Rethinking Critical Race Theory: Speak for Ourselves Essay Series

I’m pleased to introduce the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s Speak for Ourselves essay series on Critical Race Theory, featuring a diverse group of Canadian writers with unique and compelling perspectives.

Click here to jump directly to their essays. 

CRT often has competing definitions. But perhaps the clearest definition is provided by two of the theory’s own architects: Columbia University law professor Kimberle Crenshaw and former New York University law professor Derrick Bell.

Crenshaw defined CRT to the New York Times as:

“…a way of seeing, attending to, accounting for, tracing and analyzing the ways that race is produced” and “the ways that racial inequality is facilitated, and the ways that our history has created these inequalities that now can be almost effortlessly reproduced unless we attend to the existence of these inequalities.”

The phrase “almost effortlessly” is key to understanding the theory’s central premise that racism lives in laws and policies independently of our intentions. In the Capital University Law Review, Bell wrote that:

“…racism is an integral, permanent, and indestructible component of this society.” He concluded that “black people will never gain full equality in this country.”

Even one of CRT’s most vocal critics, the Manhattan Institute’s Christopher Rufo, would agree on this definition. According to Rufo:

“Critical race theory is an academic discipline that holds that the United States is a nation founded on white supremacy and oppression, and that these forces are still at the root of our society.”

Starting out as a fringe ideology in American law schools, CRT has since grown to influence how people and institutions around the world approach matters of identity, inequality and patriotism. Canada is no exception. CRT has influenced government legislation, corporate employment practices, and public education.

For Canadians to understand how and why race politics in our country have changed so dramatically over the past few years, it’s essential that our communities grasp some of the core assumptions and objectives of CRT advocates and practitioners.

While CRT’s proponents often assume that all people of colour would feel represented by this ideology, this Speak for Ourselves Essay Series highlights perspectives that affirm people of colour are not a monolith. Indeed, writers from different ethnic and cultural communities challenge CRT on varying grounds, and may also empathize with critical race theorists for different reasons.

As one of the founders of the Speak for Ourselves initiative, I’m incredibly happy to see the fulfillment of our vision to support true diversity of thought. I hope this essay series is informative and entertaining, and that you’ll follow the careers of these writers – many of whom are just getting started – moving forward.

Thanks for reading,

Jamil Jivani
Senior Fellow, Macdonald-Laurier Institute


Click on the titles to read the full articles.

Critical Race Theory Wasn’t Always Like This


“…Defenders of CRT’s current formulation will say that this kind of negative public reaction is simply a symptom of “how much work is left to do,” as the expression goes. But it’s important to remember that even CRT’s original theorists generally didn’t regard themselves as social-justice priests who could exorcise racist white demons through grandiose acts of consciousness-raising…” 

Why Critical Race Theory Is So Popular in Canada

“… critical race theory isn’t necessarily a reaction to America’s history with racism. It’s a reaction to the Western world’s founding principles—including Canada’s. In other words, critical race theory capitalizes on white guilt on race in order to create a revolution against Canadian values like equality…”

Critical Race Theory: the Ideology Parents Must Know

“…We need to have a comprehensive understanding of this ideology that public schools will introduce to my kids. Proponents of CRT argue it promotes progressive values. But I disagree. It’s more of a radicalization of a regressive thought process that’s passed as ‘progressive’…”

Critical Race Theory and Our Kids

“…Indigenous and black history should be covered by our school curriculum. History isn’t simply stating what happened but also why it matters. The academic question for conservatives would be to describe in detail the historical moment when we went from dealing with tangible racism to inflating racism. The academic question to more leftist thinkers is how do we identify racism within institutions outside of disparity…”

 Is There a Legitimate Case for Critical Race Theory?

“…How do we expect to achieve a healthy outcome for all stakeholders if a system that is driven by hate, guilt, revenge, discrimination, and vindictiveness is implemented? If the desire is to truly help individuals to rise above oppression, then it is incumbent on policy makers and leaders of society to formulate solutions that are rooted in such things as love, mutual respect, and justice for all…”

Moral Courage and the “Us-vs-them” Trap of Critical Race Theory

“…Our schools spend untold amounts of tax dollars on diversity, equity and inclusion programs each year that teach things like CRT. What they don’t appear to spend money on are programs that teach the importance of embracing diversity of thought…”

The Myth of the Monolith

“…CRT leads its most enthusiastic followers to embrace a theory of intra-racial homogeneity – one that tends to assume that the values, opinions, and experiences of a person can be defined by little more than their race. In so doing, we have return to the dangerous old trope of the monolithic minority group. And this high cost is paid overwhelmingly by peoples of color like me: the same people of color CRT claims to help…”

Moving Past Pity: How Critical Race Theory Limits Progress on Race

“…I believe that when addressing individual human beings, we should be addressing them on their characteristics as a person, as a personality, what they have to offer in terms of their intelligence, their experience, and not just prejudging people based on their race…”