What Is Critical Race Theory? A Definitive Guide

Critical Race Theory has become the biggest controversial issue pitting conservative America against the liberal left and Critical Race Theory legal scholars. At the grassroots level, school boards and educators are defending themselves against accusations of, among other things, indoctrinating young children with racist ideas that are turning them against white people and America.

Despite the extensive coverage, a Reuter/Ipsos poll found that 57% of adults are not familiar with the term Critical Race Theory (Lawrence, 2021). As Republican legislators scramble to ban CRT from K-12, many educators insist that their curricula don’t include CRT-related discussions, and scholars maintain that the debate is too complex. As the battle rages on, the question remains, what exactly is Critical Race Theory?

Critical Race Theory: A Brief History

In the post-Civil Rights era of the mid-1970s, several lawyers, legal scholars, and activists were realizing that the advances made during the Civil Rights era of 1960 were either stalled or, in some cases, rolled back (Delgado & Stefancic, 2017). Additionally, while reducing in number, the incidents of overt racism were not the only problems people of color were facing. The incidents of racism were more subtle, something that the systems in place we’re unable to handle.

To these individuals, there was the need for new strategies and theories to combat this subtle form of racism, which was gaining ground (Delgado & Stefancic, 2017). The early proponents of Critical Race Theory (CRT), among them Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Mari Matsuda, Alan Freeman, Richard Delgado, Angela Harris, among others, all had been in one way or other involved in legal frameworks involving race before the official institutionalization of CRT in 1989.

Derrick Bell, a tenured professor at Harvard School of Law from 1970 to 1980, quit his position because of the university’s resistance to hiring more faculty members of color. The university scrapped the course “Constitutional Law and Minority Issues,” following his exit, sparking outrage from the Black Law Students Association. Students launched protests to get the school to reinstate the course, and in the process, hire a Black professor to teach the class. In response, Dean James Vorenberg launched a three-week mini-course, which the students boycotted. In 1983, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw and Mari Matsuda instead found a way to receive the education they wanted, launching the “Alternative Course” (Jackson, 2021).

In the summer of 1989, 20 legal scholars, lawyers, and activists received an invitation to attend a conference in Madison, Wisconsin. On July 8, 1989, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Neil Gotanda, and Stephanie Phillips, the conference hosts, welcomed the attendees at St. Benedict Center, a convent. Other participants included Anita Allen, Angela Harris, Benita Ramsey, Derrick Bell, Elizabeth Patterson, Harlon Dalton, Isabelle Gunning, John Calmore, Kendall Thomas, Kevin Brown, Linda Greene, Mari Matsuda, Patricia Williams, Paulette Caldwell, Philip T. Nash, Richard Delgado, Taunya Banks, Trina Grillo, Teresa Miller, and Robert Suggs (Onwuachi-Willig, 2009).

In an interview with the members of the Transactional Law & Contemporary Problems editorial board, Richard Delgado recalled the 1989 conference, saying, “I was a member of the founding conference… we gathered at that convent for two and a half days, around a table in an austere room with stained glass windows and crucifixes here and there – an odd place for a bunch of Marxists – and worked out a set of principles” (Delgado & Stefancic, 2011, p. 225).

Thus, Critical Race Theory was born.

So, What is Critical Race Theory?

According to Delgado & Stefancic (2017), CRT tries to understand and change the social situation by exploring the organization of the society along racial lines and hierarchies and transforming it for the better. CRT emerged in the legal framework, with the progressive scholars looking past the overt racism to try and understand the systems that enable the existence of racism, especially in the legal system, and look for ways to employ the same justice system to protect civil rights. Janel George (2021) explains that critical race theorists understood that while the law could be a tool used to deepen racial inequality, it also had the potential to be used as a tool for emancipation and the achievement of racial equality.

To better understand CRTand its goals, we need first to understand its core tenets:

  • Racism is ordinary, not aberrational; CRT maintains that racism is not determined by the blatant acts of racism. Instead, it is a part of our usual way of life and is a common experience for most people of color. Because of this, it becomes difficult to address or cure racism (Delgado & Stefancic, 1995).

