What Is Critical Race Theory? Start Here

from Wired

WHEN MY FATHER called recently and asked me to explain critical race theory (CRT) to him, I initially balked. He voted for Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020, a choice that caused a rift between us. I’ve since tried hard to reconcile Dad’s politics with what I know of him as a person.

He is a loving man and always supported my intellectual pursuits. He also knew that I’d studied race and racism in graduate school and that the issues were foundational to my dissertation and teaching at the college level. Finally, he knows that I make no apologies about my anti-racist and social justice-oriented identity, something he seems to simultaneously admire and abhor. Still, I couldn’t tell whether Dad was making an honest effort to learn about CRT, a field of study that I knew he’d never heard of until it became politicized. Was Dad truly on a path to learn, or was he just antagonizing me?

“Is this question in good faith?” I asked him. He’d said yes and explained that he wanted to help teach the concepts to a friend of his—someone I didn’t know and who, according to Dad, held extreme and unyielding views about race.

Dad next asked me to educate his friend about CRT, an invitation I politely declined in the name of self-preservation. “I’m going to have to pass on this opportunity,” I’d told him, “but your friend is free to locate the many resources that exist on the topic.” I forwarded him an article I’d written on CRT and told him to start there if he was serious about understanding my perspective.

Dad respected my decision to bow out of the discussion, but I still felt unsettled. As a white person, I firmly believe it is my responsibility to engage other white people in these discussions—especially when their politics diverge from mine. After this exchange, I began a quest for resources in the spirit of working through a dilemma that I believe a lot of allies, activists, and teachers can relate to: wanting to protect ourselves from engaging in those circular and fruitless discussions with bad-faith questions about why CRT and anti-racist goals matter, but also feeling a responsibility to guide people toward useful tools in the event that they are genuinely interested in learning about causes that have been weaponized and distorted in political discourse.

In considering my own education, I found it useful to start from the ground up.

More here.

Posted in Education, Ideas and tagged , , .

9 Comments

  1. I read the whole article, and I never saw an answer to the question on the title. I never saw the definition of the Critical Race Theory. I feel that the author talked about everything he has done with Critical Race Theory except the theory. The author answered every single question except the one in the title. Also, I see that the author had some conflict with his dad because of their opposing views when seeing the sensible society that we have become; conflicts like that one are very regular. Nevertheless, we have to understand that it should not be like that. Once, the great chef Anthony Bourdain said, “I do not have to agree with you to like you or respect you.” Since the article did not solve the question from the title, this article caught me o that on how everything has become offensive. We must understand that the fact that someone does not agree with you or voted for another candidate does not make them racist, communist, misogynist, etc.

  2. To briefly summarize this article, the author explains the critical race theory (CRT) and how this theory is being criticized and under attack. According to Britannica, the definition of the Critical Race Theory is the “intellectual and social movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour.” In other words, race is a social construct aimed to oppress the minority and is embedded in our system. In our society, race and racism are very prominent and affect almost every aspect of our everyday lives. As for the article, the author could have done a better job explaining Critical Race Theory and why it is under attack, but doing outside research can always help. I do appreciate how the author does his research on new information he wants to learn about. He watches videos, listens to activities, etc so he can learn about the unbiased perspective.
    I know friends that have opposite political views than their parents and it’s typically awkward or they have heated arguments from time to time. Honestly, in my years of education, we were not taught about Critical Race Theory enough. I’ve learned the definitions a few times, but that was it. We were not taught much about racism, but only the Civil Rights Movement, but not how it is embedded in the system. I think it’s important to teach children about racism while they’re young, so they won’t grow up with prejudice and racist views. This topic tends to be controversial and heated amongst people, but I do think it’s important. It’s up to the people to learn more about racism and the Critical Race Theory in order to actually learn how racism is embedded in the system.

