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Conceptualizing a Critical Race Theory in Sociology


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Our Journey to Critical Race TheoryToward a Critical Race Theory in SociologyCritical Race Counter-StorytellingChallenging Racism, Revealing Cultural WealthMapping Cultural Wealth through Community Case StudiesDiscussion
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Chapter 6
Conceptualizing a Critical Race
Theory in Sociology
Tara J. Yosso and Daniel G. Solórzano
Discussion of race and racism in the social sciences has a long tradition. W. E. B.
DuBois’s often quoted line from The Souls of Black Folk: “the problem of the twen-
tieth century is the problem of the color-line” (1989 [1903]: 29) takes the discus-
sion of race and racism back to at least the turn of the nineteenth century. Indeed,
a century after this great American social scientist predicted that racism would con-
tinue to emerge as one of this country’s key social problems, researchers, practi-
tioners, and students are still searching for the necessary tools to effectively analyze
and challenge the impact of race and racism in US society. Discussions about race
and racism have been either pushed to the margins or effectively destabilized. While
those on the political right attempt to dismiss the permanence of racism and strate-
gically move the discourse toward a colorblind society, some liberal and even left-
leaning scholars criticize work that addresses issues of “race,” stating that it is
merely a social construction and a byproduct of capitalism.
In this context, we argue that we must discuss race because racism continues to
have very real consequences on US society at both the institutional (macro) and the
individual (micro) levels. Eurocentric versions of US history reveal race to be a
socially constructed category, created to differentiate racial groups and to show the
superiority or dominance of one race over another (Omi and Winant 1994; Banks
1995). Race can be viewed as an “objective” phenomenon until human beings
provide the social meaning. The social meaning applied to race is based upon and
justified by an ideology of racial superiority and White privilege. That ideology is
called racism and Audre Lorde defines racism as “the belief in the inherent superi-
ority of one race over all others and thereby the right to dominance” (1992: 496).
Manning Marable defines racism as “a system of ignorance, exploitation, and power
used to oppress African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, Pacific Americans, American
Indians, and other people on the basis of ethnicity, culture, mannerisms, and color”
(1992: 5). Marable’s definition of racism is important because it shifts the discus-
sion of race and racism from a Black/White discourse to one that includes multiple
faces, voices, and experiences. Embedded in the Lorde and Marable definitions of
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racism are at least three important points: (1) one group deems itself superior to
all others, (2) the group that is superior has the power to carry out the racist be-
havior, and (3) racism benefits the superior group while it negatively impacts the
subordinate racial/ethnic groups.
These two definitions take the position that racism is about institutional power
and people of color in the United States have never possessed this form of power.
Beverly Tatum further reminds us: “Despite the current rhetoric about affirmative
action and ‘reverse racism,’ every social indicator, from salary to life expectancy,
reveals the advantages of being White” (1997: 8). Harlon Dalton has argued that
it is important for Whites “to conceive of themselves as members of a race and to
recognize the advantages that attach to simply having white skin” (1995: 6). Andrew
Hacker has raised the question: Can we place a price on being White in the United
States? (see 1992: 31–2). The racial/ethnic advantages and privileges of being White
in the USA can be an important part of the discussion and analysis in the sociology
classroom (see Hacker 1992; Allen 1993; Scheurich 1993a,b; Sleeter 1993, 1994;
Dalton 1995; Halewood 1995; Bonilla-Silva 2001).
John Calmore (1997) asserts that what is noticeably missing from the discussion
of race is a substantive discussion of racism. We agree that a conversation about
race without talking about racism and White privilege decontextualizes those places
where race and racism enter our lives in macro and micro ways (Lawrence 1987;
Davis 1989). The field of sociology has consistently been at the forefront of work
asking critical questions about race, racism, and social inequality. Our goals for this
chapter are to provide readers with insight into how we came to utilize critical race
theory (CRT) as an analytical framework, and to encourage sociological research
on race and inequality to more explicitly draw on this powerful analytical lens. We
agree with Derrick Bell, who has asserted, “it is time to ‘get real’ about race and
the persistence of racism in America” (1992: 5).
Our Journey to Critical Race Theory
As professors of color conducting work in the sociology of education, we had been
utilizing various frameworks to address issues of educational equity and social
justice. We each began to develop our own critical consciousness (albeit a few
decades apart) through the work of scholars and activists that would fall under the
umbrella of Ethnic Studies. For Solórzano, participating in the Chicano civil rights
movement in the 1960s and 1970s and working as a high school teacher and com-
munity college professor in the 1970s complemented his readings of Malcom X
(Haley 1965), Rudy Acuña (1972), and Paulo Freire (1970, 1973). Although born
in the 1970s, the activism and scholarship of the 1960s and 1970s allowed Yosso
academic opportunities in the 1990s – including access to Chicano Studies univer-
sity courses, tutoring, and mentoring. The research and policy work of previous
generations demonstrated severe social inequalities affecting students of color,
immigrants, and English-language learners. Yosso was able to put some of the work
of scholars such as Pat Zavella (1991), Carlos Cortés (1985), and Mario Barrera
(1979) into practice as a bilingual aid in local public schools and in her work as an
instructor in Upward Bound and migrant education programs.
118 tara j. yosso and daniel g. solórzano
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Collectively, our interdisciplinary training and practical experience led us to
utilize the critiques provided by approaches such as the Internal Colonial model
(Bonilla and Girling 1973; Blauner 2001); Marxism (Bowles and Gintis 1976;
Barrera 1979); Chicana and Black feminisms (Anzaldúa 1987; hooks 1990; Hurtado
1996; Hill Collins 1998); and cultural nationalism (Asante 1987) to document and
analyze the educational access, persistence, and graduation of underrepresented stu-
dents. Even with all of their strengths, each of these frameworks had certain blind
spots that limited our ability to examine racism.
Solórzano was first introduced to CRT when he came across a June 23, 1993 issue
of the Chronicle of Higher Education1and read the article written by Peter
Monaghan (1993) titled, “ ‘Critical race theory’ questions role of legal doctrine in
racial inequality: Lani Guinier, ill-fated Justice Depart. nominee, is one of its tradi-
tional adherents.” This “critical race moment” inspired Solórzano to re-envision a
more focused approach to analyzing and challenging racial inequality in higher edu-
cation.2As described in the article, CRT seemed to be a framework that could
examine some of the questions that the individual models he had previously used did
not quite address. At the time, Solórzano noted that CRT seemed like a new way of
looking at race and racism, and yet he knew he had seen similar approaches before.
Indeed, it was in his experiences in Ethnic Studies and Sociology that he had “seen
it.” Solórzano’s engagement with CRT shaped Yosso’s graduate school experiences
as she tried to struggle through a PhD at a university that treated race and racism as
a marginalized Black/White issue that was only peripherally relevant to educational
policy, pedagogy, or curriculum. Over the last 10 years, our intellectual collabora-
tions with CRT have led us to recognize that we still draw on the same theoretical
models from the 1960s and 1970s by: (1) acknowledging their limitations and (2)
applying their collective strengths to the study of race and racism in education.
Toward a Critical Race Theory in Sociology
Although social science has traditionally confirmed the salience of race in US society,
many critical race theorists are going beyond the view that race is a dichotomy based
on social construction or biological factors (Bell 1992; Delgado and Stefancic 1995).
They recognize that race is central to people’s lives and are likewise placing race at
the center of their work (Dalton 1987). These scholars are not utilizing race as a
variable that can be controlled, but instead are focusing on the real impact that
racism has had and continues to have within American society.
