This Is How To Make Any Sense Of Critical Race Theory (Simplified & Explained)

What is critical race theory This Is How To Make Any Sense Of Critical Race Theory (Simplified & Explained)

If you haven’t heard about critical race theory yet, particularly in the past year, you will. It’s everywhere, from high school, college, newspapers, to your workplace’s water cooler.

Critical race theory (CRT) is a new “hot button issue”where the bigger picture is getting lost in political bickering.

But take away the political bickering, what is critical race theory ?

The issue has received support and criticism in equal measure.

CRT is pitting political ‘hot heads’ against each other. Everyone is going back and forth about CRT, from educators, parents, lawmakers, voters, and even politicians.

Conservative activists (including PTA soccer moms) are determined to keep critical race theory, otherwise known as CRT, out of the school curriculum.

The argument is whether or not CRT should be taught in school. 

Lawmakers in various states, including Idaho, Texas, and Tennessee, have banned it from being included in the school curriculum.

But before you get upset of go all in on critical race theory, you should understand what it is with-in big picture context.

Critical Race Theory Explained

Critical race theory Explained This Is How To Make Any Sense Of Critical Race Theory (Simplified & Explained)

Critical race theory is not a new academic idea. It has been around for over 40 years.

Critical race theory is an analytical tool, which emerged in the 1970s and 1980s and originated as a domain of legal study championed by Derrick Bell, the first permanently appointed African American law professor in Harvard.

Derrick Bell used critical race theory to address, examine, and understand how racism has shaped the U.S.A system and how these systems impact people of color. 

Basically CRT is looking back at our history (which included slavery and mass killings on American Indians) and studying which laws were written during times of racial inequality and how those laws impact today’s society.

CRT has continued to expand ever since.

More and more theorists, scholars, lawyers, and activists have since written and researched about the topic, mainly because racism has carried on even long after ” a whole set of landmark civil rights laws and anti-discrimination laws passed.”

However, if you ask about CRT and what it means, you’ll get 100 contrary definitions of what it actually is (depending on who you ask).

The widely accepted definition comes from the realization that racism is far from individual biases, prejudice, or unconscious behaviors alone.

Racism is also embedded in laws, policies, and systems which were written and established during times of racism.

Critical race theory or CRT is a scholarly concept that analyzes fundamental tenets of society-laws, politics, history, art, science, religion, education disciplinary measures, family, etc.

This theory insists on showing the context, inadequacies, and contributions of these disciplines as mutually reinforcing systems around race and equality. 

It challenges the beliefs that allow racism to happen.

Kimberle Crenshaw, a law professor at UCLA and Columbia University and a pioneer critical law theorist, says that

“Critical race theory is practical.

It’s an approach to grappling with a history of white supremacy that rejects the belief that what’s in the past is in the past and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached to it.”

Who Is Teaching Critical Race Theory?

This Is How To Make Any Sense Of Critical Race Theory (Simplified & Explained)

Teaching critical race theory as a subject in  k-12 public schools has become the subject of contention in communities throughout the U.S.

There’s little to no evidence of how and even whether teachers are teaching the topic itself in public schools, though there have been lessons on ideas such as lingering impacts of slavery that are central to the concept.

However, CRT is primarily a curriculum subject for graduate programs such as education, sociology, and university law schools.

According to Rodney Coates, a Miami University professor of Global and Intercultural Studies, “These are college-level conversations.”

He argues that CRT is too complex to be made a subject for k-12 classrooms when even some of his top students at Miami university still struggle with the concept.

The supporters of critical race theory want to go the extra mile and make CRT a national conversation and teach the masses about how the USA is struggling with discrimination that is baked in race.

Why Is Critical Race Theory So Controversial?

what is critical race theory This Is How To Make Any Sense Of Critical Race Theory (Simplified & Explained)

Again, CRT asserts that racism is systemic (built into the system). And for this reason, tries to design practices on equality and anti-racism to help reform those systems.

However, like many other theories, CRT is complex. Its tenets and practical applications are also still evolving.

The fact that it is complex and malleable makes it easy for its principles to be exploited and turned into a media soundbite that incites confusion, fear, and division.

This is why there are so many conservative activists decrying critical race theory.

Critical Concerns for Conservative Activists

CRT has especially received the most backlash from conservative activists.

The anti-CRTs find the theory somewhat a blanket term that people of color use to describe objectionable racial concepts such as unconscious bias, white supremacy, white privilege, and systemic inequality.

According to conservative lawmakers and parents, teachers use the critical race theory to teach white kids that they are oppressors, all people of color are the hopeless victims, and the American society is racist with ineradicable roots. 

