What the hysteria over critical race theory is really all about

“critical race theory, created four decades ago by legal scholars, is an academic framework for examining how racism is embedded in America’s laws and institutions. It is just now receiving widespread attention because it has morphed into a catchall category, one used by Republicans who want to ban anti-racist teachings and trainings in classrooms and workplaces across the country.

Over the past six months, Republicans in more than two dozen states have proposed bills that aim to stymie educational discussions about race, racism, and systemic oppression in the US — potentially eliminating the conversations altogether.

It all began as racial justice protests took off across the country in the summer of 2020 and a Fox News story fashioned critical race theory as a boogeyman. Though the school of thought had been relatively obscure outside of academia, a conservative campaign was launched against it, and by September, then-President Donald Trump had signed an executive order restricting implicit bias and diversity trainings by government agencies. His exit from office didn’t put an end to the assault on critical race theory, though — it only amplified it.”

“Critical race theory emerged in law schools in the 1970s and ’80s as an alternative to the mainstream discourse and classes on civil rights law, many of which held that the best way to fight racial discrimination was to enact legal reforms. According to the doctrine of the time, when these reforms took root, they would eventually phase out racial discrimination. Critical race theorists saw this as a surface-level understanding of the role of race and racism in the law and instead posited that racism is endemic and institutionalized in the United States. For example, one legal reform can’t undo decades of housing discrimination that have kept Black people out of the housing market, nor can one bill end the health care inequities that created poor health outcomes for Indigenous communities.”

““Critical race theory is not one coherent school of thought. It’s simply an effort to confront our history of race and racism and to give us a capacity to think about what its implications are today,””

“Since March, Fox News has mentioned “critical race theory” nearly 1,300 times, according to an analysis by Media Matters. In March, Rufo, the man who spearheaded much of the outcry, declared a victory on Twitter: “We have successfully frozen their brand — ‘critical race theory’ — into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category.””

““The strategy basically takes an academic concept that’s been around for three decades and suddenly turns it into an existential crisis in American politics,” said Crenshaw. Republicans “filled it with any kind of meaning — with the worst nightmares of those who believe that the American republic has turned their backs on them, that they’re seeking to replace them, that no one cares about them,” and then created “a scare tactic around it that works because there hasn’t been much conversation and critical thinking about race in the public square.””

LC: Some critical race theory inspired trainings really have gone too far, but so does banning and demonizing an entire paradigm of intellectual thought on race. 


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