Editor’s note: This is the second part of a series on Critical Race Theory by Nathan Luis Cartagena. Read part one and part three.
“Law organizes [W]hite society; then it helps maintain that society through both physical and ideological coercion.” – Kenneth B. Nunn
“Race may be [the U.S.’s] single most confounding problem but the founding problem of race is that few people seem to know what race is.” – Ian F. Haney López
Critical Race Theory and Neighborly Love
Who are your critical race theorist neighbors? What do they believe? And why do they believe it? I previously argued that amid recent heated ecclesiastical debates about critical race theory (CRT), Christian leaders are largely silent on these questions—rarely even raising them. This silence is a twofold failure in neighborly love: it fails to give Christians resources needed to adjudicate these debates; and it fails to promote justice and charity toward critical race theorists. This essay continues my efforts to mend these breaches of love.
Whereas my first essay traced a constellation of general commitments and conclusions CRT scholars share, here I focus more narrowly on how these scholars understand law and race, for as I mentioned, “CRT is a movement aimed at providing an antiracist understanding of the relationships between ‘race’ and law.” This focus requires taking a step and asking why CRT scholars analyze race and law. The answer lies in CRT’s origins.