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Critical Race Theory: What The GOP Wants You to Believe

Updated: Jan 2, 2022

critical race theory (CRT): an intellectual and social movement and a loosely organized framework of legal analysis. CRT is based on the premise that race is not a biologically grounded human feature; instead, race is a culturally invented category used to oppress and exploit people of color. Critical race theorists generally apply their understanding of the institutional nature of racism to the goal of eliminating it. — Encyclopedia Britannica

One of the most ironic things about critical race theory, the latest bogeyman from the Republican closet, is that it originated as a critique of political liberalism.

As the civil rights movement gathered steam in the 1950s and ’60s, many liberals believed the path to racial equality was to achieve color blindness. In other words, one should be able to advance by merit and effort, rather than by the color of their skin — or, as Martin Luther King Jr. memorably put it:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

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Soon, however, legal scholars began to question whether color blindness is an effective or even an achievable goal — and now, most encourage us to move past this idea. Six of today’s prominent female leaders who advocate for gender equity published the following call to action on Feb. 1, 2021:

“We now call upon our colleagues ... to meaningfully engage with critical race theory, a transdisciplinary intellectual movement to understand and disrupt systemic racism. Of particular relevance to these efforts is the concept of intersectionality” [how social categories, such as race and gender, interact] ... with the aim of moving beyond a colorblind gender lens.”

Let me be clear: critical race theory is a pedantic and extremely complicated legal construct, and it is not my objective to explain it in detail in this space. My main purpose here is to show how conservatives have twisted CRT into a dog whistle with a wide-ranging set of claims they wrongly ascribe to CRT.