Critical Race Theorists describe Critical Race Theory as a movement (which is strange for a theory of society) designed to reinvent the relationships between race, racism, and power in society. To do this, they begin with the assumption that race is socially constructed and racism is systemic.
“Unlike traditional approaches to civil rights, which favor incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory calls into question the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and the neutral principles of constitutional law.”
From Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, first edition (2001), by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, p. 3.
“Crits [Critical Race Theorists] are highly suspicious of another liberal mainstay, namely, rights.”
From Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, first edition (2001), by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, p. 23.
Critical Race Theorists describe Critical Race Theory as a movement (which is strange for a theory of society) designed to reinvent the relationships between race, racism, and power in society. To do this, they begin with the assumption that race is socially constructed and racism is systemic. This means that they view racial categories as social and political fictions that have been imposed by white people on people of color, especially blacks, and that the “system” upon which all of society operates on every level unjustly produces “racist” outcomes that favor whites (and minority races that adhere to “whiteness”) at the expense of people of color, especially Latinos and, even more especially, blacks. Because racism is a property of the system, which includes everything from policy to behavioral norms to manners of speech to what we consider true, racism persists even if no individual or institution acts in a racist way or holds any racist beliefs. It is the way society operates that is racist, as can be determined by the fact that there are statistical differences in average outcomes by racial category.
Critical Race Theory proceeds upon a number of dubious assumptions and by means of a variety of questionable methods, including:
- Racism is ordinary: Critical Race Theory holds that “racism is the ordinary state of affairs in society,” thus the question in Critical Race Theory is not “did racism take place?” but “how did racism manifest in this situation?” Thus, racism is relevant to all interactions and everything else that happens according to Critical Race Theory, and it is everyone’s duty to investigate, expose, and “disrupt” this racism once identified.
- Immanence of racism: As a corollary to the above, racism is believed to be immanent in society, which means hidden just below the surface and everywhere, always, according to Critical Race Theory. Therefore, all acts of racism are not to be understood as isolated incidents by individuals or institutions but as specific manifestations of a pervasive system that defines society. (This is why justice is not achieved by finding a police officer guilty; the system must be remade instead.)
- Interest convergence: Critical Race Theory holds that dominant racial groups (whites) will not help more oppressed racial groups (blacks, in particular) unless it is also in their own self-interest to do so. Therefore, racism does not go away but is just reproduced in new ways, usually ways that hide it more successfully and require more work to identify in the future (through Critical Race Theory). Therefore, racism doesn’t get better and, in a sense, gets worse over time because it gets harder to identify and call out.