Critical Race Theory (CRT) Code Words
Abolitionist: This term is also aligned with Allyship and even Co-Conspirator. An individual who sees society as a network of racial power structures that must be dismantled. This individual recognizes the need to call out others for not recognizing and acknowledging privilege, power and supremacy. Names to look for include Ibrahim Kendi, Robin D’Angelo as well as the founders of Black Lives Matter.
Abolitionist Teaching: “urges educators to tear down schools as they know them and rebuild using the intersectional tactics of past and present abolitionists.”(Bettina Love author of Abolitionist Teaching in Action) This is also frequently used as a technique/method to eradicate “whiteness” and end the “spirit murdering” of minority students. See Abolitionist Educators Workgroup and Abolitionist & Antiracist Teaching
Action civics: encourages students to participate in protests and demonstrations more than study history and America’s founding principles. Teachers may even pressure students into supporting a particular cause without providing them with multiple perspectives. At a time when kids need substantive civics education more than ever, this seeks to indoctrinate them with only the desire to act on emotion without the capacity to consider other points of view. See How Action Civics is Teaching Our Kids to Protest and Civic Education vs. Action Civics
Anti-bias: training programs or curriculum development that focuses on empowering learners to not see themselves as being marginalized or to treat others differently. In its more radical form, it promotes racializing of all relationships, dismantling “whiteness” and recognizing power and privilege by identity. See “Who’s got the power?”: A critical examination of the anti-bias curriculum
Anti-blackness: The tendency to see different outcomes in society as rooted in a disdain or disgust for black people. The term can be leveraged as a Marxist tool for dismantling societal structures through dividing people by identity.
Anti-racism, anti-racist: America’s leading anti-racist scholar Ibram X. Kendi. Kendi argues that there is no such thing as a non-racist idea and makes clear that racism occurs when there is any disparity between races, no matter how minor. In his words: “If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist.” See Should Public Schools Ban Critical Race Theory? and Teachers that DO NOT teach anti-racism are abusing children. and Anti-racist Arguments Are Tearing People Apart
BIPOC: Black, indigenous and people of color. According to the BIPOC Project: “We use the term BIPOC to highlight the unique relationship to whiteness that Indigenous and Black (African Americans) people have, which shapes the experiences of and relationship to white supremacy for all people of color within a U.S. context.”
Blackness: related to “black community” and “black experience”. Can certainly be a term for positive empowerment or one used to “racialize” every aspect of society.
Centering: acknowledging that white voices dominate platforms across society. It can bring about more vibrant discussions by including more diverse voices but in Critical Race Theory can also lead to overt silencing by “decentering” certain voices.
Climate Justice: Often used in conjunction with equity and racial justice. May be used in “action civics” to push climate change politics around the issue of systemic racism.
Collective Guilt through separating society into group identities, those who advocate for collective guilt seek to heap blame onto one or more groups for the historic injustices experienced by other groups. This is certainly a Marxist tactic in its deliberate collectivization of people to diminish individuality, further polarization and exacerbate hostility toward society, its history and its institutions.
Colonizer, Decolonizing: A term of derision typically aimed at white males. It is used to delegitimize the Founding of America and asserts that the U.S. as a nation-state was built on and is still manifesting a colonial tradition of white supremacy which necessitates multifaceted decolonization. See Colonizer-Colonized Mindset: Processing Whiteness (as Ideology) Wherever it is Found
Colorism: an assertion/belief that those with lighter skin have privilege over those with darker skin. Used in Critical Race Theory to create more identity groups at the expense of unity.
Conscious & unconscious bias: People from all backgrounds exhibit both types of bias. These terms are typically used to introduce topics such as micro-aggressions and are easily manipulated to produce deliberate partitions among groups. May also be introduced as “checking your blindspots” or “implicit bias” training.
Courageous Conversations: Discussions designed to isolate race as the determinate of all social interactions and compel participants to examine the presence and role of “whiteness”.