Republicans and lawmakers have called out critical race theory for basing the nation’s story on racial conflict.

The thought is that the theory’s concepts attempt to revise American history and convince white Americans that they are born racists and should feel guilty or apologize for their privileges.

The rants have especially been based on a 2019 New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning initiative, “1619 Project.”

The published report, which cast critical scrutiny of slavery, aimed to tell fuller details of the nation’s history by placing slavery central to the nation’s founding—something that grabbed the attention of history teachers.

The term became even more controversial and rose to national consciousness last September when former President Donald aimed at CRT and the 1619 project as a “crusade against American history.

Trump criticized the two as “ideological poison that…will destroy our country.”

Since then, anti-CRTs have considered the theory a marker to push back on almost anything to do with race and racial equity in schools. This has seen state lawmakers and school boards from Texas to Tennessee ban schools from teaching about racism.

An analysis from Education Week suggests that at least 25 states have so far passed measures to limit how teachers will teach race, sexism, and racism in schools.

And, at least eight Republican-led states, including Iowa, Oklahoma, Idaho, Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, and North Carolina, have enacted laws prohibiting the teaching of CRT and any related concept.

According to CRT supporters, conservatives only aim at any teachings criticizing the dominant portrayal of  America’s past.

The proponents insist that critical race theory does not actually locate racism in the acts of individual people (in schools, in society, or history) but in the public policy to create equality, justice, and liberty for everyone.

A Yale professor, Daniel HoSang, insists that CRT is not “content” or a “set of beliefs.” Instead, it is an approach that “encourage(s) us to move past superficial explanations that are given about equality and suffering and to ask for new kinds of explanations.”

Is Critical Race Theory The Same as Systemic Racism

systemic racism This Is How To Make Any Sense Of Critical Race Theory (Simplified & Explained)

People are talking about race. They are talking about critical race theory. There are also conversations about the role of systemic racism in American society and across the globe. 

All this talk, for some of us, means more or less the same thing. I mean, isn’t race the issue at the center of them all?

Critical race theory and systemic racism are intertwined, just that they are a bit different, more like fraternal twins.

Critical race theory, CRT, is a tool of study in academia based on how racism has been institutionalized. CRT is not about individual racism.

It enlightens us on matters of race and racism and how systemic and institutional racism operates. 

CRT basically interrogates the role of racism in society. 

It urges the masses to recognize how systemic discrimination operates and demand the society to do better. 

This theory upholds the foundations of certain ideologies in mainstream society, such as capitalism, white privilege, and white supremacy, concepts that have been integrated into institutions and systems in America.

Systemic racism, also known as structural racism or institutional racism, is basically a kind of racism that is structural, embedded in our laws, regulations, institutions, and structures of governance.

Critical race theory suggests that systemic racism is baked into every facet of life, not just limited to physical interactions. It is the long-standing inequalities that black Americans, indigenous, and other people of color face.

How Systematic Racism Affects People of Color

  • Cultures of Discrimination

According to Kimberle Crenshaw, the law has enabled how long racism and white supremacy have persevered in the U.S. 

CRT points out just how systemic racism has enabled unjust government procedures and processes that mainly disadvantage people of color.

This form of racism has long manifested itself in vital societal factors like the criminal justice system, housing insecurity, education, health care, policing, employment, racial wealth gap, politics, and many more.

Unfortunately, these systems reward some names and cultures over others.

  • Invisible Systems

Systemic racism assumes that superiority can permeate one’s thinking consciously or unconsciously.

For instance, this form of racism has been around since the age of slavery in the country, to the segregation of black people thanks to the Jim Crow laws, to the undue criminalization and brutality against African Americans.

But even with anti-discriminatory laws, systemic racism lives on today.

Even though mainstream society may not see itself as racist, they still benefit from these systems that favor white people (white privilege). They can still enable racism unconsciously. 


Critical race theory is obviously controversial as whenever race is a topic it creates uncomfortable conversations.

But these conversations should not be political, they should be fact based.

If critical race theory forces us to have uncomfortable conversations about our (clearly racist) american history, then lets have the conversations and use them to move forward is the best interest of everyone. 

We all know that slavery was a racist institution that helped build America. When our founding fathers wrote the construct for how our country should be run, they did so when slavery was legal. And it took another 100 years after America was formed to end slavery.

It stands to reason that these laws should be looked at critically to see if they are (unintentionally) bias towards minority races or not.

How this is taught in schools should be examined. CRT was meant as a college level theory. it may be important, but teaching this in K-12 should not necessarily be “banned”, but certainly should be examined carefully.

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