Trending

Critical Race Theory, Explained

Critical race theory is one of the most controversial topics of 2021. It's also one of the most misunderstood.

If you have been paying attention to conservative media, you will have certainly heard the term critical race theory. In fact, Fox News has mentioned "critical race theory" over 1,900 times in the past 3.5 months alone. Yet, most Americans can't define it.

What Critical Race Theory Is

Critical race theory is an academic legal concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that no race is inherently inferior to another and that racism is not just the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies in the US.

Critical race theory originated in the 1970s as a result of the civil rights movement. The father of the movement was Harvard Law School professor Derrick Bell, who voiced frustration at the limited impact of landmark civil rights laws and U.S. Supreme Court rulings of the previous decade. Bell argued that if racial inequality persisted in a post-civil rights era, then the law was central to explaining that persistence.


Black and white image of an academic looking black man in a striped suit with a small afro and aviator style glasses, the man is smiling and looking out of frame. Derrick Bell, Founder of CRTJohn Chapin


Legal scholars, such as Kimberlé Crenshaw, Neil Gotanda, Gary Peller and Kendall Thomas, developed Bell's ideas further. In a 1995 book, they curated the writings that formed the movement, and their theories began to be explored in law schools all over the country. Critical race theory became a framework for looking at how racism in the law could still exist even when the judiciary claimed to be "color-blind."

In the words of legal scholar Angela Harris, "Critical race theory not only dares to treat race as central to the law and policy of the United States, it dares to look beyond the popular belief that getting rid of racism means simply getting rid of ignorance, or encouraging everyone to 'get along.'"

What Critical Race Theory is Not

Critical race theory is not taught in the K-12 curriculum across the US and or in workplace diversity training. Critical race theory is primarily taught in college, particularly in law school, as a theory for understanding how race and racism have impacted America's legal and social systems. There is little to no evidence that critical race theory itself is being taught to K-12 public school students, though some ideas related to it, such as lingering consequences of slavery and Jim Crow laws, have been.

Critical race theory does not teach that all white people are inherently racist. The theory says that racism is an "ordinary" part of everyday life, so people — white or nonwhite — who don't intend to be racist can nevertheless make choices that fuel racism. Critical race theorists actually say that there are no traits that are "inherent" to any race.

Critical race theory insists that race is socially constructed and maintained to enforce a specific hierarchy, but individuals are not bound to any specific behaviors or skills because of their race. People with common origins share certain physical traits, of course, such as skin color, physique, and hair texture. But these constitute only an extremely small portion of their genes, are dwarfed by that which we have in common, and have little or nothing to do with traits such as personality, intelligence, and moral behavior. So no, white people are not inherently racist, nor are they inherently smarter or better.

Critical race theory also is not supposed to teach people to hate America. One of the CRT founders, Kimberlé Crenshaw, says, "Critical race theory just says, let's pay attention to what has happened in this country and how what has happened in this country is continuing to create differential outcomes so we can become that country that we say we are. So critical race theory is not anti-patriotic. In fact, it is more patriotic than those who are opposed to it because we believe in the 13th and the 14th and the 15th Amendment. We believe in the promises of equality, and we know we can't get there if we can't confront and talk honestly about inequality."

Critical race theory is also not a Marxist theory. No matter how many times Ted Cruz tweets that it is.



Karl Marx never offered fully developed critiques of law, let alone theories of jurisprudence or legal history. However, CRT is similar to critical legal studies, which claims that laws are used to maintain the status quo of society's power structures. Critical legal studies is an offshoot of Critical Theory, which was a school of thought made up of German philosophers and social theorists in the Western European Marxist tradition known as the Frankfurt School. So while you could draw a line back to Marxism, it's a pretty long walk.

Additionally, critical race theory doesn't really have any similarities to Marxism, or at least not any that would actually upset Ted Cruz. CRT does not advocate for communism, it doesn't advocate for giving up property rights, and it doesn't encourage a worker revolution to overthrow capitalism. It is a framework for looking at our legal system, and at its most radical, it advocates for the end of color-blindness in law and the institution of a more race-conscious judiciary.

Why are we arguing about it?

So what does a somewhat obscure legal theory have to do with current politics? Well, it started with the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in 2020. Floyd's death created a nationwide resurgence of the ideals of the civil rights era as Americans of all races and backgrounds began to educate themselves on issues of race and books about race relations selling out across the country.

This emphasis on learning about Black history and racial inequality spread to classrooms. Teachers began expanding their classroom libraries and including more Black history lessons in their curriculums. This outraged Trump Republicans who argued that learning about these dark parts of American history was designed to make people hate America.