Within this tenet are the concepts of “colorblindness” and “meritocracy,” which, according to CRT, serve two primary purposes. “Colorblindness” calls for the equal treatment of all persons regardless of color, clears white people of any responsibility for the hardships people of color experience. “Meritocracy” allows the empowered to maintain elitist control and still claim neutrality (Hartlep, 2009).

  • Theory of Interest Convergence, also referred to as material determinism, maintains that whites have little reason to address racism since it advances their interests. They allow and support social justice and progress when there is something in it for them.

For example, in regards to Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Derrick Bell, in a 1980 Harvard Law Review opinion piece, called into question the Supreme Court’s ruling, which ordered the desegregation of schools. Bell pointed out that the ruling came during the Cold War when desegregation would cast a favorable light on the country. Additionally, Black soldiers were coming home from WWII to experience further discrimination, a notion that would discredit the country’s superior stance on equality. Therefore, Bell theorized, it was in the white elites’ interest to ban segregation, which happened to match up with the minorities’ interests at the time.

  • The race is a social construct; this has been the hallmark of CRT, with Delgado & Stefancic explaining that race is a consequence of social thought and relations. It is not objective, and race categorization does not correspond to any biological or genetic reality. Instead, races are inventions of the society and are manipulated, or retired, when it is convenient (1995).

Hartlep (2009) writes that the Bracero program saw millions of Mexican nationals brought into the U.S. as agricultural workers to fulfill the labor requirements needed to produce food during WWII. They were promptly deported back to Mexico, with Operation Wetback launched in 1954, deporting over a million Mexicans from the country’s southwest region.

Other policies included the “one-drop” rule, the 1934 housing program benefiting whites and locking nonwhites out, the Wagner Act, and the Dred Scott v. Sandford.

  • Storytelling and counter-storytelling, the “voice of color theory,” calls for challenging the beliefs and narratives assumed to be true. CRT maintains that the experiences of people of color may be fundamentally different from the record that whites have perpetrated.

For example, indigenous Indians have a very different account of events about the white settlers and the “discovery” of America. In the same way, Hackman and Rauscher (2004) point out that “mainstream” school curricula are structured around mainstream white, middle-class values, effectively marginalizing the minority students and impeding their achievements.

CRT calls for minorities to express their experiences and be factored into the policies created, legal or otherwise.

  • Civil Rights legislation has primarily benefitted Whites; CRT contends that white people benefit from civil rights legislation than minorities.

For example, even though affirmative action has been slammed for years for giving nonwhites an unfair advantage over their white counterparts, statistics show that white people are the ones who have gained more from affirmative action. According to Guy-Sheftall (1993), white women have primarily benefited from affirmative action hiring practices. Hacker (1992) noted that even after affirmative action had been in place for 20 years, African Americans only made up 4.5% of the professorate.

Delgado (2009) simply stated, “I am expected to tell the kids that if they study hard and stay out of trouble, they can become a law professor like me. That, however, is a very big lie: a whopper” (p. 112). He added that while the faces of other minority colleagues changed over the years, the number maintained the same. “Despite this, I am expected to tell forty kids in a crowded inner-city classroom that if they work hard, they can each be among the chosen twenty-five,” he continued.

Critical Race Theory and K-12 Education

Even though CRT originated in the legal framework, by the 1990s, it had spread into other fields, including education. During the Living History Interview at the University of Iowa, Jean Stefancic explained that educators first heard about critical race theory in the mid-1990s, and several of them studied the theory’s essential writings, hoping to find ideas that could be applied to the problems they were trying to solve (Delgado & Stefancic, 2011).