Critical ethnic studies: Curriculum designed around intersectional thought and social justice activism. While diverse voices should be represented in all classrooms, Critical Race Theory will use voices that purposely promote hostility toward America.
Critical pedagogy: a teaching philosophy that invites educators to encourage students to critique structures of power and oppression.
Critical self-awareness: A term that may be used to assess positive personal growth but may also be used to assess one’s “whiteness” and membership in a privileged power structure.
Critical self-reflection: refers to the process of questioning one’s own assumption, presuppositions, and meaning perspectives. Many times this will be used to end a session where participants examined their own predispositions to stereotype and employ bias. Particularly used in what is often called a “struggle session”.
Cultural appropriate: the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity.
Cultural competence: the ability to understand, appreciate and interact with people from cultures or belief systems different from one’s own.
Cultural proficiency: the ability to understand and affirm the cultures and identities of every individual.
Cultural relevance: May be used to help build the confidence of diverse learners and lead to setting a high bar for expectations. However, it may also be another term used to advance the purposes of equity, diversity and inclusion which may result in lowering expectations for members of specific groups.
Cultural responsiveness, culturally responsive practices: having an awareness of one’s own cultural identity and views about difference, and the ability to learn and build on the varying cultural and community norms of students and their families.
Decolonize: To “dismantle” the structures of American society that are seen as perpetuating “whiteness” and “white supremacy”.
Deconstruct Knowledge: The acquisition of knowledge has been based on “white supremacy”. The knowledge therefore that one has attained must be deconstructed through “lived experiences” and “speaking one’s truth”. Two overarching premises unite CRT scholarship: (1) to reveal the roots and perpetuation of white supremacy and (2) to engage in social justice. Along with the basic premises of CRT, seven tenets that most CRT scholars adhere to include: (a) interest convergence, (b) racism as everyday, (c) colorblindness as insufficient, (d) race as a social construction, (e) whiteness as property, (f) racialized narratives as significant and telling and (g) racialized realities as contextual.
Discrimination: the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex. Discrimination however is acceptable according to CRT advocates such as Ibrahim Kendi if it brings about equity which would then be considered “anti-racist”.
Dismantle, Dismantling racism: Everyone that respects our common humanity understands that racism is abhorrent. Those who seek to advance the Marxist underpinnings of CRT will manipulate perceptions of racism in order to subvert and ultimately dismantle the structures of society based on individualism and liberty.
Disrupt: Seeing all problems as emanating from systemic racism that must be challenged through conversations on topics such as “white privilege”.
Diversity, diversity focused, diversity training: often packaged with equity and implicit bias programs. While diversity does stimulate growth, foster respect and encourage personal reflection, when employed through CRT, it forces participants to see everyone and everything through the lens of race.
Dominant discourses: The dominant discourses in our society powerfully influence what gets “storied” and how it gets storied. This term is used to assert that “stories” and even reverence of the written word are all used to reinforce power structures that
Educational justice: aligned with social justice activism. May also result in racism of lower expectations for students as curriculum and assessments are designed to be less rigorous for certain groups.
Equitable: A term long associated with fairness that has now become a euphemism for the Marxist goal of equality or outcome.
Equity, Inequity, Deep Equity: The United States, according to CRT advocates, is made up of people who are either oppressors or the oppressed. The assertion of equity is to mitigate the results of ongoing racist structures that bring about inequity. The Deep Equity framework, based on the work of Gary Howard, helps schools and districts establish the climate, protocols, common language, and common goal of implementing culturally responsive teaching practices. Many times, teachers are instructed not to share these goals with parents.
Equity Gap: A specific term used when talking about “equity” that refers to a deficit that can be solved using “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” (DEI) programs, training, redistribution of resources, hiring practices, etc. There are many different ways of wording this concept, so “equity gap” is not the only way activists will try to convey this concept. To determine whether a discussion of equity gaps is related to CSJ and/or CRT, one must look at the context of the discussion.