CRT draws from and extends a broad literature base, often termed “critical
theory,” in law, sociology, history, ethnic studies, and women’s studies (Delgado and
Stefancic 1995). In paraphrasing Brian Fay (1987: 4), William Tierney has defined
critical theory as “an attempt to understand the oppressive aspects of society in order
to generate societal and individual transformation” (1993: 4). Kimberlé Crenshaw
(2002) explains that in the late 1980s, various legal scholars felt limited by work that
separated critical theory from conversations about race and racism. Alongside other
“Outsider” scholars (Hill Collins 1986), Crenshaw was “looking for both a critical
space in which race was foregrounded and a race space where critical themes were
central” (Crenshaw 2002: 19). Mari Matsuda defined the CRT space as:
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the work of progressive legal scholars of color who are attempting to develop a
jurisprudence that accounts for the role of racism in American law and that works
toward the elimination of racism as part of a larger goal of eliminating all forms of
subordination. (1991: 1331)
Figure 6.1 outlines CRT’s family tree through our own lenses of experience. In
prior work we described a genealogy of CRT that links the themes and patterns of
legal scholarship with the social science literature that seems to have informed CRT
scholars (Solórzano and Yosso 2001). Here, we take a more personalized approach
that reflects our own intellectual history that led us to CRT and beyond.
In its post-1987 form, CRT emerged from criticisms of the Critical Legal Studies
(CLS) movement. One of the criticisms was the inability of the CLS scholars to
incorporate race and racism into their analysis. Indeed, these same critiques of “crit-
ical studies” had been taking place in Ethnic Studies and Women Studies Depart-
ments. These Departments were struggling to define and incorporate cultural
nationalist paradigms, internal colonial models, Marxist and neo-Marxist, and
feminist frameworks into their race- and gender-based intellectual and community
Critical race theorists began to pull away from CLS because the critical legal
framework restricted their ability to analyze racial injustice (Delgado 1988;
Crenshaw et al. 1995; Delgado and Stefancic 2001; Crenshaw 2002). Initially,
because CRT focused on civil rights legislation in terms of Black vs. White, other
groups have since expanded the CRT family tree to incorporate their racialized expe-
riences, as women, as Latinas/os, as Native Americans, and as Asian Americans.
For example, LatCrit, TribalCrit, and AsianCrit are natural outgrowths of CRT,
evidencing Chicana/o, Latina/o, Native American, and Asian American communi-
ties’ ongoing search for a framework that addresses racism and its accompanying
oppressions beyond the Black/White binary (Ikemoto 1992; Chang 1993, 1998;
Chon 1995; Delgado 1997; Williams, R. 1997; Brayboy 2001, 2002). Women of
120 tara j. yosso and daniel g. solórzano
Ethnic studies
colonialism Neo-Marxism
nationalism Feminism
Critical Race Theory
AsianCrit WhiteCritTribalCrit
Figure 6.1 CRT’s family tree.
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color have also challenged CRT to address feminist critiques of racism and classism
through FemCrit theory (Caldwell 1995; Wing 1997, 2000). In addition, White
scholars have expanded CRT with WhiteCrit, by “looking behind the mirror” to
expose White privilege and challenge racism (Delgado and Stefancic 1997).
Our work in CRT is informed by the scholarship of Latina/o Critical Race
(LatCrit) theory. LatCrit theory extends critical race discussions to address the layers
of racialized subordination that comprise Chicana/o, Latina/o experiences (Arriola
1997, 1998; Stefancic 1998). LatCrit scholars assert that racism, sexism, and clas-
sism are experienced amidst other layers of subordination based on immigration
status, sexuality, culture, language, phenotype, accent, and surname. Alongside these
scholars, we argue that the Black/White binary is a paradigm of understanding US
race relations in terms of the African American and White experience (Valdes 1997,
1998). The use of the word “binary” describes the two-dimensional limit that is
placed on discussions about race and racism. Like the work of Marable (1992), we
argue that racism in the United States intersects with other forms of subordination
described above (Crenshaw 1989, 1991; Montoya 1994; Espinoza and Harris 1998;
Johnson 1999).
We recognize that African Americans have experienced a unique history of racism
and other forms of subordination in this country, yet we also acknowledge that
other people of color have their own histories that likewise have been shaped by
the intersecting forms of subordination. By offering a two-dimensional discourse,
the Black/White binary limits our understanding of the multiple ways in which
African Americans, Native Americans, Asian/Pacific Islanders, Chicanas/os, and
Latinas/os experience, respond to, and resist these forms of oppression. Indeed,
racism and its intersections with other forms of subordination shape the experiences
of people of color very differently than Whites (Bell 1986, 1998; Baca Zinn 1989;
Essed 1991). Overall, the popular discourse in the USA, as well as the academic dis-
course, continues to be limited by the Black/White binary. We hope that a CRT in
sociology will aid those whose efforts continue to expand this dialogue to recog-
nize the ways in which our struggles for social justice are limited by discourses that
omit and thereby silence the multiple experiences of people of color (Ellison 1990).
While we are informed by CRT and its genealogical branches, we continue to
draw on our interdisciplinary training and theoretical models whose popularity may
have waned since the 1960s and 1970s, but whose commitment to speaking truth
to power continues to speak to contemporary social realities. Informed by scholars
who continue to expand the literature and scope of discussions on race and racism,
we have developed a working definition of CRT in education, adapted originally
from the LatCrit Primer (1999) and that we adapt here for the field of sociology:
Critical race theory (CRT) is a framework that can be used to theorize and examine
the ways in which race and racism implicitly and explicitly impact on the social struc-
tures, practices, and discourses that affect people of color. Important to this critical
framework is a challenge to the dominant ideology, which supports deficit notions
about communities of color while assuming “neutrality” and “objectivity.” Utilizing
the experiences of people of color, a CRT in sociology also theorizes and examines that
place where racism intersects with other forms of subordination such as sexism, clas-
sism, nativism, monolingualism, and heterosexism. CRT in sociology is conceived as a
social justice project that attempts to link theory with practice, scholarship with teach-
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ing, and the academy with the community. CRT acknowledges that social institutions
operate in contradictory ways with their potential to oppress and marginalize coexist-
ing with their potential to emancipate and empower. CRT in sociology is transdisci-
plinary and draws on many other schools of progressive scholarship.
From this working definition, at least five themes of CRT inform our work as
social scientists in the field of education:3(1) The intercentricity of race and racism;
(2) the challenge to dominant ideology; (3) the commitment to social justice; (4) the
centrality of experiential knowledge; and (5) the utilization of interdisciplinary
approaches. These five tenets provide a guide to developing a CRT in sociology.
The intercentricity of race and racism with
other forms of subordination
CRT starts from the premise that race and racism are endemic, permanent, and a
fundamental part of defining and explaining how US society functions (Bell 1992;
Russell 1992). Yet, as Robin Barnes has stated, “Critical Race Scholars have refused
to ignore the differences between class and race as a basis for oppression. . . .
Critical Race Scholars know that class oppression alone cannot account for racial
oppression” (1990: 1868). Specifically, CRT acknowledges the intercentricity of
racialized oppression – the layers of subordination based on race, gender, class,
immigration status, surname, phenotype, accent, and sexuality (Crenshaw 1989,
1991; Valdes et al. 2002). Here, in the intersections of racial oppression, we can
use CRT to search for some answers to the theoretical, conceptual, methodologi-
cal, and pedagogical questions related to communities of color.
The challenge to dominant ideology
CRT challenges White privilege and refutes the claims that educational institutions
make toward objectivity, meritocracy, colorblindness, race neutrality, and equal
opportunity. Critical race scholars argue that these traditional claims act as a cam-
ouflage for the self-interest, power, and privilege of dominant groups in US society
(Calmore 1992; Solórzano 1997). A critical race methodology in social science chal-
lenges notions of “neutral” research or “objective” researchers and exposes deficit-
informed research that silences, ignores, and distorts epistemologies of people of
color (Delgado Bernal 1998; Ladson-Billings 2000). Anthony Cook explains, “[I]t
is this profound critique of norms, background assumptions and paradigms, within
which Black progress and regress take place, that gives Critical Race Theory its crit-
ical bite” (1992: 1010).
The commitment to social justice
CRT is committed to social justice and offers a liberatory or transformative response
to racial, gender, and class oppression (Matsuda 1991). We envision a social justice
research agenda that leads toward the elimination of racism, sexism, and poverty and
the empowerment of people of color and other subordinated groups. Critical race
researchers acknowledge that social institutions operate in contradictory ways with
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their potential to oppress and marginalize coexisting with their potential to emanci-
pate and empower. It is at this point where the pedagogy of Paulo Freire (1973) is
most useful for critical race scholars. Indeed, Freire’s (1970, 1973) work to empower
oppressed groups through critical literacy consciousness-raising projects began with
“naming the problem” or, as critical race theorists say, “naming the injury.” Like-
wise, CRT recognizes that multiple layers of oppression and discrimination are met
with multiple forms of resistance (Solórzano and Delgado Bernal 2001).
