language, and music. Our commonsense assumptions about people of color are biased - "we are all racists."
  2. Liberalism has failed to bring about parity between the races, for the simple reason that formal equality cannot eliminate deeply entrenched types of racism (sometimes called "microaggressions") which are encountered by minorities on a daily basis. Liberal solutions to affirmative action and free speech are white compromises which fail to significantly advance minority interests. Although liberalism professes to value equality, it actually prevents the radical reforms necessary to achieve true equality between the races.
  3. CRT posits an "interest-convergence theory" which holds that the dominant white culture can tolerate minority successes only when these successes also serve the larger interests of whites. Major civil rights advances occur rarely, and only in situations where whites stand to benefit as well. Every movement toward change is a struggle against the dominant white culture. People of color can only achieve limited success under the current system.[note 4]
  4. CRT issues a "call to context" which rejects the formal perspective taken by white male scholars who subscribe to the "dominant narrative" of the law, whereby the law is seen as clear and neutral. CRT advocates a situated perspective which brings out the nuances of life as experienced by historically oppressed minorities. The dominant type of legal scholarship should be countered with techniques such as storytelling,Wikipedia science fiction, sarcasm, and parody.

Naturally, these stances attracted criticism even before it became a manufactroversy in 2021. A few more populist barbs emerged on occasion in the media prior to 2021 — George Will, for instance, unsurprisingly dismissed the concept as "racial fatalism" in a 1996 column.[9] However, the ideology attracted similar criticism in academia, even from Black academics. One criticism advanced was that "race-crits" have a tendency to ignore the economic and political progress of Black Americans since the civil rights reforms of the Great Society era, and have a tendency to advance a pessimistic view of society where racism is all-pervasive, without specifying many solutions to the problem.[10] Critical race theory has also been criticized for attacking liberalism with way too broad of a brush, and for a tendency to overemphasize "storytelling" instead of the doctrinal solutions that are the foundation of legal study.[8][11]

That being said, a key difference between the modern manufacturoversy and academic criticism is that, although a few academic critics completely dismissed CRT as meritless "radical multiculturalism",[12] other critics of critical race theory acknowledged that, while they disagree with some of the more pessimistic and over-generalized aspects of CRT, they nonetheless agreed with the general concept that racism was deeply ingrained in American society, and legal scholarship should be more proactive in considering the perspectives of the disadvantaged.[8]

What it isn't[edit]

Right-wingers whenever they hear about critical race theory
We have successfully frozen their brand — "critical race theory" — into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category.
The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think "critical race theory." We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.
Christopher Rufo,[13] one of the first fearmongerers of CRT,[14] admitting the manufactroversy is a deliberately-fabricated moral panic.

Given the happenings of certain events, right-wing politicians, pundits, and white Christian fundamentalists have made CRT a major enemy in their fight against the recent wave of progressivism. This mainly involves making people think that children are being taught to hate white people, and that they're all racist.

As espoused by Republican politicians, the denouncements of critical race theory are basically a disinformation campaign, that acts as a dog whistle to signify resistance towards racial justice.[15][16] The target of critical race theory attacks certainly isn't the advanced academic-level legal framework developed at Harvard Law School.[17] In fact, a common feature demonstrated on surveys on critical race theory, and even shown in discussions with the pundits and politicians that decry it, is just how little people know about what it really is. Far from being a "bug", however, the obscurity is a key reason why the theory is being utilized by Republicans as a tool to generate outrage and anger among those that subscribe to white identity politics.[18][19][20]

In practice, the Republican-style "critical race theory" targets grade-level public school teachers, and pressures them not to bring up social justice subjects such as diversity, anti-racism, and inclusiveness. Essentially, the core of the bills is the desire to prevent discourse about racism in America's history, and much more.[21] (In October 2021, one superintendent in Texas even suggested that in order to comply with recently passed anti-CRT legislation, teachers should teach "opposing views" of the Holocaust.)[22] As advocated by Republicans, "critical race theory" laws act as "educational gag orders",Wikipedia which, at its core, violates the principles of the First Amendment guarantee to free speech,[23] and can ironically be seen as a Republican push to embrace the very sort of "cancel culture" that many of its "populist" pundits decry.[24] What makes this even more insidious is that it's a blatant attempt to hijack the intellectual development of children and turn them into useful idiots whose only purpose in life is to vote Republican and perpetuate the toxic memeplex of bigotry.[citation NOT needed]

