This post shares some resources for understanding Critical Race Theory.
The other day I wrote a post about Critical Race Theory. And I wanted to follow it up today with a list of some resources that have helped me better understand ideas related to this field of study.
Here is my post about Critical Race Theory: Should We Be Afraid of Critical Race Theory?
But first I need to be clear that I am not an expert in Critical Race Theory. However, one of my specialty areas is Critical Theory. And Critical Theory and Critical Race Theory are cousins. In addition, one of the philosophers I study is the Brazilian philosopher Paulo Freire. And critical race theorists sometimes draw on his ideas in their writing.
This is a post about how I got interested in Paulo Freire and Critical Theory: Teaching My Students to Be Maladjusted.
And these are posts I have written about Paulo Freire and his most well-known work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Pedagogy of the Oppressed is especially helpful for understanding how systems of oppression develop and how people both consciously and unconsciously reinforce them.
One: Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Two: Chapter Two: Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Three: Chapter Three: Pedagogy of the Oppressed
In addition, in the past four years, I have had the privilege of teaching two independent studies on black philosophy. I did this, of course, because students requested the studies. And I also did it because philosophy students rarely hear about black or Latinx philosophy.
This is a problem. There are a lot of excellent black and Latinx philosophers out there. Here is an example: African Philosophy: An Anthology
I am trying to help remedy this problem and make sure students know well the work of philosophers in minority communities.
A Related Post
What I Learned from Teaching African Philosophy This Semester
So, in my independent studies, I have had a lot of time to study two ideas foundational to Critical Race Theory. Namely, the ideas that racism is systemic in the U.S. and that race is socially constructed.
My main goal in this post is to give you some resources to help you if you want to explore ideas related to Critical Race Theory. I have focused on the resources that have helped me the most. And I still have a long way to go in learning about this field. In addition, very few of these sources specifically mention the term Critical Race Theory. They do, however, examine systemic racism and the social construction of race.
I also have four suggestions as you begin to study Critical Race Theory.
First, I suggest that as much as possible, you listen to black and Latinx people tell you about their experiences. Prioritize listening to them rather than listening to white people (including myself) tell you about black and Latinx experience.
I make this suggestion not because white people are bad. Rather, black, Latinx, and other minority people obviously know best what it is like to be a person of color in the U.S.
So, if you truly want to understand Critical Race Theory, the experience of people of color is a good place to start.
Second, I suggest that you prioritize primary, rather than secondary, sources about Critical Race Theory.
It’s fine to read secondary material about critical race theory, especially to get you started. However, you gain a much deeper understanding by reading original sources by theorists than you do reading secondary sources (like this post).
Third: Be wary of people, including myself, who suggest that they can give you a quick summary of Critical Race Theory. Be especially wary of people who suggest they can easily dismiss Critical Race Theory after their two-minute summary.
Critical Race Theory is a broad discipline with roots in work written over a hundred years ago. (Like W.E.B Du bois’ Souls of Black Folks.) To suggest we can adequately cover these ideas in one blog post or youtube video is unreasonable and misleading.
Four: This is related to three. Please resist the pressure of people who try to pressure you to make quick judgments of Critical Race Theory.
There are a lot of people who are promoting ignorant and borderline hysterical information about Critical Race Theory. Such people might pressure you to believe that critical race theorists are out to destroy the world.
That claim is, generally speaking, full of tomfoolery.
Critical race theorists are a diverse group of people. But most of them are like you and me. They love their families, kids, and neighbors. And they are interested in creating a more just and humane world for everyone.
You have permission to take your time to understand Critical Race Theory and to understand what you think about it. In fact, you have as long as it takes you.
So, here is a list of beginning resources you can use to educate yourself about issues related to Critical Race Theory.
The list flows somewhat chronologically. You can find all these items on Amazon or your local bookstore. I have included an Amazon link for most books, but please buy them from your local bookstore if you can. The items with an asterix can be found online at the link provided. So you can start reading them today if you like.
