Critical race theory is an academic discipline that holds that the United States is a nation founded on white supremacy and oppression, and that these forces are still at the root of our society. Critical race theorists believe that American institutions, such as the Constitution and legal system, preach freedom and equality, but are mere “camouflages” for naked racial domination. They believe that racism is a constant, universal condition: it simply becomes more subtle, sophisticated, and insidious over the course of history. In simple terms, critical race theory reformulates the old Marxist dichotomy of oppressor and oppressed, replacing the class categories of bourgeoisie and proletariat with the identity categories of White and Black. But the basic conclusion is the same: in order to liberate man, society must be fundamentally transformed through moral, economic, and political revolution.Key terms: Whiteness, white privilege, white fragility, oppressor/oppressed, intersectionality, systemic racism, spirit murder, equity, antiracism, collective guilt, affinity spaces.
- Hillsdale Imprimis: “Critical Race Theory: What It Is and How to Fight It.” Link.
- Heritage Foundation: “Critical Race Theory Would Not Solve Racial Inequality: It Would Deepen It. Link.
KEY CONCEPTS AND QUOTATIONS
Race essentialism: Critical race theory reduces individuals to the quasi-metaphysical categories of “Blackness” and “Whiteness,” then loads those categories with value connotations—positive traits are attributed to “Blackness” and negative traits are attributed to “Whiteness.” Although some critical race theorists formally reject race essentialism, functionally, they often use these categories as malicious labels that erase individual identities.
- “Whiteness is dynamic, relational, and operating at all times and on myriad levels. These processes and practices include basic rights, values, beliefs, perspectives and experiences purported to be commonly shared by all but which are actually only consistently afforded to white people.” Robin DiAngelo, “White Fragility.”
- “Whiteness is an invisible veil that cloaks its racist deleterious effects through individuals, organizations, and society. The result is that White people are allowed to enjoy the benefits that accrue to them by virtue of their skin color. Thus, Whiteness, White supremacy, and White privilege are three interlocking forces that disguise racism so it may allow White people to oppress and harm persons of color while maintaining their individual and collective advantage and innocence.” Derald Sue, “The Invisible Whiteness of Being.”
- “Whiteness by its very definition and operation as a key element of white supremacy kills; it is mental and physical terrorism. To end the white terrorism that is directed at racially oppressed people here and in other nations, it is essential that self-identified whites and their whiteness collaborators among the racially oppressed confront their white problem head-on, unencumbered by racial comfort.” Johnny Williams in the Hartford Courant.
All whites are racist: Critical race theorists argue explicitly that “all white people are racist” and perpetuate systems of white supremacy and systemic racism. This concept is deeply related to race essentialism—whites, including small children, cannot escape from being racist.
- “All white people are racist or complicit by virtue of benefiting from privileges that are not something they can voluntarily renounce.” Barbara Applebaum, Being White, Being Good.
- “White identity is inherently racist; white people do not exist outside the system of white supremacy.” Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility.
- “According to studies, babies at two to three years old, start internalizing racist ideas, start discerning and making decisions based on racist ideas … We’re allowing our society to raise them to be racist.” Ibram Kendi on KING5 News.
America is a fundamentally racist nation: Critical race theorists argue that America was founded on racism, slavery, and white supremacy—and remains a fundamentally racist nation to this day.
- “White people raised in Western society are conditioned into a white supremacist worldview because it is the bedrock of our society and its institutions … Entering the conversation with this understanding is freeing because it allows us to focus on how—rather than if—our racism is manifest.” Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility.
- “America is inherently a ‘white’ country: in character, in structure, in culture. Needless to say, black Americans create lives of their own. Yet, as a people, they face boundaries and constrictions set by the white majority. America’s version of apartheid, while lacking overt legal sanction, comes closest to the system even now being reformed in the land of its invention.” Andrew Hacker, Two Nations.
- “It is a racial crime to be yourself if you are not White in America. It is a racial crime to look like yourself or empower yourself if you are not White.” Ibram Kendi, How to be an Antiracist.