What Is Critical Race Theory?

Critical race theory isn’t necessarily a direct reaction to America’s history with slavery and segregation. Instead, it’s a direct reaction to the civil rights movement. 

It isn’t by accident that critical race theory was born shortly after the death of the civil rights movement. Critical race theory was founded by a Harvard law professor named Derrick Bell in the early 1970s—right after the end the civil rights movement in the late 1960s. 

Alongside other founding members like Patricia Williams, Angela Harris, Richard Delgado, Neil Gotanda, Camara Phyllis Jones, Mari Matsuda, and especially his protégé, Kimberlé Crenshaw—Derrick Bell developed critical race theory primarily as a rebuke against the civil rights movement’s commitment to colourblindness and America’s founding principles. 

Unlike Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement—and their abolitionist forefather, Frederick Douglass—who maintained that America’s constitution and Declaration of Independence were “magnificent” and “glorious liberty documents”, critical race theorists maintain that America’s founding principles are irredeemably racist.

Kimberlé Crenshaw says:

“The aspect of our work which most markedly distinguishes it from conventional liberal and conservative legal scholarship about race and inequality is a deep dissatisfaction with traditional civil rights discourse.”

Her colleague, Neil Gotanda, also says: 

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s use of color-blind constitutionalism—a collection of legal themes functioning as racial ideology—fosters white racial domination…A color-blind interpretation of the Constitution legitimates and thereby maintains the social, economic, and political advantages that whites hold over other Americans.

And Derrick Bell said:

“Liberal democracy and racism in the United States are historically, even inherently, reinforcing; American society as we know it exists only because of its foundation in racially based slavery, and it thrives only because racial discrimination continues…Black people will never gain full equality in this country…We must acknowledge it, not as a sign of submission, but as an act of defiance.”

Critical race theory is an enemy of the civil rights movement. It’s the idealogical offspring of Marxism, postmodernism, critical theory, feminism, and critical legal studies—not the civil rights movement. 

Therefore critical race theorists are not antiracists, they’re anti the American system. They do not want Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream, they want Karl Marx’s utopia. They do not believe, as Martin Luther King, Jr. did in his time, that America had merely failed to deliver its constitutional promise to black Americans.

No, they believe America’s constitutional promise is inherently and irredeemably oppressive to black Americans.

This is particularly because they’ve adopted the Marxist concepts of conflict theory and cultural hegemony.

Conflict theory was developed by Karl Marx to describe—in his mind—the economic relationship—or class struggle—between the oppressor (bourgeoisie) and the oppressed (proletariate). The Marxist concept of hegemony, however, was developed by Antonio Gramsci to expand on Marx’s conflict theory.

Gramsci expanded Marx’s conflict theory from a merely economic or class struggle to a cultural and social dominance oppressors have over the oppressed. In this cultural hegemony, Gramci describes—in his mind—how oppressors maintain control over the oppressed by manipulating them into accepting oppressive principles and practises as true, impartial, good, and necessary. 

Gramsci’s concept of cultural hegemony inspired a group of neo-Marxist intellectuals called the Frankfurt School. Members of the Frankfurt school like Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, and Hebert Marcuse developed a philosophy called critical theory to analyze how cultural hegemony manipulates oppressed people from becoming conscious about their oppression.

Critical theory then evolved into or merged with postmodernism. Postmodernist intellectuals like Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Jean-François Lyotard suggested that Western society oppresses marginalized groups by convincing them that reason, truth, and reality are meaningful.

Particularly, they believe rich, white, men—the postmodern bourgeoisie—established America’s founding principles like liberty and free speech to oppress people who are poor, non-white, or women. 

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These postmodernists also inspired second-wave feminism, which prioritized abortion, opposition to the traditional family, and the sexual revolution.

By the 1970s, a group of American lawyers who embraced critical theory created a movement called critical legal studies. They analyzed—in their mind—how America’s founding principles and legal system maintain oppression against supposedly marginalized people. 

However, some members of critical legal studies like Kimberlé Crenshaw, Mari Matsuda, and Neil Gotanda left the movement in the 1980s to develop critical race theory with Derick Bell—after they complained that critical legal studies preoccupied anti-capitalism and anti-patriarchy over anti-racism.

Therefore, critical race theory is fundamentally a more race-centric version of Marxism, critical theory, postmodernism, feminism, and critical legal studies. Though critical race theory has evolved over the last few decades through Kimberlé Crenshaw’s seismic concept of intersectionality, critical race theory still essentially maintains that Western culture is innately and primarily white supremacist.

Critical race theorists believe all our institutions are systemically racist and they believe white people are naturally or socially inclined to maintain their oppressive power and privilege over non-white people. They believe our political systems, educational systems, traditional families, and churches are white supremacist—and they won’t rest until they destroy and reshape them into their antichrist image.

It’s crucial to understand that. The biggest problem with critical race theory isn’t that it’s an enemy of the civil rights movement. The biggest problem with critical race theory is that it’s an enemy of Christ. Critical race theory isn’t just a reaction to the civil rights movement, it’s a rebellion against Christ. 

I’ll explain that more thoroughly when, Lord willing, I publish my curriculum on critical race theory later this year. 

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