The centrality of experiential knowledge
CRT recognizes that the experiential knowledge of people of color is legitimate,
appropriate, and critical to understanding, analyzing, and teaching about racial sub-
ordination. In fact, critical race theorists view this knowledge as a strength and draw
explicitly on the lived experiences of people of color by including such methods as
storytelling, family histories, biographies, scenarios, parables, cuentos, testimonios,
chronicles, and narratives (Bell 1987, 1992, 1996; Delgado 1989, 1993, 1995a,b,
1996; Olivas 1990; Carrasco 1996; Solórzano and Yosso 2000, 2001, 2002b;
Solórzano and Delgado Bernal 2001; Delgado Bernal and Villalpando 2002). CRT
exposes deficit-informed research and policy that silence and distort the experiences
of people of color and instead focus on their racialized, gendered, and classed
experiences as sources of strength (Solórzano and Solórzano 1995; Valencia and
Solórzano 1997).
The utilization of interdisciplinary approaches
CRT insists on analyzing race and racism within both historical and contemporary
contexts (Delgado 1984, 1992; Olivas 1990; Gotanda 1991; Garcia 1995; Harris
1995). In addition, CRT utilizes a transdisciplinary knowledge base to guide
research that better understands the effects of racism, sexism, and classism on people
of color. Rather than be limited by a strict, singular disciplinary focus or merely
draw on the overlapping areas between various disciplines, CRT goes beyond dis-
ciplinary boundaries to learn from scholarship in each of the areas of ethnic studies,
women’s studies, sociology, history, law, psychology, film, theater, and other fields.
These five themes are not new in and of themselves, but collectively they repre-
sent a challenge to the existing modes of scholarship. Many in the academy, in com-
munity, and labor organizing, or in other aspects of community activism and service
that look to challenge social inequality will most likely recognize the tenets of CRT
as part of what, why, and how they do the work they do. CRT names racist injuries
and identifies their origins. In examining these origins, CRT finds that racism is
often well disguised in the rhetoric of shared “normative” values and “neutral”
social scientific principles and practices (Matsuda et al. 1993). However, when the
ideology of racism is examined and racist injuries are named, victims of racism can
often find their voice. Further, those injured by racism and other forms of oppres-
sion discover that they are not alone in their oppression. They become empowered
participants, hearing their own stories and the stories of others, listening to how
the arguments against them are framed, and learning to make the arguments to
defend themselves.
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Critical Race Counter-Storytelling
One of the methods of CRT that help analyze the role of race and racism through
the experiences of people of color is a technique with a long tradition in the social
sciences, humanities, ethnic studies, women’s studies, and the law – storytelling.
Richard Delgado (1989) uses a practice called counter-storytelling. Delgado argues
that counter-storytelling is both a method of telling the story of those experiences
that have not been told (i.e., those on the margins of society) and a tool for ana-
lyzing and challenging the stories of those in power and whose story is a natural
part of the dominant discourse – the majoritarian story.4CRT can challenge deficit
“majoritarian” approaches to sociology through counter-storytelling, oral tradi-
tions, historiographies, corridos, poetry, films, actos, and humor. CRT asks: Whose
stories are privileged in academic discourse, mass media, and social policy contexts
and whose stories are distorted and silenced? US history reveals that White
upper/middle-class stories are privileged and treated as normative while the stories
of people of color are marginalized (Gutiérrez-Jones 2001). We further ask: What
are the experiences and responses of those whose stories are often distorted, silenced,
and marginalized? In documenting the voices of people of color, CRT in sociology
works to tell their stories.
Although CRT scholarship arguably serves counter-narrative functions in
general, some scholars seek to be more explicit in presenting their research through
the genre of storytelling. There are at least three types of such counter-stories
evidenced in the CRT literature: autobiographical stories (Espinoza 1990;
Williams 1991; Montoya 1994), biographical stories (Lawrence and Matsuda 1997;
Fernández 2002), and multimethod/composite stories (Bell 1987, 1992, 1996;
Delgado 1995a,b, 1996, 1999, 2003; Solórzano and Yosso 2000, 2001, 2002a,b;
Solórzano and Delgado Bernal 2001; Delgado Bernal and Villalpando 2002).
Critical race counter-stories can serve several pedagogical functions: (1) they can
build community among those at the margins of society; (2) they can challenge the
perceived wisdom of those at society’s center; (3) they can open new windows into
the reality of those at the margins by showing the possibilities beyond the ones they
live and by showing that they are not alone in their position; (4) they can teach
others that by combining elements from both the story and the current reality, one
can construct another world that is richer than either the story or the reality alone;
and (5) they can provide a context to understand and transform established belief
systems (Delgado 1989; Lawson 1995). Storytelling has a rich and continuing tra-
dition in the African American (Berkeley Art Center 1982; Bell 1987, 1992, 1996;
Lawrence 1992), Chicana/o (Paredes 1977; Delgado 1989, 1995b, 1996; Olivas
1990), Native American (Deloria 1969; Williams, R. 1997), and Asian American
(Wakatsuki Houston and Houston 1973; Hong Kingston 1976) communities.
For our purposes here, we focus on multimethod/composite stories. Composite
counter-narratives draw on multiple forms of “data” to recount the racialized, sex-
ualized, classed experiences of people of color. Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss
assert, “The generation of theory requires that the analyst take apart the story within
his [/her] data” (1967: 108). Our counter-stories add to the storytelling tradition
and address racism in higher education through composite characters that embody
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the patterns and themes evidenced in social science data. Our approach to the crit-
ical race counter-story method borrows from the works of Anselm Strauss and Juliet
Corbin and Dolores Delgado Bernal. Strauss and Corbin utilize a concept called
theoretical sensitivity and refer to it as “a personal quality of the researcher ...the
attribute of having insight, the ability to give meaning to data, the capacity to under-
stand, and capability to separate the pertinent from that which isn’t” (1990: 41–2).
Delgado Bernal’s (1998) notion of “cultural intuition” adds to Strauss and Corbin’s
notion of theoretical sensitivity in that it “extends one’s personal experience to
include collective experience and community memory, and points to the importance
of participants’ engaging in the analysis of data” (1990: 563–4). Using Strauss and
Corbin’s theoretical sensitivity and Delgado Bernal’s cultural intuition, we create
counter-stories from: (1) the data gathered from the research process itself, (2) the
existing literature on the topic(s), (3) our own professional experiences, (4) our own
personal experiences, and (5) our collective experiences and community memory.
For example, in the following counter-story excerpt, our first form of data came
from primary sources, namely focus-group interviews conducted with undergradu-
ate and law students of color at three major universities, in conjunction with the
University of Michigan Affirmative Action case (see Solórzano et al. 2000; Allen
and Solórzano 2001; Solórzano and Yosso 2002b). We searched and sifted through
these data for examples of the concepts we were seeking to illuminate, such as expe-
riences with and responses to racism and sexism (Glaser and Strauss 1967). Drawing
on the experiences of undergraduate and graduate African American, Native
American, and Latina/o, Chicana/o students, we sought to examine race, racism,
White privilege, and the racial tipping-point phenomenon. We also wanted to
demonstrate how affirmative action had been weakened from its original intent. The
policy was initially developed to serve as a means to remedy racial discrimination
and, thereby, integrate true racial diversity (pluralism) into higher education.
Next, we looked to other sources for secondary data analysis related to these
concepts in the social sciences, humanities, and legal literature. For this particular
counter-story, we used the social science data to analyze the legal documents leading
up to and including the law school case at the University of Michigan (e.g., opin-
ions and dissents in the 1978 Bakke vs. University of California, the 1954 Brown
vs. Board of Education, and the 1947 Mendez vs. Westminster cases). In sifting
through this literature, we began to draw connections between our previous read-
ings on desegregation and racial tracking and the relevant focus-group interview
data (Oakes 1985; Valencia 2003). Finally, we added our own professional and per-
sonal experiences related to the concepts and ideas. Here, we not only shared our
own stories and reflections, but we also drew upon the multiple voices of family,
friends, colleagues, and acquaintances.
