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Themes of Critical Race Theory

Themes of Critical Race Theory

In his narration, Coates attempts to show the racial divide that is in existent in the U.S. Prolonging from the early history of America when black people were enslaved to the current times in which blacks are under perpetual risk and investigation, the white community has constantly repudiated the humanity of black people in order to uphold its specious “Dream.”(Coates, 2015). Coates makes the distinction that racism is the source of race and not vice versa. He proposes that racism is a construct to which totalitarianism is accredited but in actuality is indistinct. The whites are not actually white but instead, they believe that they are white because it provides them with privilege and supremacy. Hence, his view of racism is that it is so insidious since the individuals that think they are white also do not the reason they are racists. Rather, they claim that inequalities in treatment by police, education and wealth are variances that just occur like any other natural forces other than definite laws or ideologies (Coates, 2015). Therefore, racism is mainly imposed through the suppression and despoliation of the black people.


The Critical Race Theory draws from and extends a wide base in women’s studies, ethnic studies, history, sociology, and law. Even though the theory was originally used in legal studies extensively, its application has been expanded to such as areas as education (Delgado & Stefancic, 2017). Solorzanov & Yosso (2000) introduce some of the concepts of the Critical Race Theory to their discussion about campus racial climate as the theory represents a paradigm shift in the extant discourse regarding racism and race in education. The authors define micro-aggressions as subtle insults directed toward black people often involuntarily expressed in visual, non-verbal or verbal form.

Delgado & Stefancic (2017) describe micro-aggressions as the dispiriting, stunning and sudden transactions that ruin the days of oppressed people. The micro-aggressions include insignificant acts of racism that involuntarily or knowingly committed and are founded on the assumptions regarding sexual matters that are adapted from cultural heritage. Solorzanov & Yosso (2000) reveal that racial micro-aggressions are present in both collegiate environments and social spaces. African American students experience and react to racial-micro-aggressions which also have a destructive effect on the racial climate of campuses. Even though micro-aggressions are pervasive, they are hardly investigated (Solorzanov & Yosso, 2000).  The reason for lack of investigation may be the innocuous form in which the micro-aggressions occur which hinder the attachment of significance to such acts.

Concepts of Critical Race Theory

The main concepts of Critical Race Theory are the idea that race is ordinary, the notion of an interest convergence, the social construction of race, the notion of story-telling and counter-storytelling and the idea that whites are recipients of civil rights legislation.

The idea that race is ordinary

The construct that race supports the construct that general ethos of majority culture encourages and publicizes meritocracy and color-blindness. Color blindness and meritocracy are communally entwined and function to downgrade some communes of individuals, mainly black people (Taylor et al., 2009). The two elements of the serve the essential purposes of permitting white people to feel deliberately irresponsible for the difficulties experienced by black people on a regular basis and maintaining the stronghold and powers of the whites in the community (Stovall, 2013). Color-blindness legitimizes racism’s requisite for an “other” so as to thrive and retain is power with the community.

White supremacy and racism are not uncharacteristic, insofar as autocrats use “others” so as to preserve their exclusive control and say that they are unbiased. Further examination renounces this untrue sense of lack of biases (Delgado & Stefancic, 2017).  Meritocracy allows the powerful to have a pure conscience and feel good for having the largest share of power and wealth in the community.  The empowered retain retail power and only surrender portions of it when they are sure that they will not lose anything (Hartley, 2009). Moreover, the powerful get commendations and platitudes when they decide to distribute parts of their influence to the less powerful.


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The notion of an interest convergence

The notion of an interest convergence states that white people will permit and back up racial justice to the degree that there is something constructive in it for them or a merging between the interests of the black people and white people (Hartley, 2009). Under this notion, common sense principles are developed by the majority according to the status quo. The principles that are established by the majority often subjugate the minority groups.  According to Howard & Navarro (2016), Critical Race Theory places emphasis on informing the public how some stories act and function to hush and manipulate certain groups of cultures and individuals, particularly people of color.  At the same time, the theory does the legitimizing and development of the white people who now maintain or get more influence through these stories.

A demonstrative and imperative instance of interest convergence can be found in Bell’s (1992) book titled Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Persistence of Racism. In the example, a parable is told of alien visiting the US with the wish of trading all of the black people in the U.S with a limitless source of energy, a magical chemical for cleansing waters and skies and enough gold to repay the national debt. The referendum to accept the aliens’ offer is passed after two weeks of deliberation (Bell, 1992). In the parable, the white people had the influence to pass the referendum and it was in their best interest for them to pass it so as to obtain the securities offered by the aliens.

The social construction of race

The social construction of race has been done to the detriment of black people. The affirmation that race is a social construct has been one of the chief issues of the Critical Race Theory. The social construction of race is largely evident in the history of the U.S (Anyon, 2009).  An example of socially constructing race is how minority groups were deprived of social security and debarred from the unions in 1935. The Congress had passed two laws which sheltered white workers but exempted non-white employees (Solórzano & Yosso, 2002). The Wagner Act did not forbid labor unions from racial discrimination but protects the rights of workers while the Social Security Act excluded domestic servants and agricultural workers who were majorly Asian, Mexican, and African American from getting old-age insurance.

