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Critical Race Theory: What is It and Why is Everyone Talking About It?

(via the Illinois Federation of Teachers)

The Illinois Federation of Teachers has created an extensive primer on Critical Race Theory available at or as a downloadable brochure. We encourage you to read and share to more fully understand how and why Critical Race Theory is being used to attack teachers and school curricula in our country. What is Critical Race Theory (CRT)? Critical race theory, or CRT, is a framework that emerged from legal scholars of color over 40 years ago as they sought to understand the role race plays in the law and legal system. The basic tenet of CRT is that racism is more than individual prejudices and biases but is embedded within all our systems and institutions. Therefore, the racial inequities that we see in every system are not abnormalities, but the results of the normal, everyday workings of racism. Why is it such a hot topic? Following the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the racial disparities that were brought into focus during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, systemic racism was thrust into the mainstream discourse. CRT provides a framework to understand and dismantle systemic racism. But there are those who want to game it and use it as a tool in the culture wars for political purposes; that is, some have misconstrued it to make Americans afraid of dealing with the subject of race in any context. Who is spearheading the attack on CRT? The same wealthy, right-wing individuals and organizations who continually seek to weaken unions, defund education, and lobby for anti-worker policies: the Heritage Foundation, the Koch Family Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Fordham and Manhattan Institutes, to name a few. What is IFT’s position? IFT is committed to supporting high-quality education that is honest, antiracist, and culturally relevant. We engage students in learning that presents facts, truth, and multiple perspectives so that they learn to interrogate issues critically and empathically. To intentionally omit certain stories in order to paint a misleading, inaccurate picture of America is indoctrination, not education. We must equip students with the critical thinking necessary to analyze history and the present so that we can create a better future. American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten has stated publicly that the AFT will support any teacher who is punished for teaching honest history. How can I learn more? Please email us at if you have further questions about Critical Race Theory or to access learning opportunities and/or resources on antiracism for your union.


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