1

Critical Race Theory: What It Is and What It Isn’t

President Lyndon Johnson signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which aimed to do away with racial discrimination in the law. But discrimination persisted.

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana sent a letter to fellow Republicans on June 24, 2021, stating: “As Republicans, we reject the racial essentialism that critical race theory teaches … that our institutions are racist and need to be destroyed from the ground up.”

Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor and central figure in the development of critical race theory, said in a recent interview that 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. … Critical Race Theory … is more patriotic than those who are opposed to it because … 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.”

Rep. Banks’ account is demonstrably false and typical of many people publicly declaring their opposition to critical race theory. Crenshaw’s characterization, while true, does not detail its main features. So what is critical race theory and what brought it into existence?

The development of critical race theory by legal scholars such as Derrick Bell and Crenshaw was largely a response to the slow legal progress and setbacks faced by African Americans from the end of the Civil War, in 1865, through the end of the civil rights era, in 1968. To understand critical race theory, you need to first understand the history of African American rights in the U.S.

The history

After 304 years of enslavement, then-former slaves gained equal protection under the law with passage of the 14th Amendment in 1868. The 15th Amendment, in 1870, guaranteed voting rights for men regardless of race or “previous condition of servitude.”

Between 1866 and 1877 – the period historians call “Radical Reconstruction” – African Americans began businesses, became involved in local governance and law enforcement and were elected to Congress.

This early progress was subsequently diminished by state laws throughout the American South called “Black Codes,” which limited voting rights, property rights and compensation for work; made it illegal to be unemployed or not have documented proof of employment; and could subject prisoners to work without pay on behalf of the state. These legal rollbacks were worsened by the spread of “Jim Crow” laws throughout the country requiring segregation in almost all aspects of life.

Grassroots struggles for civil rights were constant in post-Civil War America. Some historians even refer to the period from the New Deal Era, which began in 1933, to the present as “The Long Civil Rights Movement.”

The period stretching from Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, which found school segregation to be unconstitutional, to the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which prohibited discrimination in housing, was especially productive.

The civil rights movement used practices such as civil disobedience, nonviolent protest, grassroots organizing and legal challenges to advance civil rights. The U.S.’s need to improve its image abroad during the Cold War importantly aided these advancements. The movement succeeded in banning explicit legal discrimination and segregation, promoted equal access to work and housing and extended federal protection of voting rights.

However, the movement that produced legal advances had no effect on the increasing racial wealth gap between Blacks and whites, while school and housing segregation persisted.

A young Black man on a skateboard pushes his son in a stroller on a sidewalk past blighted buildings in Baltimore.
The racial wealth gap between Blacks and whites has persisted. Here, Carde Cornish takes his son past blighted buildings in Baltimore. ‘Our race issues aren’t necessarily toward individuals who are white, but it is towards the system that keeps us all down, one, but keeps Black people disproportionally down a lot more than anybody else,’ he said.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

What critical race theory is

Critical race theory is a field of intellectual inquiry that demonstrates the legal codification of racism in America.

Through the study of law and U.S. history, it attempts to reveal how racial oppression shaped the legal fabric of the U.S. Critical race theory is traditionally less concerned with how racism manifests itself in interactions with individuals and more concerned with how racism has been, and is, codified into the law.

There are a few beliefs commonly held by most critical race theorists.

First, race is not fundamentally or essentially a matter of biology, but rather a social construct. While physical features and geographic origin play a part in making up what we think of as race, societies will often make up the rest of what we think of as race. For instance, 19th- and early-20th-century scientists and politicians frequently described people of color as intellectually or morally inferior, and used those false descriptions to justify oppression and discrimination.

Legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, who devised the term ‘critical race theory,’ explains what it is – and isn’t.

Second, these racial views have been codified into the nation’s foundational documents and legal system. For evidence of that, look no further than the “Three-Fifths Compromisein the Constitution, whereby slaves, denied the right to vote, were nonetheless treated as part of the population for increasing congressional representation of slave-holding states.

Third, given the pervasiveness of racism in our legal system and institutions, racism is not aberrant, but a normal part of life.