Another example of social construction of race is the Operation Wetback and Bracero Program during the engagement of the U.S in the Second World War in 1942 (Anyon,2009).  The U.S and Mexico developed the Bracero Program to satisfy the labor demands or producing food for U.S war allies and the U.S armed forces. This program led to an approximated 4-5 Mexicans migrating to the U.S for work (Howard & Navarro, 2016). However, after the end of the Second World War, the Mexicans were deported back to their country. The Operation Wetback was created as part of these deportations. The operation was able to deport about one million illegitimate immigrants, focusing on Mexicans.

The notion of story-telling and counter-storytelling

The notion of storytelling emanates from its descriptive, persuasive and influential capability to unlearn principles that are generally believed to be factual. The Critical Race Theory terms this notion storytelling and counter-storytelling (Stovall, 2013). This contradiction of storytelling and counter-storytelling is founded upon the conviction that schools are unbiased spaces that treat all people in a just manner; nevertheless, close investigation disproves this: simply evaluating graduation rates achieves this (Solórzano & Yosso, 2002). Most school curricular continues to be established around conventional middle-class, white values. There is a continuously widening gap of the racial accomplishment gap as seen from the separation of black student’s achievement and Anglo-American student’s achievement.

Under the pretext of conventional curriculum, certain groups of students become discriminated the syllabus and praxis that are undemocratic and insensitive. Hackman & Rauscher (2004) mention that:

“[…] often under-funded […] mandates across the nation leave many educators wondering how best to serve their students, particularly those students who do not fit into the mainstream [author’s emphasis] profile or curriculum. In today’s schools, the needs of students with disabilities and members of other marginalized groups often go unmet, and as such, more inclusive educational approaches need to be adopted to ensure that all students have access to a solid education.” (p. 114)

The counter-storytelling tenet of the Critical Race Theory is a useful instrument given the curricular discrimination in the American education system (Hartley, 2009). In the absence of Critical Race Theory’s counter-storytelling, the actual stories would not be publicly declared, and possibly the world would perceive and believe that the curricular promotes equality and justice.

The idea that whites are recipients of civil rights legislation

This notion proposes that white people have irrefutably been the recipients of civil rights laws and that affirmative action best serves them.  Supporting this claim, Delgado (2009) requests that:

“[…] we should demystify, interrogate, and destabilize affirmative action. The program was designed by others to promote their purposes, not ours” (p. 111).

In a similar thought, the historical case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was unconsciously an eventual triumph for white people. The case ultimately limited the equality for Black people rather than expanding it (Jennings & Marvin, 2005). The decision of the case was unsuccessful in enhancing the education of black people since it embodied a constricting instead of an extensive perception of equality. What was required was a visualization of education that defied the central structure of schools that replicated the same undemocratic social orders that occurred in the community (Delgado & Stefancic, 2017). That the decision made in the case was not able to disorder these structures is evinced in the persisting inequalities in America’s educational system. It is apparent that the white people actually are the receivers of civil rights lawmaking from this case.

Delgado (2009) distressingly described why the concepts of Critical Race Theory are crucially significant given the existing state of affairs of American education. Intervening on behalf of non-white students in American educational institutions and the concepts of the Critical Race Theory, Delgado mentions that he is expected to tell children that if they work hard in their academics and avoid mischief, they can become law professors like him. Nevertheless, that is not necessarily probable. The children in American schools countrywide need to be able to struggle sincerely to become whoever they want to become without worrying about functioning in a scheme that discriminates them on the basis socially-constructed race and the color of their skin.


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Critiques of Critical Race Theory

The major critics of Critical Race Theory including Alex Kozinski and Richard Posner mostly have a problem with its underpinnings in postmodernism, and dependence on social constructionism, moral relativism as well as other concepts antagonistic to classical liberalism (Subotnik, 1997). For instance, Richard Posner, who is a judge of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in the U.S has termed supporters of the Critical Race Theory and postmodernists as the ‘lunatic core’ of ‘radical legal egalitarianism,’ mentioning that what is most noticeable about the theory is that it refutes the Western custom of sensible analysis, renouncing systemic investigation for narrative (Posner, 1997). Instead of rationalized coherent point of views and experimental data, the Critical Race Theory uses stories derived that are anecdotal, autobiographical, quasi-fictional, science-fictional and fictional in nature with the aim of exposing the incapacitating and prevalent racism in the U.S at present (Posner, 1997). By rebutting analytic argumentation, the critical race theorists strengthen stereotypes regarding the intellectual capabilities of the people with color.

