What is Critical Race Theory?

There has been a great deal of pushback from a number of states against a recent addition to their educational curriculums as of late. School board meetings across the country are experiencing a record number of attendees, in which parents are expressing their concerns about this new addition to the curriculum - critical race theory. So what is this theory, where does it come from, and why do parents find it so threatening?


The origins of critical race theory (CRT) have been traced back to the early 1970s with the writings of a civil rights lawyer named Derrick Bell. He had begun to believe that much of the forward progress made by the civil rights act was being rolled back, and he wrote a great deal critiquing the American system. Many would build upon his work in order to develop CRT into what it is today. However, in order to fully understand how CRT came to be, we must first dive into a theory that predates critical race theory by nearly one hundred years - critical theory.


Critical theory is the intellectual predecessor of critical race theory. Inspired by the works of Karl Marx and his lesser-known partner Friedrick Engles, critical theory is the idea that all institutions of power were put in place for the purpose of creating and protecting the inequality between the economic classes. Those who believe critical theory believe that most systems of government, corporations, and capitalism as a whole all contribute to the inequality between economic classes. In addition, the institutions mentioned above are actively controlled by and are working for the upper class in order to enshrine their power.


Critical race theory is not unlike critical theory in many ways. In fact, it is nearly the same theory, except it features race as its idea of focus, not class.




Put simply, CRT is the idea that all of the institutions of power in the United States were created in order to foster inequality between the races and to ensure that one race would always be dominant over the others - the white race. All institutions are engrained with racism, and they are all meant to hinder the upward mobility of minorities in favor of white people. The Constitution, capitalism, corporations, the educational system, the police, all are racist institutions that should be torn down in favor of a more egalitarian society.

It is that "tearing down" of institutions that worries so many parents. The proposed addition of critical race theory to education is not just a proposal for the teaching of an idea, it is a proposal to teach an activist mindset, advocating for all students to take action in their lives in order to help fight their own "whiteness" and tear down the racist systems we have today and instate a more egalitarian government and society.


CRT is indeed a danger to society. It is an idea that will foster racism, not fight it, and it will divide the country even further if it is allowed in our school systems. It is up to the apathetic majority to actually take action. Run in local elections, get a position on a school board, city council, or county board, and ensure that no matter how hard a radical minority may try to push through a policy, they will not succeed. It is up to every one of us to look for ways in our own lives that we can help prevent critical race theory from becoming a prominent ideology in our society.


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Sources:

The ins and outs of CRT: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/subject_specific_writing/writing_in_literature/literary_theory_and_schools_of_criticism/critical_race_theory.html

CRT early origins: https://academic.oup.com/clp/article-abstract/51/1/467/366105?redirectedFrom=PDF

Critical theory: https://www.britannica.com/topic/critical-theory


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