critical race theory

noun

: a group of concepts (such as the idea that race (see race entry 1 sense 1a) is a sociological rather than biological designation, and that racism (see racism sense 2a) pervades society and is fostered and perpetuated by the legal system) used for examining the relationship between race and the laws and legal institutions of a country and especially the United States
Critical race theory essentially forces legal scholars to ask questions, she [Kimberlé Crenshaw] continued. For instance, why does possession of less expensive drugs carry higher jail sentences than more expensive drugs? Could this have anything to do with the fact that more people of color are in prison? "It is a way of looking at law's role … facilitating, producing, and even insulating racial inequality in our country, ranging from health to wealth to segregation to policing," said Crenshaw …Columbia News
Critical race theory is a field of intellectual inquiry that demonstrates the legal codification of racism in America. Through the study of law and U.S. history, it attempts to reveal how racial oppression shaped the legal fabric of the U.S. Critical race theory is traditionally less concerned with how racism manifests itself in interactions with individuals and more concerned with how racism has been, and is, codified into the law.David Miguel Gray
also : a movement advocating the examination of this relationship
Ultimately, the liberal defense of critical race theory ignores an aspect of the movement that many of its founders considered fundamental: the "desire not merely to understand the vexed bond between law and racial power but to change it," as the editors of "Critical Race Theory" [Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement] wrote. … Critical race theory is not merely about making a better historical document but about movement toward the way things could be. Lauren Michele Jackson
abbreviation CRT
critical race theorist noun
plural critical race theorists
Many CRT scholars had witnessed how the law could be used to help secure and protect civil rights. Therefore, critical race theorists recognized that, while the law could be used to deepen racial inequality, it also held potential as a tool for emancipation and for securing racial equality. Janel George

Examples of critical race theory in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The news is noteworthy given Ramaswamy's strong views, including public criticism of critical race theory, self-victimization, climate change efforts and diversity programs. Ingrid Vasquez, Peoplemag, 22 May 2024 The district became one of the first places where school board candidates raising fears about critical race theory took the majority. Stephanie Drenka, Chicago Tribune, 16 May 2024 These groups specifically target material about LGBTQ+ and communities of color, arguing the material is inappropriate or a part of critical race theory. Emma Hall, Sacramento Bee, 6 May 2024 The edifice of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), a reasonable-sounding concept that serves as a dog whistle for critical race theory and is premised on the claim that our country is systemically racist, is cracking. Richard T. Bosshardt, National Review, 17 Apr. 2024 Jeff Voyer, who was specifically seeking Pawlak’s seat, had contrasted himself as taking a harder stance against critical race theory. Journal Sentinel, 2 Apr. 2024 Judge keeps Temecula Valley Unified’s critical race theory ban in place. Andrew J. Campa, Los Angeles Times, 25 Feb. 2024 The same way that terms like woke and critical race theory (CRT) have been hijacked, morphed, and mutilated, the term DEI is experiencing a similar fate. Janice Gassam Asare, Forbes, 27 Mar. 2024 Related Articles California school district’s critical race theory ban, transgender notification policy stand for now, judge rules Woodshop has been disappearing from California schools for decades. Jakob Rodgers, The Mercury News, 24 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'critical race theory.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1988, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of critical race theory was in 1988

Dictionary Entries Near critical race theory

Cite this Entry

“Critical race theory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/critical%20race%20theory. Accessed 27 May. 2024.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!