For the past several years, teachers all over the country have taken to social media and other platforms to complain about the lack of resources in their classes, with some teachers crowdfunding just to get essential supplies for their students. However, K-12 teachers are now facing a different issue – tackling current issues without being accused of “indoctrinating” students. At the center of this controversy is Critical Race Theory, which the Heritage Foundation, a conservative organization, blames for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School 2018 shooting. The foundation’s argument starts: “What do school safety and the devastating school shooting that took the lives of 17 students and staff at a high school in Parkland, Florida, have to do with CRT? Quite a bit, in fact” (Butcher & Gonzales, 2020, p. 63). Butcher & Gonzalez argue that because the school was among the first in the district to adopt the PROMISE program, which aims to reduce the exclusionary discipline of minority students, the shooter avoided interaction with police, thus was able to obtain a gun, leading to the devastating consequences.

Critical Race Theory has always been a hotbed of controversy, no matter what field it is applied in. Recently, the focus has been on the teaching of CRT in K-12 schools, sparking heated arguments from both sides, at the grassroots and national levels. Despite the extensive coverage of the discussions, it remains unclear what the argument is about and what teachers are expected to do.

Research by Media Matters for America shows that from April to mid-June 2021, conservative T.V. network Fox News mentioned Critical Race Theory over 1,900 times, with 901mentions in the first half of June alone (Power, 2021). In the same time frame, CRT was mentioned 250 times on CNN and 264 times on MSBC (Wong, 2021). By June 2021, 22 states had introduced bills seeking to ban the teaching of CRT in schools, with Idaho, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas, and Tennessee signing them into law (Adams, Smith & Tambe, 2021).

This fight against CRT has received extensive media attention, but supporters of the CRT maintain that critics are fighting against something that they don’t understand. Jonathan Chism, co-editor of Critical Race Studies Across Disciplines, argues that most people condemning critical race theory have no clue what the theory is about since they have not read the relevant materials. He surmises that this condemnation is a reaction drawn from fear of losing their power, influence, and privilege. Adams, Smith & Tambe (2021) assert that the criticism against CRT is a product of the critics’ desire to deny the truth about America and its history of racism.

For supporters, teaching aspects of CRT in schools is a way of equipping students with information that considers multiple viewpoints instead of whitewashing. Jania Hoover (2021), an 11th grade U.S. History teacher, explains that there is a clear advantage to teaching students the value of evaluating information from different perspectives; it makes them better at other facets of their lives. For teachers like Hoover, providing students with the relevant information is the right thing to do, especially when said students ask questions regarding “sensitive” issues like race, sexuality, and social justice. When I worked as a social studies teacher, there were always times when students would seek clarity on sensitive topics, and like Hoover, I felt like it was my duty to help them understand these issues. The classroom was a safe space, and they were allowed to express their opinions, and the only requirement was that they respect differing opinions.

Last year, I was contacted by a few teachers I’d trained, many of whom were wondering how best to explain the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted across the country following the murder of George Floyd to their students. Melissa Statz, a fourth-grade teacher in Burlington, Wisconsin, used worksheets to help her students understand the Kenosha protests, which were sparked by the fatal police shooting of Jacob Blake. After hearing her students discussing the protests, Statz found age-appropriate material to help the students understand the Black Lives Matter movement and systemic racism. An outraged parent accused Statz of “indoctrinate our kids,” which saw other community members demand that the school district discipline Statz (Kingkade, 2020). Similar headlines have popped up, with well-meaning teachers finding themselves vilified for trying to help students understand their world.

I own an EdTech company, and as a former professor of social studies, I received several requests to help my former trainees find the relevant material to help their students better understand the protests and the Black Lives Matter movement. Their main concern was addressing the issues from a neutral position to equip the students with the relevant facts and spark a discussion to critically examine the situation and offer possible solutions. However, it seemed that any discussions of race, discrimination, and diversity were being slammed as CRT indoctrination, with the conservative media pushing for politicians to call out this “evil.” Conservative state legislators are scrambling to ban CRT. At the same time, teachers are trying to find ways to help students understand issues like discrimination, systemic racism, and how the country’s history has culminated in deep-rooted racial problems. However, there is still one fundamental problem – whether it is possible to teach CRT in schools.