Alex Kozinski, a judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals mentions that supporters of the Critical Race Theory have developed an ideology which makes an effective exchange of constructs between the numerous disciplines involved unachievable.  The radical opinions of multiculturalists lead to insurmountable obstacles to shared understanding (Kozinski, 1997).  Taking the example of Bell’s (1992) parable about the whites selling the blacks to aliens for profit, Kozinski explains that one cannot have an important discussion with Bell regarding his declarations in the parable because Bell’s thesis is completely untestable.  A person swiftly reaches a dead end after reading the parable and either discarding or accommodating Bell’s proclamation that the whites will happily sell all black people to the aliens.  Kozinski considers Bell’s story as a jab at American Jews, especially those who put their lives at risk by actively taking part in the civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s (Kozinski, 1997). The parable noticeably infers that these Jews did it to satisfy their own interests.

Cross’s Stages of Black Identity Development

Cross’s model of identity development describes five stages which detail the evolution of identification of people as they move towards a positive black identity. The stages of the model include:


The initial stage shows the identity to be changed. People who are at this stage have attitudes ranging from anti-black to race neutrality (Cross et al., 1991). At this stage, much emphasis is put on other aspects of people’s lives such as religion, occupation, and lifestyle instead of their race. For blacks at this age, they don’t “see” race and they have emotional problems like anxiety and poor self-esteem (Umaña‐Taylor et al., 2014). Black people want to fit into the majority group by behaving, thinking and acting in manners that reduces the value of being black during this stage.


This stage segregates the point at which the individual feels obligated to change. The two steps involved in this stage are encountering and personalizing (Cross et al., 1991). In the encountering step, individuals at this stage have to work around, shatter or slip through the significance of their philosophy and worldview (Rogers et al., 2015). They experience life-changing phenomenon that alters their view of life and influences how they perceive their identity. Personalization takes place when a person takes action because of the individual effect that the phenomenon prompted on that person’s worldview. The black people now realize that they are a misfit for both the minority and majority assemblages.


This stage defines the vortex of identity change. It talks about the most memorable element of black identity development, for it denotes the quagmire of psychosomatic Nigrescence (Cross et al., 1991). During this stage, black individuals start shedding their conventional worldview and develop a novel structure of reference with the information they have acquired regarding race (Porter & Dean, 2015). This stage marks the start of a time when black people accept and espouse a sense of black pride, which includes rebuffing anything that is not connected with their race. They may feel shamefaced for their position of subjugation or alternatively feel pride (Stevens, 2018. Also, they do not feel the need to impress others anymore at this stage.


This stage designates the internalization and familiarization with the new identity.  It involves a transition era where a person is working through the difficulties and challenges of a new identity (Cross et al., 1991). During this stage, individuals move from how others perceive them to how they perceive themselves (Ritchey, 2014).  At this stage, the black people’s security in who they are now enabled them to be open with the white community.


This stage continues to designate the internalization and familiarization with the new identity.  It places emphasis on the long-standing interest of black affairs over a prolonged period (Cross et al., 1991)… Furthermore, there is an urgent sense of activism and action that comes across a black person at this stage. This can take form in the political field. Also, black people are increasingly concerned with the well-being and success of their race at this stage (Porter & Dean, 2015). Nevertheless, this stage may not occur for every person.

The relationship between Race, Success Factors and Identity among Black Men

In their early life, children usually seek to delineate themselves based on physiognomies like ethnic orientation, physical attributes, personality, and other distinctive characteristics. This thought course mirrors the natural evolution of identity development (Berwise, 2015).  As young individuals reach adolescence, their identity development is manifested in the thoughtful deliberation of belief systems and life goals as well as a sense of individual purpose. Harper (2007) posit that even though all people take part in the experimentation and examination tendencies that result in identity development, for black people, this development process divulges itself in a different way than for white people. Black people have to develop an identity that comprises of individual personality influences against the milieu of the cultural group to which they belong (Dumas & Ross, 2016).  For the blacks, the word racial identity entails more than just an individual’s categorization based on physical features. Rather, it involves a sense of collective identity based on one’s view that he or she shares a mutual racial heritage with a particular racial group.

Harper (2007) views the black people’s group membership as n inhibitory factor towards academic achievement because of the negative perception and treatment of black people since the early American history. The study by Ross et al. (2016) reveals that students of color are usually faced with adjustment challenges which are not experienced by white students. Black learners are often struggling with the incongruity of the education environment and their cultures.  They lack a sense of belonging and undergo resistance, alienation as well as the dissimilar overriding culture of the whites. A significant number of black learners drop out of tertiary education programs, as a result, the lack of a sense of self-worth, cultural mistrust, psychological distress and micro-aggressions (Ross et al., 2016).  Negative stereotypes and racism have had a negative effect on identity formation for black people.


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 As black learners pursue their careers and higher education, their exposure to the negative race-associated interactions raises their negative feelings and leads them to fight with their abilities and supposed limitations of their counterparts (Harper, 2017). The development of a positive self-awareness and self-identity can contribute to the academic and professional success of black people. Self-identity can be influential in dealing with prohibitive factors that inhibit the success of black people. When black learners strongly identify with their ethnic legacy, there is an augmentation in their academic motivation, self-efficacy, and self-esteem (Ross et al., 2016). Similarly, Berwise (2015) mentions that black racial identity can be useful in mitigating the destructive impacts of discrimination on professional and educational success.


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