Once these various sources of data had been compiled, examined, and analyzed,
we created composite characters to help tell the counter-story. We attempted to get
the characters to engage in a real and critical dialogue about our findings from the
interviews, literature, and experiences. In the tradition of Freire (1973), this dia-
logue emerged between the characters much like our own discussions emerged –
through sharing, listening, challenging, and reflecting.
We share below an excerpt of this counter-story that engages Claudia,5a Chicana
civil rights attorney and professor at a California university, in a dialogue with the
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late Justice Thurgood Marshall and a community activist from the spirit-world, Ms.
Ruby Puentes.6These three characters are attending a session of the University of
Michigan Law School affirmative action trial in January 2001.7We ask the reader
to approach the counter-story as a pedagogical case study, listen for the story’s points
and reflect on how these points compare with her/his own version of reality
(however conceived). We bring the reader into this story already underway in a
federal courthouse in Detroit, Michigan as our three characters engage in dialogue
about the continuities of racism in US history:
Justice Marshall interjected, “History repeats itself, Claudia. Remember Michael
Olivas’ (1990) comments on Derrick Bell’s (1995) Space Traders chronicle? He talks
about how the USA has welcomed and rejected Mexicans and Asians according to
socio-political convenience. And this is like Bell’s (1987) ‘interest-convergence theory,’
because civil rights legislation has only been implemented to the extent that Whites
have benefited. Again I am reminded that affirmative action as a social policy of limited
goals and timetables only lasted for 10 years, from 1968 to 1978. In the 1954 Brown
case, individual states took the court’s mandate to ‘desegregate with all deliberate
speed’ and focused on the word ‘deliberate’ rather than ‘speed,’ to slow down and
hinder racial integration of the public schools. In contrast, as soon as Bakke (1978)
was ruled on, many colleges and universities couldn’t move fast enough in their rush
to dismantle the limited ‘set aside’ affirmative action programs they had in place.
Whites had become nervous. They felt threatened. Bakke ended that 10-year stint of
‘set-aside’ affirmative action programs, even though we had barely begun to see some
results from those goals and timetables. Despite the fact that in California limited ‘race-
based’ affirmative action ended in 1997 (with passage of Proposition 209), Whites still
perceive students of color enrolling at universities to be ‘less-qualified.’ The legal debate
hasn’t even begun about the ‘set-asides’ that are available to Whites, just because they
are White. The courts should be discussing the unequal educational playing field
leading up to university admissions processes. They should also discuss why White stu-
dents are given disproportionate access to AP/honors classes, and an overall compre-
hensive college preparatory curriculum. And it would also be important for the courts
to note that White students benefit from the tradition of family legacy admissions.
...” Ms. Puentes added, “But instead of those discussions, we will most likely hear
more misinterpretations of Dr. King’s dream, because ignoring the realities of racism
and pretending that we live in a color-blind society converges with the interests of
those who benefit from racism. The elimination of White privilege begins by
educating and empowering people of color.”
I nodded my head in agreement as I continued jotting down notes. I began to think
about ways to articulate Justice Marshall and Ms. Puentes’ comments for my own
opening remarks in the California case. I smiled at the thought that we made a really
great team. I felt humbled to have such prophetic colleagues. (see Solórzano and
Yosso 2002b)
Margaret Montoya writes, “Stories by and about Outsiders resist the subordi-
nating messages of the dominant culture by challenging stereotypes and presenting
and representing people of color as complex and heterogeneous” (2002: 244). Our
work attempts to tell such “Outsider” stories (Hill Collins 1986). This counter-story
excerpt demonstrates how we create dialogue that critically illuminates concepts,
ideas, and experiences, while incorporating the tenets of CRT. We hear Justice
Marshall describing that race matters because the legacy of racism is a contem-
porary reality that shapes US society. We also listen to Ms. Puentes’ concerns that
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discourse about racism has not gone far enough. In addition, we reflect along with
Claudia as she is trying to digest this critical race analysis that challenges more tra-
ditional discussions of affirmative action. Clara Lomas explains that this tradition
of listening to and recounting testimonios (life experiences) of subordinated groups
is a “genre of action.” She asserts that:
a story does something to the storyteller; it does something to the listeners/readers, the
spectators: It has the capacity to transform them ...In making sense of the text as a
whole the reader is forced to go outside the text itself and examine the real world in
relation to the text. (2003: 2–3)
Lomas describes storytelling as having the capacity to transform all those who
engage the text (e.g., visual, print, verbal). In format and content, our counter-stories
attempt to build on the transformative capacity of narratives. By offering a radi-
cally different vision for communities of color, critical race counter-stories can
shatter the naturalness of White, male, and class privilege.
Challenging Racism, Revealing Cultural Wealth
Because we have described CRT as an analytical framework with at least five main
tenets, it is helpful to think about these tenets as a guiding lens that can inform our
research in communities of color. Specifically, CRT can be utilized as a primary lens
to address research questions, teaching approaches, and our policy recommenda-
tions regarding social inequality. Indeed, CRT is grounded in the experiences and
knowledge of communities of color. Such a theory unapologetically centers the
research lens on race and racism’s intersections with other forms of subordination.
As we look through a CRT lens, we critique deficit theorizing and data that may
be limited by its omission of the voices of people of color. We assert that CRT helps
researchers, teachers, and policy makers “see” the cultural wealth (as opposed to
deficits) in marginalized communities. Yet CRT also insists that we take the respon-
sibility to build reciprocity in to our research, teaching, and policy so that we do
not attempt to disrespectfully “mine” these culturally wealthy communities. Deficit-
informed research often “sees” deprivation in communities of color. Utilizing CRT
as an analytical lens helps us approach research with a critical eye to identify,
analyze, and challenge distorted notions of people of color as we build on the cul-
tural wealth already present in these communities.
Culture influences how society is organized, how the curriculum is developed,
and how pedagogy and policy are implemented. In sociology, the concept of culture
for students of color has taken on many divergent meanings. Some research has
equated culture with race and ethnicity, while other work clearly has viewed culture
through a much broader lens of characteristics and forms of social histories and
identities. We view the culture of students of color as a set of characteristics that
are neither fixed nor static. Culture refers to behaviors and values that are learned,
shared, and exhibited by a group of people. Culture is also evidenced in material
and nonmaterial productions of a people. For example, with students of color,
culture is frequently represented symbolically through language and can encompass
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identities around immigration status, gender, phenotype, sexuality, and region, as
well as race and ethnicity. The cultures of students of color can nurture and
empower them (Delgado Bernal 2002). Focusing on research with Latina/o fami-
lies, Luis C. Moll, Cathy Amanti, Deborah Neff, and Norma Gonzalez (1992),
Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez and James Greenberg (1992), and Irma Olmedo (1997) assert
that culture can form and draw from communal funds of knowledge (Gonzalez et
al. 1995; Gonzalez and Moll 2002). Likewise, Douglas Foley notes research reveal-
ing the “virtues and solidarity in African American community and family tradi-
tions” as well as the “deeply spiritual values passed from generation to generation
in most African American communities” (1997: 123).
Our description of cultural wealth begins with a critique of the ways sociologists
Bourdieu and Passeron’s work (1977) has been used to discuss social and racial
inequity. In education, Bourdieu’s work has often been called upon to explain why
students of color do not succeed at the same rate as Whites. According to Bourdieu,
“cultural capital” refers to an accumulation of cultural knowledge, skills, and abil-
ities possessed and inherited by privileged groups in society. Bourdieu asserts that
cultural capital (i.e., education, language), social capital (i.e., social networks, con-
nections), and economic capital (i.e., money and other material possessions) can be
acquired two ways, from one’s family and/or through formal schooling. The dom-
inant groups within society are able to maintain power because access is limited to
acquiring and learning strategies to use these forms of capital for social mobility
(Bourdieu and Passeron 1977).
