Reflections on Critical Race Theory in a Time of Backlash
Reviewing my article on critical race theory (CRT), written over fifteen years ago, this Article revisits CRT and its fortunes in this moment of backlash. CRT has become a principal target for erasure in a raging polit- ical campaign that seeks to suppress discussions about racial and gender justice. It does so, in part, by using law to compel the miseducation of the American populace, including its children. The campaign suggests, in the case of race, that efforts to promote racial justice, combat racism, and employ race as an analytical lens—antiracism—is racist. That is, the right- wing argument has shifted from the colorblind assertion that race is irrel- evant, to one in which consideration of race is illegitimate. It is not simply illegitimate because it is irrelevant, but because, incredulously, it is racist and racism no longer exists in America, if it ever did. I argue this miseducation campaign arose to divert attention from the demands for a racial reckoning triggered by the police murder of Mr. George Floyd. This reckoning portended consolidation of a multiracial, multiethnic democratic majority and progress in racial justice, among other changes; changes apparently perceived as threatening to the privi- leged status of whiteness in the United States’ racial hierarchy. As such, I contend, the campaign’s goals are not merely to silence the voices of those seeking justice and therefore change that includes fuller and truer accounts of American history. Rather, it seeks to control, or if necessary, destroy, the educational and other institutions that house justice voices and to re- move the people representing these voices from participation in institutions and other public spaces. I note that the campaign also supports and facilitates efforts to privatize education. In other words, in contextualizing the campaign, I suggest that it is part of a broader, larger, and multifaceted antidemocratic backlash movement that reactionary forces are advancing to limit access to voting, education, healthcare, and processes that might protect the economic interests of people of color, poor people, nonbinary people, and women, among others. In short, this broader movement seeks to undermine democracy and re-impose—dare I say—elite white male minority rule. The conservative majority on the Supreme Court, I suggest, is facilitating this effort.
Denver Law Review
Athena D. Mutua,
Reflections on Critical Race Theory in a Time of Backlash,
Denver L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.buffalo.edu/journal_articles/1198