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Critical Race Theory Explained

Updated: May 20, 2022

By Angelica Cheyenne

NORTHRIDGE, CA - Critical race theory (CRT). These three words together are powerful enough to induce anger, provoke people to protest and polarize America altogether. Commonly misunderstood and villainized, critical race theory is one of the most debated topics in society and media. Further divisiveness among conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats has ensued with the popularization of critical race theory, sparking the most backlash from those who are far right-leaning.

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In an Economist/YouGov poll, out of the 35% of Americans that know what CRT is and believe to understand its framework, 20% have an unfavorable opinion of it, according to YouGovAmerica. Additionally, 37% of Republicans that know what CRT is and believe to have a good idea of what it is view it negatively, while only 3% of democrats have the same view, according to YouGovAmerica. With so much opposition from Republicans to CRT, one would think that the 50-something year old ideology was extremely partisan and specifically targeted Republican values—a common misconception.

Most of the time CRT is misconstrued, triggering a response from individuals that is based on a fallacious perspective of the theory’s framework and not on the actuality of its intent. “Critical race theory (CRT) is an approach to studying U.S. policies and institutions that is most often taught in law schools,” according to Reuters. The basis of the theory is that racial bias, intentional or unintentional, is engraved into U.S. laws and institutions, according to Reuters.

Audio report on critical race theory: By Angelica Cheyenne

Systemic racism continues to plague American culture, greatly affecting Black Americans and non-white Americans alike, hence the creation of CRT—a concept designed to address the inequities that derived from America’s original sin. Those that are anti-CRT often associate the ideology with shifting blame onto certain groups, rather than just being upfront about how racism intersects law and education. These notions are bit ironic since according to Mommouth University Polling Institute, “currently, 67% of the public says racial and ethnic discrimination in the U.S. is a big problem.”

Although the majority of Americans believe that there is racial and ethnic discrimination within the US—which CRT proposes a solution for—many still push back against it. This is most likely because of the theory’s portrayal in the news media—specifically conservative news media. Despite the progressive nature of CRT, it still catches much flak—especially from the lead conservative media network FOX.

In an article published by Business Insider, they noted that a new study from Media Matters for America found that nearly 1,300 mentions of the term CRT was used by FOX News over the course of three and-a-half months. The Internet Archive database also found a surge in FOX segments under the term over the past few years, going from 0 times used in 2018 to 626 times used in 2021, according to Business Insider.

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Although popularization of the term is supposed to spark conversation, most of the time conservative media uses CRT to launch contentious conversation. Liberal news media outlets like MSNBC and CNN try to combat the CRT slander with continuous counterpoints that support the efficacy of CRT.

With conservative media reporting misinformation and disinformation about CRT, many Republican parents are becoming anti-CRT because they assume the concept to be reverse racist. According to PBS, “Many Republicans view the concepts underlying critical race theory as an effort to rewrite American history and convince white people that they are inherently racist and should feel guilty because of their advantages.” This inclination to vilify CRT is closely tied to some Caucasian people’s unwillingness to tackle race relation issues within America head on.

According to Pew Research, 32% of Caucasian American adults think it’s bad for greater attention to be paid to slavery and racism within America. Some Republicans and/or Caucasian Americans are tending to avoid much needed conversations about race, especially in K-12 public schools. Additionally, some Caucasians fear that the CRT doctrine is an inaccurate portrayal of race within America, therefore conservative and/or Caucasian parents are attempting to ban CRT in schools.

Photo credit: Chalkbeat

According to Chalkbeat, there are 36 states in the U.S. that are attempting to restrict education on racism, bias, the contributions of specific racial or ethnic groups to U.S. history, or related topics. So far Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas have all successfully banned CRT and anything CRT adjacent from being taught in their state’s K-12 public school systems, according to Brookings.

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