Books and Articles
One: Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass*: This is a slave autobiography that shows the way in which racism was endemic during the era of slavery.
Two: W.E.B Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folks*-This is a book written by Du Bois, the first African-American to earn a doctorate. His book explores the way in which patterns of racism persisted long after the Civil War. It describes the debilitating effect they had on the black community. He writes vividly of double-consciousness, which is the way black people learn to view themselves through white eyes.
Three: Franz Fanon, Black Skins, White Masks—This book is by a Martiniquan psychiatrist and philosopher who studied the effects of colonization and racism on black men and women. He writes about the lingering trauma it causes.
Four: Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail— This is a short book written by Martin Luther King Jr., which he wrote in jail while he was imprisoned for Civil Rights activism. He wrote it in response to an open letter written by local clergy. They argued that King was a trouble-maker and that he should just be patient for Civil Rights to progress. King’s response to them is kind, thought-provoking, and cogent.
Five: Martin Luther King, Jr. ”The Other America”*– This is a moving speech in which King describes the difference between white and black America. He further explains why change must occur in people’s minds and hearts but also through legislation.
Six: Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed— This book explains how oppression develops and is maintained in society, especially through educational systems.
Seven: Paulo Freire, Education for Critical Consciousness— This book explains how we become aware of our own and other people’s oppression. It also shows the lessons Freire used to help oppressed Brazilian farmers learn to read and to realize that they were equally deserving of justice as the elite Brazilians.
Eight: Myles Horton, The Long Haul— Myles Horton was an Appalachian educator who started the Highlander School. This school focused on training people for social change. Horton worked with Martin Luther King, Jr.; Rosa Parks; and Pete Seeger, to name a few folks. Horton was also friends with Paulo Freire.
Nine: Audre Lorde, “The Black Unicorn”—This is a book of poems that illuminates the experience of a black woman in the U.S.
Ten: Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches—This is a thought-provoking book that contains essays on racism, feminism, and spirituality.
Eleven: Cornell West, Prophesy Deliverance!— This book explains, among other things, how race was constructed and weaponized. And it also suggests four different approaches to solving the problem.
Twelve: Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete?— This book explores how the prison system has largely become an institution of modern-day slavery. It suggests how we can change this.
Thirteen: Enrique Dussel,“Europe, Modernity, and Eurocentricism”*– This essay describes how people came to view Europe as the center of the world (and superior to other cultures.) It also shows how this idea is erroneous and harmful.
Fourteen: bell hooks, All about Love— This book explores problems of self-hate, greed, patriarchy, and racism. It also examines how love is a practical solution to these problems.
Fifteen: Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, The Rich and the Rest of Us— This book explores how policies in the eighties contributed to erroneous racial stereotypes. The authors give practical solutions at the end.
Sixteen: Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities— This book explores inequity in the education system and the way it debilitates students of color.
Seventeen: Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy— This book tells the story of the work of lawyer Bryan Stevenson who started the Equal Justice Initiative. Among other things, Stevenson works to help get exonerated people who have unjustly received a death row sentence.
Eighteen: Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Donald Trump is the First White President”*– This article explores racial issues in Donald Trump’s presidency.
Nineteen: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me— In this book, Coates writes eloquently about what it is like to grow up as a black man in the United States.
Twenty: Harriet A. Washington, Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present— This book examines the history of racially harmful practices in the American medical establishment.
Twenty-One: Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought (I especially appreciate the chapter, “Mammies, Matriarchs, and Other Controlling Images”)– Among other things, Collins explores the way harmful stereotypes are used to control and harass people of color.
Twenty-Two: Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze, African Philosophy: An Anthology— This is an excellent anthology of African philosophy.
Twenty-Three: Reverend Dr. William J. Barber, The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear— This is a book about the work of Reverend Barber in Kentucky. He is the founder of Moral Mondays and does activism work related to racism and poverty
Twenty-Four: Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow–This book also explores how the prison system has largely become an institution of modern-day slavery. It also suggests how we can change this.
