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Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Guide

This guide is meant to support students in the CRES minor.

What is a Libguide?

A "libguide" is short for library guide, it is intended to act as a guide to help students conduct research, in this case, to help students in the CRES minor but also students of The Roger Salter's Doctoral Writing Institute (RSI) find resources related to Critical Race Theory in different disciplines. Throughout this guide, you will see links to articles, freely available or open access journals, as well as journals that the University of Denver Libraries pays a subscription for, and of course, books. Links to other content such as videos or podcasts are also spread throughout the guide.

This guide was started in collaboration with current and previous RSI participants, IRISE post-docs, and others. While it is still a work in progress, and revisited often, I want to acknowledge their labor and express my gratitude for their time and energy. Thank you.

If you have any suggestions, recommendations, or feedback, please feel free to e-mail Denisse Solis at

If you need more general library help, you can also contact the library via the Ask Us! chatbox on each page, schedule a one-hour research consultation with a librarian to talk in-depth about your topic, specific resources, evaluating sources, and any other questions you have about the research process. Request a consultation by clicking this link

Introduction to Critical Race Theory

What is Critical Race Theory?

"In this essay, originally delivered as a David C. Baum Memorial Lecture on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights at the University of Illinois College of Law, Professor Bell begins by discussing the recent debate surrounding The Bell Curve, and utilizing the tools of critical race theory, he offers an alternative explanation as to why the book's authors decided to publish rejected theories of black inferiority. Professor Bell then discusses the origins of critical race theory, what the theory is, what the theory ought to be, and the critics' attack of the theory. He concludes with stories about black struggle in America, stories which Professor Bell believes accurately depict the ongoing racist efforts to prevent black success.

As I see it, critical race theory recognizes that revolutionizing a culture begins with the radical assessment of it."

-"Who's Afraid of Critical Race Theory?" Derrick A. Bell*

In that essay Derrick A. Bell states,

"First, what is critical race theory? And second, what ought critical race theory to be? The distinction is useful even though the dividing line between the descriptive (what is) and the prescriptive (what it ought to be) can be quite fine.
The answers to what is critical race theory are fairly uniform and quite extensive. As to what critical race theory ought to be, the answers are far from uniform and, not coincidentally, tend to be leveled in the form of outsider criticism rather than insider inquiry. As to the what is, critical race theory is a body of legal scholarship, now about a decade old, a majority of whose members are both existentially people of color and ideologically committed to the struggle against racism, particularly as institutionalized in and by law. Those critical race theorists who are white are usually cognizant of and committed to the overthrow of their own racial privilege.

He further quotes Harris,

There is, as this description suggests, a good deal of tension in critical race theory scholarship, a tension that Angela Harris characterizes as between its commitment to radical critique of the law (which is normatively deconstructionist) and its commitment to radical emancipation by the law (which is normatively reconstructionist). Harris views this tension-between "modernist" and "postmodernist" nariative-as a source of strength because of critical race theorists' ability to use it in ways that are creative rather than paralyzing. 

Harris explains: CRT is the heir to both CLS [Critical Legal Studies] and traditional civil rights scholarship. CRT inherits from CLS a commitment to being "critical," which in this sense means also to be "radical" [while] . . . [a]t the same time, CRT inherits from traditional civil rights scholarship a commitment to a vision of liberation from racism through right reason. Despite the difficulty of separating legal reasoning and institutions from their racist roots, CRT's ultimate vision is redemptive, not deconstructive."

In their introduction to Critical Race Theory: The key writings that formed a movement, the authors recognize that "there is no set of canonical set of doctrines or methodologies to which we all subscribe. Although Critical Race scholarship differs in object, argument, accent, and emphasis, it is nevertheless defined by two common interests;

The first is to understand how a regime of white supremacy and its subordination of people of color have been created and maintained in America, and, in particular, to examine the relationship between that social structure and professed ideals such as "the rule of law" and "equal protection." The second is a desire not merely to understand the vexed bond between law and racial power but to change it. 

The essays gathered here thus share an ethical commitment to human liberation- even if we reject the conventional notions of what such a conception means, and though we often disagree, even among ourselves, over its specific direction" (Crenshaw et al., 1995).


Daniel G. Solorzano and Tara J. Yosso (2000), rooted in the field of education, state,

"at least five elements that form its basic perspectives, research methods, and pedagogy." They are; (1) the centrality and intersectionality of race and racism; (2) challenge to the dominant ideology; (3) the commitment to social justice ; (4) the importance of experiential knowledge; and (5) the use of interdisciplinary perspectives." CRT also developed subgroups such as Latino/a/x-critical (LatCrit) which will be discussed in other pages.

Introductory Texts