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  • Writer's pictureAnita P. Jackson, PhD

Critical Race Theory Explained

Photo Credit: Image by college.library via Flickr

So often people are asked what they think about critical race theory. Too often many people do not know how to respond or simply repeat what they have heard others say.

Critical Race Theory is a theory. A theory is defined as “a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.”

It begins with a question that arises from what one sees, hears, or reads to explain something. A theory, after it is tested, becomes a well substantiated explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can incorporate laws, hypotheses, and facts. The theory of gravitation for instance, explains why apples fall from a tree and the astronaut floats in space. Basically, a theory predicts what you ought to find from other observations and experiments.

Critical Race Theory (CRT)

As we consider Critical Race Theory, it has been perceived that laws regarding African Americans have changed to provide more equality, e.g. the abolishment of slavery, desegregation of public facilities, and hiring practices without regard to race or ethnicity. But the greatest hopes of equality for our republic are not being realized even though these hopes have been encoded in law. So, now the question – Why? Why does this phenomenon continue to exist? What are the factors that contribute to the disparities?

CRT is a way of looking at race to figure out why after so many centuries we have patterns of inequality that are enduring and to determine how our laws may be a contributor to the inequalities.

How did CRT begin?

Critical Race Theory started in law schools. It was developed for law students and was a law school course. CRT is a way of looking at how law contributes to the subordinate status of people of color. Its primary objective is to understand legal policies and our history in order to make changes to bring about greater equality for all. CRT inherits the beliefs and hopes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglass, and the hope that the law will do for formerly enslaved people, what it has done for White people. Thus, CRT instills the hope for a better life for all people through the process of investigating and analyzing our laws and policies.

Lack of knowledge and understanding is what exacerbates fear and unreasonable actions like banning books and firing educators. Furthermore, the reality is that CRT is a university law course and is NOT TAUGHT IN K-12 SCHOOLS.

So, what is taught in K-12 schools? Our local, state, national and world history. However, for many years, history classes in U.S. schools were taught from the perspective of white citizens and cultures. In more recent years there have been attempts to teach a more culturally inclusive perspective of history; one that includes the perspectives and realities of the people that lived that history. Just as we, as individuals, have both positive and negative aspects of our own lives, such is true of our U.S. history. Our nation has its fault. As we examine our true history, we can become better. The goal is to become better, not hateful. As Marcus Tullius Cicero said, “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.” Let’s grow up.

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