Twenty-Five: Joy a Degruy, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Enduring Legacy of Injury and Healing–My students recommended this book to me the last time I did an independent study on African philosophy. They told me this book helped them understand experiences they have suffered their whole life. And they also said I could write about it on my blog. I am still working my way through it.
Twenty-Six: David Abram, Spell of the Sensuous—This book does a wonderful job of describing an indigenous (native and aboriginal) view of the world. It describes how western ways of thinking disrupted this view. It suggests how we can recover the view and why we desperately need to do so
Twenty-Seven: Karen Grigsby Bates, “A Chosen Exile: Black People Passing In White America”*–This is a helpful article exploring the social construction of race.
Twenty-Eight: Khushbu Shah, “They Look White but Say They are Black: a Tiny Town in Ohio Wrestles with Race”*– This is also a helpful article exploring the social construction of race
Twenty-Nine: BBC, The Story of Africa and Christianity*– This is a helpful article that explains how many of the earliest Christian communities were in Africa.
Thirty: Jon Sobrino, No Salvation Outside the Poor. Many people view poverty as a sign of character failure. Latin-American theologian Jon Sobrino dispels this notion. He argues that poverty is a sign that there is something wrong in society.
Some Helpful Movies or YouTube Videos. (For sensitive viewers, like myself, please check the ratings on these movies before you watch them. Some contain violence and other disturbing content):
One: Lost Kingdoms of Africa—This video describes four powerful ancient African kingdoms and how they influenced the development of the West.
Two: The Medieval Islamicate World: A Crash Course History of Science #7— This video discusses how the Medieval Muslim kingdom, which included parts of Africa, was pivotal in the development of science.
Three: 12 Angry Men— This classic movie shows how racism perpetuates itself in our justice system. It is also an excellent study in logic and critical thinking.
Four: The Mission— This movie explores the debilitating effect of colonialism on Latin America and indigenous tribes
Five: Malcolm X— This movie explores the life and Civil Rights work of Malcolm X, which eventually led to his assassination.
Six: Something the Lord Made— This movie is based on a true story. It describes the medical work of a black man named Vivien Thomas which was pivotal in the development of cardiac surgery. Because of various reasons, including racism, Thomas only received public recognition for his work in 1976.
Seven: Hidden Figures— This movie is based on a true story about female African-American mathematicians who worked at NASA during the space race.
Eight: Crash— This movie is about racism in society and on the police force.
Nine: Black Panther—This is my favorite superhero movie. It helps us imagine the culture could have developed in Africa if colonialism had not occurred.
Ten: Judas and the Black Messiah— This movie is based on a true story. It shows how members of the FBI assassinated Civil Rights leader Fred Hampton and some of his associates.
Eleven: Just Mercy— This movie is based on the book of that same name.
Twelve: 60 Minutes Interview with Bryan Stevenson and Walter McMillian.— This is the original 60 Minutes Interview with Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative and Walter McMillian. McMillian was unjustly accused of murder, Stevenson helped get him off death row.
Here’s a Parting Thought
You have a brain and heart to help you think rationally and practice empathy. And you have the ability to listen to other people different from you. God speed.
I dedicate this post to my dissertation advisor, Dr. Arnold Farr, and my students, Paradise, Chearlise, and Savannah who have been my most important and best teachers on this subject.
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You might also find this article about Women of Color in the workplace helpful. It discusses the progress Women of Color have made in this area, as well as obstacles they still encounter. It suggests practical steps organization can take to help support Women of Color in the workplace.
Women of color in the workplace: The persistent obstacles and how you can rise to meet them.
 Critical Theory, among other things, suggests that societies develop mechanisms blinding us to irrational and dehumanizing social practices. (You can see how this concern is related to some concerns of Critical Race Theory.) There are many different critical theorists. Herbert Marcuse is the one I study and write about the most. I recommend his Essay on Liberation and his book One-Dimensional Man.
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