Fourth, multiple elements, such as race and gender, can lead to kinds of compounded discrimination that lack the civil rights protections given to individual, protected categories. For example, Crenshaw has forcibly argued that there is a lack of legal protection for Black women as a category. The courts have treated Black women as Black, or women, but not both in discrimination cases – despite the fact that they may have experienced discrimination because they were both.

These beliefs are shared by scholars in a variety of fields who explore the role of racism in areas such as education, health care and history.

Finally, critical race theorists are interested not just in studying the law and systems of racism, but in changing them for the better.

What critical race theory is not

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, giving his version of what critical race theory is.

“Critical race theory” has become a catch-all phrase among legislators attempting to ban a wide array of teaching practices concerning race. State legislators in Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia have introduced legislation banning what they believe to be critical race theory from schools.

But what is being banned in education, and what many media outlets and legislators are calling “critical race theory,” is far from it. Here are sections from identical legislation in Oklahoma and Tennessee that propose to ban the teaching of these concepts. As a philosopher of race and racism, I can safely say that critical race theory does not assert the following:

(1) One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;

(2) An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously;

(3) An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of the individual’s race or sex;

(4) An individual’s moral character is determined by the individual’s race or sex;

(5) An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;

(6) An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or another form of psychological distress solely because of the individual’s race or sex.

What most of these bills go on to do is limit the presentation of educational materials that suggest that Americans do not live in a meritocracy, that foundational elements of U.S. laws are racist, and that racism is a perpetual struggle from which America has not escaped.

Americans are used to viewing their history through a triumphalist lens, where we overcome hardships, defeat our British oppressors and create a country where all are free with equal access to opportunities.

Obviously, not all of that is true.

Critical race theory provides techniques to analyze U.S. history and legal institutions by acknowledging that racial problems do not go away when we leave them unaddressed.

[Understand what’s going on in Washington. Sign up for The Conversation’s Politics Weekly.]The Conversation

David Miguel Gray, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Affiliate, Institute for Intelligent Systems, University of Memphis

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.




A Tale of Two Pandemics

Systematic inequality in America has produced two very different pandemics. (Photo: Screenshot/Youtube)

By Robert Reich | Common Dreams

No description of the coronavirus is more misleading than calling it “the great equalizer.”

The horrific truth is that Native Americans, Latinos, and African-Americans are dying at much higher rates than white people.

The horrific truth is that Native Americans, Latinos, and African-Americans are dying at much higher rates than white people—and we don’t know the half of it because the CDC hasn’t released any racial data about the virus; we don’t know if they’re even collecting it.

But the picture emerging from cities, states, and reservations are that of an atrocity.

In Milwaukee County, black people makeup just 26% of the county’s population but account for almost half the county’s cases, and a staggering 81% of its deaths.

Louisiana, Illinois, and Michigan are no different: black people make up less of the overall population but account for vastly more of both cases and deaths.

In San Francisco, Latinos account for just 15% of the population but makeup 31% of the city’s confirmed cases, and account for over 80% of the city’s hospitalized coronavirus patients. And in the country’s epicenter of New York City, the virus is twice as deadly for Latinos as for white people.

Native Americans are also dying in wildly disproportionate numbers. The Navajo Nation, with about 175,000 residents, has more cases of COVID-19 than nine entire states. And more deaths than 13 states.

You’ve heard how governors are fighting over aid? Well, tribal leaders are getting even less.

So why are these communities suffering the worst of this pandemic?

For one, black people and Latinos are more likely to work in “essential” positions that require them to put their health at risk—a study by the New York City comptroller found that 75% of the city’s frontline workers are people of color.

On top of that, black people and Native Americans experience higher levels of preexisting conditions like asthma and diabetes that make contracting the virus more deadly.

Of course they don’t just happen to have these illnesses—this is the system: it’s decades of segregated housing, pollution, lack of access to medical care, and poverty in action.

But the virus isn’t just discriminating by race. It’s also disproportionately affecting the working class and the poor of every kind.

In New York City, the five ZIP codes with the highest rates of positive tests for the coronavirus have an average per capita income of *under* $30,000—while residents in the five zip codes with the lowest rates have an average income of over $100,000.

