Critical race theory
Critical race theory is a theoretical framework in the social sciences that examines society and culture as they relate to categorizations of race, law, and power. Critics, including Richard Posner and Alex Kozinski, take issue with the theory’s foundation in postmodernism and its reliance on moral relativism, social constructionism, and other tenets allegedly contrary to individual freedom and classical liberalism.
About Critical race theory in brief
Critical race theory is a theoretical framework in the social sciences that examines society and culture as they relate to categorizations of race, law, and power. By 2002, over 20 American law schools, and at least 3 law schools in other countries, offered critical race theory courses or classes which covered the issue centrally. CRT attempts to analyze law and legal traditions through the history, contemporary experiences, and racial sensibilities of racial minorities in this country. The question always lurking in the background of CRT is this: What would the legal landscape look like today if people of color were the decision-makers? In the early 1980s, students of color at Harvard Law School organized protests in various forms to problematize the lack of racial diversity in the curriculum, as well as among students and faculty. Critics, including Richard Posner and Alex Kozinski, take issue with the theory’s foundation in postmodernism and its reliance on moral relativism, social constructionism, and other tenets allegedly contrary to individual freedom and classical liberalism. Crenshaw states that CRT was the offspring of a post-civil rights activist activism that was informed by an opposition to institutional racism that was generated by critical race theorists who did not want to be critical of race and racial justice advocates who did want to change the status quo. In addition to law, critical race Theory is taught and innovated in the fields of education, political science, women’s studies, ethnic studies, communication, sociology, and American studies.
Important scholars to the theory include Derrick Bell, Patricia Williams, Richard Delgado, Kimberlé Williams Cren Shaw, Camara Phyllis Jones, and Mari Matsuda. The theory is loosely unified by two common themes: CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people ofColor. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. In the 1980s and 1990s, numerous students boycotted and organized to develop an alternative course on race relations taught by the Director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, a well-respected, white civil rights attorney along with the nation’s leading black civil rights lawyer. The repeated refusals of Harvard Law to acknowledge the requests of students ofColor led to the self-declaration of critical race theorist as an offshoot of critical legal theory in 1987. As a field under the name Critical Race Theory, only a handful of others knew there were no new developments in critical race theories, because CRT hadn’t had any old developments, because it was made up as a name. Sometimes you gotta fake it until you make it. Crenhaw writes, “critical race theorists had to be the ones to discover ourselves to make critical race theorizing a reality.’” The theory was developed by Derrick Bell and Patricia Williams in the mid- to late 1980s as a reworking of criticallegal theory on race issues – which itself was introducing new frameworks to the legal field.