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An analysis of Critical Race Theory

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 3228 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Critical Race Theory (CRT) was pioneered in the mid- 1970s, by who is considered to be the "God Father" of CRT, Mr. Derrick Bell, a professor at the New York University School of Law. "He was not only angered by what he viewed as the slow progress of racial reform in the United States, but he also held that the gains brought about by the civil rights laws of the 1960s were being eroded in the 1970s" ( Discoverthenetworks.org). Mr. Bell saw how people were being mistreated and saw the need for change. Not caring how people saw him or what the said about him, he continued to move forward towards progress and the conception of Critical Race Theory.

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According to Professor Bell and his fellow Critical Race theorists, "existing legal structures are, like American society at large, racist in their very construction. Critical Race Theory suggests that to combat this "institutional racism," oppressed racial groups have both the right and the duty to decide for themselves, which laws are valid and are worth observing. Critical Race Theory also promotes the use of storytelling narratives in law-review articles to better reflect the "oral traditions" of black experience" (Discoverthenetworks.org). Traditions can only be shared by people via word of mouth, storytelling back in the day. Bell set precedence so that others to come after can be better prepared when using the CRT.

In Bell's original publication he states three major arguments in his

analyses of racial pattern in American Law, the Constitutional Contradiction, the Interest Convergence Principle, and the Price of Racial Remedies. "In The Constitutional Contradiction, Bell argues that the framers of the Constitution chose the rewards of property over justice. With regard to the Interest Convergence, he maintains that whites will promote racial advances for blacks only when they also promote white self-interest. Finally, in The Price of Racial Remedies, Bell argues that whites will not support civil rights policies that may threaten white social status. Each of his arguments sheds a different light on the traditional racial discourse" (english.turkcebilgi.com). These arguments Bell stated were to make sure that everyone knew and was aware and what was ahead of them in this struggle.

One of the most recent publications using the CRT theory is

Talking about Race Using Critical Race Theory: Recent Trends In The Journal Of

Marital And Family Therapy (2004). Laureal and McDowell state that:

CRT is a useful lens that can inform MFT practice in education, research, and therapy. For example, educators can use CRT to critique Eurocentric MFT curricula, integrate marginalized voices in course readings, and engage students in critical discussions about racism and social justice. We believe CRT holds significant promise for MFT by critically considering multiple identities, acknowledging sources of dominant ideologies, committing to social justice, creating space for marginalized voices, and spanning boundaries to build interdisciplinary knowledge of racial relationships (p.92)

Another recent publication, Exploring possibilities through critical race theory: Exemplary pedagogical practices for Indigenous students (2003), McDonald states in this publication:

I examine the contribution that critical race theory (Ladson-Billings, 1998, 1999, 2000) can make to understandings of the experiences of Indigenous students in Australian schools, which continue to be a site of both struggle and possibility for Indigenous people. Recent government reports (Department of Education Science and Training, 2002; Yunupingu, 1995) have concluded that there have been considerable improvements in the educational status of Indigenous Australians since the introduction of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy (Department of Employment Education and Training, 1989). However, inequities remain. These inequities are clearly evident in the area of secondary education. critical race theory should remind Australian researchers to draw on the specific experiential and subjugated knowledge's of Indigenous Australians (Moreton-Robinson, 2000) expressed in academic scholarship, community discourses and in public expression through the arts to examine the persistence of race and racism within Australian society, a persistence often denied in a society where a "mania for formal equality" contributes to the insidious denial of racism which infiltrates policy and political discourse (Jonas, 2002).

These authors and publications give credit to the Critical Race Theory, for example with the Indigenous Students, because they are not treated equally with the non indigenous students. This can definitely be compared to Brown vs. Board of Education. "CRT is concerned with the idea of inescapable and inherent racism. In the American legal system, as well as with the consistent application of racial subordination and discrimination in the practice of law, with the exception of "interest-convergence" issues, in which both the white majority and minorities profit from expansion of rights (as argued by Bell in "Brown vs. Board of education and the Interest- Convergence Dilemma" ( Harvard Law Review 1980) (retrieved from http://reachinformation.com/define/critical%20race%20theory.aspx).

The fact that it is 2010 and there is still segregation in the world is a problem that should be an issue to every one, not just the indigenous people, because it is not fair to treat people differently just because they are not the same race as others. That is exactly what Mr. Bell and others fight for.