The term "critical race theory" became part of the zeitgeist due to a Fox News interview and a Trump tweet. Christopher Rufo, director of the Center on Wealth and Poverty at the conservative Discovery Institute, argued on Fox News in early September 2020 that Trump should end "radical" diversity training programs in the federal government immediately. He claimed that the reason the programs were bad is that they used critical race theory.

Trump tweeted his opposition to the theory a few days later. By the end of September, former President Trump had issued a memo and an executive order ending racial sensitivity training in the federal government.

According to the memo, all agencies were asked to suspend "any training on 'critical race theory' or 'white privilege,' or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil."

Suddenly, Trump has made critical race theory his enemy, so his supporters started looking for a way to "defeat it." Legislatures in 28 states used Trump's executive order as a template to draw up their own "critical race theory bills." These bills aim to outlaw the teaching of critical race theory specifically, or to prohibit contentious talks about racism, discrimination or privilege in general.

As of July 15, legislators in 26 states have introduced bills that would restrict teaching critical race theory or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism, according to an Education Week analysis. 11 states have enacted these restrictions.

America's teachers have decried the laws as "censorship" and the president of the nation's second-largest teachers union vowed to take legal action to protect any member who "gets in trouble for teaching honest history."

There are perhaps valid discussions to be had about how much race should be discussed in classrooms, but critical race theory is simply a distraction from that conversation.

Republicans have deliberately turned critical race theory into a catch-all term for anything they dislike about the discussion of race. Cristopher Rufo explained it best. He tweeted that conservative activists hoped to brand the phrase as a "toxic" catch-all for a broad range of cultural issues: "The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think 'critical race theory.'"



Christopher Rufo tweet Critical race theory has become a scapegoat for conservative punditsTwitter screenshot

4 Ways This Inauguration Will Be Different From Any Other

An unprecedented inauguration for unprecedented times.

After a mob attacked the Capitol on January 6th and over 400,000 U.S. deaths as a result of the pandemic, this year's inauguration is going to look a little different.

Crowds will be small or nonexistent, events will be moved online, and security will be tougher than ever. It will be a day of historic firsts, both good and bad.Some things will change, but the important things will stay the same. The Vice President and President will take the oath of office, and it will be the same oath it always is: An oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Keep reading... Show less

Mike Pompeo's Multiculturalism Tweet Sums Up the Trump Era

The future looks pretty grim.

It seems fitting that the Trump administration would go out with a bang. It also seems fitting that the bang would be unbridled white supremacy and blatant racism.

After the white supremacist insurrection at the Capitol, tensions have been high in anticipation of the January 20th Inauguration, with the whole country waiting on edge to see what how the transfer of power will go.

Keep reading... Show less

After Washington, Republicans Can Never Call BLM Protestors "Violent Extremists" Again

What's happening in Washington D.C. is beyond comprehension. And yet we should have seen this coming. Many of us did.

Our elected leaders, our democracy, and the very fabric of our nation are being threatened by the current attempted coup in Washington. MAGA protestors have invaded the Capitol Building and threatened the lives of our elected representatives. They are carrying guns, and disrupting democracy. They are terrorists, and they are not being stopped.

Keep reading... Show less

What You Can Do If Trump Tries to Steal the Election

Ordinary people will need to stand up to make sure that democracy is preserved.

After four years with Trump, the day finally arrived. We the people were asked to decide if we'd endure another four years under his orange fist.

At least, it should have been all of our decisions. But ever since the race was called for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, whistleblowers across the nation—and even Trump himself—have been protesting the election results.

Trump has openly refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. His administration has attempted to reduce the number of ballots that will be counted in swing states. He rushed the nomination of a partisan Supreme Court justice just days before the election.

One week before the election, news broke that Trump had been trying to ask Republican lawmakers in swing states if they can ignore the popular vote and appoint Trump-supporting electoral college members. The list of warning signs goes on.

Keep reading... Show less

Trump Has Irreparably Damaged America's Role as a Global Leader

What could possibly end decades of American global leadership? Trump's Personality.

Donald Trump says his foreign policy is "America First," but in reality, it's "America Only."

He has spent the last four years sowing seeds of distrust amongst our Democratic allies while mending fences with strongman autocratic dictators. If America were to get into a major war today, it's hard to know what side we would be on and who would even be willing to help us.

Keep reading... Show less

Donald Trump is Not a "Small Government" President

Donald Trump is not a real Republican, he is a big government, big-spending Nationalist.