For many supporters of CRT, the current debate is mostly misguided, and many school boards accused of teaching CRT maintain that this is not the case. In April 2021, Harford County Public Schools board, following complaints by parents, argued that it had not incorporated any aspect of CRT in its curriculum. The district has its program, “culturally responsive teaching,” which seeks to address racial inequality in the school system. While the programs share the same acronym, Paula Stanton, the district’s equity and cultural proficiency supervisor, admitted that she had no idea what Critical Race Theory was when parents started calling the board to complain about their program (Anderson, 2021). Per the state’s upcoming changes to History and Social Science SOLs, Prince George County School Board plans to revise its history and social studies curriculum to include more diverse perspectives. Following this announcement, Dr. Lisa Pennycuff, Superintendent of Prince George County Schools, felt the need to assert that while the school district had not adopted CRT, there were plans to include African American SOLs in the curriculum (Rath, 2021).

While supporters champion for the adoption of CRT in K-12 curricula and opponents move to ban it from schools completely, there is a fundamental question that needs asking:

Is CRT being taught in K-12?

For some experts, the simple answer to this question is “no.” Gary Peller, a Georgetown Law Professor and co-author of Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement, maintains that K-12 schools are likely not teaching CRT (Zalaznick, 2021). Rodney Coates, a global and intercultural studies professor at Miami University, echoes Peller’s response, with both experts maintaining that CRT is too complex for K-12 students. According to Coates, CRT-related discussions were conversations better suited for college-level students (Mitchell, 2021). Explaining his stance, Peller wrote that the notion that K-12 students could easily be taught CRT made no sense as it was a complex subject. “It’s asking you to critically examine assumptions that we all make. And so if it were being taught in K-12, I would think it would be a cause for wild celebration that teachers (were) doing such a fantastic job” (Mitchell, 2021, p.25).

As an educator, I’m inclined to agree with Coates and Peller. As the controversy has raged on, no one has taken the time to understand CRT, and the arguments showcase this. Even the 1619 Project, slammed as CRT countless times, primarily focuses on CRT’s storytelling and counter-storytelling aspect. It provides an alternative way of looking at the inception of slavery and focuses on the narratives of the enslaved people. Dr. Janice Jackson, the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, explained the district’s decision to include the 1619 project in its curriculum. She maintained that the country’s history needed an honest explanation for students to better understand the issues arising in the present. She lauded the 1619 Project, a product of the New York Times, and curricular resources from the Pulitzer Center, as compelling new material that revisited the impact of slavery on our modern society (Da Silva, 2020).

The answer to whether CRT is being taught in K-12 is unclear, but what’s evident is that in its entirety, CRT is not in our schools. Still, aspects of it are making their way into curricula aimed at educating students to explore the country’s history without skipping over the brutal, undesirable experiences that minorities were, and keep being, subjected to.

Is it worth it?

According to Jean Stefancic, CRT expanded into education in the 1990s because educators searched for ways to address the inadequacies prevalent in curricula, disciplinary actions, school funding, tracking, standardized tests, canonical debates, and power dynamics (Delgado & Stefancic, 2011). Essentially, Brown v. Board of Education was considered a legal win, but as Derrick Bell observed, desegregation did not eliminate the need to address other systemic racial inequalities in schools. Following the ruling, many Black faculty and administrators lost their jobs as retribution for calling for and supporting desegregation and white flight. White families moved from areas with a considerable number of nonwhite residents (George, 2021).

These legal shortcomings culminated in the issues of racial inequality present in education today, including:

  • Curricula dominantly feature the white narrative of history and exclude the experiences and history of people of color.
  • Inadequate instruction, mainly fueled by lack of resources and poorly-qualified teachers in public and urban schools, leading to the characterization of students of color as those in need of remediation (Darling-Hammond, 1998).
  • Disciplinary policies, implicit bias, and teacher-student racial mismatch that sees students of color disproportionately impacted. In his research, Teachers’ Perceptions of Students’ Disruptive Behavior: The Effect of Racial Congruence and Consequences for School Suspension, Adam Wright notes that it is less likely for a black student to be suspended for misbehavior the more the student is matched with a black teacher (Startz, 2016).
  • Inequitable school financing disproportionately affects minority students. According to Darling-Hammond (1998), 10 percent of the wealthiest U.S. school districts have expenditures of almost ten times over what the poorest 10 percent spend, and in the same states, spending ratios of 3 to 1 are common. Schools, where minority students make up a sizeable chunk of the student body are more likely to receive less funding than schools with a significant white student population, even within the same school districts. This persistent underfunding means that students of color have significantly fewer resources, which dramatically impedes their chances of academic success.

