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.
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,
Senior Fellow, Macdonald-Laurier Institute
“…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…”