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Critical Race Theory: Develop a Topic: Understanding Critical Race Theory

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What Critical Race Theory Is (and Isn't): a conversation with Cheryl Harris

Cheryl Harris UCLA

Critical Race Theorist and UCLA professor Cheryl Harris joins Marketplace correspondent, Kai Ryssdal, for a conversation about what Critical Race theory is and isn't. 

Defining Critical Race Theory

What is critical race theory?

"The critical race theory (CRT) movement is a collection of activists and scholars engaged in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power. The movement considers many of the same issues that conventional civil rights and ethnic studies discourses take up but places them in a broader perspective that includes economics, history, setting, group and self-interest, and emotions and the unconscious. Unlike traditional civil rights discourse, which stresses incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law."

- Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, 3rd Edition

"The critical race theory (CRT) movement developed in the mid-1970s as lawyers, law students, and legal scholars who were sympathetic to the social justice movements of the 1960s witnessed a backlash against the advances of the previous decade. Critical race theory intended to address the most insidious forms of racism and unearth the multiple sources of racial inequality through a critical examination of laws, social practices, and institutions.

Critical race theorists seek to challenge racial inequality by questioning the underlying biases present in the practices and norms of American law, specifically liberalism, integrationism, rationalism, and the notion of an objective Constitution. Although the movement began with law professors and students, it is interdisciplinary. It uses theories and methods of economics, history, sociology, pedagogy, literature, narrative theory, and cultural studies. It has drawn scholars from a range of disciplines, although it remains centered in law and legal academia."
- Imani Perry, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, edited by Colin A. Palmer, 2nd ed.

Step 1: Develop a Topic

The first step in a research project is choosing a topic. Begin your research with general background information. This will help you explore the topics of interest, develop research questions and search terms, and decide where to look for sources.

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