Critical Race Theory: An Explanation, Pt. 1

D. Elisabeth Glassco
6 min readNov 7, 2022

Although as a concept, it has been around for over 40 years, Critical race theory has recently become a controversial topic. This topic exploded in the public arena —especially in K-12, where numerous state legislatures debated bills seeking to ban its use in the classroom.

In this modern context, when considering this terminology, a bifurcated set of questions quickly emerge.

Is “critical race theory” a way of understanding how American racism has shaped public policy, or is it a divisive discourse that pits people of color against white people?

These questions have caused sharp disagreements among ideologically dissimilar groups.

While it is tempting to say that critical race theory. has been suddenly thrust upon us by political leaders, political parties, and other actors and events such as those surrounding the formation of groups like Black Lives Matter, the murder of George Floyd and the protest surrounding it, all of these events and more have merely increased public awareness about issues that have been around for generations — like housing segregation and discrimination, the impact of criminal justice policy, and, indeed, the legacy of the enslavement of Black Americans.

In this light, two of the central questions In the debate over critical race theory are what is the role of government in righting these past wrongs? And how do schools and teachers address these past wrongs in a way that is factually appropriate.

To begin to understand critical race theory, we must look to its historical and theoretical underpinnings in American society.

First, let’s talk about the historical.

One of the surest ways to create a rock-solid narrative is to teach children in schools a particular history, a particular narrative. For example , we can see this. by examining the enduring legacy of the Lost Cause.



D. Elisabeth Glassco

A native of of the great state of Mississippi and proud resident of New Jersey. Lecturer and Doctoral candidate in Media, Race, Class, and Politics @Rutgers.