Examine “systems”: All systems are tied in some way to the oppression of non-whites and therefore should be examined, dismantled and “reimagined”.
Free radical therapy: Complete change is needed to eradicate problems.
Free radical self/collective care: Healing occurs when POCI gain critical consciousness about their oppression and seek to resist the associated racial trauma.
Hegemony: any group, nation, structure that maintains dominance over others. The term is used to reinforce the notion that BIPOC have been, and still are, oppressed by the hegemony of “white supremacy”.
Identity deconstruction: Has been used to facilitate lessons where students are asked to identify their racial identities and then rank their power and privilege. See Identity Politics in Cupertino California Elementary School
Identity-safe: All good teachers strive to build the confidence and intellectual ability of each student. However, through CRT prerogative, every interaction in the classroom is based on race and therefore teachers must make learning spaces identity-safe.
Implicit/Explicit bias: Explicit biases and prejudices are intentional and controllable, implicit biases are less so. CRT may employ Implicit Association Tests to measure one’s bias which have proven to be very unreliable.
Implicit/Explicit racism: Terms are used to falsely amplify the level of racism that exists despite the significant progress that has been made (according to PEW research, only 4% of whites in America would oppose a relative marrying a black person).
Inclusion: Often combined with Diversity and Equity. Inclusion in itself is a positive action where everyone feels welcome. Under CRT however, it is posited that white dominated culture and America’s institutions were developed and have continued to exclude others.
Inclusivity education: Inclusive education means different and diverse students learning side by side in the same classroom. This is ideal but the term can certainly be manipulated to infuse CRT curriculum which polarizes by emphasizing racial identities above all else.
Injustice, Historical injustice: past moral wrong committed by previously living people that has a lasting impact on the well-being of currently living people. CRT seeks to cast all of present-day society as irreparable because of past injustices. This strategy enables them to delegitimize the Founding, the Constitution, the heroism of Civil Rights leaders and abolitionists and reject all of the progress that society has made.
Institutional Bias: Practices, scripts, or procedures that work systematically to give advantage to certain groups or agendas over others. Institutionalized bias is built into the fabric of institutions. In Critical Social Justice, such things as “hiring the best person” or “merit-based evaluation” are thought to be institutionally biased on the grounds that the standard of what constitutes best, or what counts as “merit,” is rigged to give straight, white males an advantage.
Institutional racism: also known as systemic racism. The belief that all institutions (education, government, military, police, banking, housing etc.) are rooted in the perpetuation of “white supremacy” and should therefore be “examined” and “dismantled”.
Internalized racial superiority: According to anti-racist theorists, this is a form of internalized oppression that places one’s own race above others. In the realm of CRT, it involves “white supremacy”.
Internalized racism: Societal messages that produce and perpetuate internal privilege and oppression. This is also manipulated to produce the desired social and emotional responses from students and engage them in activist causes.
Internalized white supremacy: A term that is used to assert that all “white” or “white adjacent” people have reaped rewards because of their proximity to “whiteness”. Cultural norms such as meritocracy are seen as enabling this.
Interrupting racism: Identifying differences in outcomes as the result of systemic racism and “doing the work” to “interrupt” and “dismantle” these systems. All teachers want their students to succeed regardless of their background; under CRT teachers would be encouraged to have different standards for students of diverse backgrounds which results in actually harming their learning experience.
Intersectionality, intersection: Intersectionality is a framework for conceptualizing a person, group of people, or social problem as affected by a number of discriminations and disadvantages. It takes into account people’s overlapping identities and experiences in order to understand the complexity of prejudices they face. Intersectionality produces more tribalism among groups. See Irshad Manji Says ‘Don’t Label Me’
Intersectional identities: Intersectionality is the acknowledgement that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression and we must consider everything and anything that can marginalize people – gender, race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, etc. These overlapping identities according to CRT morph into power structures where degrees of oppression are directly reflected by the identities one possesses.
