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Calling Cards: Theory And Practice In The Study Of Race, Gender, And Culture

View all chapters View fewer chapters. Loading content A Small. A Normal. A Large. Critical Race Theory, or CRT, is a theoretical and interpretive mode that examines the appearance of race and racism across dominant cultural modes of expression. In adopting this approach, CRT scholars attempt to understand how victims of systemic racism are affected by cultural perceptions of race and how they are able to represent themselves to counter prejudice.

CRT developed into its current form during the mids with scholars like Derrick Bell, Alan Freeman, and Richard Delgado, who responded to what they identified as dangerously slow progress following Civil Rights in the s. In doing so, they attempt to confront the beliefs and practices that enable racism to persist while also challenging these practices in order to seek liberation from systemic racism.

As such, CRT scholarship also emphasizes the importance of finding a way for diverse individuals to share their experiences. They read these diverse cultural texts as proof of the institutionalized inequalities racialized groups and individuals experience every day. But we need not acquiesce in arrangements that are unfair and one-sided. In this sense, CRT scholars seek tangible, real-world ends through the intellectual work they perform.

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As we can see, adopting a CRT approach to literature or other modes of cultural expression includes much more than simply identifying race, racism, and racialized characters in fictional works. Rather, it broadly emphasizes the importance of examining and attempting to understand the socio-cultural forces that shape how we and others perceive, experience, and respond to racism. In doing so, they trace racism as a dually theoretical and historical experience that affects all members of a community regardless of their racial affiliations or identifications.

This enables scholars to locate how texts develop in and through the cultural contexts that produced them, further demonstrating how pervasive systemic racism truly is.


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CRT scholars typically focus on both the evidence and the origins of racism in American culture, seeking to eradicate it at its roots. Additionally, because CRT advocates attending to the various components that shape individual identity, it offers a way for scholars to understand how race interacts with other identities like gender and class. In doing so, CRT has evolved over the last decades to address the various concerns facing individuals affected by racism.

Interestingly, CRT scholarship does not only draw attention to and address the concerns of individual affected by racism, but also those who perpetrate and are seemingly unaffected by racial prejudice. Scholars like W. Du Bois, Peggy McIntosh, Cheryl Harris, and George Lipsitz discuss white privilege and notions of whiteness throughout history to better understand how American culture conceptualizes race or the seeming absence of race. Delgado, Richard and Jean Stefancic. Critical Race Theory: An Introduction.