Crossroads, Directions, and a New Critical Race Theory

Article excerpt

CROSSROADS, DIRECTIONS, AND A NEW CRITICAL RACE THEORY

Francisco Valdes, Jerome McCristal Culp and Angela P. Harris, eds.

Temple University Press, 2002, 528 pp., $79.50 cloth, $29.95 paper

ISBN 1-56639-929-7 (cloth)

ISBN 1-56639-930-0 (paper)

When the eminent legal scholar Derrick Bell left Harvard Law School in 1992, worn down by the school's refusal to hire faculty of color and its rejection of his attempts to infuse race into the study of constitutional law, few suspected that his departure would spark a movement. The movement is known as "critical race theory," dedicated to no less a proposition than that of transforming the legal community's understanding of race and the law.

Critical race theorists - whose work entered the mainstream with the acclaim heaped on the work of Derrick Bell and Patricia Williams - have unsettled the academy and the media by claiming that American law, both in its procedures and its substance, are structured to maintain White supremacy. Indeed, they maintain that the law's much-vaunted neutrality and objectivity are not just unattainable ideals, they are harmful fictions that cloak the role of the law in subverting racial equity and ensuring White privilege.

For daring to point out what to some is obvious - to others unthinkable - critical race theorists have been bashed as the "lunatic fringe" of academia, excoriated for encouraging "Black separateness" and antiSemitism, called out by the Toronto Sun as "the most embarrassing trend in American publishing. …