Therefore, while Bourdieu’s work sought to provide a structural critique of social
and cultural reproduction, his theory of cultural capital has been used to assert that
some communities are culturally wealthy while others are culturally poor. This inter-
pretation of Bourdieu exposes White, middle-class culture as the standard by which
all others are judged. We argue that cultural capital is not just inherited or pos-
sessed by the middle class, but rather it refers to an accumulation of specific forms
of knowledge, skills, and abilities that are valued by privileged groups in society.
For example, middle- or upper-class students may have access to a computer at
home and, therefore, can learn numerous computer-related vocabulary and techno-
logical skills before arriving at school. These students have acquired cultural capital
because computer-related vocabulary and technological skills are valued in the
school setting. On the other hand, a working-class Chicana/o student whose mother
works in the garment industry may bring a different vocabulary, perhaps in two
languages (English and Spanish) to school, along with techniques of conducting
errands on the city bus and translating gas and electric bills for her/his mother (see
Faulstich Orellana 2003). This cultural knowledge is very valuable to the student
and her/his family, but not necessarily considered to carry any capital in the school
context. This leads us to ask: Are there forms of cultural capital that marginalized
groups bring to the table that traditional cultural capital theory does not recognize
or value?
CRT shifts the center of our focus from White, middle-class culture to the cul-
tures of communities of color. In doing so, we also draw on the work of sociolo-
gists Melvin Oliver and Thomas Shapiro (1995) to better understand how cultural
capital is actually only one form of many different aspects that might be considered
valuable. They proposed a model to explain how the narrowing of the income or
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earnings gap between people of color and Whites is a misleading way to examine
inequality. They argue that one’s income over a typical fiscal year focuses on a single
form of capital and that the income gap between Blacks and Whites is narrowing
over time. On the other hand, they examine separately the concept of wealth and
define it as the total extent of an individual’s accumulated assets and resources (i.e.,
ownership of stocks, money in bank, real estate, business ownership, and so on).
They then argue that while the income of Blacks may indeed be climbing and the
Black/White income gap narrowing, their overall wealth, compared to Whites, is
declining and the gap is diverging.
Thus, traditional Bourdieuian cultural capital theory has parallel comparisons to
Oliver and Shapiro’s (1995) description of income in that it places value on a very
narrow range of assets and characteristics. This narrow view of cultural capital, as
defined by White, middle-class values, is more limited than wealth – one’s accumu-
lated assets and resources. We propose that cultural wealth encompasses accumu-
lated assets and resources found in communities of color (see Villalpando and
Solórzano in press). Cultural wealth includes various forms of capital such as
aspirational, navigational, social, linguistic, familial, and resistance capital (see
Auerbach 2001; Delgado Bernal 2001; Solórzano and Delgado Bernal 2001;
Stanton-Salazar 2001; Faulstich Orellana 2003; Villalpando and Solórzano in
press). Deficit scholars such as E. D. Hirsch (1988, 1996) bemoan the lack of cul-
tural capital, or what he terms “cultural literacy,” in low-income communities of
color. As previously discussed, research utilizing a deficit analytical lens places value
judgments on communities that often do not have access to White, middle- or upper-
class resources. In contrast, a CRT lens allows us to focus on and learn from the
cultural wealth of communities of color.
CRT identifies individual indicators of capital that have rarely been acknowl-
edged and used as assets in examining the cultural and social characteristics of com-
munities of color. Cultural wealth is found in the histories and lives of communities
of color and has gone unrecognized and/or unacknowledged. CRT centers the
research, pedagogy, and policy lens on communities of color and calls into question
White middle-class communities as the standard by which all others are judged.
CRT therefore can begin to recognize multiple forms of cultural wealth within
communities of color. Figure 6.2 demonstrates that community cultural wealth is
an array of cultural knowledge, skills, abilities, and contacts possessed by socially
marginalized groups that often go unrecognized. Communities of color nurture cul-
tural wealth through at least six forms of capital: (1) Aspirational (i.e., dreams for
the future, see Auerbach 2001); (2) Familial (i.e., pedagogies of the home, see
Delgado Bernal 2001); (3) Social (i.e., networks, see Stanton-Salazar 2001); (4)
Navigational (i.e., maneuverability, see Auerbach 2001); (5) Resistant (i.e., opposi-
tional behaviors, see Solórzano and Delgado Bernal 2001); and (6) Linguistic (i.e.,
language style and content, see Faulstich Orellana 2003).8
Aspirational capital draws on the work of Patricia Gándara (1982, 1995) and
others who have shown that Chicanas/os experience the lowest educational out-
comes compared to every other group in the USA, but maintain consistently high
aspirations for their children’s future (Delgado-Gaitan 1992, 1994; Solórzano 1992;
Auerbach 2001). These stories nurture a culture of possibility as they represent “the
creation of a history that would break the links between parents’ current occupa-
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tional status and their children’s future academic attainment” (Gándara 1995: 55).
Aspirational capital is evidenced in those who allow themselves, and their children,
to dream of possibilities beyond their present circumstances despite the presence of
real and perceived barriers and, often, without the resources or other objective
means to attain those goals.
Social capital is directly connected to navigational capital because it addresses
the peer and other social networks developed to assist in the movement through
social institutions, such as schools (Stanton-Salazar 2001). Scholars note that, his-
torically, people of color have utilized their social capital to maneuver through the
system, but they often turned around and gave the information and resources gained
through the navigation process back to their social networks. Mutualistas or mutual
aid societies are an example of how, historically, immigrants to the USA and, indeed,
African Americans, even while enslaved, created and maintained social networks
(Gómez-Quiñones 1973, 1994; Gutman 1976; Sánchez 1993; Stevenson 1996). In
her book Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks notes that this tradition was the motto
of the National Colored Women’s Association, “lifting as we climb” (1994). Social
capital can be understood as networks of people and community resources that help
one navigate through society’s institutions.
Familial capital connects with a commitment to community well-being and
expands the concept of family to include a broader understanding of kinship.
Acknowledging the racialized, classed, and heterosexualized inferences that com-
prise traditional understandings of “family,” familial capital is nurtured by our
130 tara j. yosso and daniel g. solórzano
The dollars received
from salaries, wages,
and payments.
The total extent of
an individual's
accumulated assets
and resources.
Figure 6.2 Community cultural wealth (adapted from Oliver and Shapiro 1995).
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“extended family.” It may include immediate family (living or long passed on) as
well as aunts, uncles, grandparents, and friends we might consider part of our
“family.” From these kinship ties, we learn the importance of emotional, moral,
educational, and occupational consciousness in maintaining a healthy connection
to one’s community and its resources. Familial capital includes funds of knowledge
(Moll et al. 1992; Vélez-Ibáñez and Greenberg 1992) and pedagogies of the home
(Delgado Bernal 2002), as well as the emotional, moral, educational, and occupa-
tional consciousness learned from our kin (Elenes et al. 2001; Lopez 2003).
Navigational capital refers to the ability to maneuver through social institutions
not created with communities of color in mind. Strategies to navigate through
racially hostile university campuses draw on the concept of academic invulnerabil-
ity, or students’ ability to “sustain high levels of achievement, despite the presence
of stressful events and conditions that place them at risk of doing poorly at school
and, ultimately, dropping out of school” (Alva 1991: 19). Scholars have examined
individual, family, and community factors that support Mexican American students’
academic invulnerability – their successful navigation through the educational
system (Alva 1995; Arrellano and Padilla 1996). In addition, resilience has been rec-
ognized as “a set of inner resources, social competencies, and cultural strategies that
permit individuals to not only survive, recover, or even thrive after stressful events,
but also to draw from the experience to enhance subsequent functioning” (Stanton-
Salazar and Spina 2000: 229; see also Yosso 2003). This reflects the process of devel-
oping “critical navigational skills” (Solórzano and Villalpando 1998). We assert that
academic invulnerability and resilience do not take place in a social vacuum, but
are influenced by one’s social location (Zavella 1991). Navigational capital, then,
refers to a set of social-psychological skills that assist individuals and groups to
maneuver through structures of inequality. This acknowledges individual agency
within institutional constraints, but it also connects to social networks that facili-
tate community navigation through places and spaces including schools, the job
market, and the health care and judicial systems (P. Williams 1997).
