toward a critical race theory of education
This article explores the territory that has been covered since the publication of Ladson-Billings and Tate’s 1995 article, “Toward a Critical Race Theory in Education.” We organize our review of the CRT literature is organized around what we are calling CRT “boundaries.” We identify six boundaries for CRT and education: 1) CRT in education argues that racial inequity in education is the logical outcome of a system of achievement presided on competition; 2) CRT in education examines the role of education policy and educational practices in the construction of racial inequity and the perpetuation of normative whiteness; 3) CRT in education rejects the dominant narrative about the inherent inferiority of people of color and the normative superiority of white people; 4) CRT in education rejects ahistoricism and examines the historical linkages between contemporary educational inequity and historical patterns of racial oppression; 5) CRT in education engages in intersectional analyses that recognize the ways that race is mediated by and interacts with other identity markers (i.e., gender, class, sexuality, linguistic background, and citizenship status); 6) CRT in education agitates and advocates for meaningful outcomes that redress racial inequity. CRT does not merely document disparities. We suggest that these core ideas provide a framework for analyzing the work that has been done in education in the past and a way to determine what might be left to do.
Adrienne D. Dixson, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is a scholar of race and gender equity in urban educational contexts and an author of over 30 scholarly journal articles and book chapters and editor of five books on critical race theory and education, research and race and urban education.
Smedley (1993) points out that there is a deep paradox between the scientific notion of “no-race” and the “social parameters of race by which we conduct our lives and structure our institutions” (p. 19). Thus, while critical race theorists accept the scientific understanding of no-race or no genetic difference, we also accept the power of a social reality that allows for significant disparities in the life chances of people based on the categorical understanding of race.
Critical race theorists use storytelling as a way to illustrate and underscore broad legal principles regarding race and racial/social justice. The point of storytelling is not to vent or rant or be an exhibitionist regarding one’s own racial struggle. Unfortunately, far too many would-be critical race theorists in education use the narrative or counter-story in just that way. There is little or no principled argument to be made. The writer is mad because of an affront and the pen becomes a retaliatory weapon. The story does not advance larger concerns or help us understand how law or policy is operating.
2. The challenge to dominant ideology. In law and other arenas there is a belief that concepts like neutrality, objectivity, colorblindness, and meritocracy can be fully actualized. CRT says, “not so fast, how can one be truly neutral on issues of race when racism is baked into the fabric of America?” (Ummm, it can’t).
A friend of mine said that Freedom School is basically my way of bringing Critical Race Theory to the folks in my life. She’s was right! I know that Critical Race Theory sounds incredibly academic but I have a feeling many of you are already doing work based on CRT and just don’t know it, so I pulled together a little overview for y’all.
With this mission, the annual Critical Race Studies in Education (CRSEA) conference brings together scholars, activists, educators, students and community members who use critical race studies as a tool to frame, examine, document, understand and transform racial inequalities in education and in the broader society.”
“The Critical Race Studies in Education Association (CRSEA) is an interdisciplinary consortium of experts who recognize global implications of race and education for minoritized people. Through scholarship, we identify and expose inequities for the ultimate eradication of white supremacy. As a community, we are committed to (1) countering and combating systemic and structural racism with scholarship and praxis, (2) recognizing the multiple locations of oppression and the myriad manifestations and effects of their intersections and (3) co-constructing liberating knowledge that facilitates collective agency to transform schools and communities.