Considering Discrimination

Review of Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic’s Book

Critical Race Theory

Review by Joseph Langen

Initial impressions and getting started

I have heard quite a bit about Critical Race Theory and am also aware of conservative ire about the term and what it means. I have heard from conservative parents that this is now part of the school curriculum and is designed to get people to hate whites and love blacks. I thought there must be more to it than that and decided to find out for myself.

I ordered the book from the library but in the meantime was able to download a sample from Amazon which did not leave me any more enlightened. What I found seemed unclear and not very helpful to my understanding of what this is all about.

I also read the Amazon reviews which seemed almost evenly divided between those by people who loved the book and those who hated it. Nobody seemed neutral.

Then the book arrived from the library. At first, I feared that I would be similarly disappointed as I was with the summary. Yet I was not disappointed and found the book very helpful in understanding what is involved and what its goals are in discussing Critical Race Theory.

The nature of Critical Race Theory (CRT)

First of all, what is Critical Race Theory? The authors point out that it is a graduate school level of discourse among scholars about “race, racism and power.” It is a consideration of these three factors with regard to economics, history, setting, group and self interest as well as how we feel about all this and how we feel about it. From this description, it is clear that this not a finalized teaching but an area of inquiry regarding race, racism and the effects on society.

The first consideration was that no person has a single unitary identity. Nobody is just white, nobody just black or other shade of skin. Everyone has other identities such as gender, sexual orientation, occupation, parental status, and many other complementary and sometimes contradictory contributors to their overall sense of identity. In light of this, the conversation includes people of all colors, both genders, all sexual orientations, the variety of immigrants, the poor, and the disadvantaged. 

There are some common understandings among those who are exploring the implications of this theory. They include the following:

  1. Racism is not just in the mind of individuals. It affects “the usual way society does business.” In other words, racism is part of the fabric of American society with far-reaching implications.
  2. There seems to be general agreement that white dominance has significant benefits for those who enjoy being part of that class of people.
  3. Those who study CRT profess that the idea of race is not based on genetics or biology but is a social construct favoring the dominant group.
  4. The dominant group considers “lower” groups in terms of the labor market at any given time in terms of how to take advantage of them.
  5. No person has an identity with just one facet.
  6. Minority groups have an understanding of their condition and its implications which whites are not likely to understand but could learn through dialog.

The book goes on to describe this history of institutional racism and its effect on society. It also addresses limitations in how both conservatives and liberals have often missed the point in considering racism and what is needed to remedy it. One thing we can do is to study what it means to be white for people identified as white and what it means to be in categories other than white as well as everyone learning to respect each others’ experience.

Areas of concern and the future

  1. Race, class, welfare and poverty.
  2. Policing and criminal justice.
  3. Hate speech, language rights and school curricula.
  4. Affirmative action and color blindness.
  5. Globalization and Immigration.
  6. Voting rights.

The authors suggest three possible outcomes in the future:

  1. A bleak outlook until a non-white majority emerges in the next few decades.
  2. The critical race agenda may lead to a violent confrontation such as in South Africa.

They also suggest likely responses to the Critical Race Theory (CRT) movement:

  1. CRT may become the New Civil Rights Orthodoxy.
  2. CRT theory could be marginalized and ignored.
  3. CRT could be analyzed and then rejected.
  4. CRT could be partially incorporated into the way we conduct the future of our society.

You should be able to conclude after reading this book that CRT is not an effort to get anyone to hate people who identify as white. Hopefully you can see that CRT is an ongoing discussion about the significance of “racial” considerations in forming the future of America. This is something we need to study carefully as we share our wants, needs and difficulties across groups in our society. The goal is benefit all of us in order to insure the future of our democracy.

Personal thoughts

In my opinion, the term Critical Race Theory has become controversial and raises people’s hackles. I wonder whether a different term might be more useful in leading us away from fighting with each other in favor of dialogue. We need to have something to bring us together as a nation rather than something to fight about. Could this be our opportunity?