Background Information (from Heritage Took Kit)
Critical race theory (CRT) makes race the lens through which its proponents analyze all aspects of American life. CRT underpins identity politics, an ongoing effort to reimagine the United States as a nation driven by racial groups, each with specific claims on victimization. Ultimately, CRT weakens the public and private bonds that create trust and allow for civic engagement.
Roots of Critical Race Theory
Critical race theory (CRT) is a descendent of critical theory (CT), a school of philosophy that began in Frankfurt, Germany, in the 1920s and 1930s at the University of Frankfurt’s Institute for Social Research. It became known as “the Frankfurt School.” It was one of the first, if not the first, Western Marxist schools patterned after the Marx–Engels Institute in Moscow.
The Frankfurt School’s scholars fled to Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York in 1934 to escape persecution by the Nazis, and were careful to erase the word Marxism from their research papers so as not to attract attention in America.
Critical theory was, from the start, an unremitting attack on Western institutions and norms in order to tear them down. It built on the work of philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Georg Friedrich Hegel and his best-known disciple, Karl Marx.
It next became a short step to critical race theory in the late 1970s and 1980s. CRT built on critical theory’s idea that the world is based on systems of power and claims that American law is systemically oppressive. It went a step further to claim that America is systemically racist, and that this racism produced an alliance between working-class whites and the oppressor capitalist class, which prevented working-class solidarity. CRT holds to the idea that:
- There is no absolute truth—only competing narratives. It sees “lived experiences” as mattering more than facts.
- Individuals are either an oppressor or victim. You are predetermined by immutable characteristics such as race to fall into either category. Culture is defined by groups exercising power over each other.
- America is systemically racist and must be dismantled. It sees America as having been founded on the system of capitalism, which is racist, and therefore must be disrupted.
When followed to its logical conclusion, CRT is destructive and rejects the fundamental ideas on which our constitutional republic is based. Applying the philosophy would violate a multitude of American civil rights laws by treating people differently according to race. It should not be elevated in American classrooms.
How to Stop CRT in your School District
Transparency is an important tool to holding government accountable—shining a spotlight on CRT curriculum is an effective way to stop it:
1. Submit a FOIA request to be given access to the debate and decision making process of your elected officials. If requested, the government is required to hand over the records via “Open records laws’ and “Sunshine laws.” Learn more about how to submit an open records request here.
2. Call your Federal Legislators and ask them to support Congressman Chip Roy’s bill, the “Combatting Racist Teaching in Schools Act” (H.R. 3163). Roy’s bill would prohibit federal funds from going to any elementary, secondary school, or college that promotes race-based ideologies.
An additional bill worth supporting is Congressman Dan Bishop’s bill to keep CRT curriculum out of the military. Members of Congress should support the “Combatting Racist Training in the Military Act of 2021” (H.R. 3134).
Here are additional resources from Heritage Foundation experts on critical race theory, its problems and how conservatives can fight back.
Mike Gonzalez & Jonathan Butcher: Feeling Guilty About Everything? Thank Critical Race Theory
Mike Gonzalez & Jonathan Butcher: State Education Officials Must Restore a Sense of National Character in Public Schools
- True equality will be achieved by maximizing the ability of Americans to become self-sufficient, not by dividing Americans on the basis of race and apportioning resources based on skin color.
- For Americans who care about poverty alleviation and constitutional government, critical race theory represents a critical threat. If implemented, critical race theory’s social policies would continue to erode the key preconditions for advancement—family, education, and work—and leave ostensibly “favored” groups more dependent on public subsidy and redistribution than ever.
- Teachers should not use the goal of teaching “diversity of thought”as an excuse to teach students to view others through ethnic stereotypes, or that America is an irredeemably racist country.
- Teachers should use instructional content that creates a shared sense of national identity, teaching that America belongs to all Americans, and that this nation and its progress is worth celebrating
- Teachers should impart the foundational principles of this country: intrinsic equality of all humans, equal protection under the law, liberty, self-reliance, and hard work; teach history impartially, with differing views considered in a balanced, non-politicized curriculum; and explain how government works at different levels, and how a citizen can affect the workings of government.
- Policymakers should reject the tenets of critical race theory and orient public policy toward rebuilding the institutions of family, education, and work for Americans of all racial backgrounds. True equality will be achieved by maximizing the ability of Americans to become self-sufficient, not by dividing Americans on the basis of race and apportioning resources based on skin color.