Key Words:

race,racial power,law,social narratives,social justice,racialization

Background / Metatheory:

From its historical beginnings, scientists have always been interested in race. Though the conceptualization of race originally sprang forth from the biological scientific tradition, time has since altered our understanding of race as being more social in nature. Theories of race have emerged from all social traditions. Notably, studies of race in the legal realm have also been developed to explain, study, define, and operationalize not only race as a social construct, but the formation and creation of race itself. This framework, within the conflict tradition of sociology, puts a lot of focus and emphasis on how racial supremacy, dominance, and hierarchies have been formed in law and in social narratives to subvert and force competition for power and resources. Known as Critical Race Theory, this perspective not only aims to point out racial supremacy within laws and social narratives of race, but also to combat those flaws through critical approaches to scientific research and social justice.

Terms & Definitions:

  • law - Social institution; formal rules and regulations set forth by a governing authority over its populace.
  • race - A socially constructed category to distinguish people based on physical appearance (i.e. skin color) or cultural differences.
  • social narrative - A social "story" of sorts; a tool for people to recognize and construct certain social processes, objects, or events.
  • racialization - The process by which a people is distinguished as being a separate race.
  • white supremacy - The idea that "whiteness" is both the "normal" race and the superior one, as compared to other races.
  • racial power - A power hierarchy of certain races over others; can manifest itself in different ways through a variety of social institutions (i.e. Western understandings of white supremacy).

Scope Conditions:

  1. Cannot exist in a society that does not recognize race, or has not been racialized.
  2. Society must have forms of racial power inherent in institutions like law.


  1. Laws help inform the process of racialization, which creates race.
  2. Social narratives help inform the process of racialization, which creates race.
  3. Racialization informs racial power and white supremacy.


  1. If laws helps inform the process of racialization, it helps to create racial power and white supremacy.
  2. If social narratives help inform the process of racialization, it helps to create racial power and white supremacy.


Critical Race Theory (CRT) originally arose in response to Critical Legal Studies (CLS), as a criticism of the latter field for its lack of focus on racial oppression in law. (Price 2010; Delgado and Stefancic 2006; Gordon 1999; Yosso 2005) Specifically, it focuses on addressing the concerns of what race is, how people are racialized, and how racial power is created and expressed. (Gordon 1999; Yosso 2005) Specifically, it has come to see race as a social construct meant to delineate certain groups of people from others, that can be based on a wide range of factors from culture to skin color. (Delgado and Stefancic 2006; Price 2010) Along with this, CRT focuses on the expression of racial power through laws and social narratives. (Price 2010:150-152, 157; Yosso 2005:69-72) Although CRT has attempted to broaden its focus to other social domains (Yosso 2005:72; Treviño et al. 2008; San Juan Jr. 2005), it is still predominantly focused on the relationship between race, power, and law. (Yosso 2005; Delgado and Stefancic 2006) While racial power has mostly been understood in a White/Black binary (Yosso 2005:72-73), attempts to broaden that focus to include the where other races fit in the racial power dynamic have also been made. (Yosso 2005:72; Price 2010:152-160) For the most part, CRT is relegated to Western understandings of race that allow for white people to have power and privilege over other races (Treviño et al. 2008; San Juan Jr. 2005); as such, one can possibly deduce that CRT may not be as applicable to other non-Western settings that either do not place primacy of whiteness over races, or do not recognize race in the way Westernized nations may recognize, if at all.
Title: Critical Race Theory
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