The Unfolding and Undoing of Critical Race Theory

In the midst of this protracted conflict, students led by Crenshaw and another future scholar and professor of law, Mari Matsuda, devised a means of accessing the education that they needed. They designed what they called the Alternative Course, premised upon a concept of the law not as a static, neutral entity but as “fundamentally political.” More robust than a reading group or a workshop, the course featured guest lecturers such as Charles Lawrence, Linda Greene, Neil Gotanda, and Richard Delgado, all experts in the legal dimensions of civil rights who were developing studies of the law as a racial document. The Alternative Course laid the groundwork for understanding not only racism within the law but also “how law was a constitutive element of race itself: in other words, how law constructed race,” as the editors of “Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement,” from 1995, wrote. Its core text was a book, from 1973, by the man who had inspired the program’s founding: Bell’s “Race, Racism, and American Law.” The course, Crenshaw later wrote, “set in motion a chain of events that would provide fertile ground for the emergence of CRT,” or critical race theory (a term that, along with “intersectionality,” she has been credited with coining).

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