Now that polls are showing that a strong majority of Americans who have heard of critical race theory oppose it, and angry parents are swarming school board meetings, there is an effort to narrow the definition of CRT. Increasingly, proponents of many of the underlying premises of CRT are nevertheless insisting that it – and common bedfellow ideology labels like “culturally response learning” or “anti-racism” – remains solely the province of law school debates, and that opponents are “making up” its broader impact outside of higher education.

Essentially, these critics want to make the argument that CRT is nothing more than a niche and academically sequestered legal analysis framework, not the narrative being taught to millions of American students, and implemented in our agencies and corporate diversity seminars.

“Republican operatives have buried the actual definition of critical race theory: ‘a way of looking at law’s role platforming, facilitating, producing, and even insulating racial inequality in our country,’ as the law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, who helped coin the term, recently defined it. Instead, the attacks on critical race theory are based on made-up definitions and descriptors.”
-Ibram X. Kendi, The Atlantic

Mostly false or misleading. Significant errors or omissions. Mostly make believe.

This attempt to redefine the terms of the debate deserves its three-unicorn rating.

While it’s true that CRT emerged out of law schools, its central tenets are very much a part of many K12 curriculums, Department of Education actions, and corporate boardrooms.

The core tenets of CRT are:

  • America is Systemically Racist: The American system, and the Western Enlightenment tradition from which it sprung, are built on pervasive racism, and that systemic racism cannot be eradicated without a fundamental transformation of the system itself. Racism is not an aberration, but the ordinary state of affairs in the United States, from its Founding to the present day.
  • Progress is a Myth: No real progress has been made in race relations in the last two centuries. Instead, systemic racism has simply gone “underground,” covertly perpetuating a racial hierarchy that deprives black Americans of power and resources.
  • Collective Equity Over Individual Equality: The primary unit by which the fairness of a society should be measured is the racial group, not the individual. Every group disparity is presumed to be the result of racial bias and discrimination. Equal treatment of individuals perpetuates racial inequality. Equity (or equal results) between racial groups should be the goal, not individual opportunity.
  • Race Essentialism: Racial identity is central to existence and how a person experiences the world. A “colorblind” society is a cover for the maintenance of white privilege.

People recognize these tenets at work when third graders in Cupertino, California are asked to divide and rank themselves by racial privilege. They recognize them as the underlying ideology when teacher trainings in Raleigh, North Carolina, force teachers how to form “equity teams” and grapple with their “whiteness,” or when a huge company like Lockheed Martin sends its white, male executives on a consultant-created retreat to “deconstruct” their alleged privilege.

The Department of Education itself gave the nod to these tenets – and even to the specific phrase “critical race theory” – in a proposed, but now delayed, rule to offer grants to schools that employed CRT. The Department’s examples? The work of Ibram Kendi himself, along with the historically debunked 1619 Project, and others. The Department recognized that these works share the same underlying premises as CRT.

CRT advocates were happy to openly cheer its introduction and implementation in public schools, government, and corporations when they were able to do so with little pushback from the public. Now that Americans have noticed and begun to fight back, they retreat into the notion that CRT is nothing but an interesting academic theory limited to law school discussions.

The hundreds of stories from concerned parents, employees, and policymakers say different.

You can read more about critical race theory from IWF here.