The debate over critical race theory (CRT) has been dividing communities for months, with supporters calling for it to be taught in public schools and opponents pushing for it to be banned.

But what exactly is critical race theory and why has it created such a furor between the right and the left?

Andrea Boyles, a sociologist at Tulane University, says critical race theory is a form of racial education that includes the historical experiences of Black and Brown people, rather than avoiding and ignoring it – with which many White Americans are more comfortable.

“Critical race theory is a historically, evidenced-theoretical explanation for how White racial ideologies have long influenced American law,” Boyles said. “This effect has resulted in the normalizing of systemic discrimination, which, in turn, is supported, protected, and sustained through baked-in legal justification, which is born out of racial bias and therefore inherently prejudice.”

Boyles said CRT is the “intellectual antithesis” to erasing history or whitewashing the ways in which White racial ideas and beliefs have and continue to be deeply reflected and projected institutionally against minoritized people.” 

She said the controversy over teaching CRT is rooted in “white racial privilege, fragility and power. Many White Americans believe U.S. history belongs to them; that they alone ‘own’ the rights, versions, teachings and modes of disseminating it.”

For them, she said, the teaching of CRT means blame and threat of giving up their political economic interests and dominance. 

Interestingly, Boyles said, most school children are not learning critical race theory, yet many White Americans are using it to provoke White racial anxiety and political resistance for retaining power.

“It appears to be working, at least for White people who have had little to no substantive socio-historical, racial teaching,” Boyles said.

Boyles is available for media interviews on critical race theory as well as her other areas of expertise, including race and social justice, Black citizen-police conflict and neighborhood disorder and crime. She can be reached here or through Barri Bronston, assistant director of public relations, at [email protected].