POLS 3651/ MIST 3651
September 30th, 2013
Lecture 4 – Week 4
Racism and the Law
Critical Theories of Race and Racism
• Critical theories are better tools/ instruments to use when analyzing the issues of race and racism in
• What is Critical Theory?
Critical Social Science: Critiques basic social structure. You may try to find the nature, foundation, and
environments in these basic social structures. You are getting into the roots of “how” the structure
works, who benefits from these structures, and who is at loss.
Interpretive Scholarship: the main cause of oppression
Criticism: bring about positive change by applying principals and values.
• Critical theory is based on this important premise that the conceptualization of race from a political
perspective is vital for understanding the complexities of the politics of the state and the nature of
society in the modern era.
Why Political? Because of the emphasis on “oppression”. When you look at things politically it means
that you are looking at things relationally.
Critical Race Theory:
• It is about studying (interpreting) and transforming (change) the relationship among race, racism, and
power. In doing so, it shares many issues that with the civil rights and ethnic rights. Critical race theory
tries to put the different approaches in a broader context and looking into these issues closely.
- Unlike traditional civil rights, they focus on perpetual progress. Step by step progress. Critical Race
Theory questions the very foundation of the liberal order including equality theory, legal reasoning,
enlightment rationalism, and neutral principals of constitution law. In a liberal society, these are the main
reasons in protecting and advancing rights.
- Critical Race Theory tries to go beyond liberal reasoning and liberal rationality.
• Critical race theory sprang up in the mid -1970’s. New theories and strategies were needed to combat the
subtler forms of racism that were gaining ground.
- Racism is being rolled back in a very complex way.
• Critical race theory build on the insights of three previous movements:
Critical Legal Studies:
Marxist Tradition: focusing on equality and opposing discrimination
• It also draws from certain European andAmerican philosophers and theorists such asAntonio Granche,
Doreda, Sojourner Truth, Fredrerick Douglas, Du Bois, and Martin Luther King.
• The Frankfurt School of Critical Theory: The Frankfurt School’s studies combined Marxist analysis
with Freudian psychoanalysis to form the basis of what became known as “critical theory”.
Methodological: Inter- Sectionality: Different minorities feel racism and discrimination differently.
- The Cross-effects of race, class, and gender with other social issues
- Neutrality is inappropriate in terms of methodological. What is mainstream is that if anyone wants to
study something, you have to be neutral about it. This theory says that you have plenty of theories,
approaches, methodologies, and they are mainly there to oppress, and dominate. They are speaking to
the needs of the oppressed, not the needs of the oppressed.
Basic Tenets of Critical Race Theory:
• From critical legal studies, they borrow the idea of legal indeterminacy. The idea that not every legal
case has the same outcome.
• They borrow from feminism insides, when they look into the relationship between power and the
construction of social roles. In feminism they are distinguished among gender and sex. Gender is a
social construction and sex is biological. Social construction is the construction of social roles. Who
determines these social roles? Power relations, produce and reproduce gender relations.
• One of the main issues behind gender issues – patriarchy
• To look into the relationship between power and social roles, unseen, collection of patterns and habits
that make up different types of domination.
• So from the legal studies they borrowed the issue of “outcome”. Trying to understand constructional