The Big Ideas Behind Critical Race Theory

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Critical Race Theory (CRT) has been around for over three decades. In the last ten years, it has increasingly become a force to be reckoned with in culture and in the academic world. CRT is now being taught in many schools and is the ideology that informs many current movements aimed at social activism, social justice, and racial justice. Because the driving ideas behind CRT are being taught in schools, many people see the worldview presented by CRT as factual and do not consider further whether or not the claims of CRT are true. Despite the mounting influence of CRT, many people are still not sure exactly what CRT is. Then there is the question, is CRT in line with a biblical worldview? As Christians, it is crucial that we know if the ideas behind CRT are biblical, and what degree of common ground Christians might find with those who embrace CRT. This ebook will examine how CRT is not a biblical worldview and includes a number of dangerous ideas that can lead to unbiblical conclusions, but we will also see that CRT does share Christianity’s concern for practicing justice. We must be able to critique the ideas within CRT, while engaging charitably with those who are advocates for CRT or who find some of the ideas of CRT appealing. What we think about CRT has profound implications for how we understand the message of the gospel and how we live out the gospel. To be able to speak well within culture about the biblical ideas of race, justice, and unity, we need to be able to engage with the ideas and claims of CRT.

CRT was born out of Critical Theory (CT), which is a philosophical and sociological movement (also known as The Frankfurt School) that began in the twentieth century at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. Generally, a critical theory is one that provides a framework for identifying and alleviating forms of domination in social structures.1 Theories are described as critical insofar as they seek to “liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them.”2

Critical Race Theory is a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. Purdue University explains,

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.3

CRT’s goal is to liberate people of color from the enslavement of racism. On this point, the teaching of CRT and the teaching of Christianity are in firm agreement: unjust treatment of people based on the color of their skin is a great evil and we have a moral duty to stamp it out wherever we find it. Where the teachings of CRT and Christianity diverge is in how we should define racism and what exactly we should be doing to fight it.

Like all ideas, CRT reflects a worldview. The main ideas within CRT were derived from a postmodern, Marxist worldview. Because it is birthed from CT, CRT frames human existence through the Marxist lens of “Oppressor” and “Oppressed,” placing all members of society in one of these two groups. This grouping is based on identity factors such as race, religion, gender, and socioeconomic status. CRT proposes activism as the solution to the societal problems created by the Oppressor/Oppressed dichotomy. For people of color, the goal of this activism is to overthrow the Oppressors in society, using violence if necessary. The goal for white people, according to CRT, should be to ally themselves with people of color by divesting themselves of their own power and privilege to promote the goals of equity, liberation, and social justice.

Download a full eBook resource The Big Ideas Behind Critical Race Theory.

It unpacks the following six reasons:

  1. CRT asserts that the most important thing determining our identity is our skin color.
  2. CRT asserts that the problem with humankind is a skin issue rather than a sin issue.
  3. CRT judges people based on their outward appearance.
  4. CRT asserts that an entire population of people are permanently racist, simply because of the color of their skin.
  5. CRT trades objective truth for subjective truth.
  6. CRT’s categories of “Oppressor” and “Oppressed” creates a mindset of victimhood and does not allow for personal accountability.
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