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What is Critical Race Theory?

“Racial justice and anti-racism work are intersectional and foundational to the mission, vision, and purpose of the United Church of Christ. The UCC promotes and believes in Justice for All.

However, justice is often antithetical when lawmakers intentionally develop policies denying access to justice for people of color-Indigenous, Asian, African/African American, and Latin descendants. Critical Race Theory was developed as a scholarly and sociopolitical movement examining contemporary legal thought and the role of law in the construction and maintenance of Anglo-European supremacy and dominance within the United States.

Critical Race Theory provides multiple perspectives from thought leaders challenging white supremacy ideology. It also follows a long tradition of human resistance and strategies for liberation necessary for people to use…” from

Critical race theory is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. Although more than 40 years old, critical race theory is an academic concept taught in graduate-level courses. It emerged out of a framework for legal analysis in the late 1970s and early 1980s created by legal scholars Derrick Bell, Kimberle Crenshaw, and Richard Delgado, among others. It was developed in response to what they viewed as a lack of racial progress following the civil rights legislation of the 1960s.

The core of the idea is that race is a social construct, systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society. That racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies. It is built into American culture and entrenched in American institutions.

For example, redlining and exclusionary zoning codes are illegal, but housing discrimination and segregation continue anyway. A good example: in the 1930s, government officials literally drew lines around areas deemed poor financial risks, often explicitly due to the racial composition of homeowners. Banks subsequently refused to offer mortgages to Black people in those areas.

This is where the debate starts. Do we increase public awareness about things like housing segregation, the impacts of criminal justice policy in the 1990s, and the legacy of enslavement on Black Americans? What about saying racism is part of everyday life, so people-white or nonwhite-who don’t intend to be racist can nevertheless make choices that fuel racism? How will these statements impact the ideal picture of American exceptionalism and patriotism? What do we intend to teach in K-12 schools and how will it continue or resolve racial issues?

–respectfully submitted by the Racial Justice Team


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