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Critical Race Theory: A Brief History

  • July 27, 2021

His work explored (among other things) what it would mean to understand racism as a permanent feature of American life, and whether it was easier to pass civil rights legislation in the United States because those laws ultimately served the interests of white people.

After Professor Bell left Harvard Law, a group of students there began protesting the faculty’s lack of diversity. In 1983, The New York Times reported, the school had 60 tenured law professors. All but one were men, and only one was Black.

The demonstrators, including Professors Crenshaw and Matsuda, who were then graduate students at Harvard, also chafed at the limitations of their curriculum in critical legal studies, a discipline that questioned the neutrality of the American legal system, and sought to expand it to explore how laws sustained racial hierarchies.

“It was our job to rethink what these institutions were teaching us,” Professor Crenshaw said, “and to assist those institutions in transforming them into truly egalitarian spaces.”

The students saw that stark racial inequality had persisted despite the civil rights legislation of the 1950s and 60s. They sought, and then developed, new tools and principles to understand why. A workshop that Professor Crenshaw organized in 1989 helped to establish these ideas as part of a new academic framework called critical race theory.

OiYan Poon, an associate professor with Colorado State University who studies race, education and intersectionality, said that opponents of critical race theory should try to learn about it from the original sources.

“If they did,” she said, “they would recognize that the founders of C.R.T. critiqued liberal ideologies, and that they called on research scholars to seek out and understand the roots of why racial disparities are so persistent, and to systemically dismantle racism.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/article/what-is-critical-race-theory.html

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