The Journal of Marital and Family Therapy credits Critical Race Theory with:

Therapists helping clients deal with individual acts of racism (Friedlander, 1999); encouraging clients of color to develop stories of strength and resistance (Killian, 2001; Milan & Keiley, 2000); relying on the historic survival, resistance, and resilience of ancestors of color (Milan & Keiley, 2000); openly discussing the history of race relationships and legal discrimination in the U.S, (Killian, 2001; Milan & Keiley, 2000); using cultural genograms to uncover stories of strength and adversity (Milan & Keiley, 2000).(McDonald p. 9).

Being able to talk to someone and to express your concerns is a great outlet to have. The therapist needs to be well-informed and sensitive to the topic of race and racism as well, in order to help someone.

This Critical Race Theory provides a foundational understanding to communication scholars in relation to the role race plays and its importance in societal issues. Scholars can take from history many examples of how race is depicted. Stories from people who are faced with the obstacle of racism will now have scholars have the chance to have their true story told, rights given and laws established.

Other significant contributors to the critical race theory discourse from the 1980s to the present include Richard Delgado and Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw.

Delgado, in defense of Bell's storytelling or narrative style, argues that people of color speak from an experience framed by racism. Delgado argues that the stories of people of color are born from a different frame of reference and therefore impart to them a voice that is different from the dominant culture of hegemonic whiteness and deserves to be heard. Critical race theorists believe that in order to appreciate the perspective of oppressed racial minorities, the voice of a particular contributor must be understood in terms of that individual's own narrative" (www.english.turkcebilgi.com).

Many people can not understand what African American people go through on a day to day basis. The same can be said for Jewish people, Arab people and other people who are not Caucasian. Our point of view, besides what is told to us through history, is all we have. Our voice often can only be expressed and explained through narratives.

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw explains that the "formal, legal embrace of equality was a major breakthrough in the challenge to social norm of white supremacy, but the removal of formal barriers, although symbolically significant to all and materially significant to some, will do little to alter the hierarchical relationship between blacks and whites' " ( Rossing, 2007) Yes there are laws in effect that can protect us from inequality. However, we have to take the opportunity, when it arrives and fight for what we believe.

Other noteworthy contributors, in the legal field are Neil Gotanda, Cheryl I. Harris, Charles Lawrence III, Mari Matsuda, and Patricia J. Williams. Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, state similar themes when writing about CRT. According to http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Critical_race_theory 2003:

A critique of liberalism

Storytelling/counter storytelling and "naming one's own reality"

Revisionist interpretations of American civil rights law and progress

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

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

The intersections of race, sex, and class

Critical Race Theory has also been applied in education by one scholar

Gloria Ladson-Billings. Critical race scholarship in education, has occurred in three waves. "The first wave of studies emanated in the mid 1990s with the introduction of CRT to the field by Ladson-Billings and Tate. Parker and Solorzano's contributions followed soon thereafter. The second wave of scholarship occurred in the late 1990s and continued through about 2004. Younger scholars like Lynn, Duncan, and Yosso became key players. Dixson and Rousseau represent the third wave of new scholars who are attempting to re-introduce CRT to the field while creating stricter standards for how critical race theory in education is defined. Other noteworthy educators who have researched CRT are Laurence Parker, Daniel Solórzano, William Tate, Yosso, Dixson, Rousseau, and Chapman" (Tate 1997).

Applications of the theory: Identify and analyze five studies that use this theory.

Judge Alex Kozinski, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, writes "Critical Race Theorists have constructed a philosophy which makes a valid exchange of ideas between the various disciplines unattainable." He writes,

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 1960's. 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.


Judge Kozinski, just states that fact the way CRT tries to be recognized, by way of story telling and narratives, does not give the theory and the speaker any substance because a person's word does not have much to any weight in the legal system.

Judge Richard Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago has "labeled critical race theorists and postmodernists the 'lunatic core' of 'radical legal egalitarianism.'" He writes,

What is most arresting about critical race theory is that...it 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.


Judge Posner suggests by his writings that anybody can tell a story and who knows what the truth could be. There is no proof that the narratives are real as they are telling their story, all we have to go by is our word.

Another application of CRT has been associated to hate crime and hate speech legislation.

