Critical Race Theory

Critical Race Theory is a framework developed in the US and used increasingly in the UK to expose racial power structures in society. It strongly opposed liberal claims of neutrality, meritocracy and “colour-blindness,” whereby racism is supposedly diminished when individuals try to avoid “seeing” skin colour.

  • Racism as endemic

Critical Race Theory places racism at the heart of its framework, so that racism is no longer considered to be an unusual occurrence created by “evil” people with “cruel” intentions. Critical Race Theory considers racism to be normal, endemic and “an ingrained feature” of Western society, which cannot be rectified solely with equal opportunity laws because covert racism will persist unless there is fundamental and radical change (Delgado & Stefancic, 2000).

  • Counter-narratives

Critical Race Theory accepts that within the context of the West, there is a dominant, mainstream view that places white people and whiteness at the centre, it marginalises racialised voices and it thereby reinforces the illusion that racism is not really a pressing issue. Therefore, one key conceptual tool in Critical Race Theory is counter-narratives. Story-telling and counter-narratives that challenge dominant narratives empower marginalised groups and they are central to informing action. Gillborn argues that such counter-narratives shift the grounds of debate and present analyses that turn dominant mainstream assumptions on their head (2006). For example, many white Scottish educators may believe that racism isn’t really a problem in Scottish education. The testimonies section of The Anti-Racist Educator blog and the voices of educators and pupils of colour will prove otherwise.

  • Interest-Convergence

Critical Race Theory stresses that positive action for racial equity is most likely to happen when there the interests of those in power (typically white people) converges with those with less power (typically people of colour). When the interests of those in power diverge from those with less power, positive change is unlikely to happen.

The following blog post and podcast episode unpack Critical Race Theory with the help fo Dr Paul Warmington.



Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2000). Critical race theory: The cutting edge (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Gillborn, D. (2006). “Critical Race Theory and Education: Racism and antiracism in educational theory and praxis”. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education. Vol. 27(1): 11-32.

Warmington, Paul, 2012. A tradition in ceaseless motion' : critical race theory and black British intellectual spaces. Race Ethnicity and Education, 15 (1), pp. 5-21

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