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Critical race theory has been around for decades — why’s it a powder keg now?
Jun 22, 2021
Episode 459

Critical race theory has been around for decades — why’s it a powder keg now?

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On today's show, we'll talk to a critical race theorist about what CRT is and isn't — and what the recent controversy has to do with voting restrictions.

If you’ve been tuned in to the culture war at all in the last six to 12 months, you’ve probably heard a lot about “critical race theory.” You’ve probably heard less about what it actually is. We asked a critical race theorist.

“We had social inequality of serious dimensions … even after the victories of the civil rights movement in the embrace of a so-called colorblind society,” said law professor Cheryl Harris of the University of California, Los Angeles. “And we wanted to ask, what is the role of law in that? Is this an enforcement problem?”

CRT, as it’s sometimes called, posits that racism is not just perpetuated by individuals, it’s embedded into our institutions. But Harris said recent Republican efforts to ban CRT from schools aren’t really about those decades-old discussions, but an effort to create a political “boogeyman.” Some conservative thinkers have said as much.

On today’s show, we’ll go deep with Harris on the nuances of what CRT is and isn’t, and what the recent controversy around systemic racism in schools has to do with the voting restrictions we talked about last week.

Later in the show, we’ll talk about California’s new rental-assistance program, Juneteenth commercialization and the economic conditions that would cause the rich not to get richer. (Spoiler alert: There really aren’t any.) Plus we’ll hear from a listener who is celebrating becoming debt-free.

When you’re done listening, tell your Echo device to “make me smart” for our daily explainers. This week, we’re explaining conservatorship, the Blue Angels and “The Fast and the Furious.” You can hear them all here. And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter! You can find the latest issue here.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

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The team

Molly Wood Host
Donna Tam Interim Senior Producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Marissa Cabrera Producer
Bridget Bodnar Senior producer