The Republican Party has always been the party associated with smaller government and more freedom.

True Republicans think that the majority of governing should happen at the local level and big government has no place in America. Unfortunately, Trump doesn't seem to feel the same. Donald Trump is a big spending nationalist.

Keep reading... Show less

Donald Trump Doesn't Care About Republicans' "Family Values"

The party of family values has chosen a candidate without family values.

The Republican party has always been the party of strong family values.

Republicans have long championed the idea that families must be built with a strong moral compass at their heart. They must be built on strong marriages and good parenting. They must be built on trust. Donald Trump is an embarrassment to the party of traditional family values. Here's why.

Keep reading... Show less

The 5 Types of Voters You Meet Making Calls for Joe Biden

Making calls to Americans about Joe Biden was an illuminating, sometimes horrifying experience.

Like most people I know, I've been existing in a state of dread for all of October in anticipation of November 3rd.

In order to spend less time languishing in that dread, I've been partaking in small bouts of political activism in an effort to get out the vote. I've written the requisite several hundred postcards and made several strongly worded posts.

I've also been attempting to call voters. Earlier in the pandemic, I phonebanked for the first time—for progressive candidates in NYC, many of whom won their primaries. Fresh off that success, I felt ready to make some calls for Biden.

Keep reading... Show less

A Medium Shares The Vision She Had During the First 2020 Presidential Debate

And it could mean one of the candidates ends up in jail.

Important Editor's Note:

What follows is an interview with a person who purports to "see" what others cannot - the paranormal truth that crosses the divide between mind and matter, between past and present and future things. We will call this person "L." She asked that we keep her identity secret, since she is actively working on multiple criminal investigations in the heartland of our country, many of which are "cold cases" that were abandoned as "unsolvable" before her involvement.

We at Trueself did our homework, and it's worth noting that L checks out - she is a trusted ally to our nation's most sophisticated forensic crime fighters. She doesn't earn a living from her so-called 'gift' (she has a real-life job) but instead tries to 'utilize her gift for good.' For clarity: We disclaim any comments of L that appear in this interview, but we do assert that the 'visions' described within this interview with L are true.

That said, we believe that her track record for helping our nation's top law enforcement officials solve cold cases means that this transcribed interview about her empath visions as recounted in this transcribed interview are worthy of publication.



Trueself: We understand that you watched the Trump-Biden debate tonight and felt compelled to reach out to a senior member of our editorial staff about a "vision" you had about Trump. Is that right?

L: Well, yes. I watched the debate, but I could not focus on the TV noise because I felt something coming through me.

Trueself: What do you mean - 'coming through [you]'?

L: [laughs nervously] Well, this is where it gets weird. And I just want to say that I am not only not political. I am anti-political. I don't consume news and have no love or hate for any politician. That stuff breaks my brain. The lies and posturing, the narcissism and lack of spirituality led me to ditch media and all things political at a very young age.

Trueself: I'm confused. If you shun media and politics, how did you get this 'vision' of yours?

L: That's the funny thing. My friend - the person on your staff who connected me with you - roped me into a Covid lockdown soire to watch last night's debate. I did so reluctantly, knowing that the mindless banter would make me drink too much to quiet my head. But, sure enough, the voices came. I needed to listen.

Trueself: At what point during the debate did that happen?

L: This is tough for me to say... [PAUSES, EMOTIONAL] ....I don't want to talk badly about anyone. And I don't have a real opinion on anything political. But the quickening happened. I couldn't help it while I watched the debate. It might have been the first time Chris Wallace challenged Trump and got run over by his interruptions... or the first time Biden looked like he might not remember the names of his grandkids. I just started seeing things... lol. I got worried and afraid, even. I worried about what might happen to us.

Chris Wallace and Donald Trump


Trueself: Hang on... Seeing things? What do you mean?

L: I saw a collage of our national history strobe through my brain. I saw Lincoln and Kennedy and John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald. I saw Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. I saw James Baldwin and Bob Marley. I saw Frederick Douglas and Toni Morrison and James Joyce. Then... I saw President Trump in an orange jumpsuit. I saw him being taken away in shackles. Could have been a signal of something different, but I do know that it's true. Something true that will happen related to what I saw.

Trueself: Wait. I need to ask - you're saying the President of the United States will be carted off to jail?

L: Yes, that will happen.

Trueself: You really believe that is possible or you KNOW that it WILL happen?

L: It will happen, I believe.

Trueself: Err... okay. How does that make you feel?

L: Well... it makes me feel at peace, I guess. It will make us better. It will make America great again... [laughs]