Intersectional studies: involves the study of the ways that race, gender, disability, sexuality, class, age, and other social categories are mutually shaped and interrelated through forces such as colonialism, neoliberalism, geopolitics, and cultural configurations to produce shifting relations of power and oppression.
Interrupting racism: the Marxist underpinnings of CRT resolve to dismantle systems that they believe are the root of racism. According to the theory, racism is interrupted when systems that promote individualism and meritocracy are dismantled.
Land acknowledgement: a term that can be wielded to demonize Western culture as well as the Founding and development of America. When used constructively, it can provide important recognition of indigenous cultures and histories but CRT tends to echo the phrase “stolen land” instead.
Liberatory Education/Liberatory Pedagogy: is a pedagogy of liberation centered around the principles for social change and transformation through education based on consciousness raising and engagement with oppressive forces. This philosophy was made popular by Brazilian author Paulo Freire, a well-known Marxist who wrote “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”.
Marginalized identities: the opposite of privileged identities. This term looks to assert that members of certain groups experience levels of discrimination and bias because of structural inequalities in a systemically racist society.
Marginalized/Minoritized/Under-represented communities: often used to show that members of certain groups are not proportionally represented in programs, professions, etc.. May be used to justify ending meritocracy and instead promotes quotas.
Microaggressions: The everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. Critical Social Justice continuously pushes the boundaries of what might constitute a microaggression and thus a “hostile” act, often in tedious and inappropriate ways.
Multiculturalism: is the coexistence of diverse cultures, where culture includes racial, religious, or cultural groups and is manifested in customary behaviours, cultural assumptions and values, patterns of thinking, and communicative styles. This is certainly a positive when viewed as groups coming together to build bonds of affection and mutual respect as Americans. This can be weaponized to place individuals into “affinity” groups where people are deliberately separated to discuss how their membership in a culture ascribes oppressor or oppressed status.
Neo-segregation: the voluntary separation of people by race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Inspired by CRT, an increasing number of colleges have opted to offer more clubs, programs and even graduations only for members of a particular group.
No Place for Hate: Created by the Anti-Defamation League to: engage students and staff in dialogue and active learning on the topics of bias, bullying, inclusion and allyship that matter most. This program does follow the tenets of CRT.
Normativity: a term that is used to project “whiteness” and “white culture” as the norm which seeks the conformity of other groups. Being a good “ally” means dismantling “colorblindness” and “white normativity”.
Oppressed, Oppressor, Oppression: the status assigned to members of groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation etc. which reflect the CRT narrative based on Marxist power struggles. CRT will use identities in place of class to divide and ultimately control the people and diminish individualism and liberty.
Parity: the state or condition of being equal. This is not about equality of opportunity but rather equality of outcome which is the central tenet of equity.
Patriarchy: according to CRT, racism, patriarchy and even capitalism are part of the same oppressive system. Patriarchy is identified as a piece of the power structure that needs to be dismantled but neglects to recognize the fact that women now outnumber men in undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs.
Privilege, Power & Privilege: terms that CRT align with “normative whiteness”. By “decentering” whiteness, power and privilege will be more “equitable”.
Protect vulnerable identities: While poverty and predispositions to health risks should be examined to eradicate unequal access to opportunity, CRT will focus on group identity to create intersectional “scorecards” that reflect the effects of systemic racism. It automatically places those within certain groups as being vulnerable despite evidence that shows otherwise. It can often “infantilize” members of groups and diminish individual agency.
Race essentialism: the view that members of racial groups have an underlying reality or true nature that one cannot observe directly. Can lead to more and not less prejudice.
Racial healing: According to CRT, every human interaction is racialized and therefore creates harm that must be recognized and discussed to bring about healing.
