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Critical Race Theory (CRT) is an academic discipline focused upon the intersection of race,

law and power.

Although no set of canonical doctrines or methodologies defines CRT, the movement is
loosely unified by two common areas of inquiry. First, CRT has analyzed the way in which
white supremacy and racial power are reproduced over time, and in particular, the role that
law plays in this process. Second, CRT work has investigated the possibility of transforming
the relationship between law and racial power, and more broadly, the possibility of achieving
racial emancipation and anti-subordination.[1]
Appearing in US law schools in the mid- to late 1980s, Critical Race Theory inherited many
of its political and intellectual commitments from civil rights scholarship and Critical Legal
Studies, even as the movement departed significantly from both. Scholars like Derrick Bell
applauded the focus of civil rights scholarship on race, but were deeply critical of civil rights
scholars' commitment to colorblindness and their focus on intentional discrimination, rather
than a broader focus on the conditions of racial inequality.[2] Likewise, scholars like Patricia
Williams, Kimberl Williams Crenshaw and Mari Matsuda embraced the focus on the
reproduction of hierarchy in Critical Legal Studies, but criticized CLS scholars for failing to
focus on racial domination and on the particular sources of racial oppression.[3]


1 Key theoretical elements

2 Applications

3 Criticisms

4 Offshoot fields

5 Notes

6 References

[edit] Key theoretical elements

Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic have documented the following major themes as
characteristic of work in critical race theory:

A critique of liberalism: CRT scholars favor a more aggressive approach to social

transformation as opposed to liberalism's more cautious approach, favor a race
conscious approach to transformation rather than liberalism's embrace of color

blindness, and favor an approach that relies more on political organizing, in contrast to
liberalism's reliance on rights-based remedies.

Storytelling/counterstorytelling and "naming one's own reality"--using narrative to

illuminate and explore experiences of racial oppression.

Revisionist interpretations of American civil rights law and progresscriticizing civil

rights scholarship and anti-discrimination law.

Applying insights from social science writing on race and racism to legal problems.

Structural determinism, or how "the structure of legal thought or culture influences its

The intersections of race, sex, and class--e.g., how poor Latinas' experience of
domestic violence needs distinctive remedies.

Essentialism and anti-essentialismreducing the experience of a category (like gender

or race) to the experience of one sub-group (like white women or African-Americans).

Cultural nationalism/separatism, Black nationalism--exploring more radical views

arguing for separation and reparations as a form of foreign aid.

Legal institutions, critical pedagogy, and minority lawyers in the bar.

As a movement that draws heavily from critical theory, critical race theory shares many
intellectual commitments with CLS and critical theory, feminist jurisprudence, and
postcolonial theory.
Recent developments in critical race theory include work relying on updated social
psychology research on unconscious bias, to justify affirmative action; and work relying on
law and economics methodology to examine Structural Inequality and discrimination in the

[edit] Applications
Scholars in Critical Race Theory have focused with some particularity on the issues of hate
crime and hate speech. In response to the US Supreme Court's opinion in the hate speech case
of R. A. V. v. City of St. Paul (1992), in which the Court struck down an anti-bias ordinance as
applied to a teenager who had burned a cross, Mari Matsuda and Charles Lawrence argued
that the Court had paid insufficient attention to the history of racist speech and the actual
injury produced by such speech.[5] The Court has since adopted this historicist position in
Virginia v. Black (2003), finding that cross-burning with an intent to intimidate can be legally
prohibited.[citation needed]
Critical race theorists have also paid particular attention to the issue of affirmative action.
Many scholars have argued in favor of affirmative action on the argument that so-called merit
standards for hiring and educational admissions are not race-neutral for a variety of reasons,

and that such standards are part of the rhetoric of neutrality through which whites justify their
disproportionate share of resources and social benefits.[6]

