Critical Race Theory is a sociological theory that attempts to explain differences in outcomes like income and education among “racial” groups. It was first proposed as a formal legal position in the 1960s, although many of its tenets were proposed long before that by people, including W. E. B. DuBois.

There are many facets to CRT but one that is generally accepted is the assertion that “race” is a social concept, not a biological one. There is no gene for race.

There are genes for eye color, hair color, and yes, even skin color. But in these cases, there is a wide range of options. 

So, if there is no gene for race and just a bunch of fuzzy, overlapping categories like skin color and hair type, why is race often used as a defining category of a group of people?

Humans are wired to put things, including people, in groups. It makes it easier to keep track of a few groups rather than many individuals. The problem comes when we over generalize and say that “all people in this group” are alike on some dimension.

This new thinking is important since it frees us from the idea that race is fixed and immutable. If race is a social construct, it can be changed.

All this is very abstract and complex and is really material for a graduate seminar, not the public-school classroom. But what should be taught is the fact that there are differences among many groups in our country in income, educational outcomes, access to health care, etc., and that we need to understand where those differences come from so we work to reduce them.

CRT is not some plot to undermine American values, but an attempt to help us understand why there are so many differences among groups of Americans. And then use that understanding to ameliorate those differences so we can truly live up to the values that we as Americans proclaim.



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