Unsurprisingly, "critical race theory" also is being used as a flimsy excuse by some racists to demand that books written by and about people of color should be pulled from school libraries.[25] Similarly unsurprising, "critical race theory" is also being used by some bigots to target school library books that are entirely unrelated to race, but still fall afoul of the conservative culture war, such as books dealing with LGBT issues.[26] In one Tennessee county, an astroturf group deceptively-named Moms for Liberty even used "critical race theory" to bizarrely target books written about seahorses and Galileo.[27][28]

Before Republicans started pushing the critical race manufactured outrage, practically no grade level teacher was teaching the academic framework (naturally, since the framework is aimed at the graduate/postgraduate level).[29] Ironically, however, some grade school level teachers, having looked at the framework after the Republicans chose to howl about it, have chosen to incorporate elements of actual critical race theory into their classroom.[21] After all, despite the manufactured controversy, a vast majority of Americans still approve of teachers teaching about the ongoing effects of racism and slavery in the United States.[30]

I don't know what it's about, but I'm MAD AS HELL about it![edit]

In the summer of 2021, the manufactured controversy (which was an obsession with Fox News in particular)[31] led to many incidents at school boards where a select few loudmouths, egged on by critical race theory disinformation, attended meetings to nonsensically yell at school board members about the subject (at least, what they thought the subject was about), sometimes even issuing death threats or getting arrested for disorderly conduct.[32][33][30] This merely continued a trend in America of unruly school board meetings, that also was amplified by misinformation-fueled loudmouths getting outraged at school board members over face masks and other COVID-19 public health measures.

Even though teaching CRT is generally restricted to the post-graduate level at colleges due to its high reliance on abstract and complex concepts that aren't appropriate for most grade-school students, it hasn't stopped perpetrators of the moral panic from targeting about 900 school districts in the United States.[34] The effect of such targeting is not to remove something that isn't there (CRT), but to try to politicize and control the history curriculum.[34] For example, 46% of Republicans, the main perpetrators of the panic, oppose the teaching of the history of racism.[34][note 5]

In a (big) nutshell[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. The black US flag on the man's T-shirt is a pseudo-Confederate symbol indicating "no quarter given".[1]
  2. The scare quotes are necessary because the far-right's definition of "virtue" is considerably different from the definition used by rational people.[citation NOT needed]
  3. Crack delivers cocaine in a much shorter time, creating a much more intense high, which actually increases the risk of addiction and health effects. Think of it like alcohol; drinking 6 shots of vodka at once will do more damage than spreading the same amount of alcohol throughout the day.
  4. Compare and contrast the conflict thesis and Karl Marx's concept of "class struggle".
  5. After all, if children are actually educated to be compassionate critical thinkers, they'll be much more likely to never, ever vote for a Republican and banish the GOP into oblivion where it belongs.[citation NOT needed]