Racial/Racialized identity: The existence of assigned racial identity whether someone wants it or not. Under CRT, an individual’s most significant characteristic is their racial identity.
Racial justice: Racial justice is the systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all. Racial justice — or racial equity — goes beyond “anti-racism.” It is not just the absence of discrimination and inequities, but also the presence of deliberate systems and supports to achieve and sustain racial equity through proactive and preventative measures. Everyone wants each and every child to be successful and reach their highest potential. However, under CRT, “racial justice” can take the form of lower standards for members of certain groups in order to achieve equity. This harms these students and is essentially bigotry of low expectations.
Racial sensitivity, Racial sensitivity training: According to CRT, whites are inherently racist and therefore require instruction on how to change their attitudes and behavior.
Racial/Racialized prejudice: Individuals have preconceived notions about groups of people that look or sound differently. CRT posits that all members of a particular race are monolithic and therefore have experienced either privilege or oppression.
Reflective exercises: reflecting on our own values, beliefs, and culture and how they impact the way we see the world and one another. As a teacher working under the guise of CRT, it involves what is often called culturally responsive teaching.
Reimagining: Statement by the Teachers College at Columbia: “to reimagine education for an anti-racist society, we need to relearn our profession and view education through a racial equity lens”. All facets of teaching and learning therefore need to be refocused through the CRT design. As many schools continue to struggle to meet standards, many new teachers are being trained to substitute academic rigor and critical thinking with critical race theory.
Representation and inclusion: All voices have a right to be heard. However, under CRT representation and inclusion can mean silencing “white” or “white adjacent” voices and utilizing quotas to meet goals instead of merit.
Restorative justice: is a theory of justice that focuses on mediation and agreement rather than punishment. For sure, having students take responsibility for their actions through mediation is impactful. However, under CRT, restorative justice may consider race as the driving factor for student discipline and fail to consistently enforce rules for all students.
Restorative practices: a social science that studies how to build social capital and achieve social discipline through participatory learning and decision making.
Social Emotional Learning: is the process of developing and using social and emotional skills. This is important for intra and interpersonal development but, when used for critical race theory, it discourages critical thinking and evidence-based learning in favor of emotional, subjective truths.
Social identity: views race as a socially constructed identity which serves to oppress non-white people. Only approved identity categories of discrimination have insight and “lived experience” that uniquely allows them to render the only acceptable definitions of racism and bigotry for the rest of society. If you don’t fit into one of these approved identity categories and feel you’ve experienced discrimination, you’re simply out of luck. Under this conception, only members of particular oppressed groups get to dictate the nature of oppression — even its ability to be experienced by others.
Social justice, social injustice: justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society. “individuality gives way to the struggle for social justice”
Social justice warrior: a person with progressive views that can’t accept the existence of differing views. These individuals tend to supplant rational thinking with outrage and advocate for the “tearing down” of the system. They also seek to “cancel” others for what they define as “offensive” speech and or behavior through threats and hostility; especially on social media.
Spirit murdering: Coined by Patricia Williams, who first conceptualized spirit-murdering as a product of racism which not only inflicts pain, but it is a form of racial violence that steals and kills the humanity and spirits of people of color. According to Williams it is the: “disregard for others whose lives quantitatively depend on our regard.” Spirit murdering occurs every single day in many of our schools, virtually unnoticed, unchecked, and all in the name of some arbitrary norm created by a white person.
Structural Bias: Refers to the institutional patterns and practices that confer advantages to some and disadvantages to others based on identity. It is not merely the institutions themselves but the way that institutions are structured and relate to each other and society.
Structural racism: A system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. CRT maintains that America, from its Founding to the present day, purposely developed and maintained a system that privileges whites. The 1619 Project, which is not historically supported, is an example of CRT that seeks to undermine the progress that America has made to fulfill its Founding ideals.