Fundamentally, instead of blaming individual students for their academic failure, CRT explores the systemic practices that make it almost impossible for minority students to achieve academic success. For example, by exploring various discriminatory practices, like redlining, students can understand how the legal system perpetuated discrimination that had a lasting impact on their education.

I can appreciate the potential benefits CRT has on students. Dr. Janice Jackson stated that educators, to help students conceptualize and understand the world around them, are always trying to find new tools and strategies with the hopes of assisting them to become informed and influential citizens (Da Silva, 2020). Vida A. Robertson, the Center for Critical Race Studies director, maintains that educators need to provide appropriately-aged students with insight into how race can be used to organize the power, resources, and opportunities in society. According to Robertson, CRT aims to help students gain the ability to bring about change to the systems, structures, and institutions that propagate racial inequities (Zalaznick, 2021).

It is imperative to note that introducing CRT into K-12 curricula is not a magical remedy that will solve every problem in K-12 schools. However, the current system is undoubtedly not working, and something needs to be done. CRT in education is a tool geared towards giving our students a chance to peek behind the curtain. To allow them to look beyond themselves and understand how the system impacts them, positively or negatively. Educators, on their part, are made aware of their individual, unconscious bias and their contribution to the inequities propagated by their schools.

Political Backlash against CRT

CRT has drawn intense criticism from scholars, parents, media personalities, and politicians. In one infamous school board meeting, deputies arrested a parent after an anti-LGBT and anti-CRT speech sparked chaos. On June 22, 2021, the Loudon County Public Schools board was forced to end their meeting prematurely following a crowd’s chaotic response during the remarks section of the forum. One attendee, former Virginia State Senator Dick Black, accused the school board of “teaching children to hate others because of their skin color” by including CRT into the curriculum (Battiston, 2021, p. 8). The school board has repeatedly denied these allegations, but this has not stopped critics from pointing out that parents need to stand firmly against CRT and speak out just like the Loudon County parents.

Black’s statement echoes the common criticism against CRT, with Dr. Greg Ganske (2021) writing that CRT underpins racial stereotypes, discounts meaningful dialogue, and threatens race relations. Critics of CRT maintain that it focuses on race and pushes students to focus on their differences rather than their shared values and beliefs. One of the most prominent critics of CRT, Christopher Rufo, is said to have been the catalyst behind former President Donald Trump’s Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping, which banned the teaching of “divisive concepts” to federal employees and government contractors.

However, in his own words, Rufo’s criticisms are not lobbied against Critical Race Theory itself, but rather, a diverse set of diverse concepts which he’s lumped into CRT in a bid to deliberately mislead citizens. Writing to Benjamin Wallace-Wells in May 2021, Rufo explained the need to use a new language to explain the issues, as political correctness was outdated and not applicable anymore. According to Rufo, the new politics of race were more invasive than ‘correctness.’ He discounted broad terms like ‘cancel culture and ‘woke,’ explaining that these would not have the right impact in the political sphere. He concluded, ” ‘Critical race theory is the perfect villain” (Wallace-Wells, 2021, p. 6). This statement was a reiteration of his March 15, 2021, tweet reading: “We have successfully frozen their brand—”critical race theory”—into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category.” For Rufo, he’d found a perfect political weapon.

In an interview on Tucker Carlson Tonight on September 2, 2020, he urged conservatives to wake up, calling CRT an existential threat to the country. He called on the President and the White House to issue an executive order abolishing critical-race-theory training from the federal government “to stamp out this destructive, divisive, pseudoscientific ideology” (Wallace-Wells, 2021, p. 8). The next day, Rufo received a call from then-President Donald Trump, Mark Meadows, and soon after traveled to Washington, D.C., to help draft the Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping, issued on September 2, 2020. Later, Rufo claimed, “This entire movement came from nothing” (Wallace-Wells, 2021, p. 9), when in fact, he was the one who started it.

