Education, News

What ‘Critical Race Theory’ Actually Means

Anthony Michael Kreis joined joined "Morning Edition" to discuss the curriculum of Critical Race Theory.
Anthony Michael Kreis joined joined "Morning Edition" to discuss the curriculum of Critical Race Theory.
Credit UGA

Updated at 1:35 p.m. Monday

There’s been a lot of public opposition lately — in Georgia and across the country — to public schools teaching Critical Race Theory.

Gov. Brian Kemp sent a letter to the Georgia Board of Education last week, asking members to take “immediate steps” to ensure CRT isn’t part of the state’s educational standards.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr recently signed a letter opposing the U.S. Education Department’s plans to provide grants to schools that “incorporate racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives into teaching and learning.”

The same day the governor made his letter public, parents showed up at several metro Atlanta school board meetings, urging districts not to teach Critical Race Theory.

CRT isn’t part of Georgia’s state standards and isn’t included in local curricula.

Anthony Michael Kreis, an assistant professor of law at Georgia State University’s College of Law, defines CRT as a very specific legal theory.

“It’s a subset of legal academia and legal scholarship that came out of the 1970s, or began in the 1970s,” he says.

Kreis says some legal scholars realized that even after civil rights legislation became law, racial attitudes didn’t necessarily change overnight.

“Critical Race Theory basically said that race relations can be accounted for — at least in law — for a lot of different reasons, or they can be attributed to power dynamics,” Kreis says.

Extended interview on CRT Theory

He gives the example of Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court case that desegregated schools. Kreis says Critical Race Theory examines why the decision happened when it did.

“You had white interests, which were aligned with black interests because white people in power in the 1950s realized that they couldn’t fight communism and authoritarian governments around the world if they had Jim Crow in their backyard. So, there was … what critical race theorists would call interest convergence of what white, powerful people needed and what was good for Black Americans.”

Kreis spoke to WABE’s Martha Dalton about how Critical Race Theory seems to have become a catchall phrase for terms like implicit bias training, DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) efforts and anti-racism.