[edit] Criticisms
Many mainstream legal scholars have criticized CRT on a number of grounds, including some
scholars' use of narrative and storytelling, as well as the critique of objectivity adopted by
critical race theorists in connection with the critique of merit. Daniel Farber and Suzanna
Sherry have argued that critical race theory, along with critical feminism and critical legal
studies, has anti-Semitic and anti-Asian implications, has worked to undermine notions of
democratic community and has impeded dialogue.[7] Judge Richard Posner of the United
States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago has label[ed] critical race
theorists and postmodernists the lunatic core of radical legal egalitarianism.[8] He writes,
What is most arresting about critical race theory is turns its back on the Western
tradition of rational inquiry, forswearing analysis for narrative. Rather than marshal logical
arguments and empirical data, critical race theorists tell stories fictional, science-fictional,
quasi-fictional, autobiographical, anecdotal designed to expose the pervasive and
debilitating racism of America today. By repudiating reasoned argumentation, the storytellers
reinforce stereotypes about the intellectual capacities of nonwhites.[9]
Judge Alex Kozinski, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, writes that Critical
Race Theorists have constructed a philosophy which makes a valid exchange of ideas between
the various disciplines unattainable.
The radical multiculturalists' views raise insuperable barriers to mutual understanding.
Consider the Space Traders story. How does one have a meaningful dialogue with Derrick
Bell? Because his thesis is utterly untestable, one quickly reaches a dead end after either
accepting or rejecting his assertion that white Americans would cheerfully sell all blacks to
the aliens. The story is also a poke in the eye of American Jews, particularly those who risked
life and limb by actively participating in the civil rights protests of the 1960s. Bell clearly
implies that this was done out of tawdry self-interest. Perhaps most galling is Bell's
insensitivity in making the symbol of Jewish hypocrisy the little girl who perished in the
Holocaust as close to a saint as Jews have. A Jewish professor who invoked the name of
Rosa Parks so derisively would be bitterly condemned and rightly so.[10]
Henry Louis Gates Jr. has written a critical evaluation of CRT.[11] Gates emphasizes how
campus speech codes and anti-hate speech laws have been applied contrary to the intentions
of CRT theorists: "During the year in which Michigan's speech code was enforced, more than
twenty blacks were charged - by whites - with racist speech. As Trossen notes, not a single
instance of white racist speech was punished." Gates gives several further examples such as
this one: "What you don't hear from the hate speech theorists is that the first casualty of the
MacKinnonite anti-obscenity ruling was a gay and lesbian bookshop in Toronto, which was
raided by the police because of a lesbian magazine it carried."

[edit] Offshoot fields

Within Critical Race Theory, various sub-groupings have emerged to focus on issues that fall
outside the black-white paradigm of race relations as well as issues that relate to the

intersection of race with issues of gender, sexuality, class and other social structures. See for
example, Critical Race Feminism (CRF), Latino Critical Race Studies (LatCrit)[12] Asian
American Critical Race Studies (AsianCrit) and American Indian Critical Race Studies
(sometimes called TribalCrit).
Critical Race Theory has also begun to spawn research that looks at understandings of race
outside the United States.[13]

[edit] Notes
1. ^ Gotanda et al, Critical Race Theory: Key Writings That Formed the Movement, New
Press (1995), Introduction.
2. ^ Bell in Brown v. Board of Education and the Interest-Convergence
DilemmaHarvard Law Review, Vol. 93, 1980
3. ^ Patricia Williams, Alchemy of Race and Rights: Diary of A Law Professor (Harvard
U Press, 1992); Kimberle Crenshaw, Race, Reform and Retrenchment: Transformation
and Legitimation in Anti-Discrimination Law, 101 Harv. L. Rev. 1331 (1988); Mari
Matsuda, Looking to the Bottom: Critical Legal Studies and Reparations, 22 Harv.
Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Rev. 323 (1987).
4. ^ Jerry Kang and Mazharin Banaji, Fair Measures: A Behavioral Realist Revision of
Affirmative Action, 94 Cal. L. Rev. 1063 (2006); Devon Carbado and Mitu Gulati,
The Law and Economics of Critical Race Theory, 112 Yale L. J. 1757 (2003).
5. ^ Mari J. Matsuda & Charles R. Lawrence, Epilogue: Burning Crosses and the
R.A.V.Case, in Matsuda et al, Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive
Speech and the First Amendment (1993).
6. ^ Richard Delgado, Rodrigo's Tenth Chronicle: Merit and Affirmative Action, 83 Geo.
L. J. 1711 (1994-95); Duncan Kennedy, A Cultural Pluralist Case for Affirmative
Action in Legal Academia, 1990 Duke L. J. 706 (1990); Patricia Williams, Alchemy of
Race and Rights: Diary of A Law Professor (Harvard U. Press 1992).
7. ^ Daniel Farber and Suzanna Sherry, Beyond All Reason: The Radical Assault on
Truth in American Law (Oxford, 1997).
8. ^ Richard A. Posner, The Skin Trade, NEW REPUBLIC, Oct. 13, 1997
9. ^ Critical Race Theory: An Overview[dead link]
10. ^ Bending the Law
11. ^ Critical Race Theory and Freedom of Speech in The Future of Academic Freedom,
edited by Louis Menard, University of Chicago Press, 1996.
12. ^ Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic's The Latino/a Condition: A Critical Reader