Resistant capital acknowledges the work of Tracy Robinson and Janie Ward
(1991) in examining a group of African American mothers who were consciously
raising their daughters as “resisters.” Through verbal and nonverbal lessons, these
Black mothers taught their daughters to assert themselves as intelligent, beautiful,
strong, and worthy of respect to resist the barrage of societal messages devaluing
Blackness and belittling Black women (Ward 1996). Similarly, Sofia Villenas and
Melissa Moreno (2001) discuss the contradictions Latina mothers face as they try
to teach their daughters to valerse por si misma (value themselves and be self-reliant)
within structures of inequality such as racism, capitalism, and patriarchy. In ana-
lyzing students’ efforts to transform unequal conditions in urban schools, Daniel
Solórzano and Dolores Delgado Bernal (2001) reveal various forms of Chicana/o
student resistance and the continuity of this resistance as demonstrated by the 1968
East Los Angeles high school blowouts and the 1993 UCLA hunger strike for
Chicana/o Studies. Solórzano and Delgado Bernal (2001) show that resistance may
include different forms of oppositional behavior, such as self-defeating or conform-
ist strategies that feed back into the system of subordination. However, when
informed by a Freirean critical consciousness (1970), or recognition of the struc-
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tural nature of oppression, and the motivation to work toward social and racial
justice, resistance takes on a transformative form (see Solórzano and Yosso 2002c).
Therefore, resistant capital refers to the willingness to challenge inequalities (Giroux
1983). Transformative resistant capital can be evidenced in those who recognize
structures of racism and are motivated to transform such oppressive structures
(Pizarro 1998; Villenas and Deyhle 1999).
Linguistic capital learns from over 35 years of research on bilingual education
that emphasizes the value of supporting fluency in more than one language and the
connections between racialized cultural history and language (Cummins 1986;
Anzaldúa 1987; García and Baker 1995; Macedo and Bartolomé 1999). Linguistic
capital reflects the idea that students of color arrive at school with multiple
strengths, including language and communication skills. In addition, just as there
are different vocal registers we each draw on to whisper, whistle, or sing, linguistic
capital acknowledges that youth of color must often develop and draw on various
language registers, or styles, to communicate with different audiences. For example,
Marjorie Faulstich Orellana examines bilingual children who are often called upon
to translate for their parents or other adults and finds that these youth gain multi-
ple social tools of “vocabulary, audience awareness, cross-cultural awareness, ‘real-
world’ literacy skills, math skills, metalinguistic awareness, teaching and tutoring
skills, civic and familial responsibility, [and] social maturity” (2003: 6). Linguistic
capital refers to these intellectual and social tools attained through communication
experiences in more than one language and/or style.
As demonstrated by this discussion of cultural wealth, CRT listens to and
observes people of color from the perspective that these individuals, families, and
communities are places with multiple strengths. Recognizing the knowledge students
of color bring with them from their homes and communities into the classroom can
also be facilitated through the tools of multiple disciplines. In addition, CRT chal-
lenges scholars to strategically utilize interdisciplinary methods to present research
findings in unconventional and creative ways. Such research would listen to and
learn from those whose knowledges traditionally are excluded from and silenced by
academic research. A CRT approach to sociology, then, involves a commitment to
conduct research, teach, and develop social policy with a larger purpose of working
toward social and racial justice.
Mapping Cultural Wealth through Community Case Studies
Because a CRT framework involves a commitment to social and racial justice, it
insists that we speak to the nexus of theory and practice or critical race praxis.
While praxis may include pedagogy, it refers more broadly to the multiple forms of
action informed by CRT (see Delgado Bernal 1997 for often-overlooked forms of
praxis, such as women’s leadership, characterized by organizing and raising aware-
ness). Critical race praxis means that defining and describing community cultural
wealth is not enough. We must also to ask: How might one find a community’s cul-
tural wealth? We assert that this is done through community asset mapping.
To guide our approach, we adapt John Kretzman and John McKnight’s (1993)
strategy for asset-based community development called asset mapping. Kretzman
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and McKnight argue that, historically, the research approach to understanding and
empowering communities has focused on their needs, deficiencies, and problems.
Asset mapping challenges approaches to research that draw on deficit notions of
communities of color. Research that fails to examine and question the structural
inequalities of communities of color often ends up deficit mapping under the guise
of “race-neutral” research. In contrast, asset-based research is grounded in the
recognition that a unique combination of assets exists in each community. Indeed,
an asset-based strategy emphasizes the development of policies and practices
grounded in the capacities, skills, and assets of people and their neighborhoods.
A community asset refers to anything that makes a neighborhood a better place
to live. Community assets may be identified as organizational (e.g., a civil rights or
immigration advocacy group), individual (e.g., a community elder), cultural (e.g.,
an arts-based youth program), business (e.g., a bookstore/café), educational (e.g., a
library), or environmental (e.g., a walking park/playground). Starting from the
premise that communities of color are culturally wealthy places (Solórzano and
Villalpando 1998; Villalpando and Solórzano, in press), critical race asset mapping
is the process of finding and making inventories of these assets. Critical race praxis
would insist on utilizing these community assets and bringing them into our schools
and classrooms.
One way that we engage students in this process of identifying community cul-
tural wealth and asset mapping in communities of color is through community case
studies (Barnes et al. 1994). The community case study draws on Freire (1970, 1973)
to engage students in problem-posing methodology and pedagogy (Solórzano 1989;
Smith Maddox and Solórzano 2002). Such a pedagogical approach means that stu-
dents are viewed as active agents engaged in the discovery and development of their
own knowledge. Students co-construct knowledge with their teacher and others. To
achieve this objective students are taught in a multimethod, dialogical format. This
approach leads students to feel that their thoughts and ideas are important enough
to warrant a multimethod dialogue with teachers and others. Finally, teachers are
seen as facilitators that students can challenge, just as they would challenge the ide-
ology and values of the dominant social class.
Drawing on the work of Freire (1970, 1973), Charles Lawrence (1992), and other
critical race theorists, we approach the case study by centering on the experiences
of people of color. Pedagogically, critical race case studies provide a vehicle for lis-
tening to individual and family oral histories and observing community life (Lynn
1999). This personal and cultural knowledge gives students and educators insight
into the ways in which their prospective students, clients, and neighbors think, inter-
act, and communicate with others and how youth and family culture often clash
with those of social institutions (Ladson-Billings 1999). Embedded in this critical
race praxis are tools for helping students to identify and name the societal and sys-
temic problems students of color face, analyze the causes of the problem, and find
solutions to the problem (Freire 1970).
The community case study project supports a social justice curriculum and ped-
agogy as students go through the problem-posing process seeking community assets
and cultural wealth as opposed to community deficits and cultural poverty. Specifi-
cally, students develop an empirical, ethnographic, and visual description of the
community. They then identify assets from the point of view of various segments of
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the community (e.g., organizations, elders, businesses, educational centers). Next,
students come together to discuss, reflect, and analyze the cultural wealth that exists
in the various communities. Finally, students incorporate the cultural wealth into
the knowledge, curriculum, and pedagogy of the classroom.
As we speak of critical race praxis and the CRT struggle to end social inequal-
ity, we recognize the work of Andre Gorz (1967). He outlines three types of social
“reforms”: reformist, nonreformist, and revolutionary. First, he explains that a
reformist reform maintains the structures of domination. Such a policy might work
to reform a school bureaucracy, only to make the bureaucracy marginalize students
of color more efficiently (e.g., high-stakes testing policies). Second, according to
Gorz (1967), a nonreformist reform challenges the structures of domination and
improves people’s lives in the present, but simultaneously leaves them in a better
position to gain more improvements in the future (e.g., affirmative action policy).
The key here is that the nonreformist reform works to challenge inequalities from
within the system. As a result, the system itself is not changed. Third, a revolu-
tionary reform challenges the structures of domination and leads to a radical trans-
formation of society (e.g., Cuban Literacy Campaign of 1961). While we concede
that, at best, much of our work probably falls into the category of nonreformist
racial reform, we maintain our hopes for and continue to struggle toward revolu-
tionary racial reform. Developing and implementing critical race policy would offer
an important contribution in this struggle to “advance toward a radical transfor-
mation of society” (Gorz 1967: 6). A critical race policy challenges traditional poli-
cies and legislation from a perspective that humanizes people of color and draws
on their experiences as strengths to learn from and build on, not deficits to correct.
