“Unlike traditional approaches to civil rights, which favor incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory calls into question the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and the neutral principles of constitutional law.” 
Critical Race Theory: An Introduction 

Critical Race Theorists describe Critical Race Theory as a movement (which is strange for a theory of society) designed to reinvent the relationships between race, racism, and power in society. To do this, they begin with the assumption that race is socially constructed and racism is systemic. That race is “socially constructed” means that Critical Race Theorists view racial categories as social and political fictions that have been imposed by white people on people of color, especially blacks. That racism is “systemic” means that, for Critical Race Theorists, the “system” upon which all of society operates on every level unjustly produces “racist” outcomes that favor whites (and minority races that adhere to “whiteness”) at the expense of people of color, especially Latinos and, even more especially, blacks. Because racism is a property of the system—which includes everything from policy to behavioral norms to manners of speech to what we consider true—racism is said to persist even if no individual or institution acts in a racist way or holds any racist beliefs. It is the way society operates that is racist, as can be determined by the fact that there are statistical differences in average outcomes by racial category.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) proceeds upon a number of dubious assumptions and by means of a variety of questionable methods, including:

CRT holds that the philosophy of liberalism is, in fact, a racist system.

Critical Race Theorists believe it is their obligation to rewrite history to tell it from the perspective of CRT.

For example, Asian-Americans of most ethnic backgrounds are, given their high rate of attainment and success in American society, often labeled as “white-adjacent,” while Latinos are judged vigorously according to how much whiteness they uphold (often based at least partially upon the fairness or brownness of their skin). Most troublingly, Jews tend to be classified as white rather than as ethnically Jewish. This goes so far as to reproduce the basic pattern of anti-Semitism by claiming that Jews (as whites) are the beneficiaries and even cultural trendsetters of “whiteness,” thus as having tremendous societal privilege that they often refuse to recognize by identifying instead as Jewish.

James Lindsay is the author of six books, including most recently How to Have Impossible Conversations and Cynical Theories. He is also the founder and president of New Discourses, from which this piece is excerpted.