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Critical Legal Studies

Critical Race Theory (crt)

CRT began in the mid-1970s when many intellectuals perceived that the civil rights movement of the 1960s had ended and that in fact many of its gains were being turned back. As a result, they began to develop new theories and concepts that would allow them to understand the causes and implications of these new developments. Like CLS, CRT gathers disparate scholars and theorists under a common heading. However, CRT is a less formally organized school of thought than CLS. Leading critical race theorists include DERRICK ALBERT BELL JR., Alan D. Freeman, and Patricia J. Williams. The first annotated bibliography of CRT writings, published in 1993, listed over 200 books and articles.

Critical race theorists share a number of themes. Like CLS, CRT finds major faults in liberalism and particular features of liberal jurisprudence that bear on race, including AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, neutrality, and "color blindness." Many CRT writers, for example, dispute that the Constitution is or ever can be "color-blind." They also assert that supposed breakthroughs in the area of racial rights by the Supreme Court serve only to validate an unjust political system by creating the illusion that racial inequalities are being ended when in fact they are not. CRT scholars generally seek a greater understanding of the social origins of race and racism, and, like CLS theorists, they employ social theory and science in that cause. Many in the CRT movement examine how the structure of legal thought or culture influences its content, usually in a way that maintains the status quo. Some in the movement make a case for cultural separatism or nationalism for people of color, arguing that preserving the diversity and separateness of different racial groups will benefit everyone. CRT also attempts to understand the cyclical nature of U.S. race relations—characterized by periods of racial progress and relative harmony followed by periods of racial retrenchment and discord. CRT writers also make frequent use of historical and social theories regarding colonialism and SLAVERY.

Many CRT writers employ unconventional narrative methods—sometimes called legal storytelling—in their legal writing, including fiction, myth, parable, anecdote, and autobiography. These approaches often demonstrate the way in which the majoritarian mind-set (in this case, the outlook of the white majority, including its prejudices and presuppositions) impedes the cause of racial reform. Bell, for example, published in a legal journal a science fiction story with implications for race relations in the United States. In it, an extraterrestrial race comes to earth and offers to solve the United States' economic and environmental problems in exchange for possession of all black U.S. citizens. In describing what happens after this event, the story shows how a majority group (here, white U.S. citizens) must always put some other group on the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder as a scapegoat for the country's social ills.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Costal cartilage to Cross‐appealsCritical Legal Studies - Feminist Legal Criticism, Critical Race Theory (crt), Cls And Its Alternative View Of The Law And Society