If senior anthropologists feel that the discipline’s crown jewel [culture] has been ripped
off by cultural studies, faculty and students in ethnic studies programs often feel that
cultural studies is an only slightly disguised effort to restore white male authority in
areas where ethnic studies programs have a chance of speaking with some authority.
If certain majority scholars distance themselves from cultural studies by saying it is
nothing more than ethnic studies writ large, certain minority scholars counter that the
covert agenda of cultural studies is to allow white authority to co-opt ethnic studies
programs. (Rosaldo 1994: 527)
Renato Rosaldo’s quote above raises an important question of genealogy: Who
has been doing work addressing the intersections of racism and are we going to
acknowledge this work? Questions and theories about culture and identity, about
race and racism, and gender and sexism have been a part of the work and discourse
of ethnic and women studies disciplines for decades. Rosaldo’s critical insight indi-
cates that, at best, work in ethnic and women studies has not been adequately
acknowledged and, at worst, has been appropriated by scholars in related fields.
Rosaldo also speculates that this lack of recognition must be an attempt to “restore
white male authority in areas where ethnic studies programs have a chance of speak-
ing with some authority” (p. 527). Rosaldo’s concerns resonate among social sci-
entists who often do not see the work of scholars of color cited as part of the
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literature known as “critical theory.” This is ironic since this field is supposed to be
an empowering framework for oppressed peoples.
Richard Delgado raises a similar question in the area of civil rights law in his
1984 article, titled “The imperial scholar: Reflections on a review of civil rights lit-
erature,” and again in his 1992 “The imperial scholar revisited: How to marginal-
ize outsider writing, ten years later.” Delgado examines civil rights scholarship and
exposes a racial citation pattern, wherein White authors (Imperial Scholars) cite
each other and are much less likely to cite scholars of color. Delgado observes a:
scholarly tradition [that] consists of white scholars’ systematic occupation of, and
exclusion of minority scholars from, the central areas of civil rights scholarship. The
mainstream writers tend to acknowledge only each other’s work. It is even possible
that, consciously or not, they resist entry by minority scholars in to the field, perhaps
counseling them, as I was counseled, to establish their reputations in other areas of
law. (1984: 566)
We assert that this “scholarly tradition” appears to be evident in the social sciences
as well. Just as some Whites do not often venture into communities of color to do
research, some White scholars do not often venture into ethnic-specific journals or
texts to read the work of scholars of color (see Graham 1992; Rosaldo 1994).
We know some may try to excuse this pattern by arguing that “scholars of color
just do not publish as much as Whites.” However, we refute this notion. Instead,
we believe there may be at least two reasons for “racially selective citing”: (1) Whites
either do not know where to go, or (2) they know where to go, but they choose to
ignore the scholarship. Delgado reminds us that “this exclusion does matter; the
tradition causes bluntings, skewings, and omissions in the literature dealing with
race, racism, and American law” (1984: 573). We agree and note that these omis-
sions limit work in social theory, pedagogy, and policy (Villalpando and Delgado
Bernal 2002).
This chapter has attempted to demonstrate that CRT is not a passing trend, the
latest buzzword, or a “new concept” (Perea et al. 2000). In contrast, CRT draws
from the strengths of multiple disciplines, epistemologies, and research approaches
(Scheurich and Young 1997; Lopez and Parker 2003). The following sums up CRT
– what we do, why we do it, and how we do it:
What do we do? We focus our work on addressing the many forms of
racism and their intersections with sexism, classism, and other forms of
Why do we do it? The purpose of our work is to challenge the status quo
and push toward the goal of social and racial justice.
How do we do it? Utilizing a transdisciplinary approach, we work by listen-
ing to, reading about, and documenting the experiences of people of color.
CRT is critical and different from other frameworks and can address macro and
micro forms of racism throughout our social system because: (1) it challenges the
traditional paradigms, texts, and separate discourse on race, class, gender, language,
and immigration status by showing how they intersect to impact our under-
standing of people of color; (2) it helps us focus on the racialized and gendered
conceptualizing a critical race theory in sociology 135
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experiences of communities of color; (3) it offers a transformative response to racial,
gender, and class oppression; and (4) it utilizes a transdisciplinary, historically con-
textualized knowledge base to analyze various forms of and responses to racial
inequality. CRT reminds us that as social scientists, we must:
see those who are invisible to most people;
hear the pleas of those who have become voiceless and forgotten;
act on those conditions that keep people invisible, voiceless, and powerless;
challenge theories that marginalize people of color;
maintain an unflinching and unapologetic commitment to social and racial
1The Chronicle of Higher Education is a weekly newspaper that addresses the latest news
and information in the field of higher education.
2A decade after being introduced to CRT, we were part of an expert witness research team
working on behalf of the student of color Intervenors to demonstrate the need for ongoing
affirmative action at the University of Michigan. Ironically, the US Supreme Court deliv-
ered its ruling on June 23, 2003.
3While each individual tenet of CRT is not “new,” synthesizing these tenets into a CRT
framework in education is relatively recent. For instance, William Tate’s (1994) auto-
biographical article represents (to our knowledge) the first use of CRT principles in edu-
cation; a year later, Gloria Ladson-Billings and William Tate (1995) wrote “Toward a
critical race theory of education”; two years later, Daniel Solórzano’s (1997) essay applied
CRT to a specific subfield of teacher education. William Tate (1997) furthered our under-
standing of the history of CRT in education. The field was expanded significantly with
the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 1998 “Special Issue on
Critical Race Theory in Education.” Parker, Deyhle, and Villenas’ book (1999) was fol-
lowed by individual scholars presenting on panels at professional conferences across the
country and publishing their work in various journals. In 2002, the journals Qualitative
Inquiry, edited by Lynn, Yosso, Solórzano, and Parker, and Equity and Excellence in
Education, edited by Lynn and Adams, dedicated a special issue to CRT in education.
4Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic have defined the majoritarian mindset as “the bundle
of presuppositions, perceived wisdoms, and shared cultural understandings persons in
the dominant race bring to the discussion of race” (1993: 462).
5For a more in-depth description of Claudia and her educational experiences, please refer
to Solórzano and Yosso (2000).
6We use the character of Ruby Puentes as our spiritual bridge to Ruby Bridges, the young
African American elementary student in Norman Rockwell’s 1964 painting, titled The
Problem We All Live With, who is being escorted to school in New Orleans by two
federal Marshals as part of a 1950s federal desegregation court order. The English trans-
lation for Puentes is Bridges. In both Spanish and English, bridges can be literal struc-
tures that connect various places or figurative structures that connect different ideas. Such
metaphorical bridges/puentes can offer insight into the struggles and coalitions developed
by people of color past, present, and future.
7The federal case is titled Grutter et al. vs. Bollinger. The counter-story excerpt here is
based on (1) research gathered during the year 2000, (2) existing social science and
humanities literature, (3) our own professional experiences, (4) our own personal expe-
riences, and (5) our collective experiences and community memory.
136 tara j. yosso and daniel g. solórzano
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(a) Campus Racial Climate at the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor: A Case Study.
This is an expert report written in conjunction with the Intervenors in the case Gratz
et al. vs. Bollinger et al., October 2000.
(b) Affirmative Action, Educational Equity and Campus Racial Climate: A Case Study
of the University of Michigan Law School and its Undergraduate Feeders. An expert
report commissioned by the Student Intervenors in Grutter et al. vs. Bollinger et al.,
September 2000.
(c) A Case Study of Racial Microaggressions and Campus Racial Climate at the Uni-
versity of California, Berkeley. A report commissioned by the Plaintiffs in Castañeda
et al. vs. UC Regents et al., August 2000.
8We appreciate the assistance of Rebeca Burciaga in helping conceptualize and develop
this cultural wealth concept. Specifically, her input was critical in identifying linguistic
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... 33). Within communities of color in the United States, scholars such as Danny Solórzano, Dolores Delgado Bernal, and Tara Yosso have pointed to how students of color already make such history out of possibility, consciously resisting and finding ways to reach their own ends within structurally unfair systems (see Solorzano & Delgado Bernal, 2001;Yosso, 2006;Yosso & Solorzano, 2005). ...
