This week we had the distinct honor of interviewing Mari Matsuda, a co-founder of Critical Race Theory (CRT). In her enlightening conversation with Mila, she laid out a utopian vision of the future, how it might work and how we might get there.
Our conversation happened after the former Trump Administration had publicly denounced CRT and removed workplace training curriculums that used it. We wondered why they had suddenly decided to remove it, but first, we needed to understand precisely what it was.
“What we try to push as critical race theorists is the understanding that because of this legacy of racism our laws, our institutional structures are built in a way that reproduces racial hierarchies over and over,” she told Mila. “The traditional way of thinking about this in the law is: ‘There is racism, but it’s an epiphenomenon. It’s an outlier. It’s a bad guy that has these ridiculous racist ideas. And we have to look for that bad guy and get him to stop being racist.’ That model doesn’t get at the real problem, which is: if racism is systemic, it’s going to show up in all our practices, and it might be perpetrated by people who are good people who don’t think of themselves as racist.”
CRT espouses the concepts of unconscious bias and systemic racism. It uses these to view current society and find solutions to inequality by change structures, not individuals. It recognizes that meaningful change will not happen if individual racists are held to account. According to CRT, change can only occur when racist institutions and laws are removed and replaced with systems that promote equality and accountability.
CRT also incorporates the idea of white privilege and is often used as part of racial sensitivity training—something many Americans get in their workplaces. In many ways, Trump is the poster child of white privilege: a failed businessman, known sexual predator, and prolific liar who was able to use his wealth and ideas about the supremacy of whites to ascend to the presidency.
In the weeks before Trump’s decision, the lawyer who publicly bemoaned CRT on Fox News announced he would continue his vitriolic crusade against the very idea of white privilege—and he’d take it to Supreme Court if necessary. He has the broad support of the GOP and America’s conservative coalition.
Why is the American Right so deadset against something that seeks to undo centuries of slavery-induced racism? Well, for one, CRT is an effective weapon against white supremacy. Left unchecked, it could start to solve one of the most destructive forces in American history—and one that is embedded in the American conservative ideology.
Republicans have long stoked racial tensions as a way to gain legislative seats around the country, and as the last four years indicated, it works shockingly well in some parts of the country. Conveniently, one of the most effective tools for combatting white supremacy is now totally “un-American” in their eyes.
The ideological group who wants to erase CRT booed a Black congresswoman, Cori Bush, when she recently denounced white supremacy on the House floor, is the same group whose supporters breached our Capitol with Confederate flags on January 6, 2021. This should tell you everything you need to know.
Thankfully, the Biden Administration already reinstated CRT training for federal employees and contractors. Still, if we are to learn and repair our past sins, we must remain vigilant in its protection at all levels of society.
Chait, Jonathan. “Why Are Conservatives So Angry Biden Denounced White Supremacy?” Intelligencer, Intelligencer, 21 Jan. 2021, nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/01/why-are-conservatives-angry-biden-denounced-white-supremacy.html.
Cineas, Fabiola. “Critical Race Theory, and Trump’s War on It, Explained.” Vox, Vox, 24 Sept. 2020, www.vox.com/2020/9/24/21451220/critical-race-theory-diversity-training-trump.
Dorman, Sam. “Legal Coalition Forming to Stop Critical Race Theory Training around the Country.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 21 Jan. 2021, www.foxnews.com/politics/legal-coalition-critical-race-theory.
Lang, Cady. “What Is Critical Race Theory? Context Behind Trump’s Attack.” Time, Time, 30 Sept. 2020, time.com/5891138/critical-race-theory-explained/.
Stancil, Kenny. “Cori Bush Booed by House GOP for Denouncing White Supremacy.” Salon, Salon.com, 15 Jan. 2021, www.salon.com/2021/01/15/cori-bush-booed-by-house-gop-for-denouncing-white-supremacy_partner/.
Tsipursky, Gleb. “What Is Unconscious Bias (And How You Can Defeat It).” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 13 July 2020, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/intentional-insights/202007/what-is-unconscious-bias-and-how-you-can-defeat-it.