  3. This article is one that I can closely relate to. My entire life the conversations my parents and I had at the dinner table relate deeply to education and social issues. In my home state, this last year the house senate proposed a bill that would ban the teaching of the 1619 curriculum, which teaches US history in close alignment to slavery and racial discrimination. The 1619 Project is quite similar to the Critical Race Theory. Over this last summer, a separate bill in Iowa was passed that bans teachers from saying or implying that America is inherently racist, sexist, homophonic, etc. in their teaching. This is an effort to promote “patriotism.” As both of my parents work in the field of education, my mother being a 5th grade teacher herself with many students who recently moved to America from out of the country, I have an understanding that being able to teach from different perspectives is important to understanding the identity of American history, politics, relations, and oneself. I see a lot of my extended family and voters in the author’s father. And as the author stated, many who are anti-CRT, know the least about it. As explained in the article, the Critical Race Theory is an action and way of thinking. As racial tensions and injustice is more apparent and discussed in society than it has ever been, education over different cultures, perspectives, and struggles is the solution to a more diverse and inclusive society. Further, knowledge on how to interact with individuals who come from different backgrounds is vital to the inclusion of all races in different fields. The article itself lists many resources to further enhance the ideas presented in the CRT. One resource I discovered is the Racial Dot Map, created by a student from the University of Virginia. Each Dot on the map represents a different person of a certain race and their location. The first thing I did was find my neighborhood in Iowa. Each dot was indeed accurate. Next, I found Seton Hall and explored the different regions of NJ. I found this map to be very interesting in how accurately it represents different cities and ideals. Urban areas are more likely to accept the CRT as more individuals are exposed to the concept through more diversity. On the other hand, in my home state of Iowa, even though I live in one of the most urban cities in the state, the state itself has a very large white population, leading to inaccurate accounts and opinions of the CRT.

  4. In my opinion, critical race theory suffers from the same problem that Black Lives Matter has, its name is can be easily manipulated. Something that people who are against Black Lives Matter usually say is that “all lives matter”. Yes, it is true, all lives do matter, but by them saying that it’s defeating the purpose of the movement. In my opinion, huge right news outlets like Fox news pushing these ideologies in order to take away from the movement, making it a right side and left side thing instead of a human rights thing. This is the same thing that critical race theory suffers from. People are seeing the name and immediately putting it off as another “liberal thing”. Critical race theory is nothing but history. Current history courses are in desperate need of a revise. American history is very biased and full of lies. Year after year, things like Christopher Columbus and the true intentions of our founding fathers are sugar coated and completely lied about. Examples like these are what inspire me to be as openly political I am. In a time where racial representation is being valued a lot, critical race theory is a step in the right direction. No matter how much it upsets them, people need to realize that the real world deserves the truth. Racism and ignorance truly beat everything. This whole situation shows that people would rather lie and keep their children ignorant instead of telling the truth. This lack of responsibility sums up the current race situation pretty well. Ignorance stems from “not knowing any better”. Instead of fixing the problem by teaching the youth what’s needed to eliminate the problem, they fight it. The article states that a main problem that people have with the situation is how critical race theory brings up politics, something that they believe shouldn’t be bought up at such a early age. In my opinion however, this is the exact problem. They’re making a situation which involves facts and what’s right and wrong into something political, this is exactly what was done during this pandemic with the mask situation.

  5. The ‘Critical race theory,’ a once-obscure academic concept, has become a fixture in the fierce U.S. debate over how to teach children about the country’s history and race relations. In short, activists believe that racial bias, intentional or not, is baked into US laws and institutions. More activists have begun to speak their voice after the murder of George Floyd and Trump’s public stance that, “they were teaching people that our country is a horrible place, it’s a racist place, and they were teaching people to hate our country.” Furthermore, recently a law in Tennesse was enforced that pertained to teachers teaching lessons that did not “make students feel discomfort, guilt or anguish because of their sex or ethnicity.” With this being such a challenging topic to navigate given that there is no right or wrong answer, there are just too many people divided by their personal ethics and beliefs.

    The Critical Race Theory is now something that is very prevalent in today’s world, specifically in schools across the United States. Tustin Unified School District, a school district in CA faced many upset parents after an assignment in her son’s English Honors class was to write about the white savior narrative in relation with their reading of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Similar to business, one person decides the ethical standpoint for the rest of the employees the way teachers have the ability to use their ethical views to change the ways lessons are taught to students who all have their own various views. In business, if the director can not properly manage the different views of their workers, stakeholders have the ability to remove him and enforce the views they want the company to exude. In the school setting, however, parents are the ones with the power since they have the option to homeschool their children or move them to a different school with beliefs in line with their own. The line is very thin in this situation due to the large number of people in the country, it would just simply be impossible to do. There is no way to engage all of the country into one style of learning, the unique experiences through understanding others’ views and beliefs are the conversations that builds a more empathetic and aware future generation.

    In Christina Wyman’s article “What Is Critical Race Theory? Start Here” she acknowledges that the problem is mainly surrounded by the fact that parents are not happy that the schools are teaching politics at such a young age. However, kids at that age are mimicking the behaviors of their parents, conversation about race in the classroom can only help raise more questions for the child to develop their own beliefs.

