Critical Race Theory: Explained
By Haley Norris
In case the headline slid past your radar, “Trump Tells Agencies To End Trainings On 'White Privilege' And 'Critical Race Theory,'” was the title of NPR’s article on September 5th. I saw this headline as I was casually scrolling through twitter and my initial emotion was one of confusion. Ya see, I have had many lectures on Critical Race Theory throughout both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. My first encounter was in an education course my first semester of college, it was then that a lightbulb clicked on. When you think about the all the pain and suffering in the world that stems from racism and discrimination, it is hard to believe that people could treat other human beings that way and for me, Critical Race Theory explained that.
The critical race theory, “is a theoretical and interpretive mode that examines the appearance of race and racism across dominant cultural modes of expression” (Purdue Owl). CRT explores stereotypes, redlining, microaggressions, etc. It is a model for explaining why people or institutions can discriminate against people of color completely by accident. Sometimes people are unaware that they are racist and CRT illustrates why. It shows the pathway in which racism can be learned and taught to future generations. The lawyers, scholars, and activists that met through numerous workshops and conferences in the mid-1970’s to create the Critical Race Theory formed it around two points: white supremacy has been maintained over time with the help of societal/legal infrastructure as well as law and race, needing to reassess their relationship.
“The Trump administration has instructed federal agencies to end racial sensitivity trainings that address topics like white privilege and critical race theory, calling them ‘divisive, anti-American propaganda’" (NPR, 9/5/2020). I learned about CRT five years ago, but it has been around and incorporated into teachings since before I was born, maybe even before you were born. Critical Race Theory does say that American society is inherently racist, putting whiteness on top of the hierarchy but it is not anti-American propaganda. It is not anti-American because America as a country was built on the backs of oppression; from Indigenous people being killed for land, black bodies being used as slaves, Asian immigrants building the railroads among the West Coast, poor whites serving the wealthy through indentured servitude, the list goes on.
We have tried to bury that history when we should discuss it, confront it. Critical Race Theory should not be titled as “divisive” because it describes a legitimate issue regarding censorship of BIPOC’s hardships within this America. The systems, structures, and law we live by were constructed during a time when certain groups of people were not viewed as human beings. It is not a new conception. It was not created as a product of what we are now living through, instead it was originally intended to avoid the battles we are now having, a pathway for people to see discrimination and correct it. When I first came across Critical Race Theory, I saw it as an answer to a lifelong question: Why is hate based on color?