As the conservative media slammed CRT, parents’ concerns snowballed, and school districts found themselves defending their curricula amidst accusations that they were teaching something a majority of school officials had no idea existed. While Trump’s executive order was overturned by President Joe Biden shortly after he took office, several states have rallied to propose bills seeking to ban teaching CRT in schools, with some looking to ban CRT even in higher education classrooms. As of August 2021, Idaho, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Iowa, New Hampshire, Arizona, and South Carolina have passed legislation banning the teaching of what many of these bills call “divisive concepts,” a term present in Trump’s executive order. Of the eight states, only Idaho has mentioned Critical Race Theory in the legislation. Most of the bills passed, proposed, or rejected ban any discussion or teaching that asserts that the U.S. is inherently racist, conscious or unconscious bias, any discussions of privilege, oppression, discrimination, and in some cases, even gender discussions (Ray & Gibbons, 2021). About 20 or more states have introduced or have plans to introduce similar legislation.

State and local school boards are also taking action to ban CRT-related materials in classrooms, with Florida, Georgia, Utah, and Oklahoma school boards introducing guidelines that ban CRT- related discussions. Some local school boards, including Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia, have criticized CRT in schools.

Addressing the Misconceptions

Perhaps the biggest argument against Critical Race Theory is that it is anti-White and anti-American. Rufo called CRT anti-white, anti-Asian, anti-rational, and anti-democratic. (Greer, 2021). Following the banning of CRT in Florida schools, Governor Ron DeSantis tweeted: “Critical Race Theory teaches kids to hate our country and to hate each other. It is state-sanctioned racism and has no place in Florida schools” (Lawrence, 2021, p.11).

However, supporters of CRT maintain that this is a gross misconception of the truth, explaining that CRT just calls for a critical examination of racism in the country, looking beyond the individuals and focusing on the institutions that allowed the permeation of racist, discriminative practices through policies. Rayshawn Ray, professor of sociology and executive director of the Lab for Applied Social Science Research at the University of Maryland, claims that most people admonishing CRT don’t want any discussions of racism. They were people who want to see the country America as perfect, even though they were hurting their children. He added that when these students get to college, they are usually angry with their parents because they did not receive an accurate view of their world. He urged people to stop seeing CRT as an attack on individual identities (Lawrence, 2021).

Many parents maintain that K-12 kids are too young for CRT-related discussions. Still, many teachers who had to field questions about police brutality, racism, and Black Lives Matter in 2020, believe that students need the information about their world. Speaking anonymously to Huffpost, one teacher explained that she teaches special education. A big part of her work requires answering questions and helping students work through their general education assignments. Inevitably, she’s had to discuss racism, especially with high school students, including discussing systemic racism when students read about internment camps and segregation in their history classes. She has also had to discuss police brutality with the students, as she works in a school with many students of color. This means that many of her students have experienced racism and an unfair justice system and are familiar with these concepts (Wong, 2021).

Emily Glankler, a history teacher in Austin, Texas, maintains that kids are not too young to understand these concepts. Gankler tells parents that even if they do not discuss race in their home, the children are still noticing from an early age. Therefore, teachers put in the effort to guide them in discussions that make them feel safe (Lawrence, 2021).

Other parents, outraged by stories of misguided teachers asking their children to apologize for their “white privilege,” believe CRT is to blame. Harvey Goldman, an NYC businessman, was outraged to learn that his 9-year-old daughter had been learning about the Black Lives Matter Movement, and he slammed Heschel School in Manhattan for its “anti-racist” obsession. In a letter to the school dated September 2020, Goldman wrote, “First and foremost, neither I nor my child, have ‘white privilege,’ nor do we need to apologize for it. Suggesting I do is insulting. Suggesting to my 9-year-old child she does is child abuse, not education” (Kennedy, 2021, p. 6). Many CRT critics falsely believe that CRT requires white students to apologize to their nonwhite counterparts for slavery and other historical atrocities.

