An Alternative Perspective: Critical Race Theory
Emerging out of scholarly law studies on racial and ethnic inequality. critical race theory derives its foundation from the U.S. civil rights tradition and the writing of persons such as Martin Luther King, )1′., W E. B. Du Bois. Malcolm X, and Cesar Chavez. Critical race theory has several major premises, including the belief that racism is such an ingrained feature of U.S. society that it appears to be ordinary and natural to many people (Delgado, 1995). As a result, civil rights legislation and affirmative action laws (formal equality) may remedy some of the more ovett. blatant forms of racial injustice but have little elf ect on subtle. business-as usual forms of racism that people of color experience as they go about their everyday lives. According to this approach, the best way to document racism and ongoing inequality in society is to listen to the lived experiences of people who have experienced such discrimination. In this way, we can learn what actually happens in regard to racial oppression and the many effects it has on people. including alienation. depression. and certain physical illnesses. Central to this argument is the belief that interest convergence is a crucial factor in bringing about social change. According to the legal scholar Derrick Bell. white elites tolerate or encourage/ racial advances for people of color only if the dominant-group members believe that their o~n self interest will be served in so doing (cited in Delgado. 1995). From this approach. civil rights laws have typically benefited white Americans as much (or more) 3S people of color because these laws have been used as mechanisms to ensure that “racial progress occurs at just the right pace: change that is too rapid would be unsettling to society at large; change that is too slow could prove ‘destabilizing’; (Delgado, 1995: xlv), The Concept Quick Review outlines the key aspects of each sociological perspective on race and ethnic relations.