13. ^ E.g., Levin, Mark, The Wajins Whiteness: Law and Race Privilege in Japan
(February 1, 2008). Horitsu Jiho, Vol. 80, No. 2, 2008. Available at SSRN:

[edit] References

Brewer, Mary. Staging Whiteness. Wesleyan University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-08195-6769-7

Crenshaw, Kimberl, Neil Gotanda, Gary Peller, and Kendall Thomas. eds. Critical
Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement. New York: New Press,
1995. ISBN 978-1-56584-271-7

Delgado, Richard. ed. Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge. Philadelphia: Temple
University Press, 1995.

Delgado, Richard and Jean Stefancic. "Critical Race Theory: An Annotated

Bibliography." Virginia Law Review, Vol. 79, No. 2. (Mar., 1993), pp. 461516.

Delgado, Richard and Jean Stefancic. The Latino/a Condition: A Critical Reader. New
York University Press, 1998.

Delgado, Richard and Jean Stefancic. Critical Race theory: An Introduction. New
York University Press, 2001.

Dixson, Adrienne D. and Celia K. Rousseau, eds., Critical Race Theory in Education:
All God's Children Got a Song. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Epstein, Kitty K., "A Different View of Urban Schools: Civil Rights, Critical Race
Theory, and Unexplored Realities." New York: Peter Lang, 2006.

Ladson-Billings, G.J. and Tate, W.F. (1994). Toward a theory of critical race theory in
education. Teachers College Record, 97, 47-68.

Parker, Laurence, Donna Deyhle, and Sofia Villenas. eds. Race Is, Race Ain't: Critical
Race Theory and Qualitative Studies in Education. Boulder, CO: Westview Press,

Solorzano, D. (1997). "Images and Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Racial
Stereotyping, and Teacher Education." Teacher Education Quarterly, 24, 5-19.

Solorzano, D., Ceja, M. & Yosso, T. (2000). Critical Race Theory, Racial
Microaggressions and Campus Racial Climate: The Experiences of African American
College Students. Journal of Negro Education, 69, 60-73.

Solorzano, D. & Delgado Bernal, D. (2001). Examining Transformational Resistance

Through a Critical Race and LatCrit Theory Framework: Chicana and Chicano
Students in an Urban Context. Urban Education, 36, 308-342.

Solorzano, D. & Yosso, T. (2001). "Critical Race and LatCrit Theory and Method:
Counterstorytelling Chicana and Chicano Graduate School Experiences." International
Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 14, 471-495.

Solorzano, D. & Yosso, T. (2002). "A Critical Race Counterstory of Affirmative Action
in Higher Education." Equity and Excellence in Education, 35, 155-168.

Tuitt, Patricia, "Race, Law, Resistance" Glasshouse Press, London, 2004

Tate, William F. "Critical Race Theory and Education: History, Theory, and
Implications." Review of Research in Education, Vol. 22. (1997), pp. 195247.

Velez, V., Perez Huber, L., Benavides, C., de la Luz, A. & Solorzano, D. (2008).
Battling for Human rights and Social Justice: A Latina/o Critical Race Analysis of
Latina/o Student Youth Activism in the Wake of 2006 Anti-Immigrant Sentiment.
Social Justice, 35, 7-27.

Yosso, Tara J. Critical Race Counterstories along the Chicana/Chicano Educational

Pipeline. New York: Routledge, 2006.