Around the time of Andrew Breitbart’s death, he was looking to engage in (what turned out to be his final) an act of race baiting. Before his death, he hinted at some kind of huge bombshell. It seemed like he was setting this up to rival even the ACORN “revelations.” After his death, it was released and it was a dud. Barack Obama was speaking in support of his Harvard law professor, Derrick Bell. Professor Bell came to notoriety through his development of Critical Race Theory. Obama not only spoke in support of Professor Bell, but hugged him as well. The horror.
One fortunate aspect of the flop was the introduction of Critical Race Theory into the mainstream. As of now, it’s all kind of died out and isn’t even mentioned on the right-wing talk shows. Back then, while it was still a hot topic, I wanted to do a write up to clarify and explain what CRT is and how it is useful. I missed that boat, but better late than never. First, an introduction (in video):
If you’re not diggin’ on a video right now, here’s the tl;dr version:
Critical Race Theory is derivative of the Marxian Critical Legal Studies movement. CLS is not monolithic, but there are some generally agreed-upon ideas:
- CLS – One: law-making is a form of politicking, whether it comes from the legislature or from the judiciary. There are some ideas surrounding whether the legislature and judiciary are distinct political machines, or if they are, in fact, intertwined, but the underlying idea is not disputed. (Conservatives probably do not realize that their complaints of “activist judges” have a decidedly CLS tone.)
- CLS – Second: the law is made to protect the interest of the wealthy or dominating class, and shields them from democratic actions and grievances.
- CLS – Third: people’s circumstances and actions aren’t necessarily separated from their backgrounds, communities, and class. They also can’t escape from the socio-economic implications of their gender, race, sexual orientation, and so on. Under many political systems, you have freedom on paper, but you can never be truly free and autonomous because of the conditions beyond your control.
Critical Race Theory builds on these ideas, but criticizes CLS circles for not putting due focus on race (though, the CLS movement is international — this criticism is directed toward American CLS circles.) Using the ideas above as a basis, CRT posits that white supremacy is inherent in the American legal system, and that the law plays a part in maintaining white supremacy and white privilege in America. Further, CRT seeks to change the racial dynamic in law from one of oppression to one of liberation.
To point out the obvious, we can see that racial inequality was present in the beginning of our system by the fact that the stolen labor and enslavement of African people is what made this country’s economy viable. This obviously deprived slaves and their descendants of remuneration and the chance to have and pass down property. Even after slavery, Black people had trouble owning property, due to lack of job opportunities and lack of access to credit and loans that were available to whites. The property and wealth disparity in younger generations of Black folks persists.
We can see that, even when legal protections were ostensibly extended to all Americans, there are great racial disparities in areas like the War on Drugs, in housing, in the prison population and in determining who is considered suspicious enough to be searched or shot. We also know that petty racial bias’ come into play in something as critical as employment opportunities, even with these legal protections.
Another major idea of CRT is the use of storytelling and creativity in exploring racial issues. To me, as a writer, this is uncontroversial since fiction is often the best way to spread truths. The one idea I have a lot of uneasiness about is the advocacy of racial nationalism and separatism. That runs afoul with my internationalist view of the world in a rather large way.
I’m sure I’m leaving out some vital points, but this is the gist of Critical Race Theory as I understand it.