And that’s just where there’s testing. Remember how early on we heard about celebrities testing positive? If not happiness, at least money can buy a diagnosis. New York just rounded its death toll up by a few thousand people who were never even tested.

Studies show that lower-income people are more likely to have chronic health conditions that make the virus more deadly.

They’re less likely to receive sufficient medical care or might lack access altogether.

And they’re more likely to work in frontline “essential” jobs that put their health at risk.

A study found that only 3% of lower-income workers are working from home during the pandemic, compared to almost half of upper-middle-income workers.

Any rush to “open the economy” is really about forcing working-class and poor people back into harm’s way while the rich and affluent can safely work from home.

For as many workers risking their lives for meager paychecks, still more are now unemployed and on the brink of financial obliteration.

Less than half of Americans can afford a $1,000 emergency, and nearly 75% live paycheck to paycheck. Piecemeal unemployment benefits and one-time payments aren’t going to buoy Americans through the next great depression.

We are all weathering the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat.

Systematic inequality in America has produced two very different pandemics:

In one, billionaires are sheltering in place on their yachts in the Caribbean, and wealthy families are safely quarantining in multimillion-dollar mansions.

In the other boats sit people risking their lives for their jobs and people without incomes going hungry, a disproportionate number of whom are people of color, and all of whom deserve better.

This is a tale of two pandemics. There is nothing “equal” about it.

Watch:

Robert Reich

Robert Reich, is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. The author of many books, including the best-sellers AftershockThe Work of NationsBeyond Outrage and, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, “Inequality For All.” Reich’s newest book is “The Common Good.” He’s co-creator of the Netflix original documentary “Saving Capitalism,” which is streaming now.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.




50 Years Later, America Is Still Divided

By Fred Harris and Alan Curtis | CNN News

“A physician’s warning of approaching death, with a prescription for life.”

That’s the way the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. described the 1968 report of President Lyndon Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (called the Kerner Commission after its chairman, Gov. Otto Kerner of Illinois).
President Johnson had appointed this blue-ribbon citizens commission in the wake of the terrible riots that exploded in the black neighborhoods of many American cities during the long hot summer of 1967, with great loss of life, awful human injury and enormous property destruction — causing shock, fear, alarm, bewilderment and anxiety throughout the country. The worst disorders, in Newark and Detroit, were not finally quelled until the President sent in US Army troops.
President Johnson charged the Kerner Commission to investigate the riots and recommend action, not only from a law and order standpoint, but also in regard to their deeper causes. “Let your search be free,” the President told the commission members. “Find the truth and express it in your report.” And that is what the commission famously did, which, as it turned out, not only shocked the conscience of the nation, but greatly upset President Johnson, as well.
The Kerner Report condemned violence and lawlessness in the strongest terms, saying they “nourish repression, not justice,” and then came its basic finding: “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal.”
“Segregation and poverty have created in the racial ghetto a destructive environment totally unknown to most white Americans,” the report stated further, adding, “What white Americans have never fully understood — but what the Negro can never forget — is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”
Great and sustained national efforts were required, the Kerner Report said, not only to combat racism, but also to significantly invest in human capital, through programs against unemployment and low wages, poverty, inferior or inadequate education and training, lack of health care, and bad or nonexistent housing.
The report also made strong recommendations for improving the conduct of the media and the police, and for the further integration of housing and schools. These recommendations applied to all Americans, “rural and urban, white, black, Spanish-surnamed, and American Indians.”

 

But, misinformed about its contents and distracted by the Vietnam War, President Johnson rejected the Kerner Report (and this is particularly sad because President Johnson did more against poverty and racism than any other president, before or since).
However, the report was leaked to the media, with detrimental effect, before the commission could, as planned, background reporters so they would fully understand the reasons for the panel’s findings and recommendations. This leak resulted in hastily written news stories that appeared throughout the country the next morning and which carried shocking headlines, something like: “White Racism Cause of Black Riots, Commission Says.” Many people never learned “the rest of the story.” Not surprisingly, there was considerable backlash in the country.
READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE…..