... "Looking to the bottom-adopting the perspective of those who have seen and felt the falsity of the liberal promise-can assist critical scholars in the task of fathoming the phenomenology of law and defining the elements of justice" (Matsuda 1987:324). CRT values the kind of indigenous knowledge and experience exemplified by Gullah/Geechee fishers and farmers (Yosso and Solórzano 2005) In our case, resources available through reparations could be used to strengthen Gullah/Geechee institutions and empower people and communities. ...
We use critical race theory (CRT) to examine the involuntary loss of land and homes among Black residents of the southeastern United States and in particular among the Gullah/Geechee. An Afro‐indigenous population, the Gullah/Geechee have deep roots in the federally designated Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, an area of sea islands and coastal Lowcountry within 25 coastal counties in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. We identify legal vulnerabilities associated with heirs property, in particular tax sales and predatory partition actions, as mechanisms used within the legal system to dispossess owners of their land. Our use of CRT allows us to understand heirs property as a legacy of the Jim Crow era and to recognize material motivations behind continued racial discrimination that has led to involuntary land loss. CRT also leads us to consider the question of empowerment of the Gullah/Geechee population through a program of reparations for wrongful taking of land and homes since coastal development began roughly 70 years ago. One possible mechanism for reparations is to increase existing lodging taxes on coastal tourism along the Gullah/Geechee coast.
... Research has indicated that, historically, students of color-regardless of social and economic status-have faced problems related to low academic expectations by teachers (Diamond, Randolph, & Spillane, 2004). Unlike teachers who hold their students to low academic expectations, those teachers who hold high expectations for all students demonstrate what we refer to as spaces of positive expectations, where teachers draw upon the students' knowledge base for learning and enable them to become academically successful (Yosso & Solórzano, 2005). As opposed to an ideologically oppressive epistemology, all students deserve a student-centered pedagogy informed by positive academic expectations and culturally competent teachers who attend to the feelings and needs concerning societal inequities, and play an instrumental role in creating a classroom space that promotes success. ...
Conference Paper
Presented at the 13th International Social Innovation Research Conference (ISIRC). From Contested Ground to Common Ground. Abstract: Given the weight of its footprint on the landscape, how can the tools of social innovation help a university in a dense urban environment harness its substantial resources to play a constructive role as an “anchor tenant”? How can community-responsive cultural activities propel a shift from contested ground to common ground? Ryerson University is situated in the downtown core of Toronto, Canada’s most populous city and the fastest growing municipality in North America (Petramala & Chan Smyth, 2020). Bordering the university is Allan Gardens — a long-neglected 19th century greenhouse set in an undeveloped park and framed by a neighbourhood in the throes of gentrification. It is a highly contested space, with strong disparities in income, job security, and educational attainment; and diverse neighbourhoods of racialized, Indigenous, and immigrant communities (City of Toronto, 2018). At one end of the neighbourhood is the largest homeless shelter in Canada; on the other is the University. In 2017, the neighbourhood association approached the University to partner in their vision for a revitalized neighbourhood through collaborative, community-engaged programming. Building a strong and sustainable relationship with stakeholders began with arriving at a shared vision and framework for what would foster and engage a social innovation ecosystem. Our conceptualization of social innovation is aligned with the work of Moulaert and MacCallum (2019), where it has been described as an anchor in transformative socio-political change. Based on the interests, motivations, and needs of our stakeholders, we framed the intended social impact similar to that described by Nicholls et al. (2015) — a strengthened capacity for the self-determination of marginalized community members. With social innovation as a means to advance social justice, we sought to understand the role of the University in fostering a community-engaged social innovation ecosystem. We began with in-depth consultations with neighbourhood associations, university administration, and Indigenous Elders. We also engaged fourth-year urban planning students in a semester-long process of demographic research and data collection. What has emerged is Imagine the Park: a year-long series of cultural events and a nature-based programming that uses the power of land, language, and culture to strengthen community understanding, health, safety, and interaction. The evolution of Imagine the Park provides insights into how a social innovation lens and method grounded the revitalization of community in the primacy of land-based relations and Indigenous stewardship; and how cultural activities provided a vocabulary and route to finding common ground.
This chapter will start by foregrounding my experience as a Black teacher first in primary schools and then as a lecturer. My experiences of being ‘othered’ and ‘gaslit’ by colleagues and people in positions of power were disappointing, saddening and stress-inducing. It further opened my eyes as to the performativity of their speech acts in which colleagues referred to me as an equal. This led to the question that if a Black, female lecturer, ostensibly in a position of power, could experience and then call out examples of racism, bias and unconscious bias enacted on them, what more so for a Black student. The contours of racism or contours of Whiteness will be discussed as a prelude to the discourse on racism and unconscious bias that underpins the experiences of the students. All this happened at a time when the United Kingdom and political class were in turmoil over Brexit (Britain’s exit from the European Union). Schools are microcosms of society; that is, the pupils and all staff come from society. So, if far-right rhetoric has become near-mainstream and normalised in society, then why should we be surprised to find it in schools?
More progress is needed to achieve equity in racial and gender representation in the push to diversify the physical sciences. In order to continue moving towards representation and equity, there is a need for more analytic tools that can help us understand where we are and how we got here. This may also enable meaningful systemic change. In this article, we will review two theoretical frameworks: critical race theory (CRT) and feminist standpoint theory (FST). This paper will guide the reader through the historical context in which each theory was formed, present core tenets and major ideas of each theory, along with external critiques to each theory and where they stand today. This will help readers to further understand CRT and FST, what their role is in education, and how they may be used in physics education research. Simultaneously, this article will serve to broaden perspectives of fundamental societal problems such as racism and sexism.
While there is an abundance of relevant data on the outcomes of service learning experiences, less is known about how students find service learning experiences. Additionally, little research focuses on capturing the experiences of students’ participation in service learning, especially among underrepresented students. New lines of inquiry could include qualitative studies that seek to better understand the service learning experiences of underrepresented students (i.e., students of color and low socioeconomic status) to explore potential barriers to full participation. In this essay, the author proposes new lines of inquiry when studying issues of access in service learning opportunities, drawing on her experience as a coordinator for a university’s mentoring program. The author argues that studying the experiences of undergraduates engaged in service learning opportunities might highlight barriers to equitable access to and full participation in service learning opportunities and thereby postsecondary outcomes.
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This article asserts that despite the salience of race in U.S. society, as a topic of scholarly inquiry, it remains untheorized. The article argues for a critical race theoretical perspective in education analogous to that of critical race theory in legal scholarship by developing three propositions: (1) race continues to be significant in the United States; (2) U.S. society is based on property rights rather than human rights; and (3) the intersection of race and property creates an analytical tool for understanding inequity. The article concludes with a look at the limitations of the current multicultural paradigm.
Omi and Winant examine the creation and negotiation of race's role in identify construction, contestation, and deconstruction. Since no biological basis exists for the signification of racial differences, the authors discuss racial hierarchies in terms of a "racial formation," which is a process by which racial categories are created, accepted, altered, or destroyed. This theory assumes that society contains various racial projects to which all people are subjected. The role that race plays in social stratification secures its place as a political phenomenon in the United States. This stratification is tantamount to what Omi and Winant call "racial dictatorship," which has three effects. First, the identity "American" is conflated with the racial identity "white." Second, the "color line" becomes a fundamental division in American society. Finally, oppositional racial consciousness became consolidated in opposition to racial dictatorship.
In challenging orthodoxy, questioning the premises of liberalism, and debating sacred wisdoms, Critical Race Theory scholars writing over the past few years have indelibly changed the way America looks at race. This book contains treatment of all the topics covered in the first edition, along with provocative and probing questions for discussion and detailed suggestions for additional reading. In addition, this anthology collects writings about various aspect of social theory -- crime, critical race practice, intergroup tensions and alliances, gay/lesbian issues, and transcending the black-white binary paradigm of race. In each of these areas, groundbreaking scholarship by the movement's founding figures as well as the brightest new stars provides immediate entre to current trends and developments in critical civil rights thought.