We’ve been getting acquainted with Critical Race Theory (CRT) by taking a look at its five tenets to help us create shared language as we continue our work together in Child Welfare Development Services (CWDS). This article will focus on the concept of race as a social construct.
Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a critical analysis of how race, racism, systems, and power are deeply intertwined. It calls into question the foundation of liberal order as it relates to the law and institutionalized systems.
Race is a social construction. It was designed to divide and exclude groups.
This is likely the most commonly known tenet and is gaining popularity in conversations around anti-racism. In its simplest form, acknowledging race as a social construct means you understand that race is not a biological, scientifically proven concept. It’s a social idea that was made up to categorize people in ways that were, and still are, beneficial to those in power (those being- you guessed it… white people).
The truth is that humans do not have enough genetic variation between us to distinguish between races, despite what we have been told for centuries. A review of history and current literature will reveal that definitions and categorization of race changes depending on the context and exists to maintain a social hierarchy that places white people at the top, keeping access to opportunities and privilege. And while we can track the fluidity of racial definitions, the social, financial, and political disadvantages of Black, Indigenous, and people of color have remained pretty steady. This is by design. We continue to see these dynamics play out in American every day.
What this means for us as health and human service professionals is that we operate within a society that systematically categorizes us, our stakeholders, and the communities we are ultimately serving. We are called to take this awareness into our conversations with each other and our clients. Learn about the ways in which people experience disadvantages based on their intersectional identities and unique stories. Validate feelings about being targeted as if someone or something is trying to keep them down. You can even use examples that reflect this reality in classrooms and coaching sessions.
I wish I could get deeper into this and maybe I will one day. If you find yourself wanting to learn more, I strongly encourage you to watch this TEDxJacksonville Talk: The social implications of race. To read up on the German scientist, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, who first introduced racial categories, check out The beautiful skull and Blumenbach’s errors: the birth of the scientific concept of race.
If you have any questions about the specific information shared here please contact Charmaine Utz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1: Critical Race Theory: An Introduction by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic.
Written by Charmaine Utz, CWDS Workforce Development Coordinator
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