  1. If you see an all-black American flag, what does that mean? Social media users are touting their "no quarter" black American flags. Some say they originated with the Confederacy, but historians say that's not true. by Matt Gregory & Mia Salenetri (Published: 7:04 AM EST November 9, 2021; Updated: 8:43 AM EST November 12, 2021) WUSA9.
  2. Marisa Iati, What is critical race theory, and why do Republicans want to ban it in schools? Archived from The Washington Post, 29 May 2021.
  3. Florida Banned Critical Race Theory, But Can’t Define What It Is. Archived from Vice News on YouTube, 28 July 2021.
  4. Mandatory min penalties,
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "The Law, a New Theory Holds, Has a White Voice" by Stephanie B. Goldberg, New York Times, 1992 July 17
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 "" by Bernie D. Jones, Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal, Vol. 18 2002
  7. "Justice Scalia’s Originalism and Formalism: The Rule of Criminal Law as a Law of Rules" by Stephanos Bibas, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, 2016 August 30
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Some Critical Thoughts on Critical Race Theory" by Douglas E. Litowitz, Notre Dame Law Review, 1999 June 1
  9. "Liberalism's investment in racial fatalism" by George F. Will, Baltimore Sun, 1995, November 28
  10. "Race, E Race, Equality and the Rule of Law: Critical Race Theory quality and the Rule of Law: Critical Race Theory's Attack on the Promises of Liberalism" by Jeffrey J. Pyle, Boston College Law Review Volume 40 Issue 3, 1999 May 1
  11. Mocombe, Paul C. "AGAINST CRITICAL RACE THEORY." Ethnic Studies Review, vol. 37-38, no. 1, summer 2017, pp. 83+.
  12. "Beyond All Reason: The Radical Assault on Truth in American Law" By Daniel A. Farber and Suzanna Sherry, Oxford University Press
  13. We have successfully frozen their brand—"critical race theory"—into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category. by Christopher Rufo (12:14 PM - 15 Mar 2021) Twitter (archived from 31 May 2021 02:06:06 UTC).
  14. Republicans, spurred by an unlikely figure, see political promise in targeting critical race theory by Laura Meckler & Josh Dawsey (June 21, 2021 at 6:22 p.m. EDT) The Washington Post.
  15. "‘A dog whistle and a lie’: Black parents on the critical race theory debate" by Leslie Gray Streeter, Washington Post, 2021 December 7
  16. "What the hysteria over critical race theory is really all about" by Fabiola Cineas, Vox, 2021 June 24
  17. The GOP’s ‘Critical Race Theory’ Obsession" by Adam Harris, Atlantic, 2021 May 7
  18. "Many Americans embrace falsehoods about critical race theory" by Chris Kahn, Reuters, 2021 July 15
  19. "Tucker Admits He’s ‘Never Figured Out What Critical Race Theory Is’" by Justin Baragona, Daily Beast, 2021 November 3
  20. "The engineered conservative panic over critical race theory, explained" by Brandon Tensley, CNN, 2021 July 8
  21. 21.0 21.1 "Critical race theory bans are making teaching much harder" by Fabiola Cineas, Vox, 2021 September 3
  22. "Texas schools are being told to teach ‘opposing views’ of the Holocaust. Why?" by Francine Prose, Guardian, 2021 October 19
  23. "Educational Gag Orders: Legislative Restrictions on the Freedom to Read, Learn, and Teach", PEN America report
  24. "Report Says Critical Race Theory Bans Threaten Free Speech" by Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times, 2021 November 8
  25. "Book bans in schools are catching fire. Black authors say uproar isn’t about students." by Tat Bellamy-Walker, NBC News, 2022 Jan 6
  26. "Conservative White Parents Want the Freedom to Ban Books" by Esther Wang, New Republic, 2021 November 16
  27. "Right-wing group slams ‘inappropriate’ children’s books on seahorses, Galileo and Martin Luther King Jr", Independent Staff, Independent, 2021 September 25
  28. Mad Moms: A New Christian Nationalist Front Group Claims To Champion Parental Involvement In Public Education. Critics Say There’s A More Nefarious Agenda Afoot by Kathryn Joyce (Mar 29, 2023) Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
  29. "Teaching critical race theory isn't happening in classrooms, teachers say in survey" by Phil McCausland, NBC News, 2021 July 1
  30. 30.0 30.1 "'Terrorism and hate crimes': School boards say death threats, unruly meetings require FBI" by Erin Richards, USA Today, 2021 September 30
  31. "Fox News' obsession with critical race theory, by the numbers" by Lis Power, Media Matters, 2021 June 15
  32. "Shouting matches, arrests and fed up parents: How school board meetings became ground zero in politics" by Ryan W. Miller, USA Today, 2021 July 3
  33. "2 arrested at Virginia school board meeting on critical race theory, transgender policy" by Dominick Mastrangelo, Hill, 201 June 23
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 Study shows widespread conflict over critical race theory in schools, including in some Bay Area districts by Jill Tucker (Jan. 19, 2022) The San Francisco Chronicle.
  35. "How a Conservative Activist Invented the Conflict over Critical Race Theory" by Benjamin Wallace-Wells, New Yorker, 2021 June 18