Law and Society@Kwantlen

Food for Thought: Applying Critical Race Theory


This week, we studied Critical Race Theory, with an emphasis on Michelle Alexander’s (2012) The New Jim Crow as a case study. My lecture notes include the following overview of CRT:

Critical Race Theory shares many of the commitments and ideas of the broader Critical Legal Studies movement – the deconstruction of ideologies (especially legal ideologies) that support social hierarchies, consciousness-raising, and law reform in the pursuit of egalitarian social relations. To this list, we can add a number of key ideas that inform CRT:

  • The recognition that racism is no (simply) a matter of individual prejudices and biases, but a phenomenon embedded in and reproduced by social structures and institutions – including legal institutions.
  • An emphasis on exploring the historical basis of contemporary forms of racism and racialization embedded in law.
  • A commitment to ‘reconstructing’ and reforming law in order to eliminate identifiable forms of racialized hierarchies.
  • A commitment to taking the lived realities and experiences of racialized groups as a starting point for analysis. This implies the use of narrative accounts and interdisciplinary approaches.

For this week’s ‘food for thought’ question, I would like to encourage you to apply CRT to a case study of your choice.

Food for thought:

Select a contemporary or historical example of a legal institution or process involved in the reproduction and perpetuation of racialized social hierarchy. You could focus on a particular statute, a broader legal regime, or an illustrative case study. You need not select a Canadian example. You may not choose ‘racialized mass incarceration in the USA under the New Jim Crow’, as we have covered Alexander’s analysis. You may not choose R. v. Kahpeaysewat, as this was covered by Pavlich (2011).

Write a post that:

  • Introduces and briefly describes the example you have selected, with reference to supporting source materials (this should account for no more than 1/3 of your post).
  • Draws on Critical Race Theory to explain how your selected example is illustrative of the role of law as a mechanism for the reproduction and perpetuation of racialized social hierarchy.
  • Explains how individuals, groups, or movements have responded to this issue by attempting to reform and ‘reconstruct’ law.

Be sure to engage with relevant sources (ex. Pavlich 2011; Comack 2006; Alexander 2012). While you cannot reproduce Alexander’s analysis, you can certainly draw on her observations.

Posts prepared in response to this question must be submitted before class on November 4, 2014.