For our next fun & games with CRT, I’m just going to share two good videos. One is very non technical while still getting most everything right. I like it a lot. Whatever quibbles I have with it I’m not going to bother with because right now I just want you to hear something from a lay person about CRT because hopefully whatever language they use will be more accessible and less wordy than whatever I would say. (Yes, I’ve heard myself speak. Can’t really help it. Sorry/not sorry.) This first, non technical video was actually suggested in the comments so if you’ve been following along in the comments, you might have already watched it. If you haven’t though, your narrator and host goes by the handle T1J and is excellent. Get to it:
The second video is made by a professor at UC Berkeley, Professor Khiara M. Bridges. She is an academic and Critical Race Theory practitioner, and I think it’s important to hear from the people who are actually doing the work. From what I’ve observed in popular discourse, the most important point for lay (meaning non lawyer, non legal academic) viewers is probably the beginning of her Point 3.
I won’t pick about most of what she said, again I think these narrators have put together some good work and it deserves to stand on its own, or at least to have you focus more on what they’re saying than on my commentary. THat said, did you catch that at point 3? She said “Critical Race Theory is largely uninterested in focussing on actors, be they good actors or bad actors.” CRT is about systems and institutions. It’s about social forces, and by definition social forces aren’t amenable to control by any one person. So when the right wing tells you it’s about making whites feel bad or people of color feel victimized, that’s just not true. Whatever they’re talking about when they make such assertions, it’s not CRT because CRT is just not about feelings.
But now that you’ve watched both videos, I want you to think about a critique T1J made of CRT advocates in the first video: he believes that those advocates are inappropriately playing down what CRT is and what it seeks to accomplish. Now it isn’t what the right says it is, and its goals are not what the right says they are, but when Professor Bridges says,
[CRT]’s trying to make us, make this country live up to the promises that are contained in our constitution,
that does undersell CRT. CRT is not above proposing constitutional amendments and CRT scholarship has pointed out many times in the past that the promises we believe are owed to us by the constitution aren’t necessarily in the constitution. Our constitution may well be inadequate to the task of healing our nation’s racial wounds. CRT does not, then merely ask us to be what we’ve all agreed we want to be, or what we all thought we were if we ever read the constitution. CRT is more challenging than that. This doesn’t mean that Bridges is wrong when she says that CRT is trying to heal racial divisions in the USA, but that in trying to calm the overwrought feelings right wing activists are deliberately fomenting against CRT and its practitioners (and average kindergarten teachers, and your high school’s vice principal, and the local group of McDonald’s franchises’ HR manager) the people whose work has been attacked, stupidly, ignorantly, and often maliciously (people including Professor Bridges) the calming language can downplay CRT. I don’t think the situation is as bad as T1J paints it, but this tendency to downplay is there in T1J’s clip of Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw and it is also present in the Bridges video you just watched.
Having said all this, both of my readers still might find themselves wondering, But what is CRT? These videos did more to explain what CRT isn’t than what it is, although the early parts of Bridges’ video does briefly tackle that topic. I am still planning on putting together more information for you, including an important description of CRT in Mari Matsuda’s own words. You may remember her from earlier posts as someone who collaborated with Crenshaw in creating the name Critical Race Theory and pushing for it to be something more than just the work that Derrick Bell had done in the late 60s and the 70s, pushing it to be a true field of study, not one person’s interest. As such, she is as qualified as anyone to comment on what CRT is, and so I’ll be bringing you that perspective before I add some of my own.
Please continue to ask questions in the comments & I’ll work on getting you good answers. I haven’t answered any yet, but I haven’t forgotten them either. You’ll get that post as soon as I can manage it!