However, supporters maintain that this is not what CRT is. Rachel Wilder, a special education middle school teacher in Colorado, told HuffPost that she was confident that teachers do not commonly shame white students or teach that white privilege is the cause of all of society’s problems. There is no conspiracy to brainwash students. Wilder explains that teachers are doing their best to equip the kids with the relevant facts and ensure that they are all treated with equity and respect, no matter their skin color or cultural background (Wong, 2021). Many CRT supporters share this sentiment and maintain that the teachers forcing students to apologize for their privilege have misunderstood the message. CRT, they contend, only calls for whites to realize and acknowledge how their privilege has served them and find ways to dismantle the systems that afford them these privileges.

What Happens Next?

Many educators, including experts in the education niche like myself, have no idea what these laws plan to ban. For the most part, social studies discussions are nuanced and usually involve a myriad of related topics. For example, discussing a historical topic like the Tulsa race massacre requires delving deeper into the history of racism in the country and how some of the perpetrators were deputized. This conversation morphs into a discussion about the embedded racist history in law enforcement. Does a debate like this fall under the CRT-related umbrella ban, or is it allowed because it is a discussion based on historical events? These are the questions teachers are raising, but no one seems to have an answer.

Currently, there seems to be no clear boundary on what can be discussed and what constitutes “indoctrination.” The legislature casts a wide net, and some educators are hesitant to address controversial topics like racism throughout American history because they are afraid of backlash and facing disciplinary actions. Virginia Beach County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence is concerned that legislation banning CRT can have a chilling effect on teachers. This is not conducive to the learning environment because teachers need to feel comfortable while teaching the curriculum. He revealed that some teachers were calling their principals to ask, “Am I allowed to teach this? Is this OK to teach?” (Watson, 2021, p. 71).

All we can do is wait to see how it plays out for educators and other players in the education system.



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Kennedy, D. (2021, April 24). Inside the growing underground network of parents fighting ‘anti-racism’ in NYC schools. New York Post. https://nypost.com/2021/04/24/how-parents-are-fighting-critical-race-theory-in-nyc-schools/

Kingkade, T. (2020, October 24). How one teacher’s Black Lives Matter lesson divided a small Wisconsin town. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/how-one-teacher-s-black-lives-matter-lesson-divided-small-n1244566

Lawrence, T. E. (2021, July 21). 3 Myths About Critical Race Theory That Parents Need To Understand. Romper. https://www.romper.com/life/what-is-critical-race-theory-in-education

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Onwuachi-Willig, A. (2009). Celebrating Critical Race Theory at 20. Iowa Law Review 94:1497-1498. https://scholarship.law.bu.edu/faculty_scholarship/320

Power, L. (2021, June 15). Fox News’ obsession with critical race theory, by the numbers. Media Matters for America. https://www.mediamatters.org/fox-news/fox-news-obsession-critical-race-theory-numbers

Rath, Z. C. (2021, August 5). Prince George School Board prepares to teach more African American history after denying teaching critical race theory. The Progress-Index. https://www.progress-index.com/story/news/education/2021/08/05/prince-george-prepare-teach-african-american-history-despite-crt/5472255001/

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Watson, E. (2021) Critical Race Theory: What’s the truth and why are we talking about this now? 13News Now. https://www.13newsnow.com/article/news/local/13news-now-investigates/critical-race-theory-the-truth-why-are-we-talking-about-this-now/291-af3014dd-f7fa-4565-85c3-90f8b36b867b

Wong, B. (2021, July 14). ‘Critical Race Theory? Here’s What Teachers Say They’re Actually Teaching. Huffpost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/teachers-talk-critical-race-theory_l_60ec85cae4b01f1189519da6

Zalaznick, M. (2021, July 12). Are schools teaching critical race theory? No, says one expert. District Administration. https://districtadministration.com/schools-teaching-critical-race-theory-crt-us-history/


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