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Black History, Uncensored: Why Kimberlé Crenshaw makes GOPers nervous

On Day 2 of this Black History Month series, we explore why Republicans are apparently terrified of this critical race theory pioneer.


Next to "pro-life," "critical race theory" has become Republicans’ most prized misnomer. Far from its actual meaning, conservatives today use the term as a catchall for any and every lesson plan that questions the traditional American social hierarchy that places white men above all others. 

Conservatives are seeing their followers drink the anti-CRT Kool-Aid, causing some of them to gloat, oddly, that the field of study itself has become toxic. But let’s not be so naive. 

It should not be left to society’s most cynical people to determine the merit of an intellectual endeavor. And when it comes to critical race theory — and the brilliant minds who conceived of it — the truth hurts Republicans. As in, the truths these thinkers have highlighted undermine the GOP’s oppressive worldview, and their efforts to enforce it. 

You probably know all sorts of people who pop off about CRT yet couldn’t tell you anything its creators have actually said or written. 

So today, on Day 2 of our “Black History, Uncensored” series highlighting Black creators targeted by GOP bans, I’m featuring work by scholar and critical race theory pioneer Kimberlé Crenshaw. She also coined the term “intersectionality,” a word that describes how race, gender, class and other traits intertwine.  

Critical race theory focuses on the ways U.S. laws and systems reinforce a racist hierarchy in society. Crenshaw has been key in helping marginalized groups develop a vocabulary to express themselves about the unique oppression they face. 

Appearing on "The ReidOut" last month, she spoke about what it means for her and other Black creators' works to be targeted by attempted white-washers, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Her 1989 essay “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics” speaks to the heart of her work. And it helps explain why some Republicans have tried to turn her into public enemy No. 1. 

It lists several cases — from anti-discrimination lawsuits to sexual assault prosecutions — in which courts or government officials declined to view Black women as a class worthy of protection because they may experience a unique kind of discrimination or abuse. 

“Black women are caught between ideological and political currents that combine first to create and then to bury Black women’s experiences,” she wrote.

I think this passage embodies the reason conservatives see her as a threat: 

Because the intersectional experience is greater than the sum of racism and sexism, any analysis that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the particular manner in which Black women are subordinated. Thus, for feminist theory and antiracist policy discourse to embrace the experiences and concerns of Black women, the entire framework that has been used as a basis for translating 'women’s experience' or 'the Black experience' into concrete policy demands must be rethought and recast.

Her work calls for a rethinking of the very systems that give privileged white guys at the conservative movement's center a leg up. Give her essay a read!

Read Day 1 of "Black History, Uncovered" to learn about feminist icon bell hooks.