In response to Justice Scalia's opinion in a paradigm hate speech  case, R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul (which addressed cross burning as an act of hate speech ), Mari Matsuda and Charles R. Lawrence III presented a critical race theory argument against Scalia's opinion. While Scalia posits that speech is protected independent of content, Matsuda and Lawrence argue that historical and social context is paramount. When acts of speech are acts of intimidation and threaten violence, backed up by a historical force, then those words become a mechanism for social control and domination. Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice Kennedy, Justice Souter, and Justice Thomas joined. All 9 justices concurred in the judgment of the Court that city's ordinance was facially invalid under the First Amendment. (http://reachinformation.com/define/critical%20race%20theory.aspx)

The symbolism of a burning cross, what it represents and the stories that follow, speaks volumes of what the intent is and because the Supreme Court was able to see that, and was able correctly, based on the history and the stories that were told, CRT was used to put that case of racism to history.

The fourth application of the Critical Race Theory deals with how the community was able to take action when students were being treated unfairly.

Larson (1997) presents an example of this phenomenon in a case study of White school administrators at a Midwestern high school. The administrators rigidly follow bureaucratic strategies of control by enacting disciplinary procedures against African American students despite growing evidence of racial tension due to outright prejudice by White teachers and tracking placements that stunted African American student progress and eventually caused the community to rise up and demand change (p.33).

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The school only feeds the problem of racism and unconsciously or not they are giving power to the "majority" students to act against them in anyway knowing no repercussions will be handed down. As parents they teach their children how to act, the race does not matter, but for a school to reinforce that attitude is outrageous. When communities "rise up and demand change" (Deyhle and Parker, p.33) and they are in one accord, the outcome will make a difference.

The final application I would like to use is how Latino Immigrants were made to feel inferior.

According to Ladson-Billings, the narrative that "we are all immigrants" blames Latino immigrants themselves for their marginalization by saying they do not work as hard as previous European immigrants. In this way, Ladson-Billings (in this volume) argues that CRT "sees the official school curriculum as a culturally specific artifact designed to maintain a White supremacist master script"(p. 36).

Unfortunately, trying to make people inferior to another is what people in general do. One can say this started when white supremacist would talk down to people and in older times owned them as slaves. Some races of people now do that to make others seem better than others, when there is no need. Some can not stand for someone to be better than us. There is a need to TRY and break others down, just to make themselves feel better.

The first criticism of the Critical Race Theory would be that, Critical Race theorists "face the task of challenging 'deeply ingrained mental structures that categorize and define race to the disadvantage of blacks and other nonwhite groups'" (Rossing p.6) Change is always hard to adjust to and when people are stuck in their ways, it is nearly impossible to get them to change their minds once it is already made up.

Another criticism of CRT, "many mainstream legal scholars of various ethnicities have criticized CRT for its use of narrative and storytelling. Judge Richard Posner

 of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago has "labeled critical race theorists and postmodernists the 'lunatic core' of 'radical legal egalitarianism'"

( http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Critical_race_theory). Judge Posner is basically saying Critical Race Theorist are crazy people who try from a far-reaching "radical" group trying to bring social justice to others.

A third criticism would be Critical Race Theory also analyzes and challenges "the terms that we associate with society's changing definitions of reality and truth" (Rossing p.9). Because this theory is based on the exact words from people, there is the thought that crosses the minds of all is who is judging and wonders if they are telling the truth or making this up. Once doubt has entered your mind you will continue to second guess the decision that has been made from that point on.

"Critical Race Theory is a movement that studies and attempts to transform the relationship between race and power by examining the role of race and racism within the foundations of modern culture. As far back as the principles of Enlightenment thought that form the basis for many modern views of equality and law; as a movement, it has moved beyond law and has now become common in the academic disciplines of ethnic studies, political science and education" (http://reachinformation.com/define/critical%20race%20theory.aspx).

People who would not like this theory are people who think that we have laws and we need to abide by those laws down to the meaning without many different interpretations. When in court some lawyers and judges may not allow any un-written theories or studies that are not documented by court, giving a reason of how do we know this person is telling the truth? In reality, people misuse the system to get what they can gain, so who is to say that they are not telling the truth?

The CRT Theory is useful for being able to tell my side of the story of how I have been mistreated if anyway. For example, a co-worker who was not of African American descent, who felt he could talk down to me, and could try and make me feel inferior to him, by making inappropriate jokes and making unethical decisions. If I was to make a complaint my job would have me write up a statement and participate in a possible meeting detailing what happened and how I was offended.



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