Structural inequality: Discrimination within social institutions based on ethnicity, race, gender and socio-economic status. Unequal access to resources, political influence etc. inhibits the ability of some groups to better their conditions. CRT will look to explain any and all disparities in outcomes through racism and structural inequality when in reality there are many other factors that are significant.
Systemic Bias: A social phenomenon based on the perceived and real differences among social groups that involves ideological domination, institutional control, and the promulgation of the oppressor’s ideology, logic system, and culture.
Systemic racism: Also known as institutional racism. Systemic racism is the existence of discrimination by design in every area of life. CRT will assert the prevalence of systemic racism in order to justify the “dismantling” of institutions.
Systems of power and oppression: Systems where members of dominant social groups privileged by birth or acquisition who knowingly or unknowingly exploit and reap unfair advantage over members of the target groups. According to CRT, these systems are rooted in “white supremacy”.
Unconscious bias: also called implicit bias. Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. The irony is that some people will be told that they, by nature of their group membership, possess unconscious bias that cannot be denied. Author Robin D’Angelo makes such an assertion in her book “White Fragility”.
Whiteness: Whiteness refers to the construction of the white race, white culture, and the system of privileges and advantages afforded to white people in the U.S. To be “white adjacent” means that individuals from other groups seek to advantage themselves by taking on aspects of white culture.
White fragility: According to Robin D’Angelo, author of “White Fragility”, White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and in- sulates them from race-based stress. It is white resistance to the acknowledgement of their racial bias implanted in them from a racist society. According to Professor John McWhorter, D’Angelo’s book talks down to black people. In an article in the Atlantic, he writes: White Fragility is, in the end, a book about how to make certain educated white readers feel better about themselves. DiAngelo’s outlook rests upon a depiction of Black people as endlessly delicate poster children within this self-gratifying fantasy about how white America needs to think—or, better, stop thinking. Her answer to white fragility, in other words, entails an elaborate and pitilessly dehumanizing condescension toward Black people. The sad truth is that anyone falling under the sway of this blinkered, self-satisfied, punitive stunt of a primer has been taught, by a well-intentioned but tragically misguided pastor, how to be racist in a whole new way.
White privilege: Invisible systems (norms) that give dominance to white people. It is the complex interplay between race, power, and privilege in both organizations and private life. CRT will label all whites as privileged despite life circumstances that show otherwise.
White social capital: According to the OECD: “We can think of social capital as the links, shared values and understandings in society that enable individuals and groups to trust each other and so work together.” White social capital is therefore the exclusive networks formed by whites in their communities, organizations, and local governments. Community empowerment is important for establishing social capital; however CRT neglects to examine the role that progressive government policies played in weakening the stability of families; especially in minority communities. This has had a significant impact on the ability to build community resources.
White supremacy: the belief that white people constitute a superior race and should therefore dominate society. CRT will assert that all whites are “oppressors” and cultural norms such as focusing on getting the right answer on a math problem reinforce white supremacy culture.
White traitors (schools instructing white parents to become): is a pejorative reference to a person who is perceived as supporting attitudes or positions thought to be against the supposed interests or well-being of that person’s own race. White traitors are those that fall into one of the stages of white identity development who espouse the eradication of “whiteness”. A NYC school recently told parents to become “white traitors”. See NYC School Tells Parents to Become ‘White Traitors’
White abolition: The last step in the stages of white identity development (right after white traitor), white abolition seeks ending white identity. According to an article entitled “Abolish the White Race” in Harvard Magazine: “Make no mistake about it: we intend to keep bashing the dead white males, and the live ones, and the females too, until the social construct known as ‘the white race’ is destroyed—not ‘deconstructed’ but destroyed.”
Whiteness: The processes and practices including basic rights, values, beliefs, perspectives, and experiences purported to be commonly shared by all but which are actually only consistently afforded to white people. CRT activists see whiteness as a dynamic operating at all times and on myriad levels.
Woke: The act of being aware of and actively attentive to systems of power, especially as it concerns issues of racial and social justice.