Why is Critical Race Theory receiving the attention it is now? To understand that, one must comprehend what Critical Race Theory is and what it is not.
So what is CRT? CRT is an intellectual and social movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed category used to oppress and exploit people of color, according to Britannica.
A critical race theorist holds that racism is inherent in law and legal institutions—something that is seen in how they create and maintain social, economic and political inequalities between whites and non-whites. They acknowledge that racism is a norm in society and that it is embedded in these institutions.
CRT came to be, officially, at the first annual Workshop on Critical Race Theory in 1989. While that might be the case, its tenants date as far back as the ’60s and ’70s. At the time, it focused on how law and legal institutions protected the wealthy at the expense of the poor and marginalized.
So why is a movement focused on shedding light on how our legal systems receiving the hate it is getting currently?
Anti-CRTs criticize the movement for propagating that all white people are oppressors while painting Black people as their victims. Fears have led to school boards and state legislators from Tennessee and Idaho debating bills seeking to ban CRT teachings in the classroom.
In fact, by the end of June, 29 Republican-led state legislatures had considered while nine had enacted laws to penalize schools or teachers teaching critical race theory. In Florida, the CRT laws impose on colleges the need to show “Competing ideas and perspectives” are presented, going further to threatening universities to fund cuts if it’s “indoctrinating.”
This conservative move isn’t the first of its kind. In September 2020, former US President Donald Trump issued an executive order excluding any diversity and inclusion training from federal contracts. Especially contracts that are thought to contain “Divisive Concepts,” “Race or Sex Scapegoating.” An order that classified CRT as “divisive.”
The aftermath of that order was 300 diversity and inclusion training being cancelled. And in response to the order, African American Policy Forum legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw launched the #TruthBeTold campaign aimed at exposing the harm that the order posed.
And as the anti-CRT lobby to have CRT banned, the meaning of CRT seems to have morphed into very separate definitions. Manhattan Institute’s Christopher Rufo bases CRT as “identity-based Marxism”- Something he says he detects whenever terms such as “social justice” and “diversity and inclusion” are used.
In Idaho, however, CRT is seen as a tool that classifies people as “inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same… race. In Florida defines CRT is defined as any “theory. That racism is not merely a product of prejudice.”
This is somewhat ironic; anti-crt advocates are protesting against an umbrella theory that, according to them, makes all white people oppressors. Yet, the laws ban any talk of institutions that propagate inequality and race as an identity.