5.1 | critical theory + race = CRT
V | CRITICAL RACE THEORY
We know that Critical Theory divides the world into two groups: oppressed and oppressors. The goal of CT is to overthrow and dismantle power structures that are deemed oppressive.
Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a framework and approach to race based on the worldview of Critical Theory. CRT rose to prominence around the mid-1970s. Derrick Bell, Richard Delgado and Kimberlé Crenshaw are some of its more well-known proponents. In 1989, Delgado and Jean Stefancic wrote what has come to be the seminal work on CRT, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, currently in its third edition. They profess that “racism is ordinary, not aberrational—‘normal science,’ the usual way society does business, the common, everyday experience of most people of color in this country” (Delgado & Stefancic 2017, 8).
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The UCLA School of Public Affairs defines CRT this way:
CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color. CRT also rejects the traditions of liberalism and meritocracy. Legal discourse says that the law is neutral and colorblind, however, CRT challenges this legal “truth” by examining liberalism and meritocracy as a vehicle for self-interest, power, and privilege. (UCLA School of Public Affairs | Critical Race Studies (2009, November 4).
The Encyclopaedia Britannica calls CRT “the view that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist and that race itself, instead of being biologically grounded and natural, is a socially constructed concept that is used by white people to further their economic and political interests at the expense of people of color” (Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016, June 9)
A detailed definition of Critical Race Theory includes five main topics. My description of these topics is taken from multiple sources listed below.
First, racism is normal. Racism is an invisible norm, and white culture and whiteness are the standard by which other races are measured. Racism is the way that society works. 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?” CRT asserts that racism is relevant to all interactions, and it is everyone’s duty to investigate, expose, and disrupt this racism once identified.
Second, racism is constructed and expanded by social groups (communities, groups, teams, friendships). Because of this, the doctrine of inclusion is the only way to bring about true social justice.
Third, the unique perspective and voice of victims of oppression and their personal stories are a primary learning tool. Subjective experience and the subjective truths of minority groups are crucial to understanding oppression. Minority status brings with it a presumed competence to speak about oppression. Those who are in the majority are disqualified to speak on the experiences, issues, and perspectives of those in the minority.
Fourth, all forms of thought, knowledge and communication – known collectively as discourse – create our experience of the world around us. Discourse determines what can or can’t be said about any given topic. Power structures in society control most discourse. This control and the discourse that stems from it must be used to analyze race relationships.
Fifth, oppression is systemic, meaning that all current economic, social, and institutional actions and beliefs systematize and perpetuate an unequal distribution of privilege, resources, and power between oppressor groups and oppressed groups. Racism is ingrained in the fabric of society. An individual racist need not exist for racism to be pervasive throughout society. Racism is hidden below the surface and everywhere all the time. Racism is a foundational component of how society works. Therefore, all acts of racism are to be understood not as isolated incidents by individuals or institutions but as specific examples of a system that underpins all of society. For instance, justice is not achieved by finding an individual police officer guilty; the policing system must be remade instead.
The laws and policies that exist in society are also rooted in an oppressive history and are politically motivated. These societal rules are primarily created to advance the interests of dominant racial and social groups. Dominant groups – white, cisgender, heterosexual, Christian, etc. – are incapable of righteous actions and only undo oppression when it benefits them, when their interests “converge” with the interests of oppressed groups. (1, 2, 3, 4)
Almost since its beginning, CRT has been highly controversial and frequently politicized. In recent years, many lawmakers have sought to restrict the teaching of CRT in primary and secondary schools. Advocates of CRT say that any attempt to restrict CRT is proof that the goal of such restrictions is to silence and prevent discussions of equality, justice, and racism.
As with their perspectives on justice, supporters of Critical Theory, critical justice and CRT often communicate as if their worldview, definition of injustice and proposed solutions to inequality, racism and other social issues are the only antidote for the issues of society. If we do not share their worldview or approaches, not only are we misinformed, but we are their enemy. We are not just their enemy though; we are enemies of cultural and societal progress. If their goals do not become our goals, our intention must certainly be to maintain systemic oppression.
CRT is called a theory on race, but it is much broader than that. Critical Race Theory is an approach to “isms.” Racism is one of those, but the tools of CRT are meant to equip us to overthrow any ism – not just racism. CRT is like a toolbox full of tools meant to help us address the problems society faces. Here is a non-comprehensive list of isms that CRT attempts to address.
Ableism = systemic and systematic discrimination against alter-abled or “disabled” people.
Adultism = systemic and systematic prejudice and discrimination against young people and children.
Ageism = systemic and systematic discrimination against persons of an older age group.
Anti-Semitism = systemic and systematic prejudice and discrimination towards Jewish people.
Classism = systemic and systematic prejudice and discrimination based on social or economic class.
Cisgenderism = systemic and systematic discrimination against transgender people.
Colorism = a form of systemic and systematic prejudice or discrimination in which people are treated differently based on the social meanings attached to favoring lighter skin color (distinct from racism but derived from white supremacy)
Colonialism = in the U.S. context, this is a form of systemic and systematic prejudice and discrimination against Indigenous people or Native Americans (like other forms of oppression, it intersects with racism and other isms).
Ethnocentrism = systemic and systematic prejudice or discrimination against people who do not speak English as a first language.
Heterosexism = systemic and systematic prejudiced attitude or discriminatory practices against homosexuals and queer-identified people.
Jingoism = an extreme form of patriotism that often calls for violence towards people who were not born in the U.S.
Lookism = systemic and systematic discrimination or prejudice based on a person’s physical appearance, often based on the media’s presentation and definition of beauty.
Nativism = the policy and attitude of protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of immigrants.
Racism = systemic and systematic discrimination or prejudice based on race; the idea that whiteness is superior and therefore has the right to dominate another race or races.
Religious imperialism = systemic and systematic prejudice or discrimination against people who practice religions other than Christianity.
Sanism = a form of systemic and systematic discrimination and oppression based on a diagnosis or the perception of someone having been diagnosed with a psychiatric condition.
Sexism = systemic and systematic prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination against women on the basis of gender.
Sizeism = systemic and systematic prejudice or discrimination based on a person’s size or body shape.
Before we continue, I must admit that I do not possess the worldview of Critical Theory, in case that wasn’t clear by now. You may remember from the discussion of social justice that I am white, cisgender, heterosexual, and Christian. According to CT, this puts me firmly in the camp of the oppressor. Therefore, anything I would have to say about justice, racism or social issues must be immediately disqualified – according to critical theorists.
I acknowledge that a CT worldview prevents me from speaking about these issues. I also acknowledge that I possess a different worldview, one that requires me to speak about these issues. I can be guided only by the worldview that I possess, not another.
I seek to represent and perpetuate a Kingdom worldview. That is my personal conviction. You may feel in reading my thoughts on CRT, CT, justice or the elephants to come that I am misguided. And that could be true. I am not an all-knowing, all-comprehending sage. I am a human being trying to work all these things out too.
Jesus said in John 16:13, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.” I want God to show me his truth, absolute truth. My prayer and belief is that he will do that for all of us.
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” // Matthew 7:7
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Wow! So many (isms) I didn't know existed. #teamkingdonworldview