What is Critical Race Theory? This contentious three-word phrase is the intersection at which a million social media conversations are presently taking place. As an academic subject of inquiry, it is about 40 years old. Critical Race Theory (hereafter: CRT) is the study of how the history of American racism is embedded in the country’s legal system and its policies. It essentially seeks to understand how racism has shaped U.S. laws and how those laws have continued to impact our hierarchical caste structure. CRT is primarily taught at law schools, but also at the undergraduate level, at schools like UCLA. It is rarely taught in high schools, despite what is disseminated on the Tucker Carlson Show. Wealthy school districts around the country are waging war against indoctrination, against a subject that is actually not being taught at their children’s schools. How could such an honest inquiry into how racism moved through our society become a Trojan horse for radical leftism?
Clearly the law has until recently been used to perpetuate white supremacy. Does the right wing even deny that premise? That unfashionable notion, perhaps, is what is most troubling to conservatives. Enshrined in Supreme Court cases like Dred Scott and Plessy v Ferguson is the original caste system laid bare, in which people of color and women were relegated to the lower rungs of the social ladder. How much of that still persists? Law has also undermined its own potential for liberty in the Constitution, particularly in the 3/5 Compromise reached among state delegates during the 1787 convention at the nation’s founding. How can we ignore those landmark cases? How can we shed them of their implicit racial biases? Are their effects still felt in today laws?
What about criminal law and young people of color? Police killings of unarmed black men can only be properly construed under the category of CRT. How else are we supposed to understand the disproportionate number deadly police encounters with black bodies? This tragic, institutionally-entrenched phenomenon is largely determined by class, race and residential segregation. CRT speaks specifically to this.