  6. While this article did a good job explaining the concepts around “critical race theory” I do not think the author ever gave an actual concrete explanation on what critical race theory is. It sounded interesting while reading the article, but I really did not fully understand what it actually was once I was finished reading. I think critical race theory is the implementation of the different race history in education or just in general. To educate individuals about the difference between black and whites, and teach them about black history and white history. While these races have different histories, we are all still equal at the end of the day. And since history cannot undo itself, it is important that both black and white people are informed on what both and black and white people went through back then. This will make people more well-rounded and actually allow them to have an educated opinion regarding race. It also might change a lot of people’s opinions on race as well. There are still a good amount of people who really are not fully aware of what black people went through or what white people went through, which usually causes these biased, ignorant opinions to be formed typically based of others’ opinions or stereotype. However, if more people could see the full picture, the issue regarding racism can be mitigated. I feel like black history was covered pretty well in my education structure which has allowed me to form my own opinion and beliefs of racial equality. The author definitely danced around the main topic a lot, however, I still feel like I was able to get a good understanding of she was saying.

  7. As I have heard of the concept of “critical race theory”, I was not fully aware of the principles of the theory. This article showed me that critical race theory is a way of thinking, rather than lessons learned. They stated it’s more of a verb rather than a noun, as it’s a continuous action. Critical race theory is important because the concept allows us to discuss and learn history from each other. Our country has dealt with a large amount of racism and segregation throughout the past few decades, so critical race theory allows us to learn from the adversity/struggles faced. Not only does critical race theory allow the conversation about history, but we can also learn from each other’s modern-day issues with dealings regarding race. Critical race theory is important to open conversation about the issues that have and currently are affecting our lives. We should all be educated and taught both sides of the spectrum because people of all color and races have issues and problems that should be said. We all have our opinions and perspectives, but reaching out and discussions with a diversity of people allows for well-rounded opinions. When people become disclosed to a certain group of people, it will block out opposing opinions. Critical race theory demonstrates effectiveness by allowing us to open up with new people, rather than staying in a closed community. This is a continuous step in the direction of minimizing racism in our country. America has made more racial progressions than any other country and the critical race theory is a major reason for recent progression and education. The conversation of racial history is never a bad thing and critical race theory has done a great job in popularizing the conversation that we all need and should have with our citizens.

  8. The Critical Race theory is simple terms is a “framework that can be used to theorize, examine and challenge the ways race and racism implicitly and explicitly impact on social structures”, according to Tara J. Yosso.

    Although the CRT, was a movement that began post civil rights era, it seems within the past four to five years it has been brought to light more than ever. And this is mostly due to the dividing issue of political parties and the spread of ideals through social media around the world. Although the author does not give a definitive answer on the CRT, he does implement certain methods in which the CRT should be acknowledged and used to be brought awareness in fields such as education, work, media, etc.

    When we look at the current environment of society the CRT is often unrecognized and unimplemented, I find it very hard to understand those who are in opposition to the critical race theory because the reality is that this form of analysis is very common. We can definitely see it pre-civil rights era and even now. However the difference now is that social media has sparked a new form of awareness in which people are easily able to recognize controversial issues. Yet what seems to stress the author is that the CRT is not implemented in society through formal means, especially in educational institutions.

  9. Before stating my reactions to the CRT topic, I believe this author did a great job of directing the reader for the topics he needed them to know. He includes the hyperlink for another article if the reader has no information and then continues with the assumption the person know what he was talking about. Although different to the usual article where all information is there, it is a greatly written and directed article.

    When it comes to CRT, it is a topic I didn’t have much knowledge but after reading the article, I can see that it is real and present in our society. I would like to base my comment on the comparison of CRT between Brazil, my home country and the United States because being Brazilian and living in the United States for almost five years, I can compare the two countries and I see racism inside the policies of both countries. Brazil is different in the racial economic distinction because unfortunately, the tendency is to see the white as rich and the black as poor as the racial difference goes together with financial inequality, which causes the events mentioned in the article about CRT to happen. For example, if an African-American person shows up in a very fancy and expensive restaurant, it is very likely the majority of the people eating there are white. In the United-States in the other hand, there is more presence of African-Americans in rich areas. In my point of view, the fact that there is more interaction between white and black in the United States causes racist events to happen more often, while in Brazil, where there is an economical segregation, white people live with white and black live with black, hiding the racism that is also present there.

    When the article mentions the banks opting who to give loans or not as an example of CRT, I can see similarities in Brazil. I have experienced when going into a night club or a party, the security guards being very specific in who could and who couldn’t go in and there was prejudice with African-Americans, overweight people and other characteristics.

    I loved how the article mentioned that Critical Race Theory is a verb rather than a noun because it shows it is not something unique, that only has certain characteristics. CRT is a way of life and something revolving all aspects of our society and from my experience, is not unique to the United States. When I think of a verb, I also think of action and that connects to the idea that in movements that fight against racism people need to act and sometimes it might hurt or